“As the light lengthens, so the cold strengthens!”

This is a traditional piece of folk weather-wisdom that is certainly receiving confirmation this year! 2.4° – yes, that’s two-point-four degrees, less than two-and-a-half degrees on the Fahrenheit scale – at a quarter ’til eight this morning. But my new wireless digital thermometer’s low-temperature function showed an overnight low of 1.5°: I literally do not remember the last time it’s been that cold, here in central Maryland. Needless to say, I had some trouble dragging myself out of bed, to go to work!

And now it’s heading for the single-digits again, tonight: it’s dropped from 10.7 to 10.5° just in the couple of minutes it’s taken me to type this. A bit of a departure from the usual topics of this blog, but this is pretty epic. We don’t get it this cold often… fortunately. The culprit is a “polar vortex” which has broken loose from its usual arctic confines, and dropped down over North America.

As Baltimore meteorologist Justin Berk noted, a week ago,

“The Polar Vortex has become an overly used media term, but it is a legitimate weather phenomenon that us weather geeks have known about for decades. If you look back at all historic arctic outbreaks and record winter cold, it most likely had to do with the Polar Vortex dropping across the northern US. So, no fear about the planet falling apart. This is really just going to be very cold.”

And so it has! Very cold. Not too cold for me, but getting close — Northern European blood or no! If it’s going to be this cold, I want two things: a wood-stove, and a lovely young woman to cuddle with. Since I don’t have either, at the moment, this is plenty cold.

Update: no kidding about the single digits – at eight o’clock p.m., it has dropped to 9.5°.

Diminishing solar activity may bring new Ice Age by 2030 – Astronomy Now

In this 1677 painting by Abraham Hondius, "The Frozen Thames, looking Eastwards towards Old London Bridge," people are shown enjoying themselves on the ice. In 17th century there was a prolonged reduction in solar activity called the Maunder minimum, which lasted roughly from 1645 to 1700. During this period, there were only about 50 sunspots instead of the usual 40-50 thousand recorded. Image credit: Museum of London.
In this 1677 painting by Abraham Hondius, “The Frozen Thames, looking Eastwards towards Old London Bridge,” people are shown enjoying themselves on the ice. In the 17th century there was a prolonged reduction in solar activity called the Maunder minimum, which lasted roughly from 1645 to 1700. During this period, there were only about 50 sunspots recorded instead of the usual 40-50 thousand. Image credit: Museum of London.

The arrival of intense cold similar to the one that raged during the “Little Ice Age”, which froze the world during the 17th century and in the beginning of the 18th century, is expected in the years 2030—2040.

Source: Diminishing solar activity may bring new Ice Age by 2030 – Astronomy Now

Note: that’s the arrival! It may last a good bit longer. Here’s a fuller excerpt:

“The arrival of intense cold similar to the one that raged during the ‘Little Ice Age,’ which froze the world during the 17th century and in the beginning of the 18th century, is expected in the years 2030—2040. These conclusions were presented by Professor V. Zharkova (Northumbria University) during the National Astronomy Meeting in Llandudno in Wales by the international group of scientists, which also includes Dr Helen Popova of the Skobeltsyn Institute of Nuclear Physics and of the Faculty of Physics of the Lomonosov Moscow State University, Professor Simon Shepherd of Bradford University and Dr Sergei Zharkov of Hull University.”

That the climate is changing is obvious. That it is also warming, at least for now – despite cold snaps such as the one we’re currently going through! – and at least in some areas, is also obvious to those who consider, for example, the recession of glaciers that revealed “Otzi, the Iceman” in the Alps, or the dramatic shrinking of glaciers in Glacier National Park, Montana, just in the 35 or so years since I was there with my parents in the early 1980s. And of course, we have – I believe – both an ethical and a religious obligation to care for this good Earth which God has given us, to the best of our ability.

That said, there is a clearly political agenda driving a lot of the climate change / global warming hysteria these days, which causes me to look with a somewhat jaundiced eye in that direction. And it is not, regardless of what its proponents say, “settled science”: for one thing, there is no such thing! It may be (currently) the majority opinion, but so was the Ptolemaic cosmology, for a couple of thousand years – to cite but one example, among many. Science, if it is doing its job correctly, is always open to new information, and new interpretations.

Secondly, there are competent scientists who hold a contrary view, even if they are fewer in number than the global warming proponents, at the present time. One of those is the aforementioned Dr. Helen Popova, who writes,

“There is no strong evidence, that global warming is caused by human activity. The study of deuterium in the Antarctic showed that there were five global warmings and four Ice Ages for the past 400 thousand years. People [e.g., anatomically modern humans] first appeared on the Earth about 60 thousand years ago. However, even if human activities influence the climate, we can say, that the Sun with the new minimum gives humanity more time or a second chance to reduce their industrial emissions and to prepare, when the Sun will return to normal activity.”

This does not mean we should be careless, complacent, or inconsiderate to our fellow-creatures or the planetary home we share! Even if we are only contributing, to some extent, to what is primarily a process that’s much bigger than us, we should be cautious and considerate in our actions, and many of the proposed remedies for global warming can be defended on other grounds. But it does suggest that we should be a bit more reticent about claiming either credit or blame for the whole thing! Despite human hubris, this may be another example of a truth of which it is salutary to remind ourselves, from time to time: it’s not all about us.

Note: the “Little Ice Age” actually began around 1450, and lasted until around 1850, peaking (naturally) at c. 1650. But we have been warming from it for only a bit over 150 years. It’s not surprising, therefore, that temperatures have been climbing during that period! Also the first thermometers were invented between 1593 (a rudimentary water thermometer, by Galileo Galilei) and 1714 (the mercury thermometer, by Gabriel Fahrenheit) – again, right around the peak of the “Little Ice Age,” or Maunder Minimum. So it has literally been warming pretty much ever since the thermometer has existed! The psychological effects of this should not be underestimated.