Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
Posted: 04/11/2014 1:00 AM | Comments: 0
Scientific speculation is intensifying that a new mini Ice Age is looming.
The last mini Ice Age struck the northern hemisphere about A.D. 1450 and lasted 400 years. It was dubbed the "Little Ice Age." In Canada, it had a huge impact on everything from crop yields to changing ecosystems.
"The Little Ice Age decreased the number of frost-free days and altered the composition of forests," report York University geographers Celina and Ian Campbell.
It was brought on by a seemingly minuscule average cooling of one to two degrees Celsius, climatologists report. But its impact was huge. Historians called it the "General Crisis" owing to its enormous impact: Crop harvests declined "disastrously."
Recent meteorological and other developments have prompted some researchers to predict another mini Ice Age is likely starting to take shape.
According to Habibulla Abdusamatov, an astrophysicist with the Russian Academy of Science, the northern hemisphere has been cooling since the 1990s and 2014 sets the stage for a full mini Ice Age by 2055.
According to the National Oceanic Centre, the North Atlantic is cooling rapidly because the northward circulation of warm, subtropical waters has declined sharply, impacting on the Atlantic Ocean circulation system.
Rutgers University Global Snow Laboratory reports northern hemisphere snow cover has been increasing significantly since 1998; it reached 46.81 million square kilometres in 2014. According to NASA, the solar cycle, which will peak in 2022, is among the weakest in centuries and will enhance cooling.
In North America, the National Climate Data Center has reported December 2013 to March 2014 were the coldest four consecutive months ever recorded in most of central and eastern North America. Ice cover on the Great Lakes was the second-most extensive ever recorded and the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory says ice cover in early April "obliterates all previous records" at 700 per cent above normal.
Little Ice Ages are not as imposing as full-blown Ice Ages.
"Ice Ages occur with some regularity with a relatively short interglacial period (in between)," explained Gerald March, a researcher at the Argonne National Laboratory. "There were few Ice Ages until about 2.75 million years ago... (and most) lasted about 100,000 years."
He added before the Ice Ages, the Earth was warmer than at present. He explained most interglacials last about 10,000 years, the age of the current one.
At its peak, the most recent glaciation (Wisconsin glaciation) covered most of Canada and Europe with ice thousands of metres thick. Temperatures as the glaciation tapered off were five to six degrees Celsius cooler than at present.
Climate has been a huge variable in Canada over time. Some 100,000 years ago, things were cooler than now, and 40,000 years ago, much cooler. From 18,000 to 15,000 years ago, the Wisconsin glaciation was in full force.
Starting about 8,000 years ago, warming intensified and the climate was about 2 C warmer than now. But another bout of cooling started about 4,000 years ago.
According to the Museum of Ontario Archaeology, recent cooler periods produced tundra-like spruce woodlands as far south as southern Ontario, where caribou roamed.
Of course, the brutal winter of 2013-14 might have been an anomaly. But, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration cautions atmospheric conditions that spawned that miserable winter in much of North America will likely be in place again next winter. Another bout of polar vortices anyone?
Robert Alison is a zoologist and freelance writer based in Barrie, Ont.
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 11, 2014 A9
Having problems with the form?Contact Us Directly
Give kids free range
The Little Railways that Can – with some federal help
Egypt’s judicial system still a fraud
Sound and fury
Mental health and war in Ukraine
Pharmacare good for business, health
All eyes on rookie finance minister Dewar
Uhhh... about that deficit
White House 'Nerd Prom' is Saturday night
New Hampshire loves libraries
Go big or go home for U.S. “promposals”
The Jets are Winnipeg’s tribal totem
U.S. retirement crisis is a woman’s issue
Manitoba’s minimalist regulation of lobbying
Lessons from history to respond to domestic extremists
Drone killing of aid workers reveals myths
Harper scores with Jets
NDP decides to blame the PM
Alberta finds Prentice’s Achilles heel
Stopping a tide of death
China clings to policy of fear
Why I chose Winnipeg over Vancouver
Don't count on the Grits surging
The cradle crumbles
Supreme wisdom on religion
'Decisive Storm' blows over
Reality check on California drought
Small business, families win, but budget hikes corporate welfare, too
Harper government's vaunted economic prowess fails
P.E.I. voters poised to check Liberal power
Iran’s nuke timetable a sales job
China sputters, dragging Asia down
Cell-tower policy must protect people
Half a Titanic
Canada's sorry record training troops abroad