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Two-Mile-Deep Antarctic Ice Core Reveals Stupidity of AGW Catastrophism

(per la versione italiana cliccare qui: “La CO2 Non E’ D’Accordo Con I Catastrofisti – Articolo su Svipop“)

The extraordinary conclusions of the Epica 2008 “Quaternary Climate” scientific conference (Nov 10-13, Venice, Italy) have elicited little interest in the media.

It’s anybody’s guess if that’s related to the fact that those results clearly and evidently show that

  1. the Earth’s climate has been wildly oscillating between cold and warmth for at least 800,000 years, long before any sizable man-made intervention
  2. during that period, the record minimum has been reached around 20,000 years ago (10C less than today’s); that’s before agriculture
  3. the record maximum still belongs to around 120,000 years ago (+5C more than today’s); and that’s before agriculture, too
  4. the concentrations of CO2 have depended on the amounts of iron in dust, with higher availability of iron resulting in lower amounts of atmospheric CO2
  5. and whilst temperatures have been at times warmer than today’s, and at other times much colder, corals, mammals, birds, trees and the rest of the biosphere have chugged along nicely (in a relative way)

AGW-related catastrophism is going the way of the dodo. Alas, so far there’s been no space to mention that in the vast majority of mainstream newsmedia.

Dome C ice-core results

Dome C ice-core results

I have to admit, I would have known nothing about Epica 2008 were it not for Italian climate blog “Climate Monitor” by Major Guido Guidi, weather and climate expert of the Italian Air Force. One can only thank Guidi, and Turin newspaper “La Stampa”‘s science supplement “Tuttoscienze” for deciding to mention the results of the analysis of a 3,230-meter ice core extracted at “Dome C”, 75S 123E’s Concordia Base in Antarctica.

(in the picture: green for temperature variations in degrees C; orange for iron fluxes, in milligrams per square meter; red for CO2 concentrations in ppmv; years are in thousands before-present (B.P.))

That’s the deepest ice core ever extracted.

The full article by Gabriele Beccaria is available in Italian at this link. Epica 2008 organizer Prof. Carlo Barbante, of University of Venice and Italian National Research Council’s Environmental Process Dynamics Institute, is quoted as saying that the ice core has been taken from

an area where snow accumulates…25 millimeters per year

According to the data, Earth has gone through 8 ice ages and 8 “warm ages” during the past 800,000 years. Barbante says

“we are now in one of the ‘warm’ phases. It started 10,000 years ago and, comparing it to what there’s been [in the past], it can be seen that it’s anomalous, because it has been lasting a long time and temperatures have been very stable”

Still, Beccaria points out that between 120,000 and 100,000 years ago, temperatures have been up to 5C warmer than today’s, at the upper end that is of the IPCC’s more catastrophic scenarios (or predictions). And just 20,000 years ago, the Earth was up to 10C colder (a negative record for the past 800,000 years, apparently). Barbante again:

“The cyclical nature [of temperatures] provides us with the right perspective concerning the climatic changes observed at the moment: if we don’t make the effort towards reaching a better understanding of the natural mechanisms [of climate change], it will be useless to keep trying to patch up predictions on what will happen in a century or two.”

Paleoclimatologists to the rescue then, cajoling to recover at least part of their past relevance after being outclassed by climate modelers as the main reference group able to talk to the politicians.

But there is more (apart from the confirmation of human-related pollution, in terms of methane, nitrogen oxides, chloride, sulfates, nitrates, and heavy metals). Barbante:

“in the core we have measured…the flux of iron in the dust. [Iron] is a biologically-active metal, as it underlies…the conversion of CO2 and nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus in organic compounds. [We know now that] during glacial intervals iron increases and the biological pump works at its best, whilst during the interglacials like today’s, that process is less efficient and CO2 increases.”

With iron availability near zero at the moment, it is therefore little surprise that CO2 has been increasing, admittedly to record levels compared to the past 800,000 years. In other words it may be not just a matter of human emissions, but also of momentarily-inefficient present-day “carbon sinks”.

Beccaria concludes that next step is to investigate the “warm periods” in order to find clues about the present situation.


For me the above demonstrates how stupid AGW catastrophism like Mark Lynas’, Al Gore’s and Jim Hansen’s is and has been for many years.

“Stupid” in the sense of hurting the rest of the world (by impeding an appropriate analysis of the history of climate change and past “warm” phases, thereby spreading blindness towards probable causes and possible effects); whilst hurting its own cause (by convincing people the magnitude of the challenge is so great, there isn’t much that can be done).

The most they can show is a cursory series of conferences leading to little promises for 10 years in the future, and grand promises for 50 years (so Governments have “only” 49 years to renege on their big promises).

On second thought, that may truly be a good thing.

  1. 2009/06/05 at 06:16

    The AGW people were manipulated by Globalist-oriented-Politicos. Nothing could be clearer, if you looked at the first IPCC report. This stuff is not science. The CO2 impact has been grossly overstated, and in fact water is a far better greenhouse gas. Industrial development in the third world, however, necessitates curtailing petroleum use in the west.

    CO2 linkage with climate was first noticed by French nuclear physicsts,and its climate role was simplistically linked to planetary temperatures by Carl Sagan.

    So what we are truly seeing is a large pile of bad to totally incompetent scientists, who are easily manipulated in going along with the overtures of politicians.

  2. Peter
    2009/03/17 at 03:38

    I know this thread is over two months old, but I was browsing around for the EPICA and Vostok ice core data to share with a friend … and I can’t help adding my “two cents worth” to your discussion.

    If as, you say, “It is well known that in the past, CO2 has followed temperature by ~800 years …” then what’s up with the present CO2 level? I’m no climate scientist but the Vostok and EPICA plots clearly show CO2 oscillating in a consistent range between minimums of ~180 ppm and maximums of ~250 to 280 ppm. However, in the last 200 years CO2 has risen to ~380 ppm – an unprecedented breakout to more than 35% above the top of its well-established 800,000-year channel. When added to the ice core data, the recent CO2 trend looks like a flagpole shooting straight up. I’m not aware of any serious challenge to the validity of this data.

    Isn’t that a red flag telling us to look out for a change in … something? I don’t see how either camp can point to that and say that they know what it means. AGW skeptics can’t explain it away as normal cycling because it’s an obvious breakout – and the so-called lagging series (CO2) is the one breaking out. But AGW proponents can’t say it’s a message of doom because the causality can’t be established from the historical data – only the correlation. I personally think that it’s the correlation that wins this round, regardless of anyone’s hypotheses about causality … or lack thereof.

    I think the unprecedented CO2 breakout should be taken seriously as a possible indicator of “game-changing” circumstances. It’s worth studying and managing – even before it’s fully understood – because it’s such a departure from anything that modern globally-distributed humans have ever experienced. Moreover, most of the CO2 “management” options (efficiency, energy diversity, etc.) are a good idea anyhow for economic or geo-political reasons. So what’s the objection to taking steps to hedge our bets on whether AGW proponents are right or wrong?

    I don’t “get” the focus on who’s right and who’s wrong in the science. What advances science is the continuous cycle of observation and interpretation. Let’s put our brain power and money to work supporting better & broader observations and wiser use of resources. If AGW is wrong there’s no loss, and if it’s right we’ll be further ahead than we’ll be if we wait for “proof.”


  3. mikey
    2009/01/08 at 21:21

    People like Al Gore are causing a lot of anxiety over something that occurs normally. The media has made people to believe that he is a scientist. The same guy that invented the internet. Duh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  4. 2008/11/22 at 20:54

    steve f

    the graphs appeared in the mentioned Italian newspaper, page V in the “Tuttoscienze” supplement. There is no declared source for them, but given the rest of the page one can assume they come from somebody at EPICA. Hopefully there will soon be official results in print in scientific publications.

    BTW: I do have a copy of the PDF for that page but I do not think I can distribute it

  5. 2008/11/22 at 20:36

    I do not think Gavin Schmidt is a complete (or even an incomplete) jerk

  6. steve f
    2008/11/22 at 18:35

    Maurizio– Great blog.

    I’ve been trying to find the original of your .gif above that shows the correlation between *iron*, temp and CO2, but without success. Can you help? I’d really like to examine the large original version if possible. Thanks.

    BTW, I see you and I have much the same opinion of Gavin over at RealClimate–he strikes me a complet jerk!

  7. Catharine
    2008/11/22 at 05:20

    Thank you, Omnologos. That seems to be linking fine.


  8. 2008/11/22 at 01:26


    I have edited your comment and inserted the links you suggested. Please double-check, and let me know if I have done any mistake.

    Regarding “climate is always changing”: common knowledge it might be, but its relevance does vary in time…

  9. Catharine
    2008/11/21 at 23:41

    Congratulations on bringing attention to the all-important geological context for climate change, which the IPCC does its best to ignore and which is almost absent from public discussion.

    Please understand, though, that there is absolutely nothing new in the EPICA core that bears on the main aspects of climate variation through time.

    Though EPICA adds much detail to parts of the record, the general “climate is always changing” background has been common knowledge in the earth science community for more than 100 years. And since 1968 many, many ocean and ice cores from all over the world have revealed the pattern of glacials and interglacials that EPICA manifests too, and that you now comment upon.

    There are many good summaries of the importance of geological context to the current “debate” over global warming, which place the EPICA results in broader context. For instance, see review papers 55 and 92 on the list at the website of Australian geologist Bob Carter

  10. pete best
    2008/11/20 at 13:21

    what about the isotopic ratios of the additional CO2 in the atmosphere to the known ratio on fossil fuels? The additional CO2 is known to come from fossil fuel burning and so is the additional warming regardless of its so called 800 year lag after ice ages have finished. In fact you are talking of a natural cycle (milankovitch cycles) of the past against a present center of an interglacial cycle we are currently in. The isotopic ratios prove that the 200 billion toness of CO2 in the atmosphere and the 2 ppmv increade per annum correlates to human fossil fuel burning and not natural sources of CO2 or sinks for that matter.

    Earths orbits change concentration of solar energy reaching places on earth and it potency due to the earths angle relative to the electromagnetism. The Oceans cool and absorb a lot of CO2 which enhances the cooling effect of milankovitch cycles as these cycles do not have as much energy distribution power as GHG and albedo change. This is well known scientifically.

    Your how stupid is that phrase is simply incorrect.

  11. 2008/11/20 at 12:39

    thank you Stephen. I know the hypothesis about positive feedbacks with orbital fluctuations causing temperature to rise causing CO2 to rise causing temperatures to rise and so on and so forth.

    I do not think that has been “proven” yet. It is well known that in the past, CO2 has followed temperature by ~800 years so we know which came first (the egg-the warming, and not the chicken-CO2). As for positive feedbacks, one would expect an increase in the rate of warming, say, 800 years after temperatures have started going up (that is, just as CO2 concentrations increase). I do not believe there is any evidence supporting that, at the moment.

    Published graphs are in any case hard to tell, and temporal resolutions may not be good enough for such an analysis.

    The problem is that without such evidence, we can make up all sort of “just-so” stories about past CO2, warming, iron dust, calcium dust and whatever else, according to the pre-ordained goal of our reasoning. That’s not science, I believe.

    You say you cannot see an alternative hypothesis. There are several logical problems with that question. Do we need one? Can’t we just state that CO2 follows temperature? And can the absence of an alternative explanation be used to demonstrate the “truth” in one’s hypothesis?

    I do not think burning witches was justified by the fact that people at the time were unable to come up with alternative explanations for whatever the witches were accused of. The absence of an alternative can at most demonstrate that we do not know enough about a particular issue.


    Of course, Barbante’s work and all EPICA people’s will not be the final word on climatic changes. Of course, modellers will come back with their own side’s explanations. But I do hope that the title I have chosen for this blog shows what is truly important about the Venice conference’s result.

    Look in fact at your own statement

    “in the past…orbital changes have driven temperature changes”

    That’s not exactly what the EPICA core says. Check the wild variations between 250k and 200k years ago. I don’t think anybody is suggesting that Earth’s orbit was changing that fast at the time. Because, of course, there is always more than one factor at work.

    You cannot explain it all with orbits, or with CO2. The EPICA researchers have started investigating the role of iron, and that’s as interesting as not immediately intuitive.

    But there’s no space for that in contemporary AGW scientific and political discourse. It’s all CO2 and nothing but CO2. The climate modellers have “scored” against the paleoclimatologists, sometimes at the end of the last decade if I am not mistaken. They have the open line with the politicians, and togethere they have come up with AGW catastrophism.

    And they have made sure the past has been analyzed but only in an ancillary way to the models (see Mann). Why? Because if the world is going to the dogs you don’t stop asking how grandma coped when she was a teenager.

    By impeding an appropriate analysis of the history of climate change and past “warm” phases, CO2-AGW catastrophists have made us blind about what may actually cause warming (and cooling). And about its possible effects. How stupid is that?

  12. Stephen Stretton
    2008/11/20 at 11:40

    Your article purports to show that there is a ‘natural cycle’ in the long-term climate and that the EPICA data gives evidence of large natural variations. Furthermore you imply that this provides evidence that the current phenomena of a warming world could quite easily be explained by natural variations because it has happened before.

    But what about causation?

    The leading theory is that natural cycles are driven by fluctuations in the earth’s orbit of various types and that these cause local changes in temperature and these are amplified by various positive feedback processes.
    The EPICA data shows a strong correlation between CO2 and Temperature and supports the hypothesis that CO2 causes temperature rises (the greenhouse effect) and temperature rises cause CO2 rises (positive carbon cycle feedback through various mechanisms).

    I can’t see a leading alternative hypothesis for causation from the so called ‘climate sceptics’.

    What is happening in the past is that orbital changes have driven temperature changes which have driven CO2 releases and so further temperature changes.
    What is happening now is that CO2 releases are driving temperature changes, with a possible second order positive feedback.

    The truth may be uncomfortable, but the logic is hard to fault I’m afraid.

  13. Aaron C
    2008/11/19 at 14:07

    Fantastic article! Thank you for posting it!

  14. Luke Warmer
    2008/11/19 at 12:21

    Looking for more information on the dust issue, I found this interactive graph where you can show trends in dust (which they ascribe as a calcium proxy), insolation and methane agaist the temperature record for the last 40,000 years.

    Well worth a peek.


    They state that:
    Calcium dust originates from continental shelves that are exposed to the atmosphere as sea level drops during an ice age.

    Also iron dust as a biological stimulus to reduce CO2 is discussed in depth at Woods Hole Oceanogrpahic Inst:

    and has interesting quote from biogeochemist John Martin “Give me half a tanker of iron, and I’ll give you an ice age”

    There is so much about the climate that we don’t know, it’s amazing.

  15. 2008/11/19 at 10:29


    I wonder what the “consensus” climate modellers will think……….

    As I keep repeating this is kind of episode #15 in the scientific war between paleoclimatologists (MINUS Michael Mann) and climate modellers.

    And the modellers will not be amused.

  16. Mary Hinge
    2008/11/19 at 09:17

    sunsettommy (05:02:35) :
    “Real climate science….”

    An oxymoron if ever there was one!

  17. 2008/11/19 at 08:11


    is yours a case of Wikipedia taking precedence over Science? And what happened after 2004?

  18. Derek
    2008/11/19 at 08:09

    “That’s the deepest ice core ever extracted.”

    Is it my “bias” or does that reconstruction look very “Miskolczi”.

    I wonder what the “consensus” climate modellers will think……….

  19. Flanagan
    2008/11/19 at 07:49

    The problem with this analysis is that we’re now supposed to have passed the maximum of the natural, cyclic variation in temperatures:

    Anyway, every serious climatologist knows that todays variability is far from average.

  20. cbullitt
    2008/11/18 at 19:09

    Fan of WUWT. Just found your site. Loved the piece.
    Although I disagree with your assessment that ALGORE’s catastrophism is stupid.
    He made a shitload of money from this hooey. His actions may be criminal–but not stupid.

  21. macha
    2008/11/18 at 17:14

    Good Stuff! I wish more ordinary mortals would read stuff like this. It’s out there but nobody can be bothered looking for it. Most seem to be content to allow the MSM to think for them, which is pathetic since the media is incapable of thoughtful research prior to going to print it is all about sensationalism.

  22. 2008/11/18 at 15:24

    thank you for the good laugh Rober!! 8-))))))))))))))))))))))))

    BTW – a reader pointed to a typo, it’s obviously not 15C more that the world had in 118,000BC, but “just” 5C

  23. 2008/11/18 at 14:32

    You had to dig down 2 miles to reveal the stupidity of AGW?!?! Next time just try a little common sense.

  24. Buck
    2008/11/17 at 20:03

    Yeah, nice work. Not gonna see this in my local McClatchy fish wrap. They did have something on AGW yesterday and no, no mention of September being the warmest October in Russia evah. No, it was something like ‘Global Warming To Cause Wars.’ Presumably the poor and women will be hardest hit.

  25. 2008/11/17 at 12:58

    Very good post – a fine counterblast to the people who keep telling us to shut up because the long-term trend points to unprecedented warming. It doesn’t! Just a couple of points:

    1) I tend to agree with Luke, that we won’t see this reported on the BBC; or if they do report it, there will be some degree of spin involved. The last time the BBC news website appears to have mentioned Epica and Dome C was November 2005, when they managed to turn their report into a warning about “exceptional” warming and end up mentioning IPCC and sea level rises. I’d expect see a similar angle to their reporting this time around.

    2) I’m also wondering about all the good research going on that is reported in languages other than English, and thus may not ever make it into the English-speaking mainstream media (especially if it is not seen as being on-message.)

  26. 2008/11/17 at 05:02

    Thank you for bringing this up on your blog.

    Now I can help spread this at my blog.

    Real climate science research papers should be known.

  27. 2008/11/16 at 00:59

    thank you “Luke”. It’s not much the existence or not of Climate Change that inspired me to create this blog: I am more concerned about the extremely shaky foundations of a lot of what is being said and done about it.

    That’s where the “nakedness” and its “unbearability” come into play. Part of the title is in ALL CAPS for trivial reasons relating to the WordPress style I have chosen, but can’t remember those reasons any longer 8)

  28. Luke Warmer
    2008/11/16 at 00:46

    Very interesting stuff – thanks for reporting this for us.

    I can’t see this being reported on the BBC anytime soon.

    Keep up the good work and I love the blog name

  1. 2009/09/06 at 04:56
  2. 2008/12/16 at 19:09
  3. 2008/11/22 at 17:41
  4. 2008/11/21 at 19:22
  5. 2008/11/19 at 17:40
  6. 2008/11/19 at 04:21
  7. 2008/11/19 at 03:30
  8. 2008/11/18 at 15:16
  9. 2008/11/18 at 06:09

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