Global Cold Wave May Be Looming
Published in Energy Tribune and Pajamas Media May 2010
By Art Horn, Meteorologist
There has been an enormous amount of attention focused on
the potential warming effects of carbon dioxide. The global warming enthusiasts have been shouting that as man injects more and more carbon dioxide into the air we will warm the atmosphere beyond recognition. But now in an ironic twist of fate and timing nature is set to freeze all of that talk. A blast of arctic cold may soon encase the earth with an icy grip not seen for nearly 200 years. This is not idle fantasy or alarmist 2012 babble. There are natural forces in nature that are awakening…all at the same time! These forces let loose one at a time can cause the earth to cool and bring about harsh winter conditions. However if they all break free of their captivity at once the effects could be felt not just in the winter but all year long and for several years to come. Should the following words prove to be prophetic the social and economic impact of these powerful forces working
together may make history.
On March 20th a volcano erupted on the island of Iceland. The eruption has continued at varying intensity to this day. The ash cloud from this volcano caused the cancellation of 100,000 flights in Europe. Disruption of air traffic is continuing as flight controllers work to route planes around the dangerous clouds. A volcano erupting on Iceland is not an uncommon event. The island is one of the few spots where the mid oceanic ridge rears up out of the water revealing its violent personality. However this volcano is different. It can act as a predictor of future much more explosive and consequential activity.
This volcano has only erupted three times since the 9th
century. The last eruption was in the early 1820s. What is alarming about
this most recent eruption is that in the past it has been followed by a much larger eruption by the nearby Katla Volcano. Katla has erupted many times on its own, usually every 60 to 80 years. The last time it blew was 1918 so it’s overdue to explode. Magnus Tomi Gudmundson is a geophysicist at the University of Iceland and an expert on volcanic ice eruptions and he says “There is an increasing likelihood we’ll see a Katla eruption in the coming
months or a year or two, but there’s no way that’s certain”. He also said “From records we know that every time Eyjafjallajokull has erupted Katla has also erupted”.
The reason this is ominously significant is that these giant eruptions can change the weather on a planetary scale for years. Mount Laki is another large volcano in Iceland that has had a history of producing climate changing eruptions. In the early summer of 1783 Laki erupted releasing vast rivers of lava. The explosive volcano also ejected a massive amount of volcanic ash and sulfur dioxide into the air. The eruption was so violent that the ash and sulfur dioxide were injected into the stratosphere
some 8 miles up. This cloud was then swept around the world by the stratospheric winds. The result was a significant decrease in the amount of sunlight reaching the earth’s surface for several years. That reduction in sunlight brought about bitter cold weather across the northern hemisphere. The winter of 1784 was the coldest ever seen in New England and in Europe.
New Jersey was buried under feet of snow and the Mississippi river froze all the way down to New Orleans! Ice was reported in the Gulf of Mexico. Historical records show that similar conditions existed during the following winter.
There are other eruptions that have had similar
consequences. Mount Tambora is in Indonesia. This volcano erupted with
cataclysmic force in April of 1815. This was the largest volcano to erupt in over 1,600 years. It also was during a time of very low solar activity known as the “Dalton Minimum”. The following year was called “the year without a summer”. During early June of 1815 a foot of snow fell on Quebec City. In July and August lake and river ice were observed as far south as Pennsylvania. Frost killed crops across New England with resulting famine. During the brutal winter of 1816/17 the temperature fell to -32 at New York
Mount Pinatubo exploded in June of 1991 after four centuries of sleep. The resultant cloud of volcanic ash belched into the
stratosphere pounded the global temperature down a full one degree
Fahrenheit by 1993. Record snowfall buried the Middle Atlantic States and southern New England during the winter of 1993/94. Those same records were shattered just two years later in the winter of 1995/96 from the effects of the reduced sunlight.
If Eyjafjallajokull induces an eruption of Katla that event alone could force global temperatures down for 3 to 5 years. But there
is much more at work here. We have just exited the longest and deepest solar minimum in nearly 100 years. During this minimum the sun had the greatest number of spotless days (days where there were no sunspots on the face of the sun) since the early 1800s. The solar cycle is usually about 11 years from minimum to minimum. This past cycle 23 lasted 12.7 years. The long
length of a solar cycle has been shown to have significant short term climate significance. Australian solar researcher Dr. David Archibald has shown that for every one year increase in the solar cycle length there is a
half degree Celsius drop in the global temperature in the next cycle. Using that relationship we could expect a global temperature drop of one degree Fahrenheit by 2020. That would temperature drop would wipe out all of the
warming of the last 150 years!
But that is not all. There is a third player in this potential global temperature plunge. Since the autumn of 2009 to the current
time we have been under the influence of a moderately strong El Nino. El Nino is a warming of the water in the Pacific Ocean along the equator from South America to the international dateline. El Nino’s warm water adds vast amounts of heat and humidity to the atmosphere. The result is a warmer earth and greatly altered weather patterns around the world. The current El Nino is predicted to fade out this summer. Frequently after an El Nino we see the development of La Nina, the colder sister of El Nino. La Nina’s cooler waters along the equatorial Pacific act to cool the earth’s temperature.
If La La Nina develops this summer this could be the third
leg of a natural convergence of forces not seen since the early 1800s. The sun has experienced its longest and most pronounced solar minimum in nearly 100 years. Research indicates this deep, long minimum will be followed by at least 10 years of colder weather. Mount Eyjafjallajokull in Iceland has started erupting. History has shown that every time Mount Eyjafjallajokull
erupts the nearby more powerful and explosive Katla follows. The vast volcanic cloud thrust into the stratosphere by this explosion partially blocks out the warming rays of the sun and causes global temperature to plummet. El Nino is frequently followed by La Nina. The current El Nino is weakening rapidly and will likely be gone by this summer.
The stage could soon be set for a confluence of cold inducing forces. A La Nina with its chilling waters combined with the
effects of a weaker sun combined with a possible major eruption in Iceland. If all of these forces work together the earth could plunge into a period of bitter cold not seen for two hundred years. Forecasts of natural phenomena are notoriously difficult. However a unique set of natural circumstances have a chance to unify into a formidable triad. All eyes will be on Iceland
to see if Katla awakens from its long sleep. If it does a worldwide cold wave may result and the theory of man made global warming will be handed another crushing blow.