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Industrial Winter via Pollution
fossil fuels are adding to global dimming as well as global warming
Planet and Civilization in Crisis
We are facing a crisis and catastrophe the likes of which only nature has so far produced in the past. No doubt you have heard terms like nuclear winter, volcanic winter and impact winter, but you can add a new one to the list; industrial winter, caused by pollution. Unlike the others that are sudden and unmistakable if we know the cause, this one is incipient and creeps up on us. We are already in it and few people are aware that we are. We see chaotic weather; more rain, more droughts, more flooding, cooler though longer summers, warmer Polar Regions, melting ice packs and the like. Many experience the effects on their health and tens of thousands die from pollution effects in every major metropolis and country every year. Natural catastrophic driven climactic winters come on suddenly and darken the skies, plunging the entire world in a non stop winter for several years. This one is subtle, creeping in slowly, disguised in part by overall global warming, but brings on catastrophic changes that are slowly building to the levels of sudden catastrophe brought on by something like a volcanic winter. We are in the position of the frog that is slowly being boiled and we are not jumping! To illustrate what is happening, we first look at history concerning great natural catastrophic winters of the past. Then we turn to incidents within industrial society. The term "winter" is conditional due to a complex array of factors.
74,000 BCE Toba volcanic explosion
A long time ago, humanity had a brush with extinction from which the human species barely escaped. According to the Toba catastrophe geology, the consequences of a massive super-volcanic eruption severely reduced the human population in ancient times long before current civilizations developed. This is thought to have occurred about 70,000 to 74,000 years ago when the Toba caldera in Indonesia underwent a category eight mega-colossal eruption. This released energy equivalent to about 1 billion tons of TNT, which is about fifty times greater than the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens, which itself was about twenty times greater than the largest man made explosion, the October 30, 1961 detonation of the Soviet Union's Tsar Bomba thermonuclear device rated at 57 megatons. According to Ambrose, the Toba explosion reduced the average global temperature by 5 degrees Celsius or 9 degrees Fahrenheit for several years and may have triggered or deepened an ice age. Such a sudden induced temperature change would have triggered catastrophic weather changes planet wide. Among them would be severe drought after a prolonged volcanic winter. This resulted from mass injections of particles into the atmosphere.
This massive environmental change created population bottlenecks in all the species that existed at the time, which in turn accelerated differentiation of the isolated human populations, eventually leading to the extinction of all the other human species except for the two branches that became Neanderthals and homo-sapiens, modern humans (4). Ambrose proposed that humanity itself was reduced to 1,000 to 10,000 surviving individuals, barely surviving extinction.
Santorini 1646 BCE Minoan/Egypt 4th dynasty/Exodus
In the Aegean Sea exists a super volcano, Santorini, which is responsible for the destruction of the Minoan civilization as well as creating disaster all around it when it exploded.
"A 2006 documentary created by filmmaker Simcha Jacobovici suggests that the eruption of the Santorini Island volcano 1623 BCE., plus or minus 25 years caused all the biblical plagues described against Egypt, redating the eruption to 1500 BCE (ice cores give 1646 VCE exactly). The Hyksos, some of them Mycenaean Greek "Hebrews", fled Egypt, which they had in fact ruled for some time after the eruption. The pharaoh with whom they identify the Pharaoh of the Exodus is Ahmose I. Rather than crossing the Red Sea, a marshy area in northern Egypt, known as the "Reed Sea" he argued would have been alternately drained and flooded by Tsunamis caused by the caldera collapse and could have been crossed during the exodus."
The Bible in Exodus refers to a pillar of fire by night and a pillar of smoke by day might be a reference to the spewing ash from the volcano during the Plinian column stage. There is a weakness in this account as the column would have been invisible owing to the curvature of the earth and the distance it was from Egypt. However, during the explosion, there would have been tsunamis, one from the explosion itself and another when the caldera collapsed. The ash that erupted into the sky would have darkened the sun as related and also account for fire mingled with hail, a difficult call in ordinary weather circumstances. The amount of ash would reduce temperatures as in the case of Toba and caused famine and strange weather.
Krakatau Feb. 535 CE
David Keys, Ken Wohletz, and others have postulated that the violent eruption of Krakatau in 535 CE may have been responsible for the global climate changes of 535-536.(1) Keys explores what he believes to be the radical and far ranging global effects of just such a putative 6th century eruption in his book "Catastrophe: An Investigation into the Origins of the Modern World". Additionally, in recent times, it has been argued that it was this eruption which created the islands of Verlaten and Lang, remnants of the original island, and the beginnings of Rakata, all indicators of early Krakatau’s caldera's size. However, there seems to be little, if any, datable charcoal from that eruption, even if there is plenty of circumstantial evidence.
Some of this evidence includes world wide dendrochronolgy and ice core records that indicated a global freeze that extended from 536 through to 540 CE and a century of weird weather thereafter as recorded in Asia, Rome, France and Britain. This dust lofted into the atmosphere according to accounts, blocked the sun and lowered temperatures enough to prevent crop growing. There was much famine, starvation and a bubonic plague that wiped out almost half the population in the Roman Empire. Teotihuacan in ancient Mexico also succumbed to famine, starvation and disease. The population that survived eventually fled the magnificent city during this time. Notably, Islam was born about a century after the event as were the Mayan warrior city states.
The Sporer and Maunder Minima.
“Edward Maunder suggested a period over which the Sun had changed modality from a period in which sunspots all but disappeared from the solar surface, followed by the appearance of sunspot cycles starting in 1700. Careful studies revealed the problem not to be a lack of observational data but included references to negative observations. Adding to this understanding of the absence of solar activity cycles were observations of auroras, which were also absent at the same time. Even the lack of a solar corona during solar eclipses was noted prior to 1715.
The Sporer, Maunder, and Dalton minima coincide with the colder periods of the Little Ice Age, which lasted from about 1450 to 1820. More recently it was discovered that the sunspot number during 1861-1989 shows a remarkable parallelism with the simultaneous variation in northern hemisphere mean temperatures"(2). There is an even better correlation with the length of the solar cycle, between years of the highest numbers of sunspots. For example, the temperature anomaly was negative 0.4 K in 1890 when the cycle was 11.7 years, but plus 0.25 K in 1989 when the cycle was 9.8 years. Some critics of the theory of man induced global warming have seized on this discovery to criticize the greenhouse gas theory. However, summers continued to be warmer and longer even during the minimum stage. The effect has been moderated somewhat due to concentrations of soot and dust accumulating in the upper atmosphere from industry in Europe, America, China and India, which serves to block out sunlight and cool the lower atmosphere. There is evidence of longer sun cycles as well. Though these do not lend to pollution in the atmosphere, the existence of a cooling of the sun would exacerbate an already polluted atmosphere.
The Killer London Fog from coal
London has had a number of killer fogs, the most notorious one of Dec. 1952. The Great Smog of London as it is called befell London starting on December 4, 1952, and lasted until March of 1953. It was a great disaster that killed thousands and formed an important impetus to the modern environmental movement. In early December of 1952, a cold fog descended upon London. Because of the cold, Londoners began to burn more coal than usual. At the same time, the final conversion of London's electric trams to diesel buses was completed. The resulting air pollution was trapped by the heavy layer of cold air due to a temperature inversion, and the concentration of pollutants built up dramatically. The smog was so thick that it would sometimes make driving impossible. It entered indoors easily; concerts and screenings of films were canceled as the audience could not see the stage or screen. Since London was known for its fog, there was no great panic at the time. In the weeks that followed, the medical services compiled statistics and found that the fog had killed 4,000 people, most of who were very young or elderly, or had pre-existing respiratory problems.
Another 8,000 died in the weeks and months that followed. This demonstrates one of the other problems with pollution and soot.
Such concentrations were also seen in Beijing China just prior to the 2008 Olympics. The Chinese government in a concerted effort managed to clear up much of it before the games began. This same pollution has drifted across the Pacific Ocean to North America to cool summers there.
Germany's acid rain killing forests
The Black Forest wooded mountain region in southwestern Germany is located in the state of Baden-Württemberg. The region is about 160 km/ 100 miles long, varies in width from about 23 km/14 miles in the north to 61 km/38 miles in the south, and occupies an area of about 5,000 sq km/2,000 sq miles. Its name refers to the heavy stands of fir on the upper slopes. Below the slopes are extensive forests of oak and beech, and logging has been a major element of the region’s economy. Like much of the forest land in Germany, the Black Forest is plagued by air pollution. Environmental studies have shown that as many as half the trees in the Black Forest and other wooded areas have been damaged by acid rain, automobile emissions, and long distance industrial pollution. This serves as a kind of bench mark for the global problem that has been developing noticeably since 2004/2005.
The Kuwait oil fires of 1991
When Iraqi troops withdrew from Kuwait at the end of the Persian Gulf War in early 1991, they set fire to more than 600 oil wells and pools of spilled oil in Kuwait, a parting shot that exacted a significant economic toll on the country's lucrative petroleum industry. There is some dispute and controversy as to who really started the fires, but the fires were lit and burned for several months. Connecticut sized Kuwait contains about 9 percent of the world's total proven oil reserves. Ignition of oil well fires also created a serious threat to the environment and human health in the Persian Gulf region. The Kuwait oil fires burned for more than eight months, consuming an estimated five to six million barrels of crude oil and 70 to 100 million cubic meters of natural gas per day. Between late February, when the first fires were ignited, and November 6, when the last fire was extinguished, smoke plumes containing a hazardous mixture of gaseous emissions and particulate matter engulfed a downwind area as large as 150 by 1000 kilometers. This eventually was spread out into the entire atmosphere due to global wind patterns.
The geography and climate of the Persian Gulf region affected the distribution of the oil well plumes, as well as the severity of their effect on human populations and natural ecosystems. Though Saudi Arabia and Iraq border Kuwait's petroleum fields, the region's strong prevailing northerly winds ensured that relatively tiny Kuwait bore the majority of the fires' ill effects. Uneven heating of the land and sea surfaces created local atmospheric inversions during the summer months that trapped smoke in the lower atmosphere, and occasionally caused the plumes to blanket the Kuwaiti land surface. Violent sandstorms,
driven by intense summer winds, mixed sand and dust with the smoke plumes. The inversions created near freezing temperatures under the blanket of soot and dust in a region whereas the average temperature is in the 40 degree Celsius range.
SL-9 impact on Jupiter 1994
The July 1994 impact of Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 with Jupiter also served as a wake up call, and astronomers responded by starting programs such as Lincoln Near-Earth Asteroid Research (LINEAR), Near-Earth Asteroid Tracking (NEAT), Lowell Observatory Near-Earth Object Search (LONEOS) and several others which have drastically increased the rate of asteroid discovery. However, many objects undoubtedly still remain undetected. Initially, the comet passed by Jupiter almost two years earlier. Calculations from the orbital elements taken at the time told astronomers that it would crash into Jupiter at the next pass in 1994. As the comet approached during 1994, it broke up into 22 visible pieces and looked like a string of pearls. Then over a week and a half, pieces slammed into Jupiter at speeds well in excess of 100,000 Kilometers per second. One piece produced a hot plume that would have been big enough to engulf the entire Earth. The temperature of the plume was hotter than the surface of the sun. Such a comet hitting Earth at that speed would have initially superheated the atmosphere and then as the air cooled, the dust and soot in the atmosphere would have plunged the Earth into an impact winter. Such a scenario is described as the possibility for the extinction of the dinosaurs some 65 million years ago.
China's juggernaut economy and world wide pollution
“Currently second behind the U.S. in the table of the world's leading greenhouse gas emitters, China, whose economy continues to grow at a rate of about eight percent annually, is expected to top the list in the near future, with many analysts predicting the "near future" to mean this year, 2007.” With the economic collapse of the fall of 2008, this move of China to first place was realized by early 2009. India is rapidly growing too.
“As well as contributing to global warming, those emissions -- as well as a host of other toxic by products of Chinese industrialization, are having a catastrophic effect on the health and environment of the nation that is producing them. According to environmental monitoring group the Worldwatch Institute, China now boasts 16 of the world's 20 most polluted cities. As much as 70 percent of the country's water is suffering from pollution, with an estimated 300 million people drinking contaminated water on a daily basis, and 190 million drinking water that is so contaminated it affects their health. Crop returns are decreasing both in terms of quality and quantity as a result of polluted land; while
approximately 400,000 people in China die annually from respiratory infections directly attributable to air pollution. The sheer scale of the economic activity in China means that pollution is as probably bad as it has ever been anywhere in the world, ever.
Such is the pollution haze in many of the cities that you can't even see the sun. A lot of the rivers are so dirty their water cannot now be used for irrigation, while some of the soil is so badly contaminated with cadmium and mercury that there is a question as to whether food grown in those soils is safe to eat."(8)
Nor is the cost just human and environmental. Ironically given that it is China's bullish economic growth that is fueling such high levels of pollution, that same pollution is proving increasingly detrimental to the country's economic well being, with the China's economy losing an estimated $200 billion annually due to the effects of pollution and global warming, which amounts to almost 10 percent of its Gross Domestic Product. The pollution blocking out the sun has introduced cooling in the regions directly affected, adding another burden on the ability to grow crops. The soot and dust has been detected over North America after being wafted over the Pacific Ocean by global wind patterns. The result has been cooler summers there as well. Since 2003, the summers have been getting gradually cooler. In regions that boasted weeks of heat waves, now see only a day or two of a heat wave for the entire summer. Elsewhere, the opposite happens with extended and killing heat waves.
American writer and humorist Mark Twain noted that "climate is what we expect; weather is what we get". To this we could add extreme weather is what we could very well do without. In the UK, extreme weather means the blistering heat waves, parching droughts, flash floods, and raging blizzards that, from time to time, punctuate the UK's normally dry summers and mild, wet winters.
Much of the time, extreme weather is just common weather writ large; stronger winds, heavier rain, bigger hailstones or higher temperatures. Sometimes, however, it involves the arrival on the scene of unusual or anomalous meteorological phenomena, such as the twisting columns of strong wind known as tornadoes or the giant spirals of raw power that go by the names of hurricanes, typhoons or tropical cyclones.
Just how extreme weather can be is sometimes difficult to comprehend. In 1970, on the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe, for example, nearly four centimeters of rain fell in a single minute. In the case of extreme hail storms, it tends to be less the amount and more the size of the hailstones that causes the problems. In the US mid-west, for example, it is not unusual to see cars being driven around that look as if they have been attacked by hammer wielding lunatics. In fact, they have simply taken a pounding from the tennis ball-sized hail that sometimes drops from the giant, super cell thunderstorms that roam the prairies, especially during the summer months.
These same storms also spawn the swarms of tornadoes that terrorize the region, cutting swaths of total destruction wherever they make contact with the surface. Wind speeds in the most powerful tornadoes can exceed 400km an hour. Although their wind speeds are somewhat lower, the hurricanes and typhoons that roam the tropics and the mid latitude storms that periodically batter the UK and Europe can bring damage and loss of life to a much greater area. In the summer of 2008, a hurricane hit Cuba that rated a category six on the intensity scale; the first ever recorded.
Hurricanes and Typhoons
Hurricanes are caused by temperature variations between the ocean surface and the atmosphere. The more extreme the difference there is between the two temperatures, the more powerful the storms. As global warming increases due to pollution, storms like these increase in intensity. The most devastating windstorm ever was Hurricane Katrina, which obliterated much of New Orleans in Aug.-Sept. 2005, causing damage costing more than $80 billion and taking nearly 2,000 lives. New Orleans is still not fully repaired years after. Things could have been much worse, however.
The most powerful tropical storm ever seen before 2008 was Typhoon Tip (Oct 4 to 19, 1979)(9), reached 2,200km across and covered an area equivalent to half that of the US, with winds as strong as 306 km/hr 190 Mi/hr at its peak. This particular storm is certainly a category 5, verging on a category 6. Fortunately, this huge Pacific storm dissipated before it made landfall, although some small islands Between Guam and S. Japan were completely destroyed. Sometime soon, however, a storm on this scale is going to hit a major inhabited area. This is a product of global warming, but may be mediated somewhat by pollution blocking sunlight. This of course brings other forms of disaster.
Temperature extremes also allow for the development of super-sized hailstones; something no one is interested in being super-sized. These rain down typically from super cells and cause heavy damage on crops, housing and cars. Such hailstones are large enough to create craters and kill those unfortunate enough to be caught outside and struck by one. Hailstone baseball size and larger is becoming a more frequent occurrences.
Flooding in the breadbasket
"2008 was a wet year all across Canada and much of the Northern US. The result was saturated crops in the bread basket. The overly watered crops meant that they were of substandard quality and that there was also less due to mold and disease brought on by too much rain. The rain made for a cool summer, causing a delay in maturing. There was concern about the crops being dry enough and mature enough to harvest before the end of the growing season or first frost. As it stands now, less crops of poorer quality means higher prices for all for sub standard food items. The prices go up and the poor can less afford to eat and there is less support by way of food banks and hand-outs. This in turn fuels food riots, which we saw in 2008.
With the floods seen in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Iowa, we'll see more evidence of how the problems of climate change combines with and magnify the problems associated with Peak Oil production and use. In this particular case they led to an inflection point sometime around the 2008 harvest season, which is also our time of political harvest. In Canada, low voter turn out meant an increase in Harper's government and vision, which is more of the same that lead us to this point.
As for flooding, these are 500 year cyclical floods events, unseen before by non-Indian people who starting living out on that stretch of the North American prairie well after that previous great flood. The personal ruin of farmers is a real threat and will be comprehensive and profound in a period where markets are in chaos due to the sub-prime mortgage crisis and stock market chaos. This is a wet version of the 1930s Dust Bowl, with families facing total loss and perhaps migrating elsewhere in the nation because they have no home or farm to go back to.
The 2008 crop shortfall will be a slow motion disaster, unlike Hurricane Katrina in 2005. It goes beyond the troubles of 25,000 people who have lost all their material possessions in a world where grain reserves stand at record lows. The crop losses in the bread basket will aggravate what is already a pretty dire situation. So far, Canadians and the US Public have experienced the world grain situation mainly in higher supermarket prices. Cheap corn is behind the magic of the American processed food industry, primarily in fast food as frantic Americans resort to because they have no time between two jobs and family.”(5)
Extreme flooding like the Midwest just experienced and is happening now along the Mississippi is wiping out food crops. With escalating fuel costs, there will come a point when truckers are unable to make a living and simply have to shut down. It's not enough that a huge portion of our grains goes to biofuel; tenuous crops are further impacted by a higher global demand for wheat-based foods on dinner tables. If drought, as addressed above, hit's America's bread basket our remaining crops will be in deep trouble. (6)
The Canadian Prairies have experienced two successive years of flooding resulting in damage to crops and produce of inferior value. This has been caused by cooler than usual summers and too much rain in an untimely fashion. Farmers have been concerned about drying the crops in time to beat the oncoming frost and snow that would mean a total loss of anything not harvested.
When fragile land in arid regions is over exploited by the demands of an expanding population, it loses its productive capacity. The results are devastating. Land degradation affects more than 1 billion people and 40 per cent of the earth’s surface. In the severest cases the land becomes infertile and useless, precipitating famine and drought. Every year 12 million hectares of land are lost to desertification, and that rate is increasing. Desertification is a major environmental problem that is advancing at an alarming pace.
Arid and semi-arid areas cover roughly one third of the earth’s land surface. These dry land regions, which may or may not border on deserts, receive little or no rainfall. Their ecosystems are fragile and are easily stressed beyond their already limited capacity. The causes of desertification are many and complex, but it is essentially inappropriate and excessive human activity that initiates the process. Fragile areas are deforested, over cultivated and overgrazed. Trees and bushes are stripped away to clear more land for cultivation, or to provide firewood and timber. This burning adds to industrial dust and soot. The effects of desertification are potentially devastating and in the worst cases are irreversible. Desertification reduces the land’s resilience to natural variations in climate and disrupts the natural cycle of water and nutrients. It intensifies strong winds and wildfires. Other long-term detrimental effects such as dust storms and sedimentation of waters and streams are felt at great distances from where the problem originates. The loss of agricultural land to land degradation is extremely costly, and not only in economic terms. Desertification leads to prolonged episodes of drought and famine in countries that are already impoverished and cannot sustain large agricultural losses. Rural poor people who depend on the land for survival are forced to migrate or starve. This process is repeating itself throughout the developed and the developing world. Africa is the continent most severely affected by desertification. Asia follows close behind, and China in particular has a very severe problem. Even the mighty Amazon basin is affected.
Atmospheric spreading of pollutants.
So; you’re not sure that pollutants can spread around the world from one location. When I was a child, I and everyone around me lived in the era of atmospheric atomic testing being conducted by the US and USSR. We all remembered the news headlines in the papers of Soviet nuclear clouds wafting around the world and depositing Strontium 90 and Cesium 137 everywhere. Cows ate it and we drank cow’s milk and the isotopes wound up in our bones.
Later research at the Antarctic ice sheets and Greenland determined that every type of radioactive isotope that came from hundreds of atomic tests conducted by the US and USSR, wound up in ice layers for all of those years. Most of these tests were conducted in the Northern hemisphere, except for those done at Christmas Island. Nevertheless, isotopes were found deposited in every ice sheet studied where ice cores were extracted. Now we watch clouds of other sorts drifting from China to America and Canada. These are being deposited
in ice layers now being formed, but more important is the soot and dust still in the
atmosphere that is blocking some sunlight and cooling summers. The soot trapped in the new ice, traps heat and speeds up polar and glacial melting, something else that has been witnessed over the last several years.
Massive amounts of industrial pollution and the burning of fossil fuels around the globe are contributing to green house gases. But, there is also a lot of particulate matter in the form of soot and other pollutants that are serving to block sunlight, leading to cooling. Added to this there appears that the sun is headed into another cooling trend of unknown duration. The combined effects of global greenhouse gas accumulation and particulate matter like soot and dust creates longer but cooler summers when greenhouse gases are figured in. Less energy from the sun also contributes to cooling. Cooling summers means delayed crops and crop failures, subsequent famines and mass starvation. Much of the soot and dust comes from industrial activities around the planet, whether it is forest
burning in the Amazon, cars in the developed world in Europe and North America or heavy coal based industrial pollution from Mexico, China and India. Add to this is the shipping of coal from China to Britain, that has plenty of its own coal, only because Chinese coal is cheaper. This give a double whammy to the environment from first shipping coal half way around the world and then burning it.
Europe, North America, Mexico, China and India are leading contributors to injecting mass amounts of soot and dust into the atmosphere due to industrial processes and use of fossil fuels. Added to this mix is constant modern warfare, particularly in the Middle East "oil basket" that adds more soot and dust. The collective dust shades the surface from sun causing a fall in temperatures around the globe, despite global warming from greenhouse gas accumulation. The result is long, cool, wet summers. If we continue to pump in more pollutants and accelerate that process, we will wind up in an “industrial winter" caused by human industrial pollution. This winter will have disastrous effects on a still growing world population. It will lead to great political instability and more war. Further, if the sun remains in a quiet cool stage, then this will add to the problem that industrial pollution is creating.
1. Wohletz KH, 2000, Were the Dark Ages triggered by volcano-related climate changes in the
6th century? EOS Trans Amer Geophys Union 48(81), F1305.
2. Friis-Christensen, E. and K. Lassen 1991. Length of the solar cycle, an indication of
solar activity closely associated with climate. Science 254, 698-700.
3. David Keys, Catastrophe: An Investigation into the Origins of the Modern World
4. Stanley H. Ambrose (1998). "Late Pleistocene human population bottlenecks, volcanic
winter, and differentiation of modern humans". Journal of Human Evolution 34 (6): 623–651.
Ambrose, Stanley H. (2005). "Volcanic Winter, and Differentiation of Modern Humans".
Bradshaw Foundation. Retrieved on 2006-04-08.
8. Lester Brown, head of Washington-based Earth Policy Institute, as told to CNN.
9. George M. Dunnavan & John W. Dierks (1980). "An Analysis of Super Typhoon Tip (October
1979)". Joint Typhoon Warning Center. Retrieved on 2007-01-24.