Print 73 comment(s) - last by spepper.. on Apr 12 at 8:10 AM

Can we expect an ice age to start every 36,500,000 days or so?

While the battle for what's right and wrong roars on concerning climate change as a whole, it seems that many small observations are left to collect dust while politicians and activists concentrate on their own immediate problems. It can seem overwhelming at times when science-fact is pushed into a corner because it doesn't help support a growingly concerned (or unconcerned) community. Nevertheless, these data and observations are important in the long term to help climate scientists and geologists understand how the Earth changes over millennia and how those changes are affecting the current climate.

Some great finds have made their way into 
DailyTech's news reel already this year. In January, the National Center for Atmospheric Research and the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research published findings that suggested tiny geological formations could be responsible for regulating the entire North American region. In February, researchers at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute released data that suggested Greenland's rapid glacial retreat is being at least marginally affected by warm subtropical waters making their way along currents all the way into the country's fjords. These findings suggest that at least one part of the northern hemisphere's climate is controlled more than partially by ocean systems.

This week, University of California, Santa Barbara geologist Lorraine Lisiecki has presented information linking long-term climate cycles more closely with Earth's ~100,000 year orbital cycle. And not only does the information suggest quite clearly that ice ages are an effect of these cycles, it shows that how adversely the orbit changes inversely affects the climate change. The idea that the planet's orbit is a large or ultimate factor in the rise and fall of ice ages is not new, however, the study shows a very strong connection between hard data and theory.

"The clear correlation between the timing of the change in orbit and the change in the Earth's climate is strong evidence of a link between the two. It is unlikely that these events would not be related to one another," explains Lisiecki.

The data correlates the climate change to two different aspects of the Earth's orbit around the sun as well as its own rotational oscillations. The first is the Earth's orbital eccentricity, or how elliptical/circular the orbit is. The second is its inclination, or the angle of its path compared to the solar orbital mean. The planet's rotational precession, or how the planet wobbles around its own rotational axis, is the third contributing factor in Lisiecki's study.

While this evidence strongly suggest patterns of climate due to local astronomy, Lisiecky does not solely attribute the cyclical changes to her findings. She stresses that these kinds of total climate changes are most likely a complicated interplay between the astronomical system and the Earth's own weather and more immediate systems. Further, the inverse relationship between the strength of climate change and the change in orbital pattern suggest that the overall system simply isn't that easy to decipher.

Lisiecki used climate data for the last 1.2 million years collected from 57 separate ocean sediment cores in her study. With this data she discovered the correlation between orbit and climate. Her full findings have been published in this week's edition of 
Nature Geoscience.

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Alternative Theories
By MatthiasF on 4/7/2010 11:58:19 AM , Rating: 2
I'm no scientist but I took Earthquake and Solar Cycle data to compare and found a pattern.

When solar flares decreased, earthquakes larger than 6.5 increased.

Here's a link to the Excel workbook if anyone is interested:

RE: Alternative Theories
By MatthiasF on 4/7/2010 12:22:31 PM , Rating: 2
Here's a link to an image of one of the charts in the Excel file if anyone's not willing to download the Excel workbook.

RE: Alternative Theories
By porkpie on 4/7/2010 12:25:00 PM , Rating: 3
I see no correlation there. Run a Pearson computation and you'll see for yourself.

RE: Alternative Theories
By MatthiasF on 4/7/2010 12:36:23 PM , Rating: 2
I did, it's positive on the yearly data.

Should be a CORREL function somewhere in the workbook.

Not a perfect 1, but I never expected it to be a direct correlation. I'm sure there are plenty of other variables involved.

RE: Alternative Theories
By MatthiasF on 4/7/2010 12:38:52 PM , Rating: 2
I should probably mention I'm only working on the post 1964 data. The amount of data for earthquakes changes drastically that year.

RE: Alternative Theories
By clovell on 4/7/2010 4:53:43 PM , Rating: 2
Are your counts in your tallies page actually counts of Earthquakes >6.5 in magnitude?

RE: Alternative Theories
By MatthiasF on 4/7/2010 5:15:51 PM , Rating: 2
Yes. Earthquake data comes from the evc_2002cat file copied into the sheet of the same name. Only Earthquakes greater than magnitude 6.5 are included.

Information originally came from here:

RE: Alternative Theories
By clovell on 4/7/2010 4:54:37 PM , Rating: 2
Pearson on the monthly shows -0.05 plus a bit of change for me - not sure if I'm running on the right stuff, though.

RE: Alternative Theories
By MatthiasF on 4/7/2010 5:22:11 PM , Rating: 2
I noticed, so I tried breaking it down into seasons, thinking months weren't reliable since distance from the sun changed.

Try a CORREL on the 6-month columns. That comes out barely positive (0.0265557).

My next step after finding the 6-month still positive is to attempt to find the Earth's average distance from the sun during each of those months, as accurate as possible, and try a CORREL on it.

But still, -0.05 is still not so bad for the monthly. As I said, I'm not expecting a direct relationship. I think something is causing both!

RE: Alternative Theories
By porkpie on 4/7/2010 5:41:34 PM , Rating: 3
-0.05 is a very weak correlation. Run two sets of random noise against each other, and you're likely to get a value as high.

RE: Alternative Theories
By MatthiasF on 4/7/2010 9:20:37 PM , Rating: 2
Wouldn't it depend on the sample size?

We're talking a sample of 11550 Earthquakes and 12950 Sunspots over a 46 year period.

RE: Alternative Theories
By clovell on 4/9/2010 5:25:39 PM , Rating: 2
> Wouldn't it depend on the sample size?

Absolutely. The correlation is statistically significant, to be sure. Whether it's meaningful beyond that is outside my field.

RE: Alternative Theories
By MatthiasF on 4/8/2010 11:46:39 PM , Rating: 2
I broke down the CORREL functions into solar cycles 20-22 and each has a CORREL of -0.20 or greater.

With a sample size of 380, -0.20 seems high enough for a reasonable confidence.

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