Ice-free Arctic -- 6000 years ago
By Dennis T. Avery
Perhaps the silliest thing about the modern global warming debate is that we're trying to evaluate major climate changes in eye-blinks of time such as 10 or 30 years. The big Ice Age cycle lasts about 90,000 years, the last one ended about 12,000 years ago. El Ninos last a year of two and change nothing, climate-wise. The Weather Channel can (sort of) predict ten days out.
Yet the UN panel's claims of man-made warming are based on an "unprecedented warming" that was only 22 years long, 1976–1998. There's been no trace of a warming trend since. There was, however, an earlier "unprecedented warming" from 1915–1940 -- before the Industrial Revolution started seriously raising the C02 levels.
At the moment, the alarmists are frantically predicting that the Arctic will become ice-free any minute now, all the polar bears will starve, and we'll be sorry we didn't listen. The Russians, however, say the Arctic region has recently been about at the peak warmth of its own 70-year climate cycle -- and the Russians know the Arctic. There are, additionally, lots of old news stories in the New York Times files that made the same "unprecedented" claims about Arctic melting in the 1920s and 30s. Let's also remember that there are two Poles and the Antarctic has been building ice for the last 40 years.
Today, we'd like to settle the Arctic question once and for all -- based on research that has been before us for years. First, let's agree that geologists and climatologists have the evidence of long-term changes in the earth's past temperatures. Geologist Ian Plimer, in his book, Heaven and Earth, notes that the first global warming during our Holocene, between 9,000 and 6500 BC, was the warmest earth has been since the end of the last big Ice Age.
A Norwegian research team three years ago announced it had found important evidence of an ice-free Arctic during that first Holocene warming. "The climate in the northern regions has never been milder since the last Ice Age than it was about 6000–7000 years ago," says Astrid Lysa, one of the Norwegian geologists.
Dr. Lysa and Eiliv Larsen, of the Geological Survey of Norway, studied beach ridges on the northern shores of Greenland. They found distinct, very long beach ridges, running parallel to the beach, which dated back to 6000–7000 years BC. They say these ridges were formed when there was wave activity and occasional storms--on a big body of water with little or no ice. The research team says pack ice ridges are shorter, narrower and more irregular. The Norwegian team says the sea levels haven't been as high since, because the ice hasn't all melted since. Otherwise, new waves would have washed the older ridges away
If the Arctic was nearly ice-free in the first Holocene Warm Period, did the seals disappear? Did the polar bears starve? If they had, there'd be no polar bears up there today, since they aren't migratory.
Lysa and Larsen say there are pack ice ridges farther down the beach, Carbon dating shows this Arctic pack ice had re-formed by 4000 years ago. There is also evidence that Inuit hunters had migrated to the northern beaches by that time. These seal-hunting people had to have both pack ice, and driftwood.
"Seals and driftwood were absolutely vital if they were to survive, says Larsen. "They needed seals for food and clothing, and driftwood for fuel when the temperature crept towards minus 50 degrees."
There you have it. The Arctic has been ice-free or nearly ice-free in the climatically recent past. So much for "unprecedented warmth" in today's Arctic, so much for the polar bears going extinct. However, I will concede that climate cycling is so complex it would be much simpler to just blame humans.
Dennis T. Avery, a senior fellow for the Hudson Institute in Washington, D.C., is an environmental economist. He was formerly a senior analyst for the Department of State. He is co-author, with S. Fred Singer, of Unstoppable Global Warming Every 1500 Years. Readers may write to him at PO Box 202 Churchville, VA 2442; email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit our website at www.cgfi.org.