A Harvard study has found that large parts of the deep Pacific are getting colder, likely the result of a climate phenomenon that occurred hundreds of years ago.
Around the 17th century, Earth experienced a prolonged cooling period dubbed the Little Ice Age (LIA). The event brought chillier-than-average temperatures to much of the Northern Hemisphere, and was likely attributable to a multidecadal decline in solar activity.
Though it’s been centuries since this all played out, researchers say the deep Pacific still appears to be responding to the LIA cool-down.
“Climate varies across all timescales,” said Peter Huybers, a professor at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.
“Some regional warming and cooling patterns, like the Little Ice Age and Medieval Warm Period, are well known. Our goal was to develop a model of how the interior properties of the ocean respond to changes in surface climate.”
The Medieval Warm Period lasted between the 9th and 12th centuries and warmed Earth’s climate to levels much higher than those witnessed today.
It was followed not long after by the Little Ice Age, mid-1600s thru 1800s, which can be correlated to a sharp decrease in solar output as well as disruptions to ocean currents.
According to researchers from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and Harvard University, this long-ago cooling period could still be showing its face in the temperatures of the deep ocean.
To test this, the team compared measurements taken during the 1870s by scientists on the HMS Challenger to modern data.
During the study in the late 1800s, the researchers of the time dropped thermometers deep down into the ocean between the years 1872 and 1876, collecting more than 5,000 measurements in total.
“We screened this historical data for outliers and considered a variety of corrections associated with pressure effects on the thermometer and stretching of the hemp rope used for lowering thermometers,” Huybers said.
The comparisons showed that in the deep Pacific Ocean, at a depth of around 2km (1.2 miles), temperatures are actually dropping.
According to the team, this could influence our understanding of how much heat the ocean has absorbed in the last century, suggesting it could be as much as 30 percent less than previously assumed.
“These findings increase the impetus for understanding the causes of the Medieval Warm Period and Little Ice Age as a way for better understanding modern warming trends.”
The new paper is published in the journal Science.
Another Cooling Period is Due
It’s more than likely that the modest warming Earth experienced from 1980 to 2010 was the result of natural causes — the correlating increase in solar activity being the obvious culprit.
And now as our sun shows signs of entering another relative hibernation, as it did 400 years ago during the Maunder Minimum, it could be supposed another cold spell is on the cards.
We’ve been trending cooler for around the last 10,000 years after all, since the end of the last full blow glacial period. There have been brief spikes of warmth — which have allowed civilizations of the day to flourish — however, the trend is clear, and the trend is down:
Furthermore, the cold periods have been getting progressively colder — clearly visible in the GISP2 Ice Core data (above) — and there’s zero reason to expect this next one (forecast in red) to buck the trend.
Our climate and the mechanisms controlling it are far too complex for us to fully understand at this point –be cautious of those professing to have all the answers and spouting “settled science” rhetoric– but if you put together what is known, and study it objectively, the data would suggest the next period of global cooling is now on the cards.
The climate is cycle, after all; never linear.
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Grand Solar Minimum + Pole Shift