How climate change could cause an Ice Age in Europe

So far, the progress of global warming and climate change has been relatively smooth, a gradual decline in livability marked by a gradual increase in increasingly catastrophic events. Yes, catastrophic events — but a gradual increase in their number and degree. Key word, gradual.

We assume, perhaps to comfort ourselves, that the (so far) slow and gradual decline in the livability of the planet will remain … slow and gradual.

But there’s no reason to assume that there won’t be sudden collapses as well, sudden discontinuities, the way a steady dribble of small chunks of ice might fall from a Greenland glacier into the sea, then suddenly a piece the size of Ohio splits and floats away, lost, never to come back. A discontinuity, a break from the gradual.

Discontinuities work in the social sphere as well, in the sphere of confidence and panic. As I’ll show you shortly, the first major (white) American city to end its life forever following a Haiyan-sized hurricane — Miami, for example — will cause a collapse in American confidence in the future that will never return. That loss of confidence and the panic that will result is a collapse as well, a discontinuity, fear the size of Ohio breaking the population from its safe assumptions and presumed security.

Here’s another discontinuity. The Gulf Stream, the warm-water current that starts in the Gulf of Mexico and terminates in the Atlantic north of Scotland, also has collapse potential. Because of the Gulf Stream, northern Europe is moderate in climate. What if the Gulf Stream collapses and stops warming Europe? (To jump to the bottom line, click here. But you’ll be missing some interesting graphics.)

What is the Gulf Stream?

What’s the Gulf Stream and where does it flow? Here’s a look at surface temperature in the western North Atlantic, from Wikipedia:

Surface temperature in the western North Atlantic. North America is black and dark blue (cold), the Gulf Stream red (warm). Source: NASA

Surface temperature in the western North Atlantic. North America is black and dark blue (cold), the Gulf Stream red (warm). Source: NASA

Study the graphic by first finding North America on the left, and the coasts of Florida and Cuba. The rest is water, of varying temperatures. Note the suggestion of a current traveling north. The Gulf Stream is, in fact, an actual plottable current, like a river within the ocean, that carries warm water from west of Florida — yes, west — through the water that divides Florida from Cuba and into the North Atlantic.

The following is also from Wikipedia; note that the Gulf Stream splits at some point and warms both Europe and West Africa.

The Gulf Stream, together with its northern extension towards Europe, the North Atlantic Drift, is a powerful, warm, and swift Atlantic ocean current that originates at the tip of Florida, and follows the eastern coastlines of the United States and Newfoundland before crossing the Atlantic Ocean. The process of western intensification causes the Gulf Stream to be a northward accelerating current off the east coast of North America. At about 40°0′N 30°0′W, it splits in two, with the northern stream crossing to Northern Europe and the southern stream recirculating off West Africa. The Gulf Stream influences the climate of the east coast of North America from Florida to Newfoundland, and the west coast of Europe. Although there has been recent debate, there is consensus that the climate of Western Europe and Northern Europe is warmer than it would otherwise be due to the North Atlantic drift, one of the branches from the tail of the Gulf Stream.

Again from Wikipedia, here’s the same image as the one above, with Europe and Africa shown, as well as the Gulf Stream itself. Click to see a very large and detailed version of this image.

Evolution of the Gulf Stream to the west of Ireland continuing as the North Atlantic Current

Evolution of the Gulf Stream to the west of Ireland continuing as the
North Atlantic Current

To orient yourself, start by finding the North American coast, then locate Spain and the British Isles. Then click to study the image if you like (it opens in a new tab). Keep Scotland in mind as you watch the video below — the unnaturally warm western Scottish climate puts in a surprising early appearance in the program.

The Gulf Stream isn’t a one-way flow; it’s a loop with an underwater return

What’s not apparent from the images above, nor from the Wikipedia link, is that the Gulf Stream is a loop, not a one-way water flow.

As you’ll see in a minute, the current holds together as a “stream” because it’s both more salty (thus more dense) and more warm (thus staying on the surface) as it is driven north by the Trade Winds. When the Gulf Stream stops being more warm — because it’s now further north and has given up its heat to the air and the ocean — it’s still more salty (still more dense) than the Atlantic water around it, so the salt current sinks to the ocean floor, still as a current, and returns south as part of a giant chain of surface and submerged oceanic currents.

At some point the global underwater currents warm, rise to the surface, enter the Gulf of Mexico and repeat the cycle. You can see the Gulf Stream part of this in the following three stills from the video’s animation. The first image shows the surface Gulf Stream current (taken from about 12:00 in the video). Note the cooler water entering the Gulf from the south, being warmed, and then driven north.

Gulf Stream showing surface flow (from "The Gulf Stream and the Next Ice Age")

Gulf Stream showing surface flow (from “The Gulf Stream and the Next Ice Age”)

The second still image shows the start of the underwater return current along the floor of the Atlantic (12:45 in the video). The view is from underwater. The cooler, but still dense and saltier, light blue stream is now diving to the bottom, having given up its heat. The “cliff edges” you see in the background are the underwater portions of Norway and the British Isles:

Gulf Stream showing the start of "thermohaline"underwater return flow (from "The Gulf Stream and the Next Ice Age")

Gulf Stream showing the start of “thermohaline” underwater return flow
(from “The Gulf Stream and the Next Ice Age”)

And here’s that dense salt water, “thermohaline circulation,” returning south along the Atlantic floor. The red images near the top of the graphic are warm surface currents flowing north, toward the “camera.” The lighter blue current near the bottom of the image shows the “return flow” as it moves south and away from the camera.

Gulf Stream showing the "thermohaline"underwater return flow heading south along the Atlantic floor (from "The Gulf Stream and the Next Ice Age")

Gulf Stream showing the “thermohaline”underwater return flow heading south along the Atlantic floor
(from “The Gulf Stream and the Next Ice Age”)

There’s more about the global thermohaline circulation here, along with a nice map and a NASA-produced video (if you watch, be sure to full-screen the animation).

So what would happen, do you think, if the Gulf Stream part of the global mid-ocean circulation stopped, was interrupted? That’s what this video is about.

The Gulf Stream and the Next Ice Age

This video considers the Gulf Stream, what it is, how it works, what drives it, and what happens when it’s interfered with, as it appears to have been in the past. The program is well produced — a NOVA-quality production — but to my knowledge has never been broadcast in the U.S. It appears to be a co-production of a U.K. video house and a French one.

Please watch, and if you like it, watch a second time, perhaps in the evening using your Chromecast or whatever. (When the video starts, click the “gear” icon to turn off annotations and increase the resolution.)

Here’s a quick rundown of the show’s main sections to help you navigate:

(Start) A vision of frozen Europe, then after the titles, an exploration of the effects of the Gulf Stream on the climate of western Europe, starting with Brittany and Scotland. (The Scottish segment at 5:30 is striking — Australo-Asian plants? Really?)

(7:30) Information about the Gulf Stream itself, starting with its discovery by Ben Franklin. The animation in this section provided most of the still images in this piece.

(13:25) Effect of the Gulf Stream on the availability of marine life for fishing and food supplies, especially cod.

(18:20) A discussion of the science — how the Gulf Stream could be interrupted and a look at paleo-climate. Core samples show there’s evidence of just this kind of interruption in the past 20,000 years.

(26:00) The bottom-line explanation — sudden influx of much fresh water from melting glaciers dilutes the high-density saltiness of the Gulf Stream and dissipates it in the surrounding fresh water. This prevents the stream from sinking and returning as a stream. The return flow from the North Atlantic stops and the return starts much further south.

(29:30) Information about global warming itself — where we are and where we’re going.

(39:30) Report of a Pentagon paper that warns in detail about the destabilizing effects of global warming, region by region.

(48:10) We may have “another ten years” … sound familiar?

Finally, a view of the animation showing Europe with the northern part of the Gulf Stream switched off. The extent of the glaciation (down to just before the Pyrenees) is not a guess. (To orient yourself, find Spain near the bottom, then look north to find the British Isles.)

Glaciation in Europe with the northern Gulf Stream "switched off" (from "The Gulf Stream and the Next Ice Age")

Glaciation in Europe with the northern Gulf Stream “switched off”
(from “The Gulf Stream and the Next Ice Age”)

Dramatic? These cooling events have occurred before, often starting suddenly from periods of warming, lasting as little as a few decades, then reversing. The cause of sudden glaciers in Europe following periods of warming is still being discussed. But the interruption of the natural Gulf Stream flow one of the most likely candidates.

How does this relate to today?

It is believed that this dynamic, sudden glaciation of Europe, happens as a result of a global warming event that melts enough fresh-water ice in the north Atlantic to desalinate (dilute the dense salt content of) the surface part of the northern Gulf Stream. Because the surface current is no longer heavier than the surrounding ocean, it fails to sink when cooled. This causes the surface current to terminate further south than before, never reaching Europe.

The mechanism at issue is the same as the one we’re watching today — global temperature increase. We’re already at +1°C from the pre-Industrial norm, which is also the norm of the last 10,000 years. Prior to industrial times, the whole of the last 10,000 years never saw a global temperature variation outside of ±½°C. We’ve already exited the climate of the Holocene, the climate of the past 10,000 years. What awaits us?

Whatever that future is, our ability to be “civilized” in the modern sense depends on our ability to farm. Prior to studying the Gulf Stream, I had assumed that many major farming regions would be lost to heat, monsoon, flooding or drought, but that many growing regions would be preserved. The regions lost would include the California Central Valley, much of the American Midwest, the Northern Plain of China (its breadbasket), Ukraine (another breadbasket), almost all of Africa, most of India, and so on.

But I had also assumed that areas near or north of latitude 45°N (roughly Portland, Oregon, and Paris, France, etc.) were far enough north to remain or even improve as growing regions. These would include much of Canada, much of Europe, and all of Scandinavia. But glaciers in Europe, despite warming elsewhere on the planet, would make almost the entire north European continent unfarmable. Is northern Russia farmable today? I don’t think so, but research will tell us for sure.

Bottom line: The future may not be the ride we want it to be. Is it time to consider initiating a Zero Carbon regime voluntarily and interrupting most of the worst of these consequences? I still think we have a 5–10 year window.

If this stuff concerns you, tell everyone you know that Zero Carbon Now is the way out — and the only one. Education is our first task at this point, since the other side is selling us hard the wrong way. “Carbon neutral” is just another trick for keeping David Koch in walking money. Even “lying pantsuit lady” — the Exxon spokeswoman — probably knows that. After all, she’s cashing those checks too; just smaller ones.


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Gaius Publius is a professional writer living on the West Coast of the United States.

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46 Responses to “How climate change could cause an Ice Age in Europe”

  1. Dwight E Howell says:

    It is an empirical fact that weather disasters have become less numerous other than droughts which are running as usual. Of course to the believers facts don’t matter.

  2. modoccus1 says:

    The future is thorium as an interim solution to total renewable energy. Proof of concept already accomplished at Oak Ridge,Tenn. in the 60s. If the damaged nuclear reactors in Japan had been molten salt thorium technology, there would have been no explosions, no released radiation, and no meltdowns —-completely safe, and you can’t build nuclear weapons with it, and the volume of spent fuel is far less, with much lower radiation that has a short half-life.

    It is technologically possible to have energy too cheap to meter (distribution costs not included). It would be economical to catalyze abundant natural gas into liquid fuels. And then the possibility of using factory assembled modular units for smelting and huge desalination plants to solve future water supply problems. The list could go on and on.

    It was only until recently when the carbon budget of photovoltaic solar systems actually turned positive. Previously it took more carbon to produce solar panels then the carbon they would save over their lifetime.

    Electricity “too cheap to meter” with thorium would make enormous savings in cost and carbon emissions of solar panels, which in turn would greatly speed up the adoption of solar instead of building more coal plants in developing countries.

    What bothers me is that the solutions offered is always in the negative form, more restrictions, more controls, cutbacks, and more power to the central governments, even controlling global agency, instead of the positive solutions of abundant carbon free energy.

    Besides, the negative approach is not going to work in a democracy. If the pain gets too great the environmental grinches will be voted out of office. It looks like even Europe is letting things slide on carbon containment.

    And then the negatively constituted control freaks will say we cannot afford to have democracies to deal with the coming apocalypse. If carbon driven global warming is real, the way out is forward with positive solutions.

  3. citizen_spot says:

    I believe it had something to do with placating Seth McFarland, who is an executive producer of the new Cosmos series. He is kind of the golden goose for Fox entertainment on Sunday prime time.

  4. William R. Mosby says:

    We had by that time already figured out how to use nuclear power, including the vast improvements brought by fast reactor technologies in the areas of energy efficiency and waste lifetime shortening. Not the same thing at all with the renewables, as you state they still needed research at that time. Which is what I was saying in the first place.

  5. dcinsider says:

    I’m not sure I want my ashes frozen in ice in England.

  6. eggroll_jr says:

    Thank you, Gaius. If the behavior of some Parisians over recent days is any indicator, there are many people who will resist change even if doing so is in their own interest. Jared Diamond, author of “Collapse” has been called out on his theory of why Easter Island culture collapsed, but, say, the Anasazi who lived at Bandolier really did push the unsustainable practice thing right over the edge. Moreover, humans continue to proliferate, with the ratio of those being born more than double the number dying.

  7. lynchie says:

    Until the oil companies have exhausted the crude oil in the ground we will never see this coal/gas at the pump. I drive a 30 year old diesel Mercedes which gets me 40 miles to the gallon. So in 30 years we haven’t had the will to force the auto companies to build more fuel efficient cars because we are more concerned with how many cup holders, rear cameras, dual sunroofs, , etc. etc. We, the consumer, don’t care about fuel efficiency, we care about how to show our neighbors we are better than they are.

  8. BeccaM says:

    Hooray. The oil companies will charge us $10/gal for it and we can get on with destroying the Earth’s biosphere all the faster!

  9. BeccaM says:

    Actually, in the late 70s, during the repeated ‘oil crises’, there was a huge push toward developing renewable clean energy sources. My wife was involved in an area of gov’t supported research into solar — both silicon and reflective. Other teams were working on wind turbines.

    During the early to mid 80s, Reagan and the Republicans canceled the programs and phased out the tax credits. And as a direct consequence, many of these engineers and researchers (including my wife) suddenly found themselves out of work.

    The only reason we aren’t much further along with these alternative energy technologies is because we wasted 20-25 years doing next to nothing with them, with only private research taking up the slack.

  10. cole3244 says:

    carter warned us and was the last honest pres we had. he spoke the truth and was ravaged for it, we are a nation of idiots and morons.

  11. cole3244 says:

    the zealots are waiting and anticipating the rapture, there will be a judgement day alright but it won’t be the one the deniers expect.

  12. BeccaM says:

    I know, isn’t it? I read it when I was in my early teens and was blown away.

    I think one of the things I liked best was how Niven and Pournelle set it in Pournelle’s ‘CoDominium’ fictional universe, which meant everything had this incredible depth and detail of history. In many ways, I consider it to be one of the best SF stories ever written.

  13. BeccaM says:

    No, that would be George Clooney. He’s God. Or ‘a’ god, at the least.


  14. HeartlandLiberal says:

    “Mote in Gods’s Eye”, one of the best Space Opera galaxy sweeping Sci-Fi sagas ever written. I think i have read it three times. Cannot recommend it highly enough to anyone who reads science fiction, or does not.

  15. jomicur says:

    I’d be careful. Ruseell Crowe may actually BE God. At least, we can’t rule it out, for lack of evidence to the contrary.

  16. Indigo says:

    On the scuba tour? No doubt there’ll be a waiting list.

  17. Dave of the Jungle says:

    Someday, people will take submarine tours of Rush Limbaugh’s living room.

  18. Indigo says:

    At the age of 73, I’m confident that I won’t have to deal with the worst of it, as you point out for us old-timers, but the fact is that we’re already dealing with situations that carry more challenge than we’ve known before in our lifetimes so far. And since I live in central Florida, I fully expect to see parts of Merritt Island around the Space Center going under within another decade and for Miami to redevelop itself as the Venice of the Northern Caribbean before I become a dusting of ashes drifting northward on the Gulf Stream.

  19. emjayay says:

    Fox of course also has the Simpsons, Family Guy, American Dad, and Bob’s Burgers for Sunday night viewing when Downton Abbey isn’t on. I guess the cable news department is quite separate.

    The new Cosmos is definitely educational material. I wonder why any non-PBS network wanted it. I guess they thought they could cash in on the PBS established brand.

  20. William R. Mosby says:

    By avoiding going down the nuclear energy path after the late 70s, we foreclosed on the only technology we could have used in time to avoid the problem pretty much altogether. We didn’t know how to build any alternatives at that time, and really we still haven’t gotten to the point where we could ramp up their production fast enough to make a dent in current and near-future degradations in our quality of life due to climate change. What about all the people killed by nuclear energy, some will ask? Well, about 3 million people a year are killed by fossil energy pollution, adding up to something like 90 million people over the period from 1980 to now. Nukes would have killed far fewer than that, even under the most hysterical scenarios put forth by those opposed to it.

    But, like you, I’m old enough so I won’t have to deal with much more of the future.

  21. cole3244 says:

    none of us know for sure what the future holds but imo we will never stop the march on the path to global warming, mainly because of the deniers but also humans never want to make the inconvenient tough choices and the deniers just give humanity an excuse to not change.

    when enough people are convinced that this is a critical problem it will be too late to reverse the inevitable and the only option left will be to prepare for the cataclysm and the elimination of the climate as we know it now.

    i am old enough so i won’t have to deal with this.

    the reality of the situation is that humans need to be eliminated from the planet so earth can heal and try to sustain what life there is left that will not continue to ruin the environment on earth that is necessary for life to exist.

    humans have proven in the small amount of time they have been here that they are not a species that is intelligent enough to be given the undertaking of protecting the treasure they have been given in the scheme of evolution so evolution will take its natural course.

    what is really sad is those that are interested in changing for the better will have to suffer the same consequences as the ignorant greedy deniers, maybe there will be some retribution against the profit mongers but that is unlikely in a world as unjust as ours.

  22. BeccaM says:

    Yep. The Earth’s biosphere heals itself because we humans are reduced to the point where we literally can’t damage it anymore.

    At least not until the next Motie collapse cycle.

  23. Indigo says:

    ‘Beyond Thunder Dome’ covered that ground pretty well. It wouldn’t surprise me.

  24. BeccaM says:

    …and carried on the backs of giant turtles. :-)

    “It’s turtles, all the way down!”

  25. Indigo says:

    I had a similar thought. Tyson’s the right commentator for today’s audience. Sagan’s approach was visionary in a time when visionary analysis was persuasive.

  26. Indigo says:

    Mt. Everest isn’t in the Bible so that doesn’t count. It probably didn’t exist back when the Earth was flat.

  27. 4th Turning says:

    Something is “fundamentally” missing in our consciousness, awareness, basic knowledge
    and respect for Nature/the forces of Nature. Have observed rank cluelessness over the
    last 1/2 doz. years in the public’s reaction to warnings of imminent danger ie. sat. photos
    showing Katrina spread over the entire Gulf and Sandy spread over the entire North
    Atlantic, wildfires burning hotter and faster than anything previous, weather maps showing
    Atlanta in a direct line of blizzard conditions 2 days prior, midwestern populations likewise
    in projected paths of tornadoes. Yet. I don’t get the sense that anyone on his or her own
    has said (no matter how ridiculous we may look to the neighbors) let’s pack up a few of
    our most precious treasures/impt. docs. and move to “higher ground” for a day or so…
    Sometimes I think I must be the only one watching the evening news and I don’t need
    any of its stinking prescription drugs (ok-if cialis comes down a little in price).

  28. PeteWa says:

    He stole all that water and then he put it all deep underground in all the minerals, more water than can be found in all the oceans:
    now, I have no idea why the Devil decided to hide so much water deep underground, but I would guess his faithful servant Cheney knows the answer.

  29. BeccaM says:

    And I guess he stole all those flood waters, since there clearly is nowhere near enough water on the entire planet to flood everything to the height of Mt. Everest.

  30. Dave of the Jungle says:

    Did you know that Satan put dinosaur bones in the ground to fool mankind into believing in evolution?

  31. BeccaM says:

    Key to understanding these religiously-based deniers is to remember their religion is totally ala carte.

    Their own Bible admonishes humans to take care of the ‘garden’ we were given — but they’d rather focus on the ‘be fruitful and multiply’ and ‘Jeebus is coming back any day now, so let’s use up the place’ parts. And we all know how they point to any part of the Bible to excuse whatever horrific behavior they want to engage in — slavery, hating gays, launching wars — and ignore all the parts they simply don’t want to bother with. Including stuff as totally unambiguous and easy-to-obey like dietary, grooming, and clothing rules.

    “God says I can do it… no, that I SHOULD” is no different than the argument of a child insisting, without evidence or proof, that an absent parent told them they could eat the entire jar of cookies an hour before dinner.

  32. BeccaM says:

    My blasphemy extends even to laughing myself into hiccups when I read the story about Fundies upset because the Russel Crowe box-office bomb, “Noah” wasn’t “historically accurate.”

  33. BeccaM says:

    My wife and I sometimes like to do thought experiments, to brainstorm and sketch out what might happen over the next 100 or 200 years.

    One scenario we’ve spun out is the ‘Gaia self-correction’ scheme. But before you go thinking it’s a climate denialism, bear with me. Basically it’s that we humans damage the biosphere enough and amp so much energy into the atmosphere, the ‘natural’ disasters (ironic to name them thus…) result in the collapse of human civilization. Simultaneously, events such as the European ice age are triggered, thereby restoring an ice cap, albeit in a different location — thus cooling the planet, even as we humans are already in a post-industrial bare-survival mode and on the verge of utter extinction.

  34. jomicur says:

    Wait a second. Are you suggesting that insects aren’t really four-legged creatures? Oh, blasphemy, blasphemy!

  35. BeccaM says:

    It really is incredibly sad when a book written in the pre-science bronze age is self-referentially put forth as ‘proof’ of anything at all. Especially when what’s in that book is often demonstrably wrong or morally repugnant.

  36. Monophylos Fortikos says:

    Carl Sagan had a touch of the poet to him that Tyson lacks. My mate made the point that perhaps Tyson’s more stolid approach is more appropriate to our time and to contemporary audiences than Sagan’s approach would be…maybe so.

  37. Bill_Perdue says:

    Good post, GP.

    Wherever we’re headed and however quickly we get there, catastrophic climate change will be a factor. “Humans have never lived on a planet with temperatures 3.5 degrees Celsius above baseline, and many scientists believe it would be impossible to do so. An increasing number of climate change scientists now fear that our situation is already so serious, and so many self-reinforcing feedback loops are already in play, that we are in the process of causing our own extinction. Worse yet, some are convinced that it could happen far more quickly than generally believed possible – even in the course of just the next few decades.

    Approximately 55 million years ago, a 5-degree Celsius increase in global temperatures occurred in only 13 years, and a scientific report published last year revealed that in the near-term, Earth’s climate will change 10 times faster than at any other moment in the last 65 million years. Science already shows that we are currently experiencing change 200 to 300 times faster than any of the previous major extinction events.

    Have we already reached a point where Earth is in hospice? If so, we as a species may very well already be teetering on the threshold of our very extinction.”

  38. Naja pallida says:

    Wait, it’s called global warming. So is it warming, or is it cooling? Make up your mind you librul Al Gore lover! Sorry, just wanted to get a jump on the influx of ignorance that is bound to show up if they can manage to actually read through the article.

    While there is no consensus as to what caused the period of cooling from the 14th century to the 19th century (though change in ocean currents is among them, but volcanism seems to be the more preferred explanation) there are plenty of good take-aways from observations taken in that era. It does show what even a relatively small change in global climate can do to civilization. Widespread crop failures, areas becoming uninhabitable, maintaining infrastructure in some areas becoming untenable, and extensive disruption of trade. We may be more technologically advanced now, but that doesn’t mean that all these things won’t be incredibly expensive and cause massive problems for everyone.

    If people thought this winter was bad with the “Polar Vortex”, wait until it’s cold enough to freeze New York harbor solid again, allowing people to walk from Manhattan to Staten Island like they could a couple hundred years ago. The idea that, as a nation, we’re not even considering preparing for such an eventuality is sad, to say the least. You don’t even have to subscribe to climate change on the whole to realize that our weather could be, and is most likely going to become, much worse, and our infrastructure needs to be capable of withstanding it.

    At some point the climate change debate has morphed away from simply science vs science denial, to civilization vs every man for himself.

  39. jomicur says:

    Not only will the deniers be dead, the billionaires who fund them will be dead too. It’s the rest of us who’ll be screwed.

    I’ve been watching the new Cosmos. I like the series, but I have to say I think Tyson is a less than engaging substitute for Carl Sagan. Sagan had an almost boyish joy in the information he was presenting, a gosh-isn’t-this-neat? attitude (which I absolutely loved). Tyson strikes me as on the numb side. I don’t think he’s smiled or even just changed his facial expression once. Even so, I’ll take him over his opponents and critics any day.

    As for the series airing on Fox: I’ve spent quite a few moments musing over the fact that this new Cosmos isn’t on PBS. It’s one more indication of how horribly far downhill public broadcasting has slid.

  40. 4th Turning says:

    This book came out before Sandy and the resulting mess in lower Manhattan..
    Melting ice, rising sea levels, warmer waters spawning increasingly ferocious
    storms seem a more immediate concern. One of these days there’s going
    to be a 100 car pile-up on the emperor’s hi-speed internet highway, too

    Every day, they must keep 13 million gallons of water from overpowering
    New York’s subway tunnels.
    “That’s just the water that’s already underground,” notes Schuber.
    “When it rains, the amount is . . .” Briffa shows his palms, surrender­
    ing. “It’s incalculable.”

    the only thing that has kept New York from flooding already is the in­
    cessant vigilance of its subway crews and 753 pumps.

    Even if it weren’t raining, with subway pumps stilled, that would take
    no more than a couple of days, they estimate. At that point, water would
    start sluicing away soil under the pavement. Before long, streets start to
    crater. With no one unclogging sewers, some new watercourses form on
    the surface. Others appear suddenly as waterlogged subway ceilings col­
    lapse. Within 20 years, the water-soaked steel columns that support the
    street above the East Side’s 4, 5, and 6 trains corrode and buckle.

  41. Monophylos Fortikos says:

    I’ve never quite understood why the “God promise He’d never flood the Earth again” gimmick was supposed to “disprove” climate change. After all, just cos God said He wouldn’t do it doesn’t exactly stop us from doing it to ourselves.

  42. emjayay says:

    That’s pretty much the story before every earth science discovery (which is pretty much all of them) in the past two hundred years. I’m guessing that guy doesn’t go for any biological science discoveries in the past two hundred years either.

  43. lynchie says:

    Just as an aside Scientists at University of Texas are able to convert coal to gasoline. Cost to do so is 28 cents a gallon

  44. Houndentenor says:

    I wish action were possible, but the US isn’t going to do it. China isn’t either. Nor India. So a few small liberal democracies make some effort? That’s not even going to slow this down. It’s coming. I’m not saying you shouldn’t be doing what you’re doing or trying to change this but at this point I think we’re all fucked and should be bracing for impact as best we can because between the Christianists and the oil industry we are out screamed on this issue. I hope whatever species takes our place at the top of the food chain isn’t so stupid.

  45. jomicur says:

    How can this be? Last night I watched a “creation scientist” named Michael Oard on our local Christian TV station explain the Ice Ages are a myth. He went on to explain that there has been one and only one Ice Age; that it happened naturally, in the aftermath of Noah’s flood; and that it only lasted 700 years, which is the maximum any Ice Age could possibly last; and that, since God made his “rainbow promise” about never flooding the world again, another Ice Age is impossible. Hey, this guy is a “scientist.” They identified him as having a master’s degree! And they said he used to work for NASA (though they never specified when or for how long). So you see, there’s really nothing at all to worry about.

  46. Jason Terblanche says:

    Interesting Article. We need to take action NOW!

    Check out my blog here

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