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A temperature color mapping of the effects of a closed Bering Strait. The northern Pacific cools while the northern Atlantic warms significantly enough to bully Norther American climate.  (Source: Nature/UCAS)

The unassuming 53 mile Bering Strait hardly seems like the type of geological formation that would cause this kind of trouble.  (Source: Wikipedia commons)
It comes down to one little strait and some really big sheets of ice.

The Bering Strait, spanning a distance of approximately 53 miles between Alaska and Russia, looks like an unassuming place for temperature regulation for the entire North American region (including Greenland), but recently published NCAR/UCAR findings seem to indicate that it may be very geologically important.

The strait serves as a gate for cooler, less salinized water from the Pacific to flow to the warmer and saltier Atlantic. Their simulations found that without this flow, the climate of North America fluctuates much more rapidly – in the span of a few thousand years rather than some tens of thousands – and helps explain constant temperature and ice sheet modulation between 116,000 and 34,000 years ago, a time of constant ice sheet advance and retreat.

In the past, this pattern was often attributed to the Earth’s position along its 95,000 year orbital pattern, but the NCAR researchers found that when correlated with the temperature and ice data, the orbit could not explain the rapid fluctuations. Instead, it occurred to them that changes to the Bering Strait itself could have a large impact on the entire region due to the changes it would bring to the Pacific and Atlantic ocean currents. Their models indicate that a slight change in the strait would adversely affect the meridional overturning circulation, an ocean current which helps drive the Atlantic tropics-to-polar heat pump.

In the simulation, they show that around 110 to 115 thousand years ago, the northern climate cooled sufficiently to create giant ice sheets over the northern regions of North America and all of Greenland. As these ice sheets sucked up water from the global oceans, sea levels dropped by as much as 100 feet. Eventually a vast amount of the strait was no longer able to pass water – the average depth of the strait is 100 - 190 feet. The new land bridge cut off a vast portion of the ocean flow between the Pacific and Atlantic. This, in turn, caused the Pacific ocean to become even cooler and cleaner, but allowed the now saltier waters of the Atlantic to push the meridional overturning circulation into overdrive, warming the regional ocean, North America and Greenland by as much as 1.5C over a few thousand years.

Next, the regional warming caused the iced sheets to melt over another few thousand years, returning the oceans to their previous depth and reopening the Bering Strait. With the Atlantic’s access to cooler and cleaner water from the Pacific restored, the cycle started all over again.

These temperature oscillations went on like a driver overcompensating for an icy road fishtail until finally, around 34,000 years ago, the Earth’s distance from the sun was so great that it literally froze the fluctuation in place. About 10,000 years ago, the Earth had finally gotten close enough to the sun again to warm up the northern hemisphere to the point where the strait reopened slowly and the temperature variations settled into a much more docile animal.

This study helps to provide convincing data for two things: that a significant change in something even so geographically small can adversely affect the climate of an entire quadrant of hemisphere, if not an even greater area, and that the planet has its own regulatory devices to deal with such things. However, it remains to be seen how long the cycle would have gone on if not for the fortuitous position in the orbital cycle. Too, this study reflects nothing at all of man’s influence on these climate systems in current times. The key to understanding these things lies in first understanding the basic driving forces behind climate systems and the NCAR study has shown us how one such small system may operate.

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RE: Makes sense to me
By DizzyMan on 1/12/2010 10:53:06 AM , Rating: 2
The fear is not spread to do sth about the climate.

Everytime a government needs to distract people, sth happens...
Bush was good at that, every time the democrats were in the news with sth, there was a terrorist threat...
And now the earth will die... well... Not the earth, trust me ;). If anything, just us weak human beings.

The reality is still quite different though...
actually the CO2 is making plants grow harder, it's not destroying the planet by heating it up (

The ice sheets/glaciers as a whole aren't decreasing ( ) They are growing. And then the prediction that this winter is the first of a tiny ice age that may last 20 - 25 years. The earth will end up colder than it is now ( ).

RE: Makes sense to me
By ArcliteHawaii on 1/12/2010 8:51:39 PM , Rating: 3
Okay, let's see, where to start.

Yes, the Bush Administration used terror alerts to distract the public. Admitted by Tom Ridge himself:

Next, human beings will die if there is too drastic climate change (anthropomorphic or otherwise). Well, most of us anyway. Again, documented, as crops will fail due to heat, crop land will be lost to desertification, pests will increase in number and range, etc.

actually the CO2 is making plants grow harder, it's not destroying the planet by heating it up

This comment makes no sense. What do plants growing harder have to do with destroying the planet. Of course plants need CO2, and more in the atmosphere will produce lusher plants, but the loss of cropland necessary to feed people vastly outweighs any gains in production. As well, any gains in production from CO2 will produce less nutritious plants requiring people to eat more to stay healthy:

The ice sheets/glaciers as a whole aren't decreasing

Um, yes they are. The article you cite cherry picks the Shasta glacier, but the trend for 94% of all glaciers is massive loss of mass:

As well, most of Joanne Nova's arguments are fairly easily taken apart (yeah, cherry picking again):

As for us entering a mini ice age, that is being caused by global warming (potentially exacerbated by humans) and is not evidence against it.

RE: Makes sense to me
By porkpie on 1/12/2010 9:27:47 PM , Rating: 2
"As for us entering a mini ice age, that is being caused by global warming "

Rofl. It heats up-- global warming. It cools dow-- global warming also. That's a clown show, not science. Real theories require disprovability. So far every single prediction global warming models have made has failed utterly.

" but the loss of cropland necessary to feed people vastly outweighs any gains in production"

Loss of cropland? Hardly. A warmer planet means much more cropland, and longer growing seasons too boot. Take a look at the Roman Warm Period, or the Medieval Climate Optimum. Both periods where the planet warmed a few degrees...and agricultural output boomed.

RE: Makes sense to me
By ArcliteHawaii on 1/13/2010 3:54:54 AM , Rating: 3
Really porkpie, if you want to make claims, back them up with cites. Otherwise it's just hot air.

Global warming destroys cropland in a few ways.

First, the higher temperatures push the southern deserts up into the breadbasket, making them unusable. That's cropland loss.

Second, higher temps prevent snow accumulation, which means less water for crops:

Fine, we'll grow in Canada, you say. Trading the Canadian prairie for the US is a bad deal. It gets less sun and has a shorter season. Yields are less. And the Canadian prairie will also be less productive than it currently is as global temps increase:

So, instead of spout off crap invented in your addled mind, do some research, and you'll learn that climate change, irregardless of human involvement is a serious threat to the food supply of the US and the world.

As for the mini ice age, did you even read the article? Obviously not, or you'd understand the mechanism how increasing world temperatures could make a local ice age in Europe and North America. Warming model predictions HAVE failed. They have been too conservative, and the predicted effects have been happening much more quickly than initially anticipated.

RE: Makes sense to me
By DizzyMan on 1/13/2010 4:13:16 AM , Rating: 2
Just wait hotshot...
u will see we are being pushed to be scared and pushed to pay more taxes over a problem that at this point is not a problem yet, secondly it isn't caused by humans but by the planets own seasons which we don't and also can't understand as we have no real weather data from before, what is it? 1850? (Yes, we can see global trends, but not really the weather. Although the trends already show these long term seasons). These seasons can be as long as the estimated existance of humanity (the Darwin way, not the christian ;)

But please stress out and pay all ur income to ur government for their "green tax" bs, stop consuming at all. U will most certainly be a planet saving hero...

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