by Steven Guth
by Steven Guth
Sunlight streams into the wintergarden, warming the room, bounces off the polished wooden floor and removes all shadows on the old man’s face. Outside a gentle wind shakes the healthy green leaves of a stunning variety of trees; the voices of little birds fill any gaps in the conversation.
Fred sits in a comfortable 1950’s chair with firm upholstery and wooden armrests. His feet rest on a footstool. Nearby, on a desk, an iris and a tiny 10cm white marble Kwan Yin watch over a maze of stapled A4 printouts.
Steven shares the sagging coach with four or five soft feather pillows. He looks across to the Kwan Yin facing him from her desk. On the floor between the two men, a little red light shows Steven’s tape recorder is running.
“Steven,” said Fred, “I’ve invited you today because of your article on Climate Change; I liked your handling of the CO2 question. I must say I was intrigued by your idea of proto-water … perhaps we can talk about it over lunch.”
“Thanks, that would be good.”
“As much as I would like to praise you article, I must point out that you left out the huge terrifying inescapable truth! Volcanoes often create instant and dramatic Climate Change!”
“So to reiterate your email invitation … You want me to modify my article to insert the ‘inescapable truth’ as you see it?”
“That would be nice; surely a fair exchange for a lunch?”
“Why don’t you write it yourself?”
“Oh I prefer cooking to writing.”
“We’ll see how it goes; the recorder should make it easier.”
“What’s puzzled me …” Fred adopts a relaxed posture with his arms on the chair, his eyes on the leaves flickering in the sunlight… “is why Climate Science is blind to volcanic activity. Why, even at the simple level gases — carbon dioxide, hydrogen sulphide, sulphur dioxide, hydrogen — they all spew out and no attempt is made to include their fluctuations in climate models.”
“My guess is that’s because Climate Science has been captured by the computer, the media and the political agenda. There seem to be no reality checks …”
“Good point, yes, the computer’s ability to handle mathematical models has swamped contemplative science ... Have you ever smelt an active volcano?”
“Why, yes, Mt Asama in Japan. My first view was from a lookout 15 Kms away; it smelt of Joss sticks …”
“A nice image, mother earth praying to the gods of heaven … but to get back to the point … the smell was gas, mainly sulphur derivatives. For you to smell it so that far away shows how much gas must leak out.”
“And you mean that the gases are not measured, not accounted for in Climate models?”
“Indeed, that’s right. The Japanese keep an eye on hydrogen outflows near volcanos — they help foretell earthquakes — but no one makes even the wildest guesses about gas types, flow rates and fluctuations; all ignored in the models.”
Steven pushes down one of the bulging pillows with his elbow and moves a fraction closer to Fred, “When I researched for my ’93 school book on Climate Change it struck me that no one had even the wildest ideas of all the inputs or sinks for CO2. So they gave up trying to work their models with inputs and outputs (which is what they should have done) and reverted to measurements of “average” CO2 traces in the air — a dodgy thing to do because air is a mixture and CO2 is heavy and puddles in strange ways and the percentages involved are minute.”
“I’ve read your suggestion that the steady CO2 increase figures are ‘cooked’ because annual variations from major forest fires are huge - and the figures show no annual fluctuations.” (see endnote for link)
“And now you are going to suggest that volcanic fluctuations are also huge, unpredictable and also don’t show in the annual ‘average’ figures?”
“True enough, but that’s beside the point. Forget the climate modelling game and contemplate the effect of a volcanic explosion.”
“Gas and ash — like when that unpronounceable Icelandic volcano went up in 2011.”
“That one yes, a tiny one — ash disrupted air traffic over Europe — a mere blip in the processes of civilisation. There was less than a cubic Km of discharge.”
And Mt St Helens?
“Also less than a cubic Km and the discharge didn’t reach high into the sky. Volcanos can be thousands of times that size with ash, water and gas plumes that reach high into the stratosphere — the big ones quickly and radically affect the world’s climate. Forget about CO2 as a Climatic driver, big volcanos create Dark Ages.”
Steven pushes against a pillow yielding from the weight of his back … “Or near extinctions. Yes I know about that because of my interest in gene theory. The one gene tracers like to talk about is Mt. Toba, the Indonesia volcano that went up 70,000 years ago. It created genetic bottlenecks for many species, including humans — the world’s human population fell from several millions to just ten or twenty thousand breeding pairs.”
“Yes, Toba was mega-colossal, that’s rare. It happens only once in every few hundreds of thousand years. Volcanologists say is that it sent up nearly 3,000 cubic Km of ejecta plus water and gases. No, I mean ones closer to now, that are not rare. You mentioned Iceland just now ... in 1783 Laki, a deep fissure went up. It was terrifying in Iceland because it spurted out fluoride which became a hydrofluoric acid and melted the feet, teeth and bones of animals … more than half died horrible deaths. Crops died as well and so it is not surprising that a quarter of the population died of starvation.”
“Why haven’t I heard of it?”
“Let me go on. That was just Iceland. Did I mention that volcanos are different?”
“No, I don’t think so.”
“Well, I should. The Laki explosion had two important, unusual characteristics. Firstly, it lasted 8 months. And secondly it pushed vast amounts of gas aloft — notably hydrogen fluoride and sulphur dioxide. The sulphur dioxide became a dense dry fog and acid rain; it covered Europe from England to Hungary, destroying crops and creating deadly asthma. First, temperatures went up; and then they dropped to make a devastatingly cold and long ongoing winter. In subsequent years, the weather reminded unstable with droughts, storms, hailstones; affecting the whole northern hemisphere. There was ice in the Gulf of Mexico, drought in the Nile catchment … a sixth of Egypt’s population died of starvation. Japan’s Tenmei famine worsened.”
“All that from a hole in the ground in far off Iceland?”
“Yes, indeed. Volcanic events make for political instablity. Recovery from volcanic events is slow and the 1783/84 Laki explosion undoubtly contributed to the French Revolution of 1789 by creating an ‘end of the world’ feeling of instability, as well as crop failure, hunger and starvation.”
“But nothing as bad as Laki has happened since then ..”
“True and false. Look I’ll give you a list ... 1815, Tambora Indonesia exploded sending up 160 cubic Km of ejecta, making the world’s weather unstable for years. Massive frosts, hot spells, storms, major flooding. 1816 went down as “The year without summer”. In America, grain prices doubled and then doubled again. 100,000 died of starvation in Ireland. China had unseasonal and devastating frosts.
The most recent climate-changing event of some significance was Krakatoa in 1883. It too made the weather cold and unstable for years, because of the sulphur dioxide it sent into the high atmosphere. But a big effect was the tsunami the explosion created. To give you an idea of size there were only an estimated 25 cubic Km of ejecta.”
“From what you have just told me it is not just size, the quantity of ejecta, but also the type of ejecta.”
“Very much so. To me the most fascinating explosion was the 535 Krakatoa explosion. Its size is uncertain but its main claim to fame came through the sulphur dioxide and water vapour that was pushed high into the atmosphere. It seems that the ocean rushed into the huge hole the explosion created, then the superheated steam shot high into the atmosphere, got picked up by jet streams, and circulated around the world causing years of darkness. I did say the volcanos affect the climate big time in direct ways; and the 535 event certainly did — sunlight was removed from the earth for years. People wrote that there were no shadows to be seen in Europe. Undoubtedly storms and rain followed and, subsequently, starvation, plague and wars.”
“Why haven’t I heard about this?”
Steven uses the weight of his extended legs to lift himself off the sagging couch. Standing in front of the window, watching the leaves dancing in the wind, he turns his to face Fred, saying “That doesn’t help. What do you mean?”
“The best explanation is Phantom History.”
“That doesn’t help.”
“You aren’t going to believe this. Our Calendar has been cooked; 296 years have been added to it.”
“Again, what do you mean?”
“I don’t want to go deeply into the history or politics of the event. To keep it simple, German King Otto III and Pope Sylvester II added the 300 years to the Calender in about the year 1,000. This has thrown all the dates out, forcing the Islamic, Jewish, Chinese and Roman dating systems to be adjusted to fill in the years of created history.”
“… Yes, Illig … that’s the name. A German, he stumbled on this when he went looking for an explanation for the lack of hard factual information about the Early Mediaeval period. It seems that all the documents from this period are forgeries.”
“Right, he started the idea and even though the established Academic world tries to refute his arguments I think he is dead right. But what Illig hasn’t done is to fit the Krakatoa explosion of 535 (some date it as 416) into the Calender systems. Which brings up David Keys and his book ‘Catastrophe’ — he traces the effects of volcanic explosions, extreme climate events, starvations, plagues, wars, and cultural collapse. He does a good job of it and I believe he is also dead right.”
“This is getting confusing.”
“Yes, step outside the box of one discipline, mix facts between disciplines and you’ll get confusion - but you’ll also get wisdom !”
Steven sits, leans back on a pillow — that gives way under his weight — and waits for Fred to say more.
“Look, my concern is that we have made no preparations — not even intellectual preparations for the inevitable Volcanic Climatic Collapse. The world food supply is so overstressed and so dependent on transport that even a little simple event like in 1815 will result in massive economic and political ramifications. In a few words, people will starve in the world’s cities, the peasants will survive and — dare I use the words — a new world order will be created.”
“You mean America will go under and China and India will emerge as the new world powers?”
“Yes, that’s what’s likely to happen. It’s the same dilemma that’s been preventing nuclear war. The more successful and complex a civilisation is, the more easily it falls apart.”
“So that’s the terrifying truth about climate change … It’s not CO2 that will bring down humanity, just Mother Nature doing what she has always done.”
“Right. Unless the developed countries make preparations to get through years of starvation and climatic confusion — not to mention plagues and acquisitive wars — they have no hope. America is turning surplus grain into fuel; they should be storing it. The list of stupidities goes on. I have studied the demise of the Roman civilisation … There are lessons in it … Do you want to hear about it?”
Steven, in listening mode, simply nods his head — all that Fred needs to continue.
“First, the dates are confusing. I think the 535 explosion happened in the date we ascribe to 235 in Roman history. You see the Romans had this idea of Limes, a protected frontier. It required food to keep the soldiers going in the frontier forts, and food was produced — cheese, grain, meat, wine — in the secure areas behind the boundaries. The late Roman Empire was surprisingly sophisticated; there was a superb transport system that allowed safe and speedy transport of everything from food for soldiers to minerals for weapons — the world hasn’t seen the likes of it again until the late 19th century. Then it all quickly collapsed. Why? Because of Krakatoa and the Dark Age she created. No food for soldiers or animals. The barbarian tribal hunters penetrated the boarders and walked around the unsupported and starving frontier Legions. Things happened more slowly in those days but none the less the Empire quickly became a political and economic mess, with plague … and the ruin of dozens of once thriving cites. The remaining cites fortified themselves with walls. The sophisticated Limes policy was gone and, without it, the Roman Empire became a shadow of its former self.”
“So …” Steven muses “You are suggesting that the American overseas bases policy will crumble with the next Volcanic event?”
“Certainly yes, if it is a big event … unless their forward planning is better than I believe it to be.”
Look, before we go and have lunch I have printed out a stack of articles from the web. You can take them home. It’s not that there weren’t other instances of Volcanic induced Climate Change leading to what David Keys calls Catastrophes. I count at least three others that reached the record books in the Middle Ages.
The Great Famine … it started in 1315 and ended up years later with the Black plague … that decimated the European population. It appears to be linked to Mt Pinatubo in the Philippines and the Kaharoa system in New Zealand. But whatever the causes, the climate changes that took place were typical of volcanic induced climate change ... heavy summer rains, cold winters and massive starvation. Cannibalism and social chaos were recorded … Abrupt climate variations destroy the structure of civilisation.
Then in 1452 Kuwae in Vanuatu went up with lots of sulphur dioxide and probably steam (it’s an undersea volcano) ejecta was thrown high into the stratosphere bloating out the sun and the moon. The spookiness of these climatic events unnerved the residents of Constantinople. The end-result was the fall of the Byzantine Empire and the ascendency of the Turks.
In 1600 Huaynaputina in Peru exploded. It was a volcano rich in Sulphur dioxide, acid rain became a problem in Europe the next year. So did unseasonably cold wet weather. The Russian Famine of 1601 and 1602 came out of this; the ruling Tsar being deposed as a result. The rest of Europe, from Latvia to France, had exceptionally cold weather; and the records also speak of cold years in China and japan.
Actually, my favorite historic volcanic explosion is the Santorini event in about 1630 BC. It’s in the Bible as the Moses saga. The plagues of Egypt and the ‘opening’ of the sea (the result of a Tsunami induced wave front) are mythical descriptions of the event that we have drawn into our popular culture. Santorini probably ejected 100 cubic Km of material … not all that much … but its location in the eastern corner of the Mediterranean meant it profoundly affected Egypt. The Pharaoh of the time, Akhenaten, introduced a new sun-worshiping religion, to overcome the frightening effects of a sunless world.
“Ok, yes, Fred … I take your point, volcanic induced climate changes rewrite the pages of history.”
“Indeed, they are important contributors. The super colossal ones even rewrite the gene pools. But enough, Steven, I’ll give you the papers after lunch.”
Comments for Climate Change — The Missing Truth?
Email Steven Guth (new page)
Date posted: February 08, 2012 - 07:23 pm
Message: @Nullius in Verba: Thanks for your thgouhtful reply. I will respond in more detail, but probably not until Monday…;
Date posted: February 06, 2012 - 11:30 pm
Message: “;We need to build an itvniatiie that is viewed as trustworthy to all of us, no matter our ideological and political positions, or our understanding of science. We can do that.”;It’;s an excellent idea. A number of people on the other side of the debate have been calling for something similar.“;We can run a transparent process â open to full scrutiny and input from anyone â that develops a series of questions and broadly accepted answers relevant to the issue of climate change.”;Even better! That would answer a lot of the principle objections and complaints of the sceptics. Releasing data, publishing algorithms, showing your working would be a fantastic step forward.How would we start? We can look at your examples as an example.“;Carbon dioxide, a colorless gas present in tiny concentrations in the atmosphere, can trap radiation from the Earth that would otherwise dissipate into space.”;You should list “;water vapour, carbon dioxide, and other gases”; rather than just CO2 when discussing the mechanism of the greenhouse effect. The water vapour is the most important component of both the greenhouse effect and the predicted changes in it.It would be better to say “;absorb and re-emit”;. The term “;trap”; suggests a permanent retention, which is not how it works. As much energy is dissipated into space now as previously, but because it comes from higher up in the atmosphere, the temperature distribution within the atmosphere will change.Incidentally, I’;m sure you would agree that the same principle must apply to liquid water in the oceans as much as to water vapour in the air. Sunlight passes through many metres of water before being absorbed, but then when the water radiates it gets immediately absorbed and re-radiated by each layer of the water above it. One might say that water, a colourless liquid present in huge concentrations in the oceans, can trap radiation from below that would otherwise dissipate into space.“;Our âfingerprintsâ are detectable in the altered chemical nature of atmospheric carbon dioxide.”;That should be “;isotopic”; rather than “;chemical”;. And while it is a true statement, you need to be careful about what the “;fingerprints”; imply. The isotopic change shows that some of the CO2 in the air is anthropogenic, but it does not say anything about whether that is the cause of the increase. That requires detailed modelling of the carbon cycle, and the feedbacks within it.“;Long-term temperature trends indicate significant increases in recent decades.”;This can be interpreted in many ways, some of which are true, and others less so. For example, what do you mean by “;long-term”;? Years, decades, centuries, or millenia? What do you mean by “;trend”;? The linear least-squares fit that everyone plots, or estimates that compensate for autocorrelation, possible unit roots, long-term climate oscillations, and highly uneven measurement/sampling errors? Do you include or exclude urban heat islands, bucket adjustments, instrumentation changes, etc. in your trend? What do you mean by “;significant”;? Is that in the statistical sense, and if so against what statistical model null? Or do you mean it in the sense of its impact, in which case how do you extend global trends to the far more variable regional climates that people experience directly? For roughly a third of the world, the trend has been cooling over the long term, while for two thirds it has been warming. The spread of natural variation is wider than the signal, and the changes the global trend is measuring are not necessarily uniformly distributed. So how do you go about attributing the contribution of multiple causes to local impacts to say where the global trend is significant?It’;s a worthwhile endeavor –; but as you can see, it’;s not going to be easy.
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