Claim: Indonesian Mountain Ranges are Responsible for the Current Ice Age

Anak Krakatau emerged from the ocean a half century after Krakatoa’s deadly 1883 eruption

Guest essay by Eric Worrall

Paleo-climate experts have advanced a theory that weathering of Indonesian mountain ranges is starving the planet of CO2, which is keeping the Earth locked in the ongoing Quaternary ice age.

Rise of carbon dioxide–absorbing mountains in tropics may set thermostat for global climate

By Paul VoosenDec. 28, 2018 , 3:00 PM

Hate the cold? Blame Indonesia. It may sound odd, given the contributions to global warming from the country’s 270 million people, rampant deforestation, and frequent carbon dioxide (CO2)-belching volcanic eruptions. But over much longer times, Indonesia is sucking CO2 out of the atmosphere.

Many mountains in Indonesia and neighboring Papua New Guinea consist of ancient volcanic rocks from the ocean floor that were caught in a colossal tectonic collision between a chain of island volcanoes and a continent, and thrust high. Lashed by tropical rains, these rocks hungrily react with CO2 and sequester it in minerals. That is why, with only 2% of the world’s land area, Indonesia accounts for 10% of its long-term CO2 absorption. Its mountains could explain why ice sheets have persisted, waxing and waning, for several million years (although they are now threatened by global warming).

Now, researchers have extended that theory, finding that such tropical mountain-building collisions coincide with nearly all of the half-dozen or so significant glacial periods in the past 500 million years. “These types of environments, through time, are what sets the global climate,” said Francis Macdonald, a geologist at the University of California, Santa Barbara, when he presented the work last month at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union in Washington, D.C. If Earth’s climate has a master switch, he suggests, the rise of mountains like Indonesia’s could be it.

Kimberly Lau, a geochemist at the University of Wyoming in Laramie, calls the work “exciting in idea and novel in execution.” Lee, however, would like to see direct evidence from ancient sediments that the collisions drove up rock weathering. “They have to go to the sink and study those,” he says. And a recent study challenges the mountain thermostat idea with evidence for the importance of volcanoes. The study used ages from thousands of zircons, durable crystals that can indicate volcanic activity, to show that upticks in volcanic emissions were the dominant force driving the planet’s warm periods. It’s likely both teams have at least one hand on the truth, adds Lee, who contributed to the zircon paper.

The beauty of his team’s model, Macdonald said at the end of his talk, is that it explains not just why glacial times start, but also why they stop. A hothouse Earth appears to be the planet’s default state, prevailing for three-fourths of the past 500 million years. An Indonesia-style collision may push the global climate into a glacial period, but only for a while. Mountains erode and continents drift. And the planet warms again.

Read more:

The abstract of the paper;


SWANSON-HYSELL, Nicholas L.1, MACDONALD, Francis2, PARK, Yuem2, JAGOUTZ, Oliver3 and GODDERIS, Yves4, (1)Department of Earth and Planetary Science, University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, CA 94720, (2)Department of Earth Science, University of California, Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, CA 93106, (3)Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 77 Massachusetts Avenue, 54-1212, Cambridge, MA 02139, (4)CNRS, GET, Toulouse, 31400, France

Long term changes in Earth’s climate resulting in shifts between prolonged non-glacial and glacial intervals are widely considered to result from plate tectonic processes. However, the primary tectonic drivers for long-term climatic variability remain unclear. On geological time-scales, CO2 is emitted primarily by volcanism and consumed primarily by the chemical weathering of silicate rocks. Prolonged imbalances between sources and sinks would catastrophically manifest in either the onset of a Snowball Earth or a runaway greenhouse. The relative clemency of Phanerozoic climate requires that CO2 sinks scale with sources, which can be explained through the silicate weathering feedback where elevated CO2 leads to higher temperatures and invigorated hydrological cycling that enhances chemical weathering and vice versa. Given that CO2 sources and sinks must equal on long timescales, what sets steady-state CO2 levels on Earth at a given time? And what determines whether Earth is in a glacial or non-glacial climate state? The concept of global weatherability is a useful framework to address these questions. On a more weatherable planet, the CO2 concentration needed for the sink to equal the source is lower than on a less weatherable planet where CO2 increases until high enough levels are reached for the chemical weathering flux to be sufficiently large. Global weatherability is the product of variables such as lithology, tectonic uplift rates, and paleolatitude, which are set by evolving plate tectonic boundary conditions. In this contribution, we evaluate long-term changes in paleogeography and mountain-building and their connections to Phanerozoic climate. We seek to test the hypothesis that ocean basin closure, arc-continent collision and ophiolite exhumation exert a major control on Earth’s climate state by enhancing global weatherability. Using paleogeographic models, we reconstruct the past position of a new database of ophiolite-bearing sutures. We find that when extensive arc-continent collisions have occurred in the tropics the Earth has experienced a glacial climate, and otherwise, the Earth has been in a non-glacial climate state. We interpret plate tectonic driven changes in rock type and topography in the tropics to be the most significant control on Earth’s long-term climate state.

Read more:

Despite the ongoing alarm about anthropogenic global warming, the reality is that in paleo-climate terms the Earth is currently experiencing a very cold climate, with vast areas of the planet rendered uninhabitable by permanent ice sheets, and the constant ongoing threat that further cooling and glaciation could drive us out of regions we currently inhabit.

The following quote from Wikipedia puts the cold of our current Quaternary ice age into perspective.

… The Current or Quaternary Ice Age is the last of five known major glacial periods, or ice ages, during Earth’s history, the preceding ones being the Karoo Ice Age (360–260 Ma), Andean-Saharan (450–420 Ma), Cryogenian (720–635 Ma) and Huronian (2,400–2,100 Ma). …


128 thoughts on “Claim: Indonesian Mountain Ranges are Responsible for the Current Ice Age

    • Yes- totally outside of the normal paradigm, but then again the whole progressive approach to science is astounding to conventional scientists.

        • co2 is transparent after a certain level is reached what really sets up global temp is the weight of the atmosphere….go to venus and find 15 psi worth of atmosphere and you will see the same basic temps you see here the lower you go in the atmosphere the hotter it gets because of heat connettics and the pressure of the atmosphere above…..nothing what so ever to do with co2….

    • If you study it, NH climate is representative of the globe, according to the hockey stick graph presented by the Model fellowship of Mann.

    • ” why just Indonesian mountains”
      They say why. It isn’t the fact that they are mountains, but that they contain basic ocean floor rocks that were uplifted, and are now exposed to CO2 and weathering. Actually, it isn’t just Indonesian rocks that do that; they amount to about 10% of absorption. But long-term, CO2 in the air is the balance between volcanic emission and rock weathering absorption, and the paper says that uplifting in Indonesia had a big effect on that balance.

        • The quaternaric balance is very low without human effects. So low that plant life largely dies off in CO2 starvation during glaciations.

          But upset might not be the word. ‘Fix’ could be better. Though, many here advocate the opinion that climate engineering is a stupid idea.

        • CO2 is the Magic Molecule – there is literally nothing it cannot do. And it’s always bad things, not good things.

          Forget or ignore the fact that our world could not exist without it, and that up to a point, maybe about 5,000 ppm, it’s all good…forget that it’s not a pollutant, we exhale it, and that plants can’t live without it…forget every basic science principle about observation, facts, evidence, experimentation, the scientific method, that you have ever known…

          • NCL wrote:
            “CO2 is the Magic Molecule – there is literally nothing it cannot do. And it’s always bad things, not good things.”

            CO2 is all-powerful – it also causes volcanoes, Continental Drift, the uplifting of mountain ranges, the rotation of the Earth, the obits of the planets, the movement of the solar system within the universe, etc.

            [Do I really have to say “sarc/off?]

      • They proceed from the false premise that CO2 is the master control knob. If there was an ice age, their faith tells them that it was driven by low CO2, so they need to find the sudden carbon sink that switched on. Thus their master climate switch.

        It doesn’t seem to matter to them that the null hypothesis was already proven by their own account (nearly all ice ages coinciding with tropical mountain building means that some ice ages occurred despite the lack of any tropical mountain building). This is like saying “Nearly all recent mass murderers wore black. So black is the master mass murderer control switch.”

        If the premise is correct, every glaciation must be preceded by a sudden drop in CO2 and terminated by a sudden massive rise in CO2. In addition, ice ages should always initiate when CO2 concentration falls below the same critical CO2 concentration and should terminate when CO2 concentration rises above the critical value.

        A real scientist would then look for evidence of cases to disprove the theory and would discard the false theory when they found evidence such as the Ordovician ice age.

        A believer in the CAGW religion, on the other hand, looks for anecdotal evidence that agrees with their doctrine and touts it, while supressing any evidence that contradicts it. (For example, they will deny that CO2 concentration was 4000ppm at the start of the Ordovician ice age).

        • Ice age, not glaciation. This article is talking about the really long term, not the mere 100k year cycles.

          Having the ice ages driven by tectonic forces and the glaciations by orbital cycles is not infeasible. The tectonic drivers merely move the climate towards or away from susceptibility to a catastrophic trigger.

      • The 10% of weathering absorption from the atmosphere they are talking about is 10% of a third of a Gt according to the AR5 Carbon cycle. This is offset by a tenth of a Gt volcanic production (methinks low). All the while vegetation and soils cycle~120 Gt annually. Soils net 60 Gt to the atmosphere annually, and this is increasing as the planet warms.

        If you believe CO2 is the control knob, the fastest way to get a Pleistocene is to supress the soil microbes 1%. Volcanic SO2 for instance.

        • “This is offset by a tenth of a Gt volcanic production (methinks low). ”

          Methinks you think rightly. Imagine you can capture the entire output of a volcanic vent and analyze it and get a measure of its size. That’s been done, and was Lake Nyos. Methinks an order of magnitude or more low.

      • Excerpted from article:

        But over much longer times, Indonesia (mountains) is sucking CO2 out of the atmosphere.

        Lashed by tropical rains, these rocks hungrily react with CO2 and sequester it in minerals. That is why, with only 2% of the world’s land area, Indonesia accounts for 10% of its long-term CO2 absorption.

        OH, MY, MY, …… so, given the fact that, to wit:

        Global C02 emissions in 2014 from just fossil fuel use was 35.9 billion metric tons

        Then those Indonesian mountains must be sucking-up n’ sequestering a far greater amount of CO2 than just 10% (3.59 billion metric tons) of the fossil fuel burning emissions.

        WOW, increasing the mountains by 4+- billion metric tons each n’ every year is shur nuff 21st Century mountain building that one should be able to observe happening.

        I’m wondering though, are those Indonesian mountains getting fatter or higher?

        • Flatter. The whole point is that as their rocks weather and are washed into the sea they absorb up CO2 and sequester it in the ocean depths.

          • @ Paul of Alexandria – December 30, 2018 at 9:44 am

            Geeeze whizs, … Paul of A, …. in that you didn’t comprehend the intent of my satirical commentary ….. me thinks it might be helpful for you to study this posting that was authored by ATheoK just a wee bit farther down this thread.


          • Bryan A
            Not quite! It is largely granitic cores that are exposed at the moment, with metamorphic rocks derived from ocean sediments. What is being talked about are ophiolites as in Cypress, or ultramafic (serpentinite) bodies incorporated in the California Coast Range melanges. The Cascades are young volcanics, ranging from mafic to acidic in composition. The Cascade volcanics are derived from subducted oceanic plates, but after melting they have experienced differentiation. That is, even the original mafic and ultramafic ocean floor now has considerably more silicate in its composition. It is primarily low-silicate rocks with calcium-rich minerals, such as plagioclase feldspars, that were formed at very high temperatures that are easily weathered at the surface that is the Indonesian model.

      • “Nick Stokes December 30, 2018 at 1:39 am
        ” why just Indonesian mountains”
        They say why. It isn’t the fact that they are mountains, but that they contain basic ocean floor rocks that were uplifted, and are now exposed to CO2 and weathering. ”

        Such blinding science!
        “Basic ocean floor rocks”… It’s called BS.

        The Andes include uplifted marine floor. As does the Rocky Mountains, The Sierra Nevadas, The appalachians, The Himalayas, Alps, Pyrenees, etc. etc. As did all of their preceding mountain ranges.

        Orogenic processes have happened repeatedly. The oceans get caught between tectonic plates and squeezed into mountains.

        Plus the ocean itself is where the carbonate rocks are formed from deposition of calcite and aragonite from the shells and skeletal minerals of animals.

        Uplifting carbonates does allow a very slight leaching by a very weak acid, i.e. dissolved CO₂.
        A very weak acid formed from dissolving CO₂ in water, or from the putrefaction and decomposition of dead tissue.
        A very weak acid that dissolves more carbonate molecules and transports them elsewhere.

        Tectonic processes drive large bodies of carbonate rocks deep into the Earth. Enough heat and enough pressure metamorphise limestones into marbles.

        Now about CO₂ and weathering?
        Mountains may contain immense volumes of carbonates, but the surface layer is a minor exposure.
        Nor is the CO₂ a major weathering component. Eons of water movement can move carbonates, but it isn’t really “weathering” the rock and minerals.

        So much for a giant mountain sink capturing all of the available CO₂ through weathering.

        They have made a claim. On the face of it, an extraordinary claim which requires extraordinary proofs.
        Right now, it appears to be another imaginary excuse and justification for a CO₂ temperature control knob released via press release.

        • ATheoK

          “Basic ocean floor rocks”

          More properly, the magmas should be referred to as basic or ultrabasic, and the rocks crystallizing from them as mafic and ultramafic. It makes one wonder what kind of ‘experts’ use the wrong terminology — Oh, Stokes!

      • Before talking about “basic ocean floor rocks that were uplifted” it would be smart to see a cross-section of Indonesia.
        here is a link to Sumatra’s:
        You tell me where you see those “ocean floor basic” deposits. Because, I see sedimentary rocks forming the accretionary prism, I see andesitic volcanism and lots of volcano-sedimentary rocks.
        No gabbros, no peridotites, no ophiolotic complexes, i.e. no ocean floor uplifted.
        Thus if what they say is that these rocks were from older collisions, then there are many other places where such rocks do outcrop and in much bigger quantities. Hence their focus on Indonesia is suspect and the rest of theory quite rich.
        That’s the problem with those CO2 drivers is that once they start to enroll other sciences to their propaganda, other scientists can pillory their garbage and parrots should be careful.

  1. Nice idea, well thought out and reasonably documented, except that it assumes that atmospheric CO2 is the primary driver that makes global temperatures go up and down. No consideration given to ocean circulation patterns or the presence of continents at or near the poles, without which you won’t get ice caps. Or solar fluctuations, or any of the other possible causes of ice ages.


    • ” it assumes that atmospheric CO2 is the primary driver that makes global temperatures go up and down.”

      And that is the crux of it.

      • The two are not incompatible. Milankovitch cycles will only result in glaciations if the base conditions are cold enough.

    • So the closing of the Panama isthmus had no effect? I agree, this looks like an attempt to make CO2 the only thing driving temperatures.

    • Nor negative feedback. Higher CO2 means faster weathering which scrubs the CO2 back out again. Funny how they always overlook the same stuff.

    • This study is in contradiction to other current pseudoscience papers following the CO2 control knob meme and the author says “It’s likely both teams have at least one hand on the truth” – meaning that the faulty assumption leads to direct contradictions but they adhere to the belief that the assumption is truth.

      The claim here is that tropical mountain orogenic events coincide with ice age conditions, but tropical mountain orogenies probably have occurred at most times for the past 500 million years. They claim there has been about half a dozen ice age events in the past 500 million years, but there have only been three by my count. They fail to account for the fact that the Ordovician ice age wasn’t accompanies by low CO2 levels, so their entire study is based on the fact that tropical orogenic events occurred during both the Carboniferous and Quaternary Ice Ages – and these are “paleoclimate experts”?

    • Is it drifting continents, orbital precession, angle of insolation at north 35 Deg latitude or what? inquiring nerds want to know!

      • “Is it drifting continents, orbital precession, angle of insolation at north 35 Deg latitude or what?”

        All of the above. The drifting continents can block ocean currents from mixing tropical and polar waters (this mixing would warm the poles). Combined with Milikovich cycles, this can create ice caps, which increase reflection of sunlight, which reduces heating, creating a positive feedback cycle.

        • Yes, all of the above. And GHG effects from changing CO2 concentration play a role at the margins. Warming oceans release more CO2 and that creates a feedback that enhances warming. Cooling oceans absorb more CO2 and that creates a feedback that enhances cooling. These are secondary effects caused by temperature change, not primary effects that cause temperature change as the CAGW faithful believe.

        • My thoughts are the cooling Antarctica flow to the bottom of the oceans has to come up somewhere. There has been a fight of cool dense waters sinking and warm dense waters sinking. When there was a seaway between NA and SA there enable the oceans to warm up enough to allow them to sink. With the closing of the seaway it removed most of the warming going down the the bottom of the oceans and the world became colder, and that cool water has to go somewhere. And as the rotation of the earth moves water the cool waters come up like now in west coasts of NA and SA cooling the waters. Water vapour being the greatest greenhouse gas decreased by cooling surface ocean waters. For the short time there was warming as the warm waters moved from deep but as it changed there was less and less of it. The bottom of the ocean cooled and cooled to the 0-3 degrees for 90% of the ocean of today. Cool waters hold CO2 better, CO2 is typically indicative of the temperature of the deep oceans. CO2 has a very small amount of effect on the temperature of the planet, it’s more indicative of how warm the deep oceans are, and sometimes major vulcanized CO2.

    • Indonesia is now a chain of islands. If they were originally thrust up by plate tectonics, rather than built up by volcanic action, then the channels that now exist between the islands would almost certainly have been closed and ocean currents diverted. This is just as likely to have affected climate as the weathering of rock.

      • No. The western Indonesian isles, as far east as Borneo and Bali have periodically been connected to Asia, as has New Guinea to Australia.

        The islands in between, Wallacea, have been isolated ever since they were created, which is shown both by geology and biogeography. There has never been a land-bridge.

    • That and the rapid uplift of the Himalayas are what differentiate the Quaternary from the Pliocene. The Cenozoic ice age began at the Eocene-Oligocene transition, when Antarctica drifted into the southern polar region.

  2. The problem with their theory is that, despite the hype, there is no real evidence that CO2 has any effect on climate. There is plenty of scientific rationale that the climate sensitivity of CO2 is zero.

  3. They had me worried for a moment…then…

    The beauty of his team’s model, Macdonald said at the end of his talk, is that it explains not just why glacial times start, but also why they stop. A hothouse Earth appears to be the planet’s default state, prevailing for three-fourths of the past 500 million years. An Indonesia-style collision may push the global climate into a glacial period, but only for a while. Mountains erode and continents drift. And the planet warms again.

    To think, Natural state is Hothouse Earth yet warming is unnatural
    I guess the natural state of Climate Science is Outhouse State

    • The outhouse?
      Surely Climate Science (TM) has achieved indoor plumbing, as much excrement as it has generated.

      They still have yet to acknowledge the benefits of the hothouse and why mankind employs that same technology. The whole “CO2= warming” agenda is against common sense thinking.

  4. If there was any scientific evidence that the World’s climate sensitivity to CO2 was other than zero, there might be some purpose in looking at this curious speculation. Otherwise, there is more important work to get on with.

    • Well, the scientific evidence appears to point to a sensitivity between 1.5 to 4.5, with the low end being supported by observational evidence, and the high end by models that don’t well reproduce the real Earth. So, back to the drawing board and try to (a) read the existing review articles on sensitivity (b) construct a synthesis on why all those are so wrong. It requires much more than just complaining here.

      In the meantime, I think observational evidence is what I trust, models should reproduce the real Earth before I trust them. As of now, the lack of experience and plentitude of models makes them an invalid basis for an alarm.

      I think you might support 2nd law of t”dynamics. That’s OK, none disputes the law. But it is boring to have semantic fights with people who can”t do the real maths here. As an example, includes me, probably includes you as well.

      Science is hard, it is not about shouting how others are wrong. You have to convince. Do your homework, show things, get published. A back of an envelope equation including emissivity law doesn’t quite do that.

      My two cents.

      • Well hugs, I think Nicholas is wrong to claim ECS = 0, but if he said 0 – 1.5, he’d almost certainly be closer to correct than to say 1.5 – 4.5 as the IPCC do. The evidence shows that 1.5 depends on nearly all observed warming coming from CO2. But there are surely other natural causes, so ECS must be less than observed warming implies, and that doesn’t rule out zero as an answer.

      • Science may be hard but the scientific method is not. All we non-scientists need to do is get predictions and follow them to see if the theory holds water or not.

        So for the next 20 years what will happen? Colder? Warmer? By how much? I’ve seen CO2 based predictions from +0.25C to +1.0C (and some higher). I’ve seen the natural cycles based predictions from -0.25C to -1.0C (and some lower). Obviously they can’t both be correct but they both could be wrong (temps could stay right where they are).

        So I just keep track and remind them when they are proven wrong by reality which has the final say.

        For myself I’ll only make one prediction for the next 20 years. CO2 will continue to increase at about 1 PPM per year. It will be interesting to see what happens.

    • Correct though you might make an argument for this process causing mass extinction events. Low CO2 plant die off – mass extinction event.

  5. What a bunch of crap…

    CAGW alarmists blame increased volcanic activity for the Little Ice Age, but all empirical evidence show VEI 5+ eruptions only have a 2~3 year global cooling effect, and once gravity/precipitation remove the volcanic particulates, global temps snap back to pre-eruption levels..

    This quick recovery is further eveidnece that climate sensitivity is very low and the silly idea of runaway feedback loops doesn’t exist.

    It’s a well known fact that volcanism has substantially subsided since complex life evolved 550 million years ago during the Cambrian (when CO2 levels were 7,000ppm), and reached an historic low of 170ppm 10,000 years ago at the end of the last glaciation period..

    BTW, when CO2 levels fall below 150ppm, photosynthesis shuts down and causes an Extinction Level Event… Accordingly, we should be ecstatic manmade CO2 emissions have helped increase CO2 levels to 415ppm, which is still too low…

    The Milankovitch cycle hypothesis much better explains global glaciation/interglacial cycles compared to this new silly hypothesis of Indonesia vulacanism/CO2 sequestration controlling the climate..

    Leftists are desperate and are just coming up with crazy rubbish to obfuscate the fact that CAGW is already a disconfirmed hypothesis.

    • Milankovitch cycles explain the alternation between glacial and interglacial intervals within ice ages. They don’t explain the onset of ice ages, since they operate all the time, during both Ice Houses and Hot Houses, periods of generally cooler or warmer temperature.

      For continental ice sheets to form, Earth first has to be in an Ice House. Then its continents need to be in a position permitting the build up of ice, aided by ocean circulation.

      Ice and Hot Houses are probably controlled by ups and downs in the solar system’s orbit around the galactic barycenter, on a roughly 150 million year cycle. The position of continents and oceanic circulation depend of course on plate tectonics.

      Once the first ice sheets form under Milankovitch parameters, then the glacial-interglacial cycles begin. The first two epochs of our present Cenozoic Eon continued the Late Cretaceous Hot House world, despite the effects of the K/Pg asteroid impact (~66 Ma) and Deccan Traps.

      The Cenozoic Ice Age started when Antarctica separated from both South America and Australia with deep ocean channels, leading to ice sheets on Antarctica at the Eocene/Oligocene boundary some 34 Ma. It spread to the Northern Hemisphere after the formation of the Isthmus of Panama, interrupting global tropical ocean currents, ~3 Ma.

      There was no Mesozoic ice age during its Ice House interval because Earth wasn’t as cold as before the Paleozoic ice ages to begin with, and because the continents weren’t in the right position. Antarctica wasn’t over the South Pole, although close.

      CO2 followed the temperature lower.

    • Samurai

      The Milankovitch glacial-interglacial cycle represents “flicker” between states, at the start of a long term transition from non-glacial to glacial, and presumably vice versa:

      Flickering as an early warning signal

      Dakos V, van Nes EH, Scheffer M. Flickering as an early warning signal. Theoretical Ecology. 2013 Aug 1;6(3):309-17.


      Most work on generic early warning signals for critical transitions focuses on indicators of the phenomenon of critical slowing down that precedes a range of catastroph- ic bifurcation points. However, in highly stochastic environ- ments, systems will tend to shift to alternative basins of attraction already far from such bifurcation points. In fact, strong perturbations (noise) may cause the system to “flick- er” between the basins of attraction of the system’s alterna- tive states. As a result, under such noisy conditions, critical slowing down is not relevant, and one would expect its related generic leading indicators to fail, signaling an impending transition. Here, we systematically explore how flickering may be detected and interpreted as a signal of an emerging alternative attractor. We show that—although the two mechanisms differ—flickering may often be reflected in rising variance, lag-1 autocorrelation and skewness in ways that resemble the effects of critical slowing down. In partic- ular, we demonstrate how the probability distribution of a flickering system can be used to map potential alternative attractors and their resilience. Thus, while flickering sys- tems differ in many ways from the classical image of critical transitions, changes in their dynamics may carry valuable information about upcoming major changes.

  6. This only makes even slight sense if you labour under the insane view that a trace has of 0.04% of the atmosphere controls the entire climate of the earth.

    This is what the IPCC and its proponents have done to science. What a crock.

  7. *Groans*
    Nope. Got nothing to do with CO2. It’s about location, location, location. And cycles. That little wobble of the earth’s axis. The inconsistent orbit. There is no CO2 control knob. You’d think common sense would kick in at some point with all these people still focusing on CO2. *SMH*

  8. From Tim Ball’s post earlier:

    Indeed, the lack of correlation between CO2 and temperature in the geologic record contradicts their claim more dramatically. The Ordovician Ice Age, approximately 432 million years ago, occurred when CO2 levels were over 4000 parts per million.

    The entire paper is based on the fallacy that Carbon Dioxide in the atmosphere causes warming of the Earth. This is demonstrably untrue. It may absorb Infrared but it is part of a large chaotic system with hugely powerful negative feedbacks.

    • Very true Ian:

      The most powerful negative feedback process being water through the atmospheric Rankine Cycle which pumps energy up through the atmosphere and beyond into space in reaction to variations in heat input.
      Water is very good at controlling potential runaway temperature; but not so good where the heat source is sub optimal.
      It is remarkable how constant the Earth’s global temperature has been over history; usually within +/- 3% on the Kelvin scale I believe.
      This, of course may be explained by the unique properties of water in conjunction with the more or less constant gravity of Earth due its mass and orbital situation.

      I just wish scientists would extract their heads out of their CO2 infested statistical computers and return to fundamental physics.

    • When I have raised the issue of Ordovician atmospheric carbon dioxide levels in conversations with the local global warming knobs, they indignantly declare that the sun was much “dimmer” in those times and thus apocalyptic global warming was not possible.

      Which is amusing because they cannot have it both ways. The sun either significantly affects Earth’s climate or it doesn’t, and it matters not whether it’s the Ordovician or the Adjustocene.

  9. Utter tripe. CO2 does not drive the climate, nor does an absence of it through whatever mechanism. We live in an iceage because of the presence of sizeable landmass at the poles where ice accumulates and more effectively cools the planet.

  10. Its all just so shallow and child-like:
    From the wiki:

    In the atmosphere, gaseous carbon dioxide dissolves in rainwater, forming carbonic acid (H2CO3) and slightly acidic rainfall.[3] When it makes contact with land, this rainfall causes weathering, the slow dissolution of solid minerals into dissolved ions.

    The dissolved ions are eventually carried by rivers to the ocean, where they are used by marine organisms such as foraminifera and coccolithophores to create CaCO3 (calcite) shells:

    Biological processes in soils can significantly increase weathering rates.[5] Plants produce organic acids that increase weathering. These acids are secreted by root and mycorrhizal fungi, as well as microbial plant decay. Root respiration and oxidation of organic soil matter also produce carbon dioxide, which is converted to carbonic acid, which increases weathering

    The cycle is completed when the sea floor is subducted, carbonate minerals recombine with silicate minerals at temperatures above 300°C to form calcium silicates, and volcanoes release gaseous carbon dioxide back to the atmosphere

    Firstly and trivially: From what they’re saying, enquiring minds want to know why there are even any mountains still standing on the Earth

    Then the wiki mentions ‘marine organisms’
    What are these critters using for food/energy. You can not just ‘eat rock’

    Wiki also mentions what I constantly rave about= ‘soil bacteria’ and ‘organic acid’ and uses the word ‘significant’ in relation to the weathering process.
    What exactly is feeding those things and even more importantly, where did they come from?

    These muppets have (as per usual) got some very serious Cause & Effect issues to resolve – not in the very least concerning any and all Plant Life on this Earth.

    What is so deliciously ironic is that it is the human consumption of sugar (refined, fermented and cooked starch) – a foodstuff from the very base of every food chain on this world that is causing folks like this to become so removed from This Very Earth.
    Living under a pink, yellow or purple sky would give me the creeps, but ymmv of course.

    • Getting the truth from Wiki on anything that matters to the left is as difficult as finding anything about the Bern model from Wiki and how it relates to fundamental IPCC theory.

    • It’s really very simple.
      Is it bad? Of course, there is no good.
      Cause? CO2
      What is this bad thing?
      Insert whatever you like.

  11. When the solar wind is strong, the winter stratospheric polar vortex is strong. Circulation is latitudinal. The coldest air remains above the polar wheel. The ENSO cycle is not disturbed. When the solar wind is weak, the circulation is meridional and the ENSO cycle is blocked.

  12. For those who worship at the alter of CO2 is the control knob of the long term climate, this theory may be entertaining. Except that only nutbars would believe that the sensitivity of CO2 is somehow over riding Milankovitch forcing, in addition to long term continental drift and elevation. Having said that, the good Earth has been going towards a starvation diet of CO2 for tens of millions of years, which has little to do with our current ice age interglacial or timing of the next glacial. Nothing can stop the next pending start of the next ice age cycle. Indeed, we are already well down this path with successive cooling from well before the dark ages and LIA. Maybe the next one in 500 years sticks, especially if we have external forcings like successive back to back major vulcanism within a long term low active solar forcing. It takes thousands of years for long term ocean cooling/mixing to manifest, but this is definitely the direction we are on, despite a recent short term 30 year warming spell. It is so unfortunate that we can only think in tens of years, instead of centuries or longer.

    Humans have always had this instinctive fascination with climate change, because it is the oldest story in the book. From the Flood, (end of the recent ice age) to the extinction of nearly every civilization that has ever existed, eventual climatic calamity is the rule. No wonder this is hard wired into our genes insofar as story telling and faith goes. Strangely, we have temporarily broken this cycle, ironically with the assistance of the very commodity they want to outlaw.

    It really is a tragedy of the acedemic/political system of the West that allows a cultist definition of a scientific half truth to be allowed to go unchallenged by a supposed free press. I know very intelligent acedemics at the highest levels who just go wink wink-nod nod, when this style of scientific discourse is allowed to persist. They know better. And those to scared to rock any boats just zip their mouths so as to not lose their paycheque. Anything that allows the destruction of western economies with 3rd world governance appeals to their Marxist hatred of capitalism, which has been greased into existence by fossil fuels which they have now declared war on.

    He who controls and taxes the right of fire will control the world. There will be only one outcome to this, and it is never good for those who persist in regulating and limiting the ability of others to stay alive and feed themselves. Especially in this day and age of information. The longer this benelovent Pause continues, the better it will be for all of us, but nothing lasts forever. A 2-3 year major cooling event will definitely be the catalyst that argues for a warmer world is a safer world. History is littered with the opposite.

  13. This is not a completely new theory. Essentially there are two theories about the reason for the current Icehouse climate, starting about 35 million years ago.

    1. The rise of the Himalayas greatly increased chemical (silicate) weathering, causing a CO2 drawdown and cooling

    2. The isolation of Antarctica by a continuous Southern Ocean caused the continent to become glaciated, which in turn started production of very cold Antarctic Bottom Water, strongly cooling the entire World Ocean.

    The first theory is more PC since it blames the cooling entirely on lower CO2 levels (it is strongly supported by e. g. Hansen). The second is more ambiguous as the CO2 drawdown can be regarded both as a cause and a result of the cooling (since colder oceans can hold more CO2).

    In fact the first theory was disproven many years ago by Retallack who pointed out that study of the Ganges Fan (which contains most of the eroded materials from Himalaya) has shown that the rise of the Himalayas actually resulted in a strong shift from chemical to mechanical weathering (which does not affect CO2). In fact a rather obvious effect that any geologist is familiar with. Coarse, unweathered debris = Mountains nearby.

    The second theory is indisputable insofar as the cooling of the deep ocean at the Eocene/Oligocene border coincident with the first continent-wide Antarctic Glaciation (Oi-1) is an accepted fact.

    This new variety of Theory 1. Is actually rather better than the original since tropical volcanic mountains do weather chemically quite rapidly. This is why volcanic eruptions in the tropics often kill a lot of people. The freshly weathered volcanic soils are very fertile.

    The main problem with it is that it requires the effect to only apply to volcanic rocks created by compressive tectonics, not extensive. The largest eruption of tropical volcanic rocks during the whole Phanerozoic, the CAMP (Central Atlantic Magmatic Province) at the Triassic-Jurassic border when the North Atlantic started to open did not result in any cooling at all.

    • Thanks for the reminder. I heard this theory two decades ago and I am struggling to recall who promoted this. Was it Ian Plimer?

  14. Do not rule out fossil organic sediments as in particular Devonian and Carboniferous sediments are important carbon sequestration stocks, and what about continental drift and orbit and spin? There is no single mechanism that explains paleo-climate, let alone future climate.

  15. Most geologists agree that long-term changes in the planet’s temperature are governed by shifts in CO2, and that plate tectonics somehow drives those shifts as it remakes the planet’s surface. But for several decades, researchers have debated exactly what turns the CO2 knob.

    I don’t know any geologists who “agree that long-term changes in the planet’s temperature are governed by shifts in CO2“… and I know dozens, if not hundreds, of geologists. Although, only a couple of the geologists I am currently acquainted with have PhD’s, the vast majority have real jobs.

  16. I believe Dr.Judith Curry stated the Earth will always be in glaciation-inter glacial cycles when the Poles are mostly landlocked as they are today with the southern pole in the middle of a continent and the northern pole mostly enclosed by Asia, North America and Greenland.

    Tectonic plates change slowly as in “over geologic time” and have mostly landlocked the poles for hundreds of thousands of years which have caused numerous glaciation-inter glaciation cycles. Some even say about 3 million years which corresponds to kicking off the current Quanternary Ice Age. All regardless of those wishing to change things by starting a new human caused Greenhouse Warming Age by the movement of pens.

    Nary a mountain range or the rain forests or Greenpeace have been able to rearrange the plates to conform to their belief system.

    We’re all sliding into the next glaciation cycle. Until we humans can physically move the tectonic plates and arrange them so the the poles are not over land or landlocked, no amount of carbon tax or schemes will break this cycle — regardless of how many trees are killed to write these scientific papers.

  17. Uplift and weathering are far too slow to account for the abrupt changes observed in the ice age records.
    Milankovich changes account for such changes much better by fitting the start and ending of ice ages to times when multiple Milankovitch features aligned together to maximise their effects on net insolation.
    This is another example of the maxim that to a hammer the solution to every problem is a nail or in this case CO2.
    A pretty daft paper but typical of the rubbish that passes peer review these days.

    • They aren’t asserting that this caused the last Pleistocene glacial stage or any other specific glacial stage. They are asserting that the uplift of these mountains explains the onset of the current “ice age.”

      The current “ice age” began at the beginning of the Oligocene.

      Glacial/interglacial cycles within the Cenozoic ice age are the high frequency component driven by Milankovich cycles. The lower frequency components are most likely driven by tectonic processes…

      • A useful clarification, thank you.
        Applying some logic it would follow that on the time scales relevant to humanity and even if their speculation as to causation were correct (unlikely) the effect of weathering processes on CO2 amounts would still be insignificant and the primary influence on climate variability would still be would be the Milankovitch cycles.
        The paper therefore says nothing useful about the current issue over warming from human emissions of CO2.

        • A climate sensitivity of abour 1.25 K per doubling of atmospheric CO2 is supported over the Phanerozoic Eon… Everything else is due to processes not illuminated by the Gorebal Warming flashlight…

  18. Why is the word “theory” being used so much in the article and comments when surely it is “hypothesis” that ought be used?

    • “Theory” is only used in the Science magazine article, not the GSA paper.

      The Science article wasn’t written by a geologist or any other type of scientist…

      Paul Voosen…


      He’s a graduate of Boston College, where he dabbled in physics, computer science, and English. In 2013, Paul received the Perlman news award from the American Geophysical Union, and in 2015 he was named an emerging writer at the Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Conference.

  19. “On geological time-scales, CO2 is emitted primarily by volcanism and consumed primarily by the chemical weathering of silicate rocks.”
    No mention of CO2 uptake by corals and other limestone building creatures? Surely CO2 sequestration by limestone is more permanent than weathering rocks?

      • Yes.
        Has anyone attempted to estimate current masses and/or volumes of these carbon sequestrating rocks?
        Is silicate weathering the only source of Calcium in the oceans? Surely some must come out of the mid-ocean ridges?
        Anyway, what this has shown me is that there is another huge carbon sink that I hadn’t been aware of.
        Not that many years ago I had been an climate alarmist (along with all the others). Back then, my main misconception had come from a David Attenborough (or similar) program in which he simplistically explained that during the Carboniferous epoch, large amounts of atmospheric carbon had been removed and sequestered in the form of coal and petroleum. He then warned, if we modern humans burned all available the coal and petroleum, ALL the carbon that had been sequestered in that epoch would be released again, atmospheric CO2 concentration would return to pre-Carboniferous levels, and so would global temperatures.
        Well, I bought that story for a while – until I realised that he hadn’t mentioned such carbon stores as LIMESTONE which must be huge and will remain regardless of how much coal or oil is burned.


        Nor does their oversimplified picture allow for metamorphic processes or decomposition of critters and plants.

  20. They’ve forgotten continental drift – or more precisely, reversed their always unwilling acceptance of the tectonic theory of continents.
    The USA geological community was never that keen on Wegener’s evidently still controversial theory of tectonic movement of continents. Climate dogmatism has given them all the reason they need to willingly abandon Wegener and tectonic drift.

    Now tectonic drift is forgotten and climate can only change due to CO2 changes, nothing else, ever.

    Here are some abstracts from an earlier age when true geology still existed, before being subsumed into the fabricated artifice of the climate Sith Lords. In those days, climate changes in timescales of millions of years were correctly attributed to tectonic continental rearrangement:

    Toward reconciliation of Late Ordovician (∼440 Ma) glaciation with very high CO2 levels

    Thomas J Crowley, Steven K Baum
    Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres 96 (D12), 22597-22610, 1991
    Although Phanerozoic glaciations usually coincided with times of estimated low atmospheric CO2, the Late Ordovician (440 Ma) glaciation is a significant exception. CO2 levels during that time may have been as much as 10 times greater than present. In an earlier paper we suggested that the unique geographic configuration of Gondwanaland may explain such a response, as the edge of the supercontinent was essentially tangent to the south pole, and the moderating effect of the nearby ocean may have suppressed the magnitude of summer warming on the landmass, thereby allowing glacial inception. One limitation to the earlier study was that it used a linear energy balance model (EBM). In this paper we further test the above hypothesis in a suite of experiments with a nonlinear EBM that allows for snow‐albedo feedback. We also utilize updated estimates for CO2 levels, decreases in solar luminosity, and variations in orbital forcing. Baseline experiments with no changes in luminosity or CO2 resulted in an ice‐covered area of 6.3 ×106 km2, 53% of the estimated area covered by the Ordovician ice sheet. Additional experiments for different combinations of orbital forcing, 7X/13X CO2, and −3.5%/−5.0% luminosity yielded 0–35% of the estimated ice area in the Late Ordovician. A crude estimate of possible topographic influences increased these numbers to7–47% of total estimated ice area. Additional factors related to ice sheet growth should increase these values somewhat. These results provide additional support for the high CO2/glaciation explanation, with the caveat that even the partial success occurs only when parameters are at the extreme end of their permissible range. The estimated duration of Ordovician glaciation is also consistent with the migration of Gondwanaland across the south pole, with a centrally located pole yielding ice‐free conditions in the summer. Thus identical levels of external forcing yield either glaciated or ice‐free conditions, with the solution dependent on location of the landmass. Although more work is required on this topic, our experiments suggest that there may be a relatively parsimonious explanation for this perplexing paleoclimate paradox.The results lend further support to the proposition that paleogeography significantly modifies the role of CO2 in the long‐term evolution of climate.

    Nick Eyles 1993
    Earth-Science Reviews
    Volume 35, Issues 1–2, September 1993, Pages 1-248
    Earth’s glacial record and its tectonic setting

    Glaciations have occurred episodically at different time intervals and for different durations in Earth’s history. Ice covers have formed in a wide range of plate tectonic and structural settings but the bulk of Earth’s glacial record can be shown to have been deposited and preserved in basins within extensional settings. In such basins, source area uplift and basin subsidence fulfill the tectonic preconditions for the initiation of glaciation and the accomodation and preservation of glaciclastic sediments. Tectonic setting, in particular subsidence rates, also dictates the type of glaciclastic facies and facies successions that are deposited. Many pre-Pleistocene glaciated basins commonly contain well-defined tectonostratigraphic successions recording the interplay of tectonics and sedimentation; traditional climatostratigraphic approaches involving interpretation in terms of either ice advance/retreat cycles or glacio-eustatic sea-level change require revision.

    • TM,

      It was Americans, specifically the US Navy, which confirmed “continental drift” by discovering the mechanism which drives it, ie seafloor spreading.

      The daily observed fact of plate tectonics today is not the least bit controversial. It does seem that some Australian geologists still resist this objective reality. Maybe some Americans, too, but none spring to mind.

      You are however right that the PC fantasy of CO2 as the control knob on climate has indeed blinded consensus antiscientists to the decisive role of tectonics in initiating ice ages.

    • John
      You’re quite right, I overstated my case about geologists, and acknowledge the work on sea floor spreading that you mentioned.

      I just find it frustrating that so much previously hard won knowledge about ice ages, tectonics and geology in general is brushed aside in the mindless attribution of everything to CO2.

      “CO2 is the answer now what’s the question?”

      • TM,

        I share your frustration.

        The attempts to “blame” low CO2 for the onset of ice ages is shameless, while ignoring the obvious tectonic explanations.

      • PS:

        CO2 proponents tend to be “climate scientists”, rather than geologists or real climatologists, who know the score.

  21. “A hothouse Earth appears to be the planet’s default state, prevailing for three-fourths of the past 500 million years.”

    Nice to hear them Admit this.

    Makes me wonder. When will they claim that the suv’s of ancient, now lost civilizations, caused the ‘hothouse’ due to ‘ghg’ emissions?

  22. While geology certainly controls CO2 over periods of 10’s of millions of years, biologic sequestration (sink) happens on a timescale much faster than geologic processes. Calcium carbonate test-forming foraminifera are now responding to the higher pCO2 in seawater and their CO2 sink rate is increasing throughout the world’s oceans. This process is much faster in response and has a higher CO2 sequestration flux than geological weathering processes. It is for this reason that geoengineering proposals to fertilize the world’s oceans to accelerate foram productivity have such an appeal to those so inclined to believe pCO2 levels above pre-industrial 280ppm are some kind of climate problem. (They are mostly rent-seekers proposing solutions for a non-problem of course.) Biology now rules the CO2 equation for Earth over the period of time that H. sapiens have left on it as a species.

  23. The Climate Theologians have now established the need for the UN to control CO2 emissions (regulate our use of energy at every level) no matter what the climate does. Fortune tellers have more credibility than “Climate scientists”.

  24. A comparison of the derived solar activity with a record of Asian climate derived from δ18O in a Chinese stalagmite reveals a significant correlation. The correlation is remarkable because the Earth’s climate has not been driven by the Sun alone. Other forcings like volcanoes, greenhouse gas concentrations, and internal variability also have played an important role. To quantify the solar influence on the Earth’s climate and to distinguish between the different forcings, climate model simulations are required for the Holocene, employing the new dataset of total solar irradiance. The dataset will be available online at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration paleo server (

  25. Removal of CO2 from the atmosphere by silicate weathering is old news. Real geologists know that this process leads to a slow secular decline in CO2 in the atmosphere over hundreds of millions of years, as continent recycling turns over the earth’s rocks.

    Some scientists have recognised that this threatens the biosphere with CO2 starvation, even posing a risk of extinction if the biosphere:

    The logical response to this is to welcome the recycling of carbon from fossil fuels and limestone back into the atmosphere, for the benefit and safety of all living organisms.

    • And therefore we humans have an obligation, nay a duty, to liberate as much CO2 as fast as we can to save all life on earth, and perhaps stave off the impending glaciation! Do not go gently into that dark night! Rage, rage against against the dying of the light! Revolt against the return of the Ice Giants!

      /sarc/off. whew! Now I feel better.

  26. All this talk of balances between weathering, uplifting, CO2 etc makes me think that planetary surfaces are dangerous places.

  27. The old ‘cum hoc ergo propter hoc’ fallacy. What’s worse is that you have no way of testing the theory. You cannot remove those mountains and see if the Earth gets out of the ice age. And do that not only once, because it can be a coincidence, but many times. Some ‘scientists’ have no shame whatsoever.

  28. Great thread of comments. I learn a lot reading WUWT. Living in North Central Washington State, in a location that was under a mile of ice 12,000 years ago, I feel fortunate to be alive in our current semi-warm climate, where we can ski in the winter and swim in the lakes in the summer and where agriculture thrives. As I drive to my house every day the glacial erratics on the hillsides remind me of the icy mayhem that existed here not too long ago. And all of my alarmist friends are worried about a little warming.

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