Short Rapid Warm, Long Stable Cold

I’ve seen this paper before, so I’m mostly just “commemorating” it here (and so I can find it easily again).

It is not particularly germane to our present moment (interglacial warm) as it focuses on the deep past (glacial cold), yet I think it is important to absorb some of what it says in our present context. We are “on the edge” ( ;-) of glaciation. We’ve had our 12,000 year interglacial run. The W/m^2 at 65 North is below warm stable, and we are in the “unstable” zone. At any time we can tip back into frozen. We can NOT have a tipping point into too hot. That happened 12,000 years ago about when insolation “way north” went “way high” and the mile high glaciers over Vermont and Chicago melted. Now we are in the sunset years and trying to hang onto a bit of warm, while the “metabolism” (insolation) has gone off a bit too far.

So “shortly” in geologic time, this paper describes what regime we will be in. That might be this Grand Solar Minimum (2020 to 2040) or it might be the next big down cycle in about 2300 AD. It is hard to say precisely because we are in the metastable zone before the stable cold this paper describes. On the solar front, we are in a cold cycle as of this “sleepy sun” episode. In terms of accumulate ice and snow, we are still in a warm cycle. But things can change. And, what this paper says, is that they can change rapidly and for specific reasons.

Please forgive the odd artifacts that cut / paste from PDF files seem to be plagued by.

Rapid changes of glacial climate

simulated in a coupled climate model

Andrey Ganopolski & Stefan Rahmstorf
Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, PO Box 60 12 03, 14412 Potsdam, Germany

Yes. Models. Again. Look, I’m not adverse to models as a learning tool. “Models inform our ignorance”. What I am adverse to is believing models without testing them, repeatedly; or using them to say what MUST happen as opposed to “the model implies this might happen”. I ran a SuperComputer center the main work of which was running models. Moldflow for plastic mould making and a proprietary CPU model for a next gen product CPU chip. Models work for many things. (In the case of the plastic, it saved us about $250,000 / case design. About 90% of the time we cut correct dies first time. It was 10 hours of Cray and “right first time”. Except about 1 in 10 was not quite right and we’d do a rework to figure out why. This was with ONE fluid at ONE temperature in a FIXED mould geometry. Climate, by comparison, is a few dozen orders of magnitude less constrained…)

So they have a model. The good thing is that they use it properly, to see what KINDS of behaviours are LIKELY. It is a probability and interaction investigation. Things that it is hard to see without a coupled model. They don’t make the mistake of saying they have it exactly right and this is what must happen tomorrow. They use it as a way to surface unexplained behaviours (then we can look for them in the real world).

Abrupt changes in climate, termed Dansgaard±Oeschger and Heinrich events, have punctuated the last glacial period (,100 ±10 kyr ago) but not the Holocene (the past 10 kyr). Here we use an intermediate-complexity climate model to investigate the stability of glacial climate, and we find that only one mode of Atlantic Ocean circulation is stable: a cold mode with deep water formation in the Atlantic Ocean south of Iceland. However, a `warm’ circulation mode similar to the present-day Atlantic Ocean is only marginally unstable, and temporary transitions to this warm mode can easily be triggered. This leads to abrupt warm events in the model which share many characteristics of the observed Dansgaard±Oeschger events. For a large freshwater input (such as a large release of icebergs), the model’s deep water formation is temporarily switched off, causing no strong cooling in Greenland but warming in Antarctica, as is observed for Heinrich events. Our stability analysis provides an explanation why glacial climate is much more variable than Holocene climate.

Some key bits here. First off, it isn’t strictly accurate to say “but not the Holocene”. Yes, for those two specific definitions it is true, as they are based on specific physical observations. Yet Bond saw the same pattern in the Holocene, with different indications, and they are called Bond Events. It is pretty clear that the Heinrich Events are likely coupled to the D.O. Events with one being the warming spike just before the cold plunge. For Bond Events, we are already warm in the Holocene, so mostly we just notice the cold spike. Also, the ice sheet is gone so we see the pattern in different physical clues. So the first thing to get firmly in mind is that there is a roughly 1500 year cycle of a warm spike / cold plunge.

Why is widely speculated, but the astounding regularity of it pretty much rules out chaotic internal oscillations or other surface based phenomenon. The best probability so far is that it is driven by a lunar / solar / tidal interaction. Though a lot of folks argue over the exact details of the mechanism. (I’ve done several postings on that already). Suffice it to say that SOMETHING keeps happening on a semi-regular basis.

There is some evidence for a 1470 basic timing. Some for a bi-modal 1200 / 1800 year with the average being 1470, and it is often called the 1500 year cycle. There is also other evidence for a fairly strong 1000 year solar cycle. Good luck untangling all the interacting cycles…

The other “key bit” is that during a glacial time, the only stable state is the cold state. I would point out that during the interglacial, we seem to have a stable “warm state” with periodic cold plunges. My hypothesis here is that the globe is bi-modal with a cold state and a warm state based on Milankovitch cycle properties, and that during both, counter cycle changes can cause a temporary “switch” to the other state. But it isn’t stable, so swaps back in a couple of hundred years.

Notice the implication of all that climate history. “Climate” is NOT stable. It has ‘stable modes’ with strong oscillations away from them.

Given what I’ve figured out about our present stage in the Milankovitch cycles, we are in the metastable transition zone of insolation (orbital circularity, axial tilt, precession vs perihelion, etc.) so are particularly unstable. BUT, we are already at the warm limit, so that instability is ONLY to the downside into the next cold glacial. (The good news is that it takes 100,000 years for the mile high ice to collect. The bad news is that the weather can suddenly, in decades or maybe less, turn brutally cold and mostly stay there.)

Next I note that their model shows a sudden warming shows up in Antarctica, Greenland not so much. Given that we are seeing the exact opposite right now, a large expansion of Antarctic ice, it makes a fellow want to go “Hmmmm….”.

Then they make a “sop” to our “stable” Holocene climate. Well, it WAS stable for 10,000 years (modulo that Younger Dryas thing…) and we are now back into an insolation regimen much closer to that quasi-stable phase. I would assert that we are presently IN a metastable state, and the Little Ice Age was an example of that. Next “dip” will be worse. (No, not opinion. Based on how the orbital mechanics are slowly and inexorably taking us to ever less heat up North and into the next Real Ice Age Glacial. It simply must, by definition be worse next time.)

So what ought we to look for in changes between the warm and cold phases, as seen in their model (other than a swap of hot / cold in Antarctica…)?

Two main types of abrupt climate changes have punctuated the last glacial period: Dansgaard±Oeschger (D/O) events and Heinrich events1±8. D/O events typically start with an abrupt warming of Greenland by 5 to 10 C over a few decades or less, followed by gradual cooling over several hundred or several thousand years. This cooling phase often ends with an abrupt final reduction of temperature back to cold (`stadial’) conditions. D/O climate change is centred on the North Atlantic and on regions with strong atmospheric response to changes in that area, and shows only a weak response in the Southern Ocean or Antarctica. The `waiting time’ between successive D/O events is most often around 1,500 years, or, with decreasing probability, near 3,000 or 4,500 years (ref. 9). This suggests the existence of an as-yet unexplained 1,500-year cycle which often (but not always) triggers a D/O event.

Hmmmm…. “an abrupt warming of Greenland by 5 to 10 C over a few decades”. Where have I seen folks falling all over themselves about rapid warming in Greenland… and just how would we like “gradual cooling over several hundred or several thousand years”?

I note in passing the typical reference to a 1500 year quasi-cycle, but with occasional “skips” in the geologic record as sea level changed. So what was happening 1500 years ago… Oh, yes, the Roman Optimum was drawing to a close with all the warmth there, then, and with ports that are now located many miles inland all over the Mediterranean…

Then followed by a sudden cold plunge in about 534 A.D. at the start of The Dark Ages. These were described as being both physically dark, and emotionally dark and cold. It was a time of chaos as civilizations collapsed and the world got very messy. So lets take 535 and add 1500. 2035 A.D. (Or we could add 1470 and get 2005 A.D. about when the solar cycle took a break and the sun cut EUV output dramatically and said it needed a vacation…)

It sure looks to me like with the present series of loads of snow events all over the place, following a “blow off peak” in 1998 in temperature, that we’ve passed the end of the “Modern Climate Optimum” and the solar switch is flipped. Now we just wait for the latency to pass and for the physical state to catch up with the energy balance change.

Keep always in mind that cyclical nature, and the oscillatory regime nature of the planet; with both a cold and hot stable limit / bound and with rapid fluctuation away from it about every 1500 years on average (but with other periodic nodes as well at cycle times from 60, to 180, to 200, to 350 ish, to 710 ish to about 1000 years as a strong node, and even an 1800 year lunar/tidal node). Now marry that wobble character to a metastable context. Where, in the past Holocene, we could expect to be pulled back up to a nice warm optimum when the wobble ended, and where in a glacial we know the plunge back to cold is certain, we are now in a metastable state. It can “go both ways”.

Think on that for a minute.

The implication of this is pretty obvious. We need to do anything possible to bias the dice toward the warm side. Cold kills, and a mile of ice over Chicago is not a good thing. Similarly, having a bit of melt in Greenland is vastly preferable to a “year without a summer” in New England and rampant famines. BTW, the Oklahoma Land Rush shown in “How The West Was Won” movie was a result of folks simply abandoning farms in New England after snow in summer and dead lambs. This is part of our history, and we ought to understand it. Warm is good, cold kills.

Just ask all the folks moving to Florida and Texas and California if they think cold and snow is better… Or the folks in Boston this year.

Records from the South Atlantic Ocean and parts of Antarctica show that the cold Heinrich events in the North Atlantic were associated with unusual warming there (the `bipolar see-saw effect’10±12). Sediment data also suggest that changes in the Atlantic thermohaline circulation are crucial in these abrupt climate changes and it is difficult to imagine a mechanism for such dramatic and rapid temperature changes that does not involve large changes in ocean heat transport.

The idea of a “Global Average” is daft. Just insane on the face of it. We know that there is a bipolar see-saw. Now ponder for a moment. Presently the Antarctic Sea Ice is at an all time high. Hmmmm… So we’ve had a warm spike (that just ended) and Antarctic ice grew. No surprise. Now we’re into the rebound. That Arctic ice went “way low” is absolutely ordinary. What is being missed is that we’ve started the bipolar see-saw and that this oscillatory instability when we are biased to a cold plunge is NOT a good thing. And NOT because of “Global Warming”!

We’ve entered an oscillatory phase during a metastable state when a cold plunge is due and the most likely outcome. Oh Dear. We can only hope that we flip the coin and it comes up ‘warm’. “But hope is not a strategy. E.M.Smith”.

This paper goes on from there to look at “forcing” (God I hate that term – jiggering or biasing would be more honest) the model with fresh water influxes. I’d assert the giant thing they are ignoring is the huge tidal shift as the moon goes through cyclical shift (Saros Cycle) perhaps modulated by the exact seasonal match up.

The paper goes on to spend a lot of time looking at “fresh water events”, completely missing that it takes a long time for a bit of sun to melt a mile thick chunk of ice, and also missing that a shift of tidal mixing can cause nice warm rains that work much faster. IMHO, flawed, but showing interesting dynamics. Pointing out the sensitivity to outside shifts, even if they got the wrong one.

So spend some time reading it, but spend more time thinking about “metastable” and “warm rain vs cold snow”. Then look at our present circumstance. Sleepy sun. Low UV. More cosmic rays. More cold snow. Warm spike in the N.H. coming to an end, to be followed by the inevitable cold snow events,

We are, quite certainly, headed into a cold excursion. The one thing that is entirely unknown is the outcome. Will we bounce back up to a return to the warm cycle lid? Or start that long next plunge into the next Ice Age Glacial? Absolutely nobody knows. That is the very meaning of “metastable”.

I dearly hope that the next down spike is in about 2300 (one half bond event past the Little Ice Age) and not now as one Bond Event Cycle after 535 A.D.. Yet, both Half Bond Events and full on Bond Events are cold excursions. The only questions are “how far” and “how unstable to the downside”?

This paper implies that, as we are well past the warm stable point, any downside wobble can be very very bad indeed. It says that during the glacial regime, things are particularly unstable, and we are well out of the stable warm zone in terms of solar input / heating of the northern hemisphere.

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About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
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12 Responses to Short Rapid Warm, Long Stable Cold

  1. R. de Haan says:

    I agree with all your comments. Facts are facts and most of the climate models I have seen pose a far cry from reality.

    It’s very cold up North and also in the South East of Europe snow and cold still dominate. Last night my thermometer went to Minus 10 degrees Celsius. Quite exceptional where I currently live, flat land near the Dutch border and similar temps were measured in The Netherlands.
    For the USA we can read the snowy and icy winter from the economic figures. That big was the impact of the past two winters. Even the White House knows that.

    The time has really come to put the AGW scam to bed and focus on reality.

    But hey, with the Pope joining the UN’s Global Religion (Animism) of paying tribute to Gaia an hugging trees as part of the Agenda 21 hubris, even the Catholics seem to have lost their faith.

    So what to do….

    I think Mother Nature will take care of these matters and all we can do is what we alway’s have done… Make the best of the situation.

    But the first big event will be another huge economic and financial crises that will make the past financial crises look like a walk in the park.

    So for now I stick to my own priorities keeping as many as options open in order to be in a position where I can choose just to keep up the feel that i’m still a free and independent individual.


  2. sabretoothed says:

    Multifractals suggest the existence of an unknown physical mechanism on the Sun
    (Nanowerk News) The famous sunspots on the surface of the Earth’s star result from the dynamics of strong magnetic fields, and their numbers are an important indicator of the state of activity on the Sun. At the Institute of Nuclear Physics of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Kraków, Poland, researchers have been conducting multifractal analysis into the changes in the numbers of sunspots. The resulting graphs were surprisingly asymmetrical in shape, suggesting that sunspots may be involved in hitherto unknown physical processes.

    Read more: Multifractals suggest the existence of an unknown physical mechanism on the Sun

  3. tom0mason says:

    Nicely put EM.
    IMO a lot of the ‘cycles’ are not sinusoidal but usually ramp shaped that are chaotically phase modulated!
    Also @Sabretoothed and EM
    You may also be interested in Joanne Nova’s latest

    A new telescope has peered into the Sun to see solar magnetic flux ropes for the first time. Severe flux rope twists have been described as being like “earthquakes” on the sun, and are linked to eruptions of large solar flares that change magnetic fields, and cause radiation and energetic particles to rain on Earth.

    We don’t know much about solar magnetic flux ropes. We know they affect space weather, but thanks to climate experts we already “know” they can’t possibly, ever in a million years, affect Earth’s weather. Even though we’ve only just been able to see them and have no long term data on them, we have Global Circulation Climate models (which don’t include these solar factors), so we have 95% certainty that none of the particles, fields or radiation changes have much impact on Earth. They might fritz satellites, electronics and communications, but Earth’s atmosphere has no electrical component (wink), and the models “work” (kinda, sorta, apart from “the pause”, the arctic, the ocean, the antarctic, and the holocene) without any of this fuzzy solar stuff.

    Nice speculation about the terrestrial effect, more research money required?

  4. handjive says:

    “Yes. Models. Again. Look, I’m not adverse to models as a learning tool. “Models inform our ignorance”.

    We must not throw the baby out with the bathwater.

  5. M Simon says:

    How much heat would need to be added to the planet to keep the cold at bay? Could we “burn” deuterium? Or Proton-Boron11? What is the solar variation from the cycles that we need to contend with?

  6. M Simon says:

    And BTW the magnetic field of the Earth is declining.

  7. E.M.Smith says:

    @M. Simon:

    The mag field of the Earth is never stable and persistent. The geologic record shows that. It may have long periods of apparent stability (latched up in a particular orientation) but the record shows a great number of reversals, then inside of those are excursions, and inside of those are ‘jerks’, and so it goes. So yes, the field is presently “declining”. Not a big deal, really.

    BTW, physical models (big ball of rotating liquid metal) show the same behaviour. IF they are representative, the mag field isn’t really declining so much as loops of mag field form and break to the surface. The globe goes “multi-polar”, sometimes in a big way. So fears of being naked in the solar storm / cosmic rays are a bit unfounded. We still have a mag field, just will be getting Aurora Brazilana and Aurora Hispanica and Aurora New Yorkus… ;-)

    @M. Simon:

    We can’t plug a hole that large. It would take a massive number of nukes, running full time. Far easier would be to just relocate toward the equator and use a much smaller number of nuclear power plants to run greenhouses and desalinizers.

    Essentially you would need to keep melted all that 8 feet of snow that fell on Boston AND all the surrounding farm land. That’s about 8 inches of water equivalent. A cubic foot is about 64 lbs, so you’ve got 8/12 * 64 or about 42 lbs of ice / sq. ft. to melt. Call it 2 kg / 30 cm^2. Look up the heat of fusion and do the math. That’s the minimum just to keep the snow gone.


    Wonder if we have anything like “flux ropes” in the Earth’s mag field inside the liquid part…

    @R. De Haan:

    I’m still trying to figure out if they are clinging to this broken dogma so hard because they are just bought into a broken philosophy and think we’re too stupid to notice, or if there is something really really bad in the wings that they know about and just can’t see any other way out. I.e. a choice between really evil, or really scared of something else. (Though what that something else might be I can’t guess. Anarchy after a collapse? W.W.III? Who knows…)

    The psychology at that level escapes me. I think it is out of touch with reality.

  8. On a shorter time scale than the glacial cycles it is of interest that the trends in the new UAH v6 satellite temperature data set are much closer to the RSS data,. In particular they confirm the RSS global cooling trend since 2003 when the natural millennial solar activity cycle peaked.
    It is these satellite data sets which should be used in climate discussions because the land and sea based data sets have been altered and manipulated so much over the years in order to make them conform better with the model based CAGW agenda.
    The IPCC climate models are built without regard to the natural 60 and more importantly this 1000 year periodicity so obvious in the temperature record. This approach is simply a scientific disaster and lacks even average commonsense .It is exactly like taking the temperature trend from say Feb – July and projecting it ahead linearly for 20 years or so. The models are back tuned for less than 100 years when the relevant time scale is millennial. This is scientific malfeasance on a grand scale.
    The temperature projections of the IPCC – Met office models and all the impact studies which derive from them have no solid foundation in empirical science being derived from inherently useless and specifically structurally flawed models. They provide no basis for the discussion of future climate trends and represent an enormous waste of time and money. As a foundation for Governmental climate and energy policy their forecasts are already seen to be grossly in error and are therefore worse than useless.
    A new forecasting paradigm urgently needs to be adopted and publicized ahead of the Paris meeting.
    For forecasts of the timing and extent of the coming cooling based on the natural solar activity cycles – most importantly the millennial cycle – and using the neutron count and 10Be record as the most useful proxy for solar activity check my blog-post at
    The most important factor in climate forecasting is where earth is in regard to this quasi- millennial natural solar activity cycle which has a period in the 960 – 1020 year range. For evidence of this cycle see Figs 5-9. From Fig 9 it is obvious that the earth is just approaching ,just at or just past a peak in the millennial cycle. I suggest that more likely than not the general trends from 1000- 2000 seen in Fig 9 will likely repeat from 2000-3000 with the depths of the next LIA at about 2650. The best proxy for solar activity is the neutron monitor the count and 10 Be data. My view ,based on the Oulu neutron count – Fig 14 is that the solar activity millennial maximum peaked in Cycle 22 in about 1991. There is a varying lag between the change in the in solar activity and the change in the different temperature metrics. There is a 12 year delay between the neutron peak and the probable millennial cyclic temperature peak seen in the RSS data in 2003.
    There has been a declining temperature trend since then (Usually mis-interpreted as a “pause”) There is likely to be a steepening of the cooling trend in 2017- 2018 corresponding to the very important Ap index break below all recent base values in 2005-6. Fig 13. The Polar excursions of the last few winters are harbingers of even more extreme winters to come more frequently in the near future.

  9. M Simon says:

    JoNova’s mate is working on an explanation for the ~12 year notch in the response. He did some work on the blog – which had a failure noted by a commenter. In private correspondence he has told me he is back at it and getting interesting results. He will publish when he feels the work is robust.

  10. M Simon says:


    In my location – Rockford, Illinois – it seems like the spring has heated up unusually fast from a very bitter winter. We expect to see 80s in the next week or so. Of course it is just a local variation. Normal response to a cold winter is a late spring and cool summer.

    I’m on board with your estimates of the future. We are “preparing” for the wrong disaster.

  11. M Simon says:

    Re: JoNova:

    David’s solar notch delay theory, which predicts cooling, by the way, is doing very well. We’ll be discussing an update and more news on his theory that TSI is a leading indicator (but not a direct cause) of temperature changes on Earth in up and coming posts. Energetic particles, solar winds, changes in radiation and magnetic fields, are all candidates for the force (or forces) that influence Earth’s climate, but are delayed by half a full solar cycle (of ~22 years) from changes in the TSI. Previous problems with Fourier transform approximations have been fixed, and a delay is indeed implied by the notch. Sorry about the big gap in publications on it, there is something scientifically big going on (separate from the ND solar theory) behind the scenes and he prefers to work with a low profile rather than in the “blood sport” distraction that publicity brings.


    I was intimately involved in the first round and was still paying attention when the error was found by a commenter about a week or two after that particular page was published. Feedback-control theory is a professional interest of mine since I often have things that need controlling. I design PID software. David and Jo have been kind enough to occasionally correspond with me about that and other things.

  12. flearider says:

    been saying for the last couple of yrs that the cold will come from the S/H. THE MELT OF THE ANTARTIC and low solar output allows cold to pass the equator .
    remember the water drive’s the weather …
    cold upwelling near japan mixes and cools surface with the pacific being big you could miss it
    you can see the same in the atlantic but with it being smaller you have less dissipation ..
    if you take the img above and change some red lines to blue while in the melt you would nearly have a match ..

    if you look at the underwater ridges can see the pattern of the current

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