I was perhaps ahead of the curve, when it came to distrusting what is now dubbed, “Fake News.” In fact I can’t remember when I was not a skeptic of some sort. True, my skepticism tended to go into abeyance, when I was young and was prone to idealistic extremes. Like most small boys I felt my Dad was a super-hero, the best; my Mom was my super-heroine, the best; but then they divorced, and then neither said the other was the best any more…Houston, we have a problem. In like manner I was wildly patriotic, when a boy, and every time Lyndon Johnson said we’d defeat the North Vietnamese by sending 10,000 more troops, I nodded fiercely. But there too…Houston, we have a problem. Also, in like manner, when I was a bit older the girl I had just met was perfect in every way, but all too soon…Houston, we have a problem. But such disillusionments were acceptable, (if not agreeable), for back then I was trained, even in grade school, to see that every coin has two sides, and that I should seek to see both sides of every issue. All things have pros and cons. But…they don’t seem to teach that anymore.
At some point a sort of “my way or the highway” mentality set in, where only one view was allowed. Because I had been trained differently, the slightest whiff of such thought set off alarms in my thinking. It struck me as the mentality of a cult.
My generation knew a thing or two about cults, because of communes we joined; and Yogis we investigated; and psychologies we paid-for. They all tended to trespass across, or at least infringe upon, the boundary between healthy thought and cultism.
I suppose this occurred because there are some concepts which are indivisible. For examples: God, Truth, Love, Infinity. What is half of infinity? It is still infinity. Infinity is indivisible. And (please don’t argue) because this is true, a clever con-artist can state that, because there are not two sides to infinity, and because there is no pro and con involved in the case of infinity, this same principle can be applied in other areas, where there very much are two sides, (for example, a divorce.) Con-artists apply infinity to other areas by suggesting only their side is infinite, only their side is politically correct, while the “other” side is worthy of purging, utilizing a cancel-culture’s ostracism. For example, some psychiatrists insist they must be obeyed, and any objections you may have are just manifestations of your infantile unwillingness to face reality; your best objections are but your denial and resistance to facts your psychiatrist sees, because he paid a fortune to be schooled in nonsense, whereas you were too smart to fall for such a scam, and therefore you are deemed uneducated. (Those who see like a cyclops insist on absolute obedience). The most extreme case states the communist overlord must be kowtowed to, or you are on the next train to a Siberian Gulag to be reeducated, Buster. (Such myopic thinking is so far from God, Truth, Love and Infinity that it would be a hilarious joke, if not for the fact so many don’t get the joke).
In any case, I tended to be attracted to healthy thought and repelled from cultish myopia, which led me to a love of real science, where people are willing to see the pros and cons of an idea, and delight in seeing both sides. Among the best thinkers even the most harebrained idea is not banned, but is considered, and, even if in some respects the harebrained idea is wrong, one still hears, “But he does make a point…”
One thing we all tend to do is to see what is possible in terms we ourselves have seen. This manifested among academics, who often have little experience out in the battlefields of commerce, as a definition of humanity which sees humans as timid, and unlikely to venture far from safety. This may be true of academics, but it cannot be used as a rule for mankind as a whole. At this point enters, from stage right, Thor Heyerdahl, who, to scientifically “prove” his point, sailed a balsa wood raft he dubbed the “Kon Tiki” from Peru to Polynesia.
Many parts of Thor Heyerdahl’s theories may have been incorrect, but honorable scientists of his time did confess, “He does make a point.” He proved men can make incredible journeys which academics, safely ensconced in their Ivory Towers, would never venture to undertake.
What has this to do with arctic sea-ice? Glad you asked.
As a youth I was not at all attracted to classrooms, but was very much attracted to sailing rafts across the Pacific Ocean. Not that I wasn’t attracted to Ivory Towers, but my Ivory Towers were not classrooms choked with chalk dust under the flickering light of migraine-inducing fluorescent bulbs. What’s so ivory about that? My Ivory Tower was at the winner’s end of a fishing rod, playing hooky from school; or standing, dangling a hitchhiker’s thumb, five hundred miles from home; or at the above-water-end of a tiller in an Atlantic gale.
I was quite academic about being anti-academic. Maybe I’d offend a teacher by handing in a term-report only a paragraph long, but I’d write my best buddy a “note” twenty pages long. I also kept a detailed diary, when I played hooky, which would have amazed teachers, who were convinced I paid no attention to details. I still own the yellowing pages of diaries describing when I hitchhiked from Boston to Florida, just after my sixteenth birthday, and when I sailed from Boston to the Bahamas in a “borrowed” yacht, at age eighteen. I collected data Thor Heyerdahl might appreciate, but which academics tend to discount, as they don’t like admitting some outrageous behavior constitutes “things” outside their ken.
Next I underwent reformation and went to India to seek God, but I likely have offended academics enough already, so I won’t go there, in this essay. Let me only go so far as stating I had a deep respect for, and fascination about, Vikings.
This fascination was likely due to the fact Norumbega Tower was two miles from my childhood home, and way back in the 1950’s I, (still basically a rug-rat), during a picnic by that tower, stood transfixed as the grown-ups debated whether or not the Greenland Vikings came as far south as Massachusetts. The debate conceded that Eben Horseford, (the wealthy Harvard professor who had the tower erected as a monument to his own personal [and perhaps anti-Catholic] theories), was largely wrong, but that “he did have his points.”
For some reason, this fascination took hold of me. Even as a boy, any discussion of Vikings, in any conversation or in any book, riveted my attention. Although my town had long been in the process of being transformed from a farming town with a few water-powered mills and a few lavish mansions owned by wealthy Bostonians as “summer houses”, into a smug suburb which basically banned farmers, (especially pig farmers), I was born into this total transformation of my hometown during the period when you could still hear the grousing of the farmers and mill workers, and their children; families who had cared for a land 250 years but now were being displaced. I wasn’t as interested in their resentment as I was in the history they knew about. It was odd stuff, and would take a long post to do justice to, and historians would call it “lore”. But the locals would call historians worse things, and often displayed disrespect towards Eban Horseford, or anyone else from Harvard.
Perhaps I should explain the contempt.
My town had a certain selectman who was locally cursed and remembered as “Bloody Alphonzo”, for he had sold the town’s water rights back in the 1800’s. The city of Cambridge, (where Harvard Collage is located), dammed a stream and flooded a valley and passed ordinances to keep their water clean. Mills were closed, manure piles called illegal, and local farmers and their children abruptly were not supposed to even fish and swim in the brooks that ran through lands their families had farmed since it was ruled by the King of England. Legally the farmers had no power, so what did they do? They snuck. It was said even the police chief fished in the reservoir. Also, to express their contempt, they would urinate into the brooks, laughing at the idea Harvard professors would soon drink their byproduct. Contempt had sadly become a two-way-street.
Due to this ill-will, the very people who lived on the land Eban Horseford claimed had been a Viking colony were less than forthcoming concerning objects they had found, or which their ancestors had found. A few odd objects remained, but much existed only as family traditions. For example, if they plowed up a strange, corroded copper kettle, they might melt it down. Copper was valuable stuff. Consequentially, they knew about copper kettles Harvard never saw.
One thing they knew about (which I can find no record of Harvard ever seeing) was petrographs. They were in a 300-foot-tall knob of made of the hardest granite, yet fractured and holding a cavern. The knob had a name like “Devil’s Den”, or some such thing. It was a hideout for smugglers and robbers, and when President George Washington rode by that looming knob on his way to Boston along the Post Road, his bodyguard was especially vigilant. If it still existed it would be a protected monument, but instead it became a quarry over 400 feet deep, supplying the best granite gravel for highways, including causeways built across the reservoirs supplying faucets in Cambridge. In essence the valley Eban Horseford claimed held a Viking colony is now buried beneath both a reservoir and an interstate highway. So all Harvard knows is that there used to be caves that purportedly held petrographs. But as a boy I knew gruff old locals who had seen the petrographs, or their fathers had. They were a vanishing people, and by the time I was a high school senior they’d vanished, but they taught a history much more interesting than the history in school, which seemed to be merely the memorization of dates and places, and seemingly didn’t involve actual people with actual stories.
To conclude this sidetrack, I’ll mention a local historian who was perhaps the last pig farmer to flee my rapidly ossifying suburb. Back in those days (1950’s) you recycled your trash into three piles: Stuff for the incinerator: stuff for the dump; and stuff for pigs; and this particular fellow collected the stuff for pigs. He was our “garbage man”, radiant and nearly completely bald and seemingly always cheerful, but no one you would suspect was an authority. However, an occasion arose where no one knew how to turn on an old, neighborhood fountain. Plumbers were useless. Engineers were useless. But the garbage man knew the history. How he happened to chance by that day is a bit of a mystery, (for there was no garbage to collect), but he listened from the periphery, and then silently strode forward and took a shovel from a man standing by, pried up a flagstone you could barely see, (it was so covered with sod), and beneath was a subterranean box, also made of flagstone, and at the bottom of the box was a pipe with a handle. He turned the handle, and the fountain came to life. Lesson learned? Garbagemen may be smarter than plumbers and engineers and even Harvard historians. Why?
I’m not going to give you the answer. Figure it out for yourself. How could a pig farmer and garbage man know more than plumbers, engineers and Harvard?
In any case, although I was a spoiled child, my childhood involved wonderful servants. Not that the relatively rich, suburban fathers were not wonderful, but they left at dawn and often did not return until after dark. Back when I was small they didn’t even need to own cars to desert; they left by a local train called a “Budliner,” which wasn’t a trolley but might be as small as a single train-carriage. And therefore the men who were my substitute “father-figures” through the daylight hours were the local fellows who delivered coal down rattling chutes, or oil from trucks with long, snaking, smelly pipes, or who mowed lawns or gardened, or who painted clapboards or shingled roofs, or who delivered the milk, or who delivered the groceries, or who tarred the street, or who brought grain for rich folk’s horses, or who brought the mail up your drive and put it through a slot in your front door, and so on and so forth. I hope you catch my drift. But, in case you don’t, I’ll just state that, as a child who was hungry for good stories, these local characters were far more interesting than school was. In fact school seemed to go out of its way to make interesting subjects dull. For example, find yourself a “Dick and Jane” book. I challenge anyone to look at an actual “Dick and Jane” book and see it as anything other than boring. It is a baby-talk that likely would cause even a baby to roll their eyes. Rather than teaching first graders to read, they likely turned many away from reading. I was turned away from school, but not from reading. I read everything I could find about Vikings.
I had no idea my interest would be anything besides a hobby. To be honest, it seemed obscure trivia, but I was an enthusiast. I would bore you to death at a cocktail party, if you made the mistake of bringing up Vikings, and especially the Vikings of Greenland. Even at my most destitute, entering a warm public library because it was winter and I was cold and homeless, I’d sometimes make a beeline towards the card catalogs, (the old search engines), to see what that library held concerning Greenland Vikings. Because I wandered coast to coast, I saw some odd, out-of-print books, ensconced in remote libraries. When it came to trivia concerning Greenland Vikings, I accidentally became, if not an authority, then far more knowledgeable than you’d expect a bum sleeping in his car to be. However this was nothing I did for profit. I was like a fellow who knows the batting averages of baseball players of the 1800’s. I studied for the gratification of my own curiosity, and not for any gain other than the pleasure of knowing the amazing, vanished Greenland Vikings a little bit better.
How amazing was this population of several thousand? Glad you asked. They survived, without welfare supplementing their income, yet paying Popes, Kings of Sweden, and perhaps even the Hanseatic League, a chunk of their income, for over four hundred years, in a brutal and unforgiving environment. They lived at the edge. When the climate cooled only a little, their crops failed and their herds perished. Yet they survived many such disasters, and then, all of a sudden, several thousand people vanished, leaving no bones picked by seagulls and scattered by arctic foxes and polar bears. In fact they left only a single frozen individual, dressed in the fashions of Europe. What happened to the rest of them?
There are any number of theories, many which may be correct in part, in a “he makes a good point” manner, while not being entirely true. My mind is a repository for such theories, some of which take a single true fact and use it as a springboard for unfounded conjecture.
Academics tend to frown at unfounded conjecture, even while indulging in what they frown at. For example, I have read one of these “experts” opine that the Vikings “failed to adapt”, and “refused to adopt Eskimo ways”. (Likely the expert used either the word “Indigenous” or “Inuit”). (But the Vikings were there earlier [but were not “first”] and it was the non-Dorset Eskimos, the “Inuit”, [whom the Vikings called “Skraeling’s”], who were the “illegal aliens” of that time).
Besides being an amateur archeologist, I also am an amateur psychologist, and I can recognize “projection” when I see it. What I saw the academic writer doing was using a single frozen corpse as a springboard for a projection reflecting what he (or she) himself (or herself) was: An ingrown inhabitant of a stultifying university clothed in non-adaptive fashions, who noticed the lone frozen corpse people found (when they returned to the Greenland colony in the late 1400’s), wore European fashions. The academic then projected his (or her) own problems onto the Greenland Vikings who vanished nearly six hundred years earlier: “They failed to adapt”.
I responded differently, when I learned the frozen corpse was wearing European fashions. My inquisitive mind immediately wanted to know, “Which European fashion?” Fashions change, and the frozen corpse might reveal a lot, if it wore a fashion worn after the date the last Greenlander freighter (knorr), (such Viking craft had a design and name all their own), arrived in Europe, and then headed back to Greenland, never to be seen again. (Decades past before any ship was sent to see why no taxes were paid, and the motive for returning to Greenland was seemingly not to help Greenlanders, but because some worried Greenlanders might be following the wrong branch of Christianity, and placing their tithes in the wrong offering-plate.) In any case, I wondered if the frozen corpse was even a Greenlander. He might have been a pirate marooned there by irate crewmates, who were irate because that poor man suggested Greenland might be a good place to raid, but when the pirates arrived, they only found abandoned ruins.
One theory about what happened to the last Greenlanders is that pirates swooped in to grab them to sell as slaves. There were a million white slaves, along the coasts of the Mediterranean, back in those times. And being enslaved might have been preferable to freezing and starving in Greenland; there was at least a chance to get fat, as a slave in warm Italy. And one odd coincidence is that, just when the Greenlanders vanished, there was suddenly talk in sea-side taverns in Italy and in Venetian colonies about lands across the Atlantic, and a couple of fast-talking Italian adventurers talked non-Italian kings into funding their adventures to cross the Atlantic. (The Italian in Spain was Christopher Columbus, and the Italian in England was John Cabot, both of whom who set sail for America in the late 1400’s, just after the Greenland Vikings became officially “vanished”).
This just demonstrates what a bore I can be at a cocktail party, if you make the mistake of bringing up the subject of Greenland Vikings. And I have only scratched the surface. I am the repository of all sorts of trivia you likely don’t want to know about
For example, did you know that for every woman’s grave in Greenland there are two men’s graves? Can you even imagine what a springboard that is, for conjecture?
I’d better stop there, or we will never get back to the subject of sea-ice. But…I cannot resist. Here’s one more springboard:
In 1898 a farmer in Minnesota claimed his son found Viking runes (writing) carved into a stone, (“The Kennington Stone”), in among the roots of a tree, as he cleared land. The runes were later translated. The runes hastily describe Vikings in a desperate situation, with ten of their party of 30 slaughtered by some sort of attack on their camp as the others were fishing. They are 14 days from where ten other men guard their ship. They sign off stating the year is 1362.
This discovery was immediately sent to Swedish linguistic experts of that time, who discredited the runes as a forgery, (perhaps a reason for the brusque dismissal might have included the fact the farmer who found the runes happened to be from Norway, and Swedes and Norwegians were getting along so poorly at that time that soon afterwards Norway declared its independence from Sweden. But ironically, the Vikings described by the runes included both Swedes and Norwegians, who lived and died together.)
That should have been that. The runes were discredited by academics and should have been put into the archives where the Piltdown Skull is kept, in the museum of clever frauds. But for some reason the stone could not be so easily dismissed. It couldn’t rest in peace, and over and over kept being exhumed from its grave. Over and over linguistic experts kept shooting it dead, but it refused to die.
I found it interesting to peruse this unending quibble. After all, it has been going on and on and on for 123 years, and there are many opinions. What I found interesting was that most of the “experts” had neither farmed nor sailed small ships at sea. They were academics and ate fish and chips without ever having to deal with nets or potato-forks.
Certain things struck me as not making sense, concerning this fraud. One thing is that I know a small farmer’s life is not easy today, and was harder in 1898, and the idea of a fellow finding the spare time to learn about runes, carve them on a stone, bury the stone by an alder and patiently wait for the roots to entwine the stone, and only then dig the stone up and embark upon a hoax, didn’t jive with my idea of how much free time a hardscrabble farmer usually has. (zero).
Secondly, linguistic experts judged the way people talked in 1362 from how academics talked in 1362, for most written words that have survived from so long ago are the writings of professors of that time. Yet we all know that the way sailors talk down by the docks is different from how people talk up in universities, and we also know the universities are the last to change, as language changes. People in universities still can speak dead languages such as Greek and Latin, while utterly incapable of making sense of current slang on the street. To me at seemed obvious that a Viking far from home and in a desperate situation might not chisel stone using the correct vernacular for 1364, and might use many expressions that seem unfit for such a time.
One thing in the runes that made no sense (to me), using ordinary definitions of words, was that, even while stating they were 14 days from their boat, they speak of where they were as an “island.” They were far from any coast. To me this suggests “island” may have been defined differently among such adventurers. It may have been what we would define as a “portage”: As the dry area between going up one river and down another. After all, the Vikings were amazing when it came to portages. The Vikings who were called the “Rus” (which Russia is named after) stunned early inhabitants of Russia by coming down the Volga River, from upstream. They had to carry their longboats over a sort of continental divide to enact such a feat. And the place in Minnesota where the runes were carved was at the point where you must leave rivers that flow north to Hudson Bay, to get to rivers that flow south to the Gulf of Mexico. It was a sort of “island” between waters flowing north and waters flowing south. But such a definition of “island” might only be used by Vikings who underwent long journeys, and never be used by linguistic experts who never leave home.
For the most part, the experts dismissed the runes as a fraud and forgery, until in 2005 a couple of academics noticed an odd detail a farmer in 1898 should not have known about. It was an abbreviation midst an abbreviation, which was in use in 1364. Where the desperate runes state a sort of Hail Mary, with the abbreviation, AVM, for “Ave Maria,” the letter “V” has a little notch at the top, which turns the singular “Ave” into a plural plethora of “Aves”, which might be expected of a man writing in fear for his life. However, this little notch at the top of a rune was a so-called “scribal abbreviation” which was used in 1364, but which a farmer in Minnesota in 1898 should not have known about, while composing a fraud. So maybe the fraud was not a fraud, after all.
This meant little to the people of that time. The so-called “forger” was dead and couldn’t celebrate his vindication, and many who scorned him were also dead and couldn’t blush in shame, but it meant a lot to my greedy desire for trivia concerning Greenland Vikings. I could add this trivia to my vast treasure trove. Then I could talk your ear off at a cocktail party.
Meanwhile, back in the real world, I met a beautiful woman with three small children, married her, and had to get busy with more mundane stuff, and this did not include Greenland Vikings. But it did include eventually getting a gadget I had little use for, called a computer. (A pen and notebook was good enough for me, but I would use a clacking typewriter if it was demanded.) The only reason we got a computer was because schools seemed to demand my children use them, and the only reason I liked them was because they corrected my atrocious spelling. However, I did venture into a place called the “web”, and of course immediately went to the card catalog, (which I call “search engines”, but never call “Google”), to learn more about Greenland Vikings. I was almost immediately horrified.
Much I had learned about the Greenland Vikings was being ignored. Why? For what reason was the hard work of so many scientists being disregarded? This drew me into the “chat” sections of the Web, where I swiftly learned some became quite indignant, if I even asked a question. “Global Warming” was what they called “settled science”, and if you asked questions, you were a “denier”.
This was my first awareness of what is now called “cancel culture” and was (and is) a cancer that has spread, at first slowly, but now with alarming speed, throughout our society. It is something alien to the way I was brought up to think. It is a “my way or the highway” sort of narrowness which involves denial far greater than the “denial” which the virtue-signaling accuse others of, for they deny themselves exposure to fresh ideas, to springtides of new thought, and to the vigor of fresh growth. Worst, (in my view), by wearing such blinders and earmuffs they miss seeing and hearing really cool tales, including Viking sagas.
I felt a sense of outrage right from the start, and was even banned from some anti-Alarmist, anti-Global-Warming sites, for being too inflammatory. Many (such as Steve McIntyre), preached patience, tolerance, and advised that we teach the truth with dedicated persistence. But I felt the Alarmist fact-fudgers should be strung up by their thumbs.
I did try to moderate my indignation, but in some ways I feel like I have wasted a lot of my free time trying to explain things to Alarmist imbeciles. If I could have the 21st century back to do over again I might be even less patient than I already was. I was arguing with an intelligence less moved than a brick wall is, by logic. The Alarmists had their plan and they stuck to their plan, and only pretended to be reasonable. In some ways they were like a rapist who only pretends to be interested in the woman he intends to violate, and who smiles and nods and is apparently agreeable, until he maneuvers the innocent maid into an out-of-sight place, where he slams her into a wall and is extremely disagreeable. (There is a reason a cyclops is called a monster).
But good came out of my frustration, for, in my attempts to be calm and reasonable, I had a chance to indulge in my hobby, and to research all sorts of trivia concerning Greenland Vikings. Yippie! Not that I had as much time as I would have liked. Raising three, then four, then five children keeps you busy. But, when the weather was bad and I couldn’t work I enjoyed what the Alarmist’s call “denial”, which in fact is: Sifting through vast amounts of evidence collected by scientists who study things such as the pollen at the bottom of lakes. And if you wonder of what earthly use such a study can be, I will say that when your infant is teething and you aren’t getting much sleep, the subject of pollen on the bottom of lakes is a glorious escapism. There are times denial of reality is a good thing, for reality has you on the verge of strangling your own, infant son.
One escapism I found involved an obscure subject called “isostatic rebound”, (and its antithesis, which I suppose would be called “isostatic depression”.) This idea stated that the burden of glaciers and icecaps pressed the continental plate they rested upon down, and when the ice melted the continental plate would arise, relieved of its burden. What this meant was that, when the glaciers melted at the end of the last ice-age, and the seas rose hundreds of feet, in certain places the land rose even faster. For this reason there are places in the north where ancient shorelines are not hundreds of feet below the current sea-level, but are above the current sea-level. There are beaches which isostatic rebound has lifted high and dry, on the coast of the Arctic Sea, holding bits of driftwood ten thousand years old, sometimes charred by the Eskimos that burned driftwood before even the Dorset Eskimos roamed up there.
Certain scientists wanted to go study those uplifted beaches, and braved ferocious clouds of mosquitoes to do so. (Not to mention risked the chance of running into a polar bear which weighed more than half a ton.) Among things they discovered was the geological fact that an ice-covered Arctic Sea forms a very different beach from an ice-free Arctic Sea. They noticed uplifted beaches were of two types. This suggested the Arctic Sea might have been ice-covered long ago, but also ice-free at other times, in the past, which annoyed Alarmists. Alarmists did not want to hear the Arctic Sea has been ice-free in the past, as it made the prospect of an ice-free Arctic Sea in the future appear less ominous. So what did the Alarmists do? They cut the funding of such scientists, and suppressed their findings, but…I still could find the findings. They are there if you look hard enough.
What does this have to do with Vikings? Well, it turns out isostatic rebound can happen far faster than you’d think. As a glacier advances down a valley the entire valley sinks, and when the same glacier retreats the entire valley is uplifted. This can be measured by modern GPS gadgets down to millimeters, even on a daily basis, but the Vikings inhabited Greenland over four hundred years. They arrived during the Medieval Warm Period when the shorelines were lifting, and then they saw the climate change and the glaciers start back down the valleys as the Little Ice Age came on, and saw the shorelines submerge. How far? Should we be looking for the beaches and docks that Viking longboats landed at underwater? If we hired scuba divers, might we find a goldmine of information?
Don’t ask Alarmists. They are in denial, and don’t want to know. Anything that questions their narrative is, in their view, “denial”. The entire reality of the Medieval Warm Period makes them queasy. In fact there is evidence certain academics stated, “We have to erase the Medieval Warm Period.” Why? Because it did not support their narrative. (And you can watch the Medieval Warm Period actually be “disappeared”, if you look at old IPCC reports, and compare them with newer IPCC reports.)
The IPCC should be ashamed of itself. Such “disappearing” belongs in the dark disgrace of communist dictatorships, and not in the hallowed hallways of science. The IPCC has in fact been rejected by some brilliant scientists, who joined in good faith but who later became aware the IPCC was more focused on politics than on science.
It was handy to “disappear” the Medieval Warm Period, for it made it easier to say current warming was “unprecedented” and that we should all freak out, but the Greenland Vikings were hard to “disappear”. If it was colder back then, how could they hand-dig graves where we now need jackhammers or flamethrowers to get through the permafrost? If it was colder back then, how could they build barns and stables which suggest that, in the best of times, the several thousand people herded over 100,000 sheep and goats, and roughly 2000 cattle? How could they do it, even in the summers, let alone gather the fodder to feed such herds during the long winters? And what about water? 2000 cows cannot drink ice. How could their cattle drink during winter? In the face of such evidence the Alarmists had to come up with an explanation, and it was this: “Greenland’s warmth was a local effect.”
Wow. It must have been amazing. The entire earth was (according to Alarmists) colder than it is now, but this one spot up the west coast of Greenland was dramatically warmer. The problem then becomes explaining such a bizarre anomaly. Of course, Alarmists don’t have to explain their bizarre beliefs. They don’t want you to explain, either. You are just supposed to swallow. However, science demands an explanation. What could make the west coast of Greenland so much warmer, when all the rest of the earth was colder?
I have tried to be fair and have striven to come up with excuses for such a bizarre anomaly. (I am good at excuses, having had to invent many for undone homework as a boy), but not even I can excuse this anomaly, (if it was a local anomaly, and not worldwide.)
One good excuse was lava. Unfortunately, geologists tell me there is little lava pouring out on the west coast of Greenland. Vast amounts can pour out in Iceland, but Iceland is far away.
How about shifts of the Gulf Stream or the Jetstream? These indeed can cause very cold areas to become much warmer than usual, but when a stream deviates far from normal it tends to be like an oxbow on a river, which eventually becomes cut off, as the river choses a straighter course, and then it becomes an oxbow lake, or a whirl beside the Gulf Stream, or cut-off-low beside the jet stream. As soon as such loops become separated from the stream that created them, they lose power; the oxbow lake silts up: the whirl beside the Gulf Stream fades and slows and vanishes; the cut-off low melts from meteorological maps in a matter of days, as the jet stream goes right on flowing. Therefore, even the most fantastic quirks in the Gulf Stream or jet stream you can invent, which might explain how the west coast of Greenland could be very much warmer even as the rest of the earth was colder, could never last very long. They could certainly not explain Greenland Vikings surviving where we could not survive, for 400 years.
In fact the only real reason that coast could be so much warmer, that I can think of, is that the north winds were significantly warmer, because the Arctic Ocean was significantly warmer, and far freer of sea-ice.
I told you we’d get back to sea-ice! Congratulations, if you have put up with me so long!
But I must again digress and describe the “maritime effect.” I’ll attempt to be brief.
The south coast of Hudson Bay and north coast of Ireland are at roughly the same latitude, but the coast of Hudson Bay sees the saltwater freeze solid every winter, while the north coast of Ireland has only seen icebergs on its beaches once (that I can find) in recorded history (in 1817). The south coast of Hudson Bay is a landscape of Tundra and Taiga, of lichens and stunted spruces, while Northern Ireland is green and hears the lowing of cows. In fact, in a way, Hudson Bay is like the west coast of Greenland now is, while northern Ireland is emerald pastures like Greenland once was, when the Vikings raised 100,000 sheep and goats and 2000 cows. What makes such a huge difference? The “maritime effect” of the warm Gulf Stream, which flows by Ireland but not into Hudson Bay.
The problem then becomes making the Arctic Ocean a body of water as warm and benign as the Gulf Stream. Surprisingly, this is not as hard to do as you might think. How? Well, at this point we at long last return to the subject of sea-ice, and the gigantic meltdown which occurs every summer.
To be honest, I must confess I initially felt that reports of the yearly meltdown were Alarmist bull and Fake News, but I swiftly learned the amazing meltdown was very real. I think what clued me in was a yellowing army document as old as I was: A request from the soldiers at the American base on T-3 (Fletchers Ice Island) back in the 1950’s for hip-waders, because the slush was so deep in places.
As I investigated further I became aware of an astounding fact. It is a perfectly natural fact, and due to sensible forces, but so is the Grand Canyon, yet when we stand on the verge of the Grand Canyon we do not say, “Oh, how normal and natural.” Instead our jaw drops. In like manner, our jaws should drop over an astounding thing occurring at the North Pole right now.
And what is this astounding thing? It is that the North Pole is getting more sunshine than the equator.
Yes. Allow the thought to sink in. When we think of the equator we think of palm trees, and when we think of the North Pole we think of an ocean clogged with sea-ice, yet the Pole is subjected to more heat.
How is this possible? Well, at the equator the sun rises to its zenith, and at that point “only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun.” But noontime is brief, and a few hours later the sun plunges down to a level where the sun is at the Pole, and then it plummets to the horizon and vanishes from sight for twelve hours. Meanwhile the polar sun simply stays at its zenith, circling around and around and around and never setting. In terms of how much heat the ground beneath gets, it is a bit like the fable of the tortoise and the hare. The equator is like the hare, and races ahead at noon, but then it gets lazy and takes a twelve-hour nap, and as it naps the tortoise keeps plodding, and wins the race, for at the end of the day the North Pole gets more sunshine than even the equator gets.
This melts a fabulous amount of sea-ice. However, until the sea-ice is all melted, temperatures cannot arise far above the freezing point. This is important to understand.
Consider boiling water on your stove. The fire beneath the water is far hotter than the boiling point of water, but the water in the pot does not become hotter than the boiling point of water. In like manner, until all the sea-ice is melted, temperatures of the water cannot become warmer than the melting point of ice.
…Except in places, along the shores of the Arctic Sea, where all the sea-ice does vanish. Almost immediately the temperatures of the seawater in such places jumps upwards. Micro-climates are created, hinting at factors which might have contributed to the Arctic Sea having a “maritime effect” and making the west coast of Greenland like Ireland.
It wouldn’t take much, to melt all the ice in the Arctic Sea (except perhaps along the north coast of the Canadian Archipelago and Greenland) and to have temperatures of the entire ocean jump upwards dramatically. Alarmists suggest this is an end-of-the-world scenario, but in fact it is greatly to be desired. Even though the Arctic Sea would likely refreeze every winter, for a time in the autumn, before it refroze, it would have a kindly, maritime effect on lands to the south. This made a world of difference (I believe) to the Greenland Vikings, and I base my belief on real-life experience.
Where I live in New Hampshire we are protected from the cruelty of the Arctic by the “maritime influence” of Hudson Bay to the north, and the Great Lakes to our west. Hudson Bay never freezes until December, and until it freezes north winds are never all that bad, but as soon as it freezes north winds become cruel and are dubbed “The Montreal Express.” The Great Lakes seldom completely freeze, and west winds are seldom as cruel, but on the rare years the Great Lakes do freeze solid and even Niagara Falls stops flowing, we are cruelly attacked from both west and north, and sea-ice fills our own harbors and sometimes even extends miles out into our bays.
Considering I can see the effects of Hudson Bay and the Great Lakes, looking out my own back door for the past sixty years, it is easy to extrapolate the same phenomenon to the west coast of Greenland, and to Vikings looking out their own back doors. To such a people, a warmer Arctic Sea to their north would not be what Alarmists dread, a so-called “Death Spiral”, but rather a “Climate Optimum”.
So let us look with kindlier eyes at the amazing meltdown occurring to the north. It may be true Alarmists would use an ice-free Pole to tax the begeezes out of us, while padding their own pockets, but a kindly climate might make it possible for us to pay such exorbitant taxes. We should be rooting for an ice-free Pole (as should those leeches).
How could such a melt be possible? Well, in fact we come quite close every summer. The blazing sun melts roughly 20,000 cubic kilometers every year. Only roughly 5,000 cubic kilometers remain when the refreeze begins.
Pause a moment, and consider the heat required to melt a single cubic kilometer. Imagine a single gigantic icecube, one kilometer by one kilometer by one kilometer, was plopped in your back yard, (preferably with a corner atop the neighbor-you-least-like’s house), and you watched it melt. Do you think even the heat of your summer could melt such a gigantic object away, before winter returned? But the frying heat of the arctic’s summer sun melts 20,000 such cubes every year. In fact, so powerful is the meltdown that most of this melting occurs in only sixty days, as is shown by the yearly “volume” graphs. (The upper line of the graph is 25,000 cubic kilometeres, and the lower line 5000 cubic kilometers.)
In a sense this is like a pot on your stove boiling 80% of its water, before you put more water in. The pot never boils dry, and the smoke alarm never goes off, because the pot never exceeds the boiling point of water. But, if the water boils away, the pot abruptly is able to exceed the boiling point of water, and we hear the smoke alarm go off. In like manner, if we could only melt away the dratted remnant of sea-ice, temperatures of the surface of the Arctic Sea could leap upwards, and we could get rich quick by investing in farms on the west coast of Greenland. (Alarmists would try to get rich quick by freaking out, saying the world was ending, and taxing everyone in sight.)
Sadly, there is little sign we can quite make it to the kindly state created by an ice-free Pole. We need warm cycles, but they have gone cold on us. The frenetic sun of the 1950’s has become a “Quiet Sun.” I was especially dismayed to see signs, posted by Joseph D’Aleo at his Weatherbell site, which suggest that both the AMO and PDO may be drifting from their “warm” (and sea-ice melting) phases to their “cold” (and sea-ice increasing) phases. It is not so much seen in the current sea-surface temperatures, but in the way those temperatures are trending. The changes hint at a cold, backwards letter “C” in the Pacific, and also the Atlantic, and those cold, backwards “C’s” are indicative of a situation which increases sea-ice.
Here are the changes over the past year Joe D’Aleo shows in the Atlantic, with the blue backwards “C” extending from Baffin Bay east to Spain and then south and back west to Cuba):
And here are the changes in the Pacific, (with the backwards “C” extending from Bearing Strait east to California and then curving back west past Hawaii towards Japan:
To further bad news, the “extent” of sea-ice has refused to behave like a “Death Spiral”, and actually spent May higher than recent years. Not that current levels matter much, when 80% is going to melt. But sometimes, when dealing with Alarmists, cherry-picking data can be fun.
Rather than decreasing, the month-of-May sea-ice extent is turning upwards. The “trend” from 1979 (a very cold year with lots of sea-ice) may indeed still be down:
But when you begin the graph in 1998 it is nearly flat:
And when you begin in 2004 the “trend” is actually turning up.
All you need to do is compare the NRL “thickness” maps of this date last year to this year to see that rather than being flushed south, much sea-ice was first compressed towards Canada, while later-on sea-ice built up more thickly on the Alaskan and Siberian coasts, and the east side of the Kara Sea, making sea-ice measurably thicker in such places, this year. (This is important for it is just such places which are not of the 80% which melt every year, but are of the 20% where ice lasts, and if sea-ice is increasing in such places, it is hard to see how we can get to an ice-free Pole.) (2020 to left; 2021 to right).
Lastly, to assist the summer meltdown, it would be nice to see warmer temperatures, but instead they are below normal, due to clouds and storms up there. (This would have been a good summer to study “Ralphs”, (anomalous areas of low pressure), but I haven’t had time.) Clouds chill the effect of 24-hour sunshine. The DMI temperatures-above-80-degrees-north graph shows one of the coolest and slowest starts to the melt season on record (going back to 1958). (Blue line is freezing point; green line is the usual summer thaw during the meltdown, and the red line shows our summer has seen a cooler thaw, consistently below normal.)
All of this tends to refute the Alarmist “Death-spiral”, (and also to put my plans to farm the west coast of Greenland on hold). However, it also turns my mind to a baffling subject, involving how such swings of climate are physically engineered by nature.
Learning about such engineering has importance. It is not merely some esoteric topic for scientific geeks. Why? Because the engineering of swings from “warm” to “cold” AMO and PDO leads to flabbergasting swings in where fishing grounds are located, and in the numbers of fish inhabiting those fishing grounds. Therefore, even if we tilt our noses high and deem fishermen crude and uneducated “bitter clingers”, we are affected by such currents if we ever eat fish. Or use items of leather from tanneries which use fish oil. Or take fish-oil supplements to our diet to avoid heart attacks. Or wear old-fashioned mother-of-pearl buttons on our clothing. Or eat a vegan diet grown in soil utilizing organic fish-meal fertilizer.
The engineering of Atlantic Currents can lead to astounding population-explosions. In the late 1400’s the cod were so thick off Cape Cod that men may have sailed all the way from northern Spain to fish the Grand Banks, and rather than using nets they actually scooped the cod up in big baskets. Now it seems impossible to even “sustain” the population of cod, despite (and perhaps because-of) more than a half century of bureaucratic rules and regulations. Yet a reengineering of currents by Nature can change things in a flash.
I myself have seen a few population explosions, when I’ve lived by the sea, and they always strike me a sort of miracle. For years there are no clams; then suddenly the mud has more holes than Swiss cheese; for years there are no squid; then suddenly squid are a nuisance; for years you have to dig a half hour to find enough sea-worms for bait; then suddenly you get enough with a single scoop of your clam-hoe. For years the voracious “Big Blues” never swim north of Cape Cod into the Gulf of Maine, and then suddenly, at midnight, the roar of panicking Menhaden in the harbor wakes you from sleep. Out of the blue, the sterile seas and seashores produce a bonanza. Understanding the engineering of Atlantic currents might be helpful in preparing for such bonanzas. If you are not ready, the bonanzas can pass in a flash, and you may miss a chance to make a quick fortune.
Funding such research isn’t easy. For this reason the researchers long were the fishermen themselves, and the funding was provided by the fish they caught. Secondary funding might come from bankers who invested in ships, but it was the sailors themselves who had the real knowledge, and they were often illiterate and didn’t mix well in academic circles. They also didn’t always get along well with bureaucrats and tax-collectors, and often felt no shame for ignoring rules and being called “a smuggler”, or even “a pirate” (who would be called “a privateer” if he worked for you and not against you).
One reason the Greenland Vikings stopped sending ships to Europe may well have been they grew fed up with paying taxes to the Pope, King of Norway, and Hanseatic League, and chose to be less than honest when they did sail east to trade with Europe. Also they may have chosen to not-report their other trade with lands to their south. (Unreported income is not merely a modern problem faced by the modern IRS). Government may call a failure-to-report-income unpatriotic, and churches may frown at donating less than a tenth of your income as a tithe, but the Greenlanders were a people who received little for their taxes and tithes. Failures by the people in high places to serve the people they are supposed to serve inevitably has consequences. It tends to result in the underlings forming an “underground” and dealing on black markets. A Bishop of Iceland, writing a history of the northern peoples in 1637, suggested the Vikings of Greenland “turned away from Christianity” in 1342. In actual fact they may not have turned away from Christ, but rather have turned away from taxes and greed.
It also should also be noted that at the same time, in North America, unidentified people crossed the boundaries which separated tribes and clans, following long-established “Indian Trails” (which some modern highways follow to this day), and apparently these people were not murdered for trespassing. We know nothing about these nomads, but if the wandering cultures called “Gypsies” and “Tinkers” in Europe could coexist with other, more-settled Europeans, there is no reason to deny the possibility of similar peoples living by their wits, as traders in North America. We only know someone was responsible for copper from Michigan winding up far from Michigan, and seashells from the Gulf of Mexico winding up far from the Gulf of Mexico, and a silver Norse penny from Europe winding up in a heap of clam shells on the coast of Maine. Might not these traders have been Vikings, greatly altered by centuries of divorce from Europe? There is no firm proof, but I see no reason to exclude, from the range of possibilities, the idea a certain percentage of Greenlanders did not emigrate back to Europe willingly (some did) or return to Europe unwillingly as slaves, or die in Greenland, but rather left Greenland to become traders to the south.
Academic types who never leave Ivory Towers may not like the idea of people leaving all behind, for a future with no government pension. They also may not like it that the Vikings sent no reports back to European Universities and left no paper trail to follow. But men who risk the dangers of going to sea cannot be expected to report what they know, when they receive no funding for what they report, and instead are taxed for what they report. Academics should be well aware of this dynamic, for cancel-culture is not an entirely new phenomenon. (Galileo got in trouble for stating Jupiter has moons). We cannot expect even academics to report the truth, if they receive no funding for truth, and instead are taxed by blackballing, if they tell the truth. Instead we should expect universities to produce modern pirates, who turn away from the norm of civil procedure, (in an academic way).
I bring this up to demonstrate one problem we face in understanding the engineering which goes into the shifting of warm and cold currents. Such shifts need to occur to turn a “warm” AMO into a “cold” AMO. Understanding is crucial, but I imagine a problem lies in the way. The problem involves the fact that the people who know the most often do not get the respect they deserve. One good thing I got out of my experiences on the coast of Maine was that I learned to respect the so-called “illiterate.”
I arrived on the coast of Maine in December 1974, and lived on the water until 1982. I was 21 when I arrived, and in many ways naïve, but not so ignorant as other tourists from the south, for I had actually been to sea as a marijuana smuggler and had experienced Atlantic gales in a small craft. But I was fresh from a reformative trip to India, and was starry-eyed with ideas that few fishermen would call pragmatic. Yet, because I couldn’t convince anyone to buy my starry-eyed ideas (which I called “poetry”) I had to be down to earth, working in smelly places like canneries, and wading mud to dig clams. As I eked out a living providing for myself (with a few embarrassing loans from my mother) I hopefully also provided (at the very least) some comic relief for those who worked very hard to earn an everyday living from the ocean, (and who couldn’t get loans from their mother because they were providing for her in her old age).
Quite by accident I learned about sea-ice, because I happened to be in Maine during the cruel winters of 1976-1977, 1977-1978, and 1978-1979. Don’t get me started on my adventures upon sea-ice. In short, with a younger brother, I once walked (under the light of the full moon) from the mouth of the Harraseeket River past Crab Island and over Casco Bay to Harpswell. On another occasion I skated with my sister from the same Harraseeket River along the coast down to the Royal River in Yarmouth. Lastly, one time I saw the Harraseeket harbor flash-freeze and not become the more ordinary white, jumbled sea-ice, but rather black-ice as smooth as any freshwater pond’s, and over that ice drifted powdered salt. So, quite accidentally, I could learn how low temperatures extract salt from salt water, without requiring a penny of funding, or needing to travel to the Arctic Sea. Nor did I require funding to learn from fishermen, nor to see how hard it is to earn a living from the sea, especially when the sea is frozen rock-solid. They were hard men living hard lives, yet had surprisingly soft hearts, and the proof is that they put up with the likes of me. I adored the sea, but was not too smart, and they were swift to tow me out of trouble. Initially I felt I was more literate than they because I had studied Shakespeare, but they soon convinced me I was illiterate when it came to reading the waters.
I became especially aware of this one time when it was impossible to read the waters. The fog was too thick. The fog was so thick that the wealthy friend I was with (I was penniless) couldn’t drive his Jaguar XKE fast enough, and we missed the ferry to Mohegan Island. By ruffling some money my wealthy friend persuaded a lobsterman to take us out there. We heaved our suitcases aboard his old boat, and off we chugged into the pea-soup fog. This was long before GPS was available, and our captain used a compass and a wristwatch. As the minutes passed, I grew increasingly nervous, gazing into a wall of deep gray, until I could hear an unseen buoy ringing off to the left, and felt slightly less lost. All too soon that bell faded astern, and I again felt uncomfortably disconnected from any sense we had any idea where we were. The lobsterman seemed unperturbed, until he looked at his watch, squinted forwards, and then briefly seemed anxious, turning and asking us if we had metal in our suitcases, before looking ahead and relaxing, as looming through the thick fog a massive boulder appeared, with brown, sloshing sea-weed below and white guano up high. We were at the entrance to Mohegan Harbor.
I was impressed. He had made the journey look easy, but I knew I would have had a hard time making such a trip in the still waters of a lake. The coast of Maine has strong and reversing tidal currents. This man never consulted a tide table nor chart. He simply was knowledgeable where I was ignorant. He was literate where I was illiterate.
(This contributed to a schizophrenic side which I fear my generation will be remembered for. On one hand we disrespected our elders while on the other we worshiped them. On one hand we rejected the status quo and called ourselves “progressive”, while on the other we were anti-progress and “back-to-nature”. You can’t have it both ways, but we hadn’t ironed out the discrepancies. Perhaps our hypocrisy was a sort of cataract to our vision which has taken a half century to ripen, and only now is at long last manifesting in the schizophrenia of modern politics,) (which symbolically is a ripened cataract demanding removal.)
In any case, my life blundered into a blessing, in that I learned illiterate fishermen might know more than anyone else about certain nuances concerning North Atlantic currents which effect sea-ice. Not that I ever intended to learn about such things. My major was poetry, with a minors in psychology, history and economics. Vikings and sea-ice and North Atlantic Currents were nothing I tried to learn about, as subjects more serious than a hobby’s.
This brings me to a final autobiographical aside, (on our way to the subject of North Atlantic currents), for there was one time I did actually take a class on something that had nothing to do with Poetry, Vikings, History or Economics.
I had quit a minimum-wage job making big sails for rich men’s sailboats, and then had also given up on avoiding a Real Job altogether by “living off the land” [because man does not live on clams alone] and was humbly working as a clerk in a small, local market. The owner was alcoholic and had fallen off the wagon and hadn’t shown up for days, so I was basically running the joint, wondering if I’d ever be paid. Just then a person walked in and asked permission to put up a small poster. It advertised a class the government was funding. Reading the poster, I surmised the government was using our tax dollars to hire a student from a university to come and tell the public to stop being so damn stupid. The course had a name like, “The ecology of shoreline ecosystems, and why coastal development is inadvisable”.
Everyone already knew it was unwise to build on shifting sand. Jesus had said as much 2000 years earlier. But if some hurricane came and swept all the houses away, it would be good for the construction industry, for they would have to build new houses back on the sand. Why? Because people loved to live by the sea, and to wake with the sound of surf and seagulls coming through an open window along with salty scents. The economy of Maine depended upon this irrational love. (Personally, I was a hypocrite. I preferred beaches without houses but also knew the mosquitoes could be murder when I camped there. It was far more comfortable when a wealthy friend invited a penniless bum like myself to their cottage, and I slept in a room with a real bed, with open windows with real screens, although I might not have a Real Job.
I may have intuitively known beforehand that the class was a perfect recipe for disaster: “Let’s have a college intellectual come and tell people on the coast of Maine that they know nothing about the sea.” However, intuition may remain subconscious, and I only consciously noticed the class was free. I decided to attend.
At that time I firmly held some erroneous beliefs; for example: That the United States would run out of oil by 1990. I was appalled by the general public’s refusal to panic. Couldn’t they see that we’d be back to horse-drawn carriages by the year 2000? The public was blissfully ignorant and needed to be taught. Therefore, I was on the side of the teacher as I entered the class, and hung on his every word, vigorously nodding as he made his points. And I actually did learn interesting things about the formation of sand-dunes and off-shore sandbars, and how it was unwise to build on sand or to try to prevent sand from washing away from beaches. However, what I remember most vividly was something I did not expect to learn.
Attending the class was a person I deemed an old, grizzled fisherman. (Actually, he was far younger than I now am, but his hair was starting to gray at his temples, which made him “old”, back when I was 22.) He was polite and eager to learn, but for some reason he irked the young teacher. I think the teacher intuitively knew the fisherman held more knowledge about the ocean in his little finger than the teacher had gleaned from four years of indoor classrooms and labs, (with a few jaunts to the sea to “gather data.”) The fisherman had been on the water since boyhood, beginning on his Dad’s boat, and every question he asked was permeated with knowledge. Quite accidentally and innocently he made the young teacher look less knowledgeable than the young man desired to look, and I think it may have punctured the teacher’s young ego. Rather than humble, the young teacher became scornful, and behaved as if what the fisherman asked about was mere superstitious poppycock. Something about the young man’s snooty attitude chilled the atmosphere of the classroom; people were too polite to say anything, back in those days, but the teacher won no respect. The more he attempted to belittle the fisherman the more he belittled himself.
The fisherman came across as affable and nearly incapable of taking offence. Looking back with the wisdom of age, I think the man may have been slyer than he looked, and was seeking to pluck the young teacher’s brains, but he did so in an unassuming way, and laughed when the teacher attempted to shrink him with withering irony. Yet the fisherman persisted with his friendly questions, and constantly seemed to derail the subject from what the teacher wanted to focus on to what he himself was interested in learning.
Judging from my notes on now-yellowing-paper, the young teacher felt that what men should do, if they appreciated beaches, was to move fifty miles inland. If we liked beaches, we should never set foot on them. He cared more for the habitat of plovers than the Maine Tourism Industry. He cared more for the roots of dune-grasses than the bare feet of romping children. He was scornful of any attempts by engineers to control dunes and sandbars with seawalls, groins and breakwaters, and his mantra was, “Erosion is not a problem, but a process”. Nature should be left alone, to do her stuff. Nothing men did was any good.
You have to admit this is depressing news for a people who have lived for centuries interacting with the capricious sea. But despite the shortcoming such an anti-mankind attitude suggests, the young teacher taught a lot, about how nature works. Everyone in the class learned a lot about how amazing grasses grow tough roots that hold dunes in place better than manmade chicken wire and snow-fences, and how the combers of winter storms build offshore sandbars that protect beaches for free, more effectively (in most locales) than expensive breakwaters, and how these impressive offshore bars are naturally reduced by the lapping of gentle summer waves, and how sand is naturally moved back inshore to widen summer beaches. There was nothing depressing about such knowledge. What was depressing was the idea mankind cannot interact with the beauty of nature, and the young teacher seemed prone towards just such a defeatist belief.
The fisherman in the class was a perfect foil. He already knew offshore bars get bigger after autumnal gales pound the dunes, for it was everyday knowledge to him. It was one of those things we so take-for-granted that we don’t bother think about them, like the fact the sun rises after dawn, or the fact trees grow leaves when winter ends. He was already acquainted with what the teacher was teaching the rest of us about, and the subject bored him, so he asked questions which derailed the class.
Oddly, the fisherman wasn’t so much interested in what he didn’t know, but in gizmos and gadgets that could help him more clearly see what he already knew. For example, where his grandfather had sailed without even a barometer or wristwatch, his father had learned such gadgets could be helpful. In like manner, the fisherman in our class assumed the college-educated must be aware of newer gadgets. He wanted to learn what gadgets our young teacher utilized, to see if he could afford having such a gadget aboard his boat. He was not a backwards fisherman and was very interested in modernizing. For example, the price of sonar had dropped to a level where he could afford a depth finder, quite primitive by 2021 standards but state-of-the-art for 1975, but he wanted to know more about sonar; he thought he had noticed that besides seeing the bottom he once dimly glimpsed a thick school of herring; could sonar be converted into a fish-finder? Of course, this was not the direction the teacher wanted the class to proceed in; the teacher wanted to talk about the habitat of endangered plovers.
The fisherman thought forward into the world of gizmos and gadgets. But my mind was reeling backwards to the time of the Vikings.
I’ve explained how amazed I was by the ability of fishermen and lobstermen to find their way through pea-soup fog with only a compass and wristwatch, but as the fisherman chattered away I abruptly understood his grandfather didn’t even have the wristwatch, and Vikings didn’t even have the compass. What in the world did they do in a fog? Travel in circles until they bumped into something? Their only depth-finder was a hunk of lead attached to a long rope they hurled ahead of the boat to see how deep it sank, and their only gauge of direction in a fog was the direction the wind blew from; what did they do when the wind shifted?
If the teacher found the fisherman a distraction, he likely found me more so, for Vikings have little to do with the subject of endangered plovers. To be honest, I found it fairly difficult to twist the conversation in the direction I desired, especially as the fisherman wanted to wrench the same conversation in the direction of gizmos and gadgets. But somehow, to the dismay of the teacher, I did manage to bring into the discussion of coastal sandbars and dunes, and about the plovers who skitter midst sandbars and dunes, the totally off-topic topic of the Tarrantine.
The Tarrantine’s were a coastal Maine clan of the Micmac tribe who developed and then jealously guarded a monopoly of trade with the French in the late 1500’s. They had firearms (“thunder sticks”) before other tribes. They also gained great power because the pandemic of 1617 (which William Snow estimated reduced the Abenaki of New Hampshire from a population of 10,000 to 250) did not affect them severely at all. They abruptly greatly outnumbered their foes and became very powerful. But why did the pandemic spare them? Why should they have an immunity to European diseases others lacked? Perhaps they were, at least in part, European descendants of Vikings? (The Puritans of that time called the Tarrantine, “Red Vikings”).
Another odd attribute which the Tarrentine displayed manifested in what they coveted. What did they want to obtain from the French? Where other tribes coveted copper kettles and iron axes (and, later, “thunder sticks”), the Tarrentine desired sailing ships. This always struck me as odd. While the coastal Indians of New England did hunt whales, they apparently used enormous dugout canoes made of the trunks of tall white pines. How would natives even know how to handle the ropes and rigging of a sailing ship? Yet old French records show the Tarranteen did purchase (with furs) at least one sailing craft. (The Tarrentine themselves kept no records we can find, and their power faded as the 1600’s passed).
Besides showing what a pain I can be at a cocktail party, this demonstrates what a pain I can be if you are a teacher who wants to alert the public to the dangers faced by plovers skittering between sand dunes and beaches. (But the fisherman was interested.) Meanwhile the fisherman was asking the teacher whether he had viewed the coast from above.
The tool the fisherman used, back then, to view the sea from above was free and highly useful. He used seagulls. The way gulls were acting three miles away, or the direction they were flying overhead, could alter the course of the fisherman’s boat. But seagulls didn’t fly where he wanted. The gadget he wanted was a fish-finding drone, but this was long before drones were invented. Therefore, he pestered the teacher for information about research done from airplanes, and about the new Satellites that NASA was launching. As he asked, he talked about what he called “big whorls”. He claimed that, if you fished far from land, you might come across warm “big whorls” and cold “big whorls”, and the fishing was best (as I recall) on the boundaries of the “big whorls”.
Around this time the teacher was looking like he was ready to start ripping out his hair. He had managed a painful smile at me as I yammered about the Tarrentine, but the digression into “big whorls” was apparently the straw that broke the camel’s back, and he snapped a dismissive comment that placed “big whorls” on a level with Bigfoot and the Lock Ness Monster. The fisherman’s smile vanished, and he looked very hurt. The class became quiet, and cold, and we meekly discussed plovers. However, I never forgot the information about “big whorls”, partly because I didn’t have time to forget. It was only a year or two later that NASA released the first, marvelous infrared pictures of the Gulf Stream, revealing it was not straight, but undulated into oxbows and, yes, into “big whorls”. This highlighted the incident between the teacher and the fisherman, and made it stand out in my memory.
In some ways the incident was a sort of seed crystal for further thought, and, in other ways, marks the start of my conversion from a liberal to a conservative. I saw how blind the teacher was. Here he had an opportunity, in the form of the fisherman, to learn about “big whorls”, and to be ahead-of-the-curve and smarter than his peers, but he missed his chance. I wondered if he ever remembered the fisherman, years later, perhaps while he sat in an armchair and looked at an infrared picture of the Gulf Stream in a National Geographic. (I know I sure did. As I looked at the amazing picture, I think I murmured, “big whorls”, out loud).
The incident seems a perfect example of how our bias can blind us. We become too caught-up in a certain agenda involving plovers and dune grass and groins, and miss seeing truths, which patiently await the scales to fall from our eyes. Truth is not discovered; it is there all along.
The dynamics which switch the AMO from its “warm” to its “cold” phase are currently just sitting there, waiting for us to see what is glaring at us in the face. At times I feel a frustration that I may not live long enough to see the revelation occur. But maybe I’m too greedy. I did live through the awakening caused by the “Geophysical Year” in 1959, when “continental drift” abruptly made sense to geologists. (Not that some hadn’t ventured the idea earlier, but they were scorned.) How obvious continental drift seems to us today! But what a revelation the “discovery” was, as it happened! If I got to see that enlightenment, perhaps I should not be greedy for more. But I am. Truth is wonderful, and there’s always room for more.
At this point we should turn to North Atlantic Currents, and the truth we know so far. I will provide you with my layman’s view. Forgive my simplicity, and simply see this as a Sunday Newspaper’s puzzle. As I bring up what we don’t understand, see it as a crossword puzzle. It is good fun to try to figure out the answers. But most crossword puzzles only go up and down and side to side. This one, from the start, is three dimensional, and may become more complex than that, although at that point I usually find an excuse to bail from wherever it is my mind is leading me. Truth can fry your brains, it is so wonderful, and a layman like myself needs to know his limits, and when to back off.
In any case let us begin with the simple fact warm water rises and cold water sinks. Water at the equator wants to rise while water at the Pole wants to sink. Water at the equator can only rise so far before it reaches the surface, and water at the Pole can only sink so far before it hits the bottom. Water cannot compress, so such water needs a place to go. The warm water heads north to replace the sinking water, as to the north the cold-water heads south to replace the rising water. This makes a nice circle. Ah! If only things were so simple!
A problem occurs because our planet is spinning, which creates a dratted inconvenience called “The Coriolis Effect”. Rather than heading due north things get curved west, and rather than heading south things get curved east. Bother. Our neat circle is ruined. Rather than heading to the Pole the warm water curves west and slams into North America, and down deep water that should head south is curved east towards North Africa. Yet it is fortunate continents get in the way, for otherwise the circulation would never get to the Pole, and we would resemble Jupiter, striped east to west. But, because continents get in the way, the curved currents forget the “Coriolis Effect” and recall their true destination, and rush north as the amazing Gulf Stream. (A similar thing may occur with cold water in the deeps of the sea by North Africa, be we lack research. Send money.)
It would make matters simple if the Gulf Stream was polite, and headed to the Pole as a unified stream, and promptly sank to join waters heading back to the equator. But no. The stream breaks into all sorts of tributaries and tendrils. Towards the Pole, where the Coriolis Effect fades, currents are freer to wander wherever they wish. In some ways they misbehave, because they hideously complicate the nice, neat circle.
In some cases currents are so rude as to continue north while diving slightly below the surface. If water was polite, warm water would stay at the surface until it was time to plunge to the bottom and reverse course back to the equator. But impolite, slightly-submerged currents slide north like a card sliding into a deck of cards, not at the top and not at the bottom.
This rude behavior is due the fact water does not only rise because it is warm and sink because it is cold. Water also rises because it is fresh and sinks because it is salty. Big Problem. Tropical water is basically salty, because evaporation removes lots of water and leaves salt behind, and polar water is basically fresh (or fresher), for (even during the sixty day meltdown of summer) the pole’s evaporation cannot match the equator’s. In fact, if you only thought in terms of the salinity of water, the Pole should send less-salty water south at the surface as the equator sent more-salty water north down deep. But temperature largely trumps salinity, most of the time. However, I confess it is around this point I tend to bail from discussions; they are too complex and annoying to be fun, and fun is what I expect from my hobby.
Oddly I find that, once I recover from my annoyance, I am drawn back to the very complexity which annoyed and repelled me. Perhaps this is due to another thing I expect from a hobby: A sense of wonderment. Therefore, once I get over the blow to my ego which seeing I-can’t-fathom-something delivers, I return to what-I-can’t-fathom, because it tends to be awesome. (Sailors don’t mind being out over their heads.)
Allow me to share some complexities which seem very awesome to me, from my layman’ perspective.
First, as the equator makes water more salty through the process of evaporation, the pole makes water more salty through the process of freezing. There is something about ice which does not love salt, and salt tends to be exuded from saltwater as it freezes. Very roughly speaking, a small amount of salt is exuded upwards and blows around as dust above the ice, a small amount remains in the ice, (which made arctic explorers avoid melting “baby ice” for drinking water, and seek “multi-year-ice”), but most salt remains attached to water, becoming brine which does not freeze even as the rest of the water freezes, and instead drills down through the ice, creating channels of trickling water. This briny water is far colder than the freezing point of fresh water and even of salty ocean water. In fact, there is splendid video from Antarctica of such trickles forming “brinecicles” as the very cold trickles of brine bore through the sea-ice and reach the ordinary seawater beneath. In the video the brinecicles, hollow tubes of trickling supercooled brine, extend to the bottom in a shallow area and freeze starfish in their tracks. But the point is that, in the arctic, the entire time sea-ice is forming and thickening, (which is most of the year), it is exuding supercooled brine which is very dense, compared to water which is both warmer and less salty. The sea-ice is literally raining supercooled brine. Likely this rain loses saltiness and gains heat, as it descends through warmer and less salty water, (and likely makes those waters colder and saltier), but its descent represents a sizable subtraction of water from the surface, and requires other water to replace it, which explains warmer waters coming north. Yet, and here’s the wonder, this process comes to a screeching halt during the summer meltdown, which leads us to our second wonder.
During the summer absolutely no brine is produced by freezing seawater. Instead 80% of the ice is melted, and, because that ice exuded most of its salt as it froze, sea-ice melt-water is fresher than the water it sits upon, and once melted it continues to float above the water it formerly sat upon as ice, but now as a so-called “freshwater lens” (though it does contain some salt and should be called a “brackish-water lens.”) What does this suggest? It suggests, to my foolish layman’s intellect, that, without brine descending, there is no longer a reason for cold water to descend, and for cold water to exit the Pole down deep. This takes away the reason for warm currents to enter, at the surface. Currents should screech to a halt. We should see a yearly sixty-day “pause”. Do we? Nope.
This brings me to a third wonder, which occurs during the sixty-day meltdown. This involves the fact the sea level at the Pole stays roughly the same, because withdrawals from the deep sea are matched by deposits at the surface. These deposits don’t only include oceanic currents entering the arctic, but all other contributions. For example, precipitation. But the arctic is basically a desert and summer rains are scant. The real non-oceanic contributors are rivers, and rivers are amazing in the north.
Consider an arctic river, and wonder. During half of the year the landscape is frozen, and the only water entering rivers come from artesian springs. Therefore, rivers barely trickle. Meanwhile, in the landscapes they flow through, the snows get deeper and deeper. By April you have half a year’s precipitation as a sort of backlog, waiting for warm weather before it can flow to the sea. And then the meltdown occurs. Every bit of that backlog melts and rushes in rivers towards the Arctic (except for the Volga’s).
The arctic freshets are hard for southerners to comprehend. Only 1% of the Lena’s yearly flow reaches the sea in January, but in June the river rises sixty feet. And this colossal flow of fresh water pours out onto the Arctic Sea, and contributes to the “Freshwater Lens.” So…does the sea-level of the Arctic Sea rise a couple inches? No. Obviously the water must leave somewhere. But where? The currents entering the arctic should reverse for sixty days, but they don’t. So I become very annoyed and stomp off flinging my hands into the air in despair. Then I get over it. I come back and face the wonder.
My best guess, as an ignorant layman, is that the waters continue to leave the arctic down deep, despite the fact no cold brine is added to it’s supply from above. It is pushed out through the lone exit, (deep channels in Fram Strait), by a sort of CPR enacted by arctic rivers. The floods of arctic rivers adds to the weight of the “Freshwater Lens,” which pushes down and causes cold water to continuing exiting via Fram Strait’s deep channel.
You want proof? Don’t come to me. I confessed from the start I’m a layman. I create my theories out of whole cloth fully aware they may be shot down in flames by keener minds. In fact I appreciate being shot down in flames for it shows me where I’m mistaken, and makes me smarter. And this seems to be part of having an active mind stay healthy.
An aid once described Winston Churchhill’s very active mind in this way: “Winnie had a hundred ideas a day, and three were good ones.” In other words, Churchhill had 97 ideas a day be shot down in flames. But he didn’t sulk about it. He rushed on seeking an idea that worked.
This is science as I most enjoy it. It is people bouncing ideas about in a friendly manner, utterly unafraid of being wrong or even of looking stupid. If you look stupid you just laugh about it; you say, “How stupid of me! I should have thought of that: thank you for pointing that out.” This happy atmosphere is possible because you know you are among friends. It is joy to be midst such thinkers, and it is utterly and completely different from the atmosphere created by “cancel culture.” It is as different as love is from hate.
I want to move on to a fourth wonder. But I feel dragged into a final digression, before I describe a layman’s fourth wonder. The digression involves a situation like the one I described between the fisherman and the young teacher. It involves a situation which developed years ago between Dr. William Gray (the wise fisherman) and Vice President Al Gore (the young teacher.)
Dr. William Gray preferred to be called just “Bill”. He was superior to a layman like me. Just as I was illiterate among lobstermen, when it came reading seas in a thick fog, I’d surely be illiterate compared to Bill, when it came to his understanding of North Atlantic currents. Just as lobstermen spend their entire lives on seas I was merely an avid visitor to, Bill had spent his entire adulthood among meteorology and climatology I was merely an avid visitor to.
It seems to me that the better scientists like Bill are not so focused on what they already know, but on what they don’t know. There is something humble about this attitude, and Bill seemed to epitomize such an awed curiosity.
In my layman’s manner I have hopefully transmitted to you a rough idea how complex the engineering of arctic currents is. There seem to be more questions than answers, and one wonders where we should begin, if we want to increase our understanding. Bill had a better idea than I of what needed to be researched first. He had a grasp I lack, and, if he didn’t actually coin the words “thermohaline circulation”, he certainly did a lot to bring it to others attention. But back when he researched the government didn’t just print money when it was needed, and Bill had to spend his funds wisely.
Back in those days you couldn’t spend extra money without cutting your budget elsewhere, and Bill lived through an agonizing time when, to fund the newfangled Doppler Radar, the government stopped funding hundreds of people who had faithfully taken weather observations at sites all over the nation. In some ways cutting their funding was a mistake, but at the time it was felt Doppler Radar could replace such invaluable observers. But that was what life was like, back when the government was slightly sane and didn’t print money flippantly (so they could spend the money like water, bribing fools). Bill had to be careful to spend on only the research that would produce invaluable knowledge. He had such a deep overview of multitudinous aspects of currents in both the atmosphere and oceans that he was just the person you wanted, who could ask the right questions and focus funding on what we needed to learn next.
At this point there entered a politician named Al Gore, whom I initially liked. He was young and clean-cut and projected a fresh and idealistic vision. He was against pollution and for the environment, which I felt was important. Also, his marriage was a sort of fairy tale love-story, which made him superior to me. (I won’t digress into the deplorable state of my own love life, at that time.) But at some point I feel Al took a wrong turn. At some point “image” trumped “actuality”. He assumed an image, and stood as an authority on the environment, yet his stance lacked the necessary humbleness of confessing you don’t know, and instead Al pretended he did know, and even that the science was “settled science”, which science never is, (and which the science of arctic currents most especially isn’t).
I had great expectations of Al, and personally felt sad, watching him change in a way I unsympathetically called “decay”. He seemed to become lost in the “image” a politician feels it is important to project, and to feel the “image” was more than a mirage, and even to assume he was smarter than he was. In terms of science, he was too busy with politics to really get down to the nitty-gritty of nuts-and-bolts research. He was, like me, an interested layman. When he found time, he likely was, like me, an avid reader. But he should not have tried to project the “image” of a full-time researcher. (True researchers are too busy researching to waste time running for office.) Yet in the movie “An Inconvenient Truth” Al projected the image of being an authority: A researcher and professor and even a prophet. Then much in that movie was shot down in flames. (A British judge mentioned “The Nine Errors”).
In the Bible it mentions that when a prophet is incorrect, he is a “false prophet”, and what the Law stated you must do is take the false prophet to the edge of town and stone him to death. This seemed a bit extreme to me. We’d soon run out of weathermen if we stoned them to death for incorrect forecasts. But then, I suppose most weathermen don’t claim to be prophets. They tend to be like Bill Gray, and more focused on what they don’t know than what they know. They don’t claim to be 100% correct or that the science they know is “settled science”.
To me, being incorrect is no big deal. I am used to being shot down in flames, and if only 96 out of every 100 ideas I have are shot down in flames, I like to point out I’m doing better than Winston Churchill did. But Al Gore did not like being shot down one bit. Not even once. He was very unlike Winston Churchill.
Al had political clout, and I don’t. When I see how Al responded to pricks to his ego, I’m glad I don’t have political clout. If I had clout I might have embarrassed myself, in the manner I was embarrassed, witnessing Al’s behavior over the following two decades.
None of us like seeing our ideas have flaws. We love the golden sensation of having a lightbulb go off in our heads, and it is a downer to see the bulb burn out, (which is another way of saying “go down in flames”). But this is just part of the process; life is full of ups and downs. We are spiritually wisest to just go with the flow, and not get too hung up on staying “up” and never being “down.” We can’t forever be “up” on earth. Sometimes our desks get messy in the fury of our inspiration, to a degree where sometimes we can’t get work done unless we stop and clean up our desk. Personally, I dislike cleaning my desk, but I recognize it is a “down” which is part of the process, wherein, once I clean my desk, I’ll get to mess it up again.
When Al’s ideas had flaws, I am not all that sure he was even able to see the flaws. He seemed to take a different view than I take, concerning what an idea is. He seemed unable to see that, in a healthy discussion, all are friends, working together to see the same Indivisible Truth. Instead, he saw you as an enemy. He had an agenda, a political policy, which would brook no amendments. If you were not for him, you were against him.
We are supposed to love our enemies, and part of the reason for this digression is an attempt to see what in the world got into Al. Why should he be the first to enact what we now call “cancel culture”, and make a foe out of a friendly fellow like me? (Or like Bill Gray?) I had nothing against him and examined his ideas respectfully. When I saw mistakes, I did my best to point them out in a civil manner. Why was Al so uncivil in reply?
It seemed to me, a mere layman, that even if Al honestly believed the world was about to end due to Global Warming, he should have been hugely relieved to hear evidence the world was not going to end. But he did not behave relieved. What was his problem? Because I am an amateur psychologist, (among other things), Al becomes a most fascinating study.
Sometimes what we possess becomes a power that possesses. We don’t possess possessions; they possess us; they turn us into slaves. I imagine the movie “An Inconvenient Truth” allowed Al to possess fame and awards and piles of money. Then certain ideas in the movie were shot down in flames. To me this would be just the evolution of my idea, but to Al it apparently was a threat to fame and awards and piles of money, and even to political power. So perhaps he over-reacted.
Early on in this process Al wanted to hold a “summit” of VIS (very important scientists) to address what Al saw as the VII (very important issue) of “Global Warming”, and he invited Dr. William Gray. Bill sent a friendly and polite note thanking Al for the invitation, and stating he would be glad to attend, but also stating that, in all honesty, man to man, he saw no evidence Global Warming was as severe a threat as Al stated it was.
Al took offence, and after the meeting he used his political clout. Abruptly Bill Gray got no funding for research into thermohaline circulation. Nor did Al relent. Bill got no research funding for the rest of his life. Bill couldn’t be fired, as his brilliance was too obvious, but Bill was told, “Stick to hurricanes, Bill,” as if that was the only subject Bill had any expertise in. In fact it was Bill’s all-encompassing overview which enabled him to surprise people by doing what was deemed impossible.
Sidenote: In the 1950’s hurricanes were only given women’s names because (supposedly like women) they were mysterious….and unpredictable. Then Bill predicted them. So then hurricanes were allowed to have male names. Why? Are men so predictable? (The demons of cancel-culture will need to work on this [and likely name hurricanes for things too absurd to think about.])
But Bill could care less what a hurricane was named. What he cared about was the big picture. His skill involving hurricanes was not his focus but more like a sideline. He was the sort of adviser Al should have wanted at his side, but for some weird reason Al felt it was wise to defund him, and to marginalize him, and to ostracize.
I fail to see any good came of Al’s action. The irony is that Al, who liked to think he preserved the environment, poisoned the environment of scientific thought. The happy and healthy environment where men are free to compare thoughts among friends was polluted by a political policy which didn’t allow certain thoughts and even didn’t allow certain people. Your funding, your job, your seniority, your ability to publish, all were in a sense determined by whether or not you kowtowed to Al. It was cancel-culture in its infancy.
This power might have puffed Al’s ego, but did it do any good? It did not defend Al’s movie, for with each passing year the prophesies in the movie look more and more incorrect. The polar bear population increased, which make the tear-jerking part of Al’s movie look asinine. As do other events, such as the failure of rising seas to swamp south sea islands. The movie does not improve like wine with time, but instead looks stupider and stupider.
So what good did Al achieve by marginalizing those who pointed out his errors, and by promoting those sycophants who told him his errors weren’t errors? It only delayed the inevitable. Even if Al had absolute control over people, it wouldn’t improve his movie. It isn’t people, but is time itself, that shoots Al down in flames. No person need be involved. Truth keeps its power, even if not a mortal on earth has the guts to stand up for it.
So what good did Al’s cruel defunding of Bill achieve? What good is it that we know so much less about thermohaline circulation than we would have known, had Al been curious? What did we gain by defunding Bill? I see no gain.
Al might think he preserved his own status, and his dignity, but increasingly it seems the opposite is true. Rather than furthering truth he opposed truth. There is no dignity in that. In fact Al, like me, seems to have often been stupid, but I doubt he will delight me by being human, and saying, “How stupid of me! I should have seen that! Thank you for pointing that out.” Instead I fear he will be possessed by his possessions, and cling to them until he must let go of them, as he does what we all must do, and dies.
And then? Well, I doubt Al thinks much about, “and then?” One perk of Atheism is that one can avoid a side of Truth which states every action has a reaction, and our lives have consequences.
I bring this digression up to demonstrate cancel-culture is not a new thing, appearing out of the blue. It is an old, bad habit, and Dr. William Gray experienced it, as did Galileo.
I also bring this digression up because cancel-culture has become THE issue, more important than sea-ice. My digression is not actually a digression, but rather is facing-facts-that-demand-attention.
Not that I really want to study the psychology of politicians like Al Gore. I want to escape reality, and dream at clouds the way I once did out the window during Algebra Class. Sea-ice is pristine, and beautiful, and sea-ice behaves as it behaves obeying laws which don’t give a —- about politics in “The Swamp”, or about who gets “funding.”
To be blunt and perhaps unsympathetic, all “The Swamp’s” claptrap reminds me of a group of teenybopper girls in my long-ago Algebra Class. They too were uninterested in Algebra, but rather than clouds out the window they cared about who was “in” and who was “out”. I was definitely “out”, but I didn’t care what they thought, because clouds out the window were better looking than those gossiping wenches, (with the possible exception of one wench who looked at me like I might not be definitely “out.”) But even those immature females never stood between immature me and the window to beauty. They were never as in-my-face as cancel-culture is. Cancel-culture is like an Algebra teacher clashing shut the blinds, to deny me a view of clouds, and taping teenyboppers mouths shut, to halt their gossip, and then demanding all focus on the equation on the blackboard, which states X + 1 = 2, (and then bloviating that X must equal something other than 1).
And I end this digression with a simple statement. Cancel-culture is wrong. (Could go on, but it is best to keep conclusions short and sweet.) So, what is right?
What is right is to discuss science in the manner I already described, where we are friends among friends, awed about the majesty of stuff beyond our ken. We need not pretend we are on top of stuff we do not fathom. We don’t. We don’t fathom the weather, nor control the weather, nor fathom viruses, nor control viruses. But we are free to seek to increase our understanding of such subjects. And understanding grows best in an environment fertilized by kindness and friendliness. Such beautiful growth is stunted and clipped by cancel-culture. We need to quit the crap.
Now that I have dealt with the gigantic social crisis facing our nation, I can return to the far more pleasant and fascinating subject of arctic currents. This involves the “thermohaline circulation” which Dr. William Gray deeply wanted to study, and which Al Gore zealously prevented from being studied.
At this point I get to bring up my fourth wonder, which was a hole that first faintly appeared in the sea-ice at the end of March, long before the meltdown began. In my last post I wondered what could melt such a hole, and cause such a hole to persist despite the shifting of the sea-ice. And I dared venture an idea, which I could venture despite seeing many reasons to shoot it down in flames.
Why shoot it down? Because I wasn’t entirely sure “the hole” was truly there. It only appeared in NRL (Naval Research Laboratory) “thickness” maps. How those maps are created is outside my layman’s paygrade. But I did attempt, as daylight returned to the Pole, to use satellite imagery to verify the “hole” was there. Oddly, that part of the Arctic Sea seemed to attract storms which stalled on or close to the “hole”, and it was very hard to see through the constant clouds. But the few dim glimpses I got showed no “hole”. So perhaps the NRL maps are experiencing some glitch, and there is no “hole”.
However, because I am free of cancel-culture, I am allowed to wonder. I am allowed to admit the Navy may have access to data, perhaps from submarines, which shows ice is greatly thinned in places, but not utterly removed, so satellites cannot see “the hole”. And that leads me to the next wondering, which is about what could thin the ice in such a manner. And this lead to a subject near and dear to the boy in me. And what is near and dear to the boy in me? Big Bangs: Explosions and catastrophes, earthquakes and avalanches, and other unsettling stuff which cause all sorts of problems to “settled science.” One such event is volcanoes.
Volcanoes cause all sorts of problems to our attempts to understand the subtle engineering of the ebb and flow and give and take of other meteorological balances. As we carefully measure iotas, volcanoes fart hugely. They are impolite and ruin our attempts at careful measurement. As we attempt to be discreet, they belch. Just when we think we might have the AMO and PDO predictable, a single volcano vomits ash into the stratosphere, and our predictions go haywire.
This seems a good time to fling my hands into the air and walk off exasperated, but I am again drawn back to the wonder, by the sheer spectacle of crimson lava shooting a thousand feet into the arctic sky. And this drags me back to dots that are difficult to connect.
It is difficult to connect anything as violent as a volcanic eruption with anything so gentle as sunbeam, and I long held that attempting to connect volcanoes with sunshine was absurd. But there does seem to be a mysterious correlation between the sun going “quiet” and volcanoes becoming “noisy”. It doesn’t make a lick of sense to a layman like me. How can a sunbeam quench a volcano? How can a lack of a sunbeam allow volcanoes to shatter the skies? I have no idea, so don’t ask me. But it seemingly happens. More research is needed. Send money.
The last major “quiet” of the sun was called the “Dalton Minimum”, and at first not much that was volcanic happened. But, after a decade, volcanoes began popping. Evidence exists of, among many other eruptions, two enormous explosions, in 1810 and 1815. They are the two biggest explosions in a millennium, only five years apart. We find proof of these eruptions in ash that we can note in cores taken from the icecaps of both Greenland and Antarctica. But here is the weird part. We know the 1815 eruption was at Tambora in Indonesia, which cost thousands of lives immediately, and millions if you include the derangement of the climate and horrible pandemics of cholera (caused by fouled drinking water) which followed. But the 1815 eruption was only an addition to the effects caused by the 1810 eruption. And where did the 1810 eruption, which left ash at both poles, occur? We don’t know. I’d say we haven’t a clue, but surely there are clues. We’re just too blind to see them.
In like manner we are too blind to see how a lack of sunbeams might cause super-volcanoes to explode. Sunbeams are gentle, and volcanoes are not. (As a poet, I might suggest that when people fail to be gentle and pamper me, I tend to explode, but that is not scientific.) In the end we are left with a vague and unverified suggestion that, ten to twenty years into a solar minimum, volcanoes go haywire. And we are now ten to twenty years into our current “Quiet Sun”. Are volcanoes going haywire?
Not in an explosive, sooty manner. (Yet). But volcanoes can go berserk, and not produce ash that can be measured at both Poles. Volcanoes can, with hardly noticeable earthquakes, fountain lava 1500 feet into the air. We have recently seen that in both Hawaii and Iceland.
But also volcanos pour out lava in the depths of the sea, where nobody sees. Roughly 80% of the volcanoes on earth are underwater, yet are blissfully disregarded by the very people who are deeply worried by the flatulence of cows. But I don’t disregard, and do allow myself to wonder.
Allow me to wonder a bit about the amazing geology of continental drift. Data gathered during the “Geophysical Year” of 1959, (when scientists were allowed to be scientists) produced data which determined North America was drifting away from Europe and Africa at a measurable rate. With GPS we can actually measure it, down to the milometer, on a daily basis. But back then it was a flabbergasting concept. Continents can move? They bob around like corks? You must be trying to pull the wool over my eyes! No? You are serious? Gosh! This is incredible.
If North America was heading west as Europe and Africa headed east, there must be a crack between them. And sure enough, the data gathered in 1959 showed a rupture in the Atlantic seafloor, oozing lava, called the Mid Atlantic Ridge. The rock at the ridge was brand new, but as you moved east and west it got older and older, which was taken as a verification that the seafloor was spreading.
As a layman, I tend to think vast amounts of deep-sea oozing lava should be included in models that attempt to predict how Atlantic currents wander. But I don’t think such we understand such oozing well enough. Send money.
This north-to-south crack in the Atlantic produces excessive lava in “hotspots” which cause so much lava to pour out that it causes the sea-bottom to rise above the surface, creating Iceland and the Azores. (I theorize that these “hotspots” are located where they are because Europe sinks to the north under glaciers during ice ages, and then sinks to the south during climate optimums. The Azores and Iceland are at pivot points. But this idea of mine may well be an idea much like 97 of Churchill’s 100 ideas).
In any case, for a long time this stuff was happening down where we couldn’t see, but finally some scientist persuaded somebody with money we should go take a look, and gizmos and gadgets were devised to descend to depths with crushing pressure. Amazing wonders were seen.
No actual volcanoes were watched, but the sheer heat of the crack produced “smokers” which gushed hot water rich with nutrients, and rather than killing everything in sight the “smokers” fed a sort of oasis, rich with clams, seaworms and crustaceans. It was an ecosystem far from the light of the sun, independent of what was happening miles above, and heedless of what academics formerly stated was possible.
One thing I found fascinating (because of course I found viewing videos from miles down in the sea to be a splendid way to avoid cleaning my desk, buried in miles of paper), was how the smokers produced CO2, and how they handled the CO2.
At the pressure of the surface CO2 only exists as a solid (dry ice) which sublimates immediately to its gaseous form, but CO2 exists as liquid under pressure, for example inside our fire extinguishers. And over a mile down pressures are so great that CO2 exists as a liquid. There are actual videos of little trickles of CO2 oozing away from the “smokers”, heading downhill as other nutrients rush upwards. What a springboard for thought! For example, If we are so worried about CO2, why not plunge it to the depths of the sea, where it liquifies and sinks?) (The answer to this question involves a post of its own, so please don’t go there,) (unless in friendship and joy.)
But the robots crawling a mile down never seemed to view lava. And that was what I wanted. I wanted the bombast, the sensationalism, the calamity, the collapse of twin towers, the train plunging off the exploding “Bridge Over The River Kwai”, the ruin and destruction that schoolboys relish, and which volcanoes epitomize.
Sadly, I learned through a bit of layman research that experts had concluded deep-sea-volcanoes were not explosive. Experts stated that pressures were so great miles down that gases remained liquefied, and couldn’t create the necessary pressure for explosions. Rather, the experts stated, the lava only oozed, creating “shield volcanoes” with shallow slopes, which might eventually rise several miles above the ocean, as in the case of Hawaii, but could never explode like Krakatoa. I bowed to their authority, conceding lava could only ooze, but still, even if volcanoes only oozed, I yearned to see the oozing lava.
It irked me that the deep-sea robots saw no lava. After all, if the crack between continents was just a crack, we would speak of the Mid Atlantic Dent. It is called the Mid Atlantic Ridge because colossal amounts of lava are oozed and make the sea-bottom much higher than the abysmal depths to the east and west. Yet the robots never focused on lava. The focus was on “smokers”, which were mere hot springs. In a sense it was like focusing on Old Faithful and ignoring the enormous caldera of the super volcano that formed Yellowstone. But I supposed it was the fascinating deep-sea ecosystems that generated the grant money. In some ways all the fuss over clams, seaworms and crustaceans reminded me of the young teacher focused on plovers, ignoring the fisherman’s information about “big whorls”.
Then in 1999 a swarm of earthquakes was noted in a northern extension of the Mid Atlantic Ridge. The swarms were so far north they weren’t in the Atlantic, but up in the Arctic. The quakes occurred on the Gakkel Ridge, which is a sort of continuation of the Mid Atlantic Ridge which extends north of Iceland until it fades northeast of Severnya Zenyla, (though traces continue on to the Siberian coast). This swarm of anomalies was associated with other aberrations from the norm, such as increase of dissolved methane and even helium in the general area, and scientists were exited and hungered to take a look. Finally, in 2007, some persuasive scientist managed to convince someone with money to send a robot down under the sea-ice to the location of the 1999 earthquake swarm.
What they discovered was theoretically impossible. Volcanoes had exploded more than two miles down, where they are not allowed to explode. These outlaw volcanoes made actual craters, and covered areas miles away with shards of volcanic glass. As is the case with good scientists, the fact the old theory was proven wrong didn’t make everyone sulk, but instead true scientists became happily excited, as they attempted to figure out how the heck the impossible happened.
I assume that, although extreme pressure can turn gas to liquid, extreme heat can vaporize such pressurized liquid. In any case, the scientists determined some rough calculations about how high the heat must have been, how such heat would affect certain gasses, how high the explosion’s plume must have gone for the glass shards to fall so far from the crater, but then a wet blanket fell on the research. I think I know why.
I don’t know if Al Gore was involved, but to me it seems that any talk of extreme heat at the bottom of the Arctic Sea would lead thinking minds to wonder if that heat went upwards and had any effect on the thickness of the sea-ice above. This might cause problems. Why? Well, if the thinning of sea-ice above had any connection or correlation to swarms of earthquakes beneath, then the political narrative, and Al Gore’s movie, might go down in flames. Why? Because they had stated the thinning of such sea-ice was entirely due to CO2. And, if you go back and read the papers and articles written in 2007, it is a bit embarrassing to see how the writers walk on eggs, seeking to assure readers the undersea explosions did not “cause” Global Warming but would “worsen” Global Warming. The written evidence of fearfulness is circumstantial, but creates the impression writers did not want to rock the boat (or boatloads) of their funding.
For Alarmists 2007 was a wonderful year, for a great deal of sea-ice was flushed south through Fram Strait and sea-ice “extent” hit a modern-day record low; (IE: Since satellite views made regular viewing possible from above, in 1979). To Alarmists this seemed a proof Global Warming was real, and that the arctic would soon be ice-free. We were supposedly witnessing a so-called “Death Spiral”, and once the arctic became ice-free all hell would break lose. This was their story, and they were sticking to it.
Well, it is now 2021, and the arctic is not ice-free. In fact, judging from the increase in thick sea-ice along the Siberian coast since last year, by next September we likely will see an increase in sea-ice since 2007. Once again, even if every scientist is made spineless by the blustering threats of cancel-culture politicians, Truth, in the form of time, has spoken. Yet sadly we once again have seen the wet blanket of discouragement slow and stifle research. There has been little study of heat from volcanoes on the floor of the Arctic Sea, since 2007.
I have attempted to show my layman’s idea of the engineering of arctic currents by creating a theoretically elegant concept where waters are warmed and arise at the Equator and are chilled and sink at the Pole. But volcanoes utterly screw my theory up. Why? Because if an undersea volcano vomits a vast lake of lava, guess what? The seawater next to that lava is no longer cold. Warm, sea-bottom water destroys my nice, neat theory where waters sink at the Pole, for warm water rises.
The lava pouring out, at rates which can involve millions of gallons an hour, is at a temperature of around 1500 degrees, and it meets saline deep-sea water close to 32 degrees. What a clash! What then happens?
Judging from lava flows from Hawaii entering the Pacific, very little comes of the 1500 degree difference between lava and water. The lava forms a slight crust, but keeps advancing, as the seawater boils at the very interface between water and lava, but such bubbles of boiling almost immediately vanish, as they arise into waters below the boiling point. On the Hawaiian coast some steam (and pulverized glass) does rise from the lava flow entering the water but is not enough to greatly change the climate. On Hawaii the 1500-degree difference is actually a ho hum affair, merely new land arising above the Pacific. However such clashes may not be such a ho hum affair, when the 1500 degree difference occurs at the bottom of the Arctic Ocean, along the Gakkel Ridge.
Why? Because our nice, neat theory has cold water descending at the Pole, and now we abruptly have a 1500 degree frying pan right where waters are supposed to sink. At the deep interface of 1500 degree lava and water with a boiling point of 212 (F), the water can never pass the boiling point of water, but it can reach 211 degrees. Whoopsie daisy! I forgot to include 211 degree water at the sea-floor, when I concluded I had things figured out, with waters rising at the equator and sinking at the Pole. Instead we have a plume of warm water rising, and even thinning the sea-ice as it reaches the surface, possibly creating the “hole”.
When you glance back to the Alarmist reaction to the 2007 “discovery” of craters on the arctic seafloor (I put “discovery” in quotes because the British, Russian and American submarine captains likely knew they were there) it seems evident Alarmists did what they do. What do they do? Alarmists become alarmed. And they instinctually created a counter-theory, not as an friendly idea which might be shot down in flames by friendly flak, but as a wet blanket to smother further inquiry. It was much like the dismissal of medieval warmth in Greenland as a “local effect”, only this time it was the dismissal of rising warmth in the Arctic Sea as an impossibility due to a “lid”. It was proposed that the stratification of waters in the Arctic Sea created a barrier like the tropopause, and that warm waters rising above volcanoes would hit an impenetrable wall and develop flattened tops like thunderstorms, too far down to melt sea-ice. Further discussion seemingly was discouraged. That was their story and they were sticking to it. If ice thinned over a swarm of earthquakes, or a “hole” appeared, curiosity was discouraged. “Nothing to see here, people; move right along.”
If the current “hole” eventually reduces the extent of sea-ice next September, Alarmists will give the credit to CO2. There will be no mention of an undersea volcano stimulated by a quiet sun, or, for that matter, of 96 other possibilities. Alarmists seem so involved with protecting the precious egos involved in their biases and vanities that they miss happy discussions, and amazing wonders.
I don’t like to miss wonders. I pity Alarmists, for they are too busy defending where they once were, and they fail to go forward to where they could be. They sit in their cabins, insisting their Titanic is unsinkable, as I head for the lifeboats. Like Churchill I confess most of my ideas will be shot down in flames, or sink like the unsinkable Titanic. One such idea apparently is that waters always sink in the arctic.
I cannot express what a mess it makes of my layman preconceptions to surmise that the “hole” in the NRL thickness-maps is caused by a plume of warmer water rising from an undersea lava flow (perhaps provoked by the quiet sun.) It makes me look stupid. It makes me look wrong. But I’m used to that and am more interested in corrections.
Simply wonder for a bit. Simply think about how the North Atlantic currents would be deranged if, rather than sinking, currents arose at the Pole. It is a matter of engineering. It should be possible for us to figure it out, if we are sensible engineers. It requires a little tweaking of our concepts. And, because Alarmists seem to be very good at making adjustments to the temperature records, perhaps they can someday make adjustments to their computer models.
As a simple layman, one thing I would expect, if currents arose rather than descended at the Pole, would be that there would be less of a reason for currents to flow north. After all, currents theoretically flow north to replace the water that sinks. If water does not sink, and instead arises, southern waters should lose their reason to flow north. So, has this happened?
Well, it may just be a coincidence, but one northern tendril of the Gulf Stream took a holiday, just as the “Hole” appeared. It is the tendril which bounces off Norway and swings up into the arctic around the west side of Svalbard. Usually it can be depended upon to melt amazing amounts of sea-ice. (I have seen satellite views show this current melt away impressive amounts of thick sea-ice shoved south by north winds, in only three days.) But this year that current got weak and allowed sea ice to come south and crunch against the north coast of Svalbard. Why?
It cannot be a sign of Global Warming for sea-ice to crunch so far south. Even back in 1596, Willem Barentsz, (who Barents Sea is named after) found it easy to sail a wooden Dutch sailboat, utterly lacking the ironclad exteriors of modern icebreakers, right around the northwest corner of Svalbard, to discover Raudfjorden on the north coast on June 20. This June 20 sea-ice crunched against the same coast. How can we fret about Global Warming when waters which were ice-free in 1596 are now clotted with ice?
But that is a reply for Alarmists, and has little to do with the reality of what actually is occurring in the Arctic. It Is my reply to Al Gore, and not to Bill Gray, or any other honest scientist.
I wish I knew more honest scientists, for they get excited when you bring up an exception-to-the-rule. Al Gore would defund you, if you disobeyed his rule, and cancel culture will attempt to destroy you, if you don’t conform, but honest scientists delight when you discover a nonconformity.
Therefore I dare bring up the nonconformity of the “hole” in the arctic. It should not exist, and breaks rules to even appear, and has the further audacity to, even when fresh sea ice attempts to side over it and erace it, burn right through that new ice and persist as a “hole”, in the NRL maps.
The best way to view the lifetime of this “hole” is now the 365-day-animation of the NRL “thickness” maps at their site (and indeed this is the best way of seeing how mobile the sea-ice is, and also of comparing how thin the sea-ice was along the Siberian coast 365 days ago to how much thicker it is this summer.) But I will conclude with a few close-ups.
Here is the “hole” first faintly appearing on March 31. Of course, I didn’t notice it.
Here is the “hole” becoming slightly more apparent on April 6, though I still hadn’t noticed it
Around April 18 it became vivid enough for me to notice, in the upper left quadrant.
By April 28 the “hole” definitely had my attention, partly because other examples I’ve noticed seldom lasted so long, yet this one was expanding. Also, though the flow was towards Svalbard, to the far right (notice how the polinya by Svalbard in the first map has become filled in, and in places the ice is piling up), the “hole” has cut through the ice to the left.
By May 10 I was getting very interested. As a storm reversed the flow of sea-ice back to the left, the brightest (thinnest) part of the hole shifted to the right side.
By May 31 the “hole” had melted an irregular shape, as the sea-ice shifted downwards. (Notice the polynya forming towards the top, on the shores of Severnya Zemlya). But it seemed the upwelling was peaking. There was no bright center to the “hole”. I noted the thinning of sea-ice towards Franz Josef Land, and wondered if the entire surface towards Kara Sea had been warmed; the thinning seemed more abrupt than usual, but perhaps it can be explained by storms pushing the ice up against the Franz Josef Land coast. I simply noticed the thinning seemed extreme to me, so early in the meltdown.
By June 14 the “hole” had drifted into the upper right quadrant, but still seemed to melt ice on the upstream side to some degree. I wondered if the plume of warmed water could tilt, like smoke from a chimney in a wind.
Here is the “hole” starting to fade on June 29 . (After all, no eruption is forever).
And here are the fading remnants of the “hole” as I now write, on July 12.
Now I simply ask happy and genuine scientists to think about this “hole”, and to come up with 100 brilliant ideas, and to laugh as 97 are shot down in flames. Let’s have some fun. Where cancel-culture forbids thought, let’s be thoughtful. Rather than mindless lets be mindful, for the best way to cancel cancel-culture is to cancel cancelling.