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Earth Science

2008 Is the Coldest Year of the 21st Century 1039

Posted by timothy
from the problem-with-complexity-is-all-the-complexity dept.
dtjohnson writes "Data from the United Kingdom Meteorological Office suggests that 2008 will be an unusually cold year due to the La Nina effect in the western Pacific ocean. Not to worry, though, as the La Nina effect has faded recently so its effect on next year's temperatures will be reduced. However, another natural cycle, the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation, is predicted to hold global temperatures steady for the next decade before global warming takes our planet into new warmth. If these predictions are correct, there must be a lot of planetary heat being stored away somewhere ... unless the heat output from the sun is decreasing rather than increasing or the heat being absorbed by the earth is decreasing due to changes in the earth's albedo."
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2008 Is the Coldest Year of the 21st Century

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  • gore (Score:5, Funny)

    by gearloos (816828) on Thursday August 21, 2008 @07:22PM (#24698173)
    But what will I do with all my "Gore 2012" buttons?
    • Re:gore (Score:5, Funny)

      by corsec67 (627446) on Thursday August 21, 2008 @07:23PM (#24698177) Homepage Journal

      Burn them for warmth.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      Burn them to stay warm.
      • Re:gore (Score:4, Funny)

        by nEoN nOoDlE (27594) on Thursday August 21, 2008 @09:03PM (#24699351) Homepage

        seeing as how you and corsec67 posted the same response at the same time, I for one welcome our comedic slashdot posting robotic overlords

        • by mcrbids (148650) on Thursday August 21, 2008 @10:51PM (#24700375) Journal

          Queue in 10 million "global warming is a scam", "don't look at me, people didna doit" and "Al Gore is a weenie" comments.

          But all of these comments on the legitimacy of global warming/cooling/climate change all ignore one very simple, inescapable fact: Most "carbon-neutral" energy forms can be generated locally. Windmills use the wind in your area. Solar panels use the sunlight from your roof. This is also true for geothermal, ocean-wave, and bio-fueled energy. All can be generated locally, with local resources.

          Only oil and nuclear have limited supply.

          So if, for example, you were a wealthy, North-American country with a severe foreign-debt problem, you might consider the actual costs of oil in lost lives, civil liberties, currency devaluation, and raw wealth shipped oversees to fund a petroleum addiction. This cost is so huge and multi-faceted it baffles the mind. Average people just cannot even begin to understand wealth drain and cost of this magnitude.

          But if we were to generate our energy locally, with renewable resources, not only would we leave a nicer place for our kids, grandkids, and their offspring, we'd also improve our national sovereignty. Rather than fund deadly radicals [iags.org], we'd fund the nice guy down the street. Rather than ship our cash to entities who threaten us at every turn [washingtonpost.com], we'd fund your next-door neighbors. No matter where you live, no matter who you are, no matter how wealthy you happen to be, this is a good idea.

          Ignore the matter of global warming, because there's a much more immediate reason to "go green". And it has nothing to do with carbon footprint, it has to do with the green bits of paper in your back pocket. It will be expensive in the short term. It will pay and pay and pay for generations thereafter.

          Which would you rather be remembered as: the generation that ignored the problem until it was too late, or the generation that set your state/country/civilization on a long-term course of prosperity?

          I choose the latter, thank you.

          • All but one point (Score:4, Interesting)

            by MarkusQ (450076) on Thursday August 21, 2008 @11:52PM (#24700903) Journal

            I pretty much agree with you, except for one point:

            Only oil and nuclear have limited supply.

            Nuclear doesn't have a limited supply in any realistic sense. This is just part of the massive anti-nuclear FUD brought to us by big oil & friends. In fact, it was one of the first, since nuclear was the first serious alternative to fossil fuels. The only reason nuclear seems limited is because we've let ourselves get boxed in to thinking in terms of one of the most wasteful and dangerous fuel cycles imaginable, which relies on comparatively rare feedstock and produces much more waste than it needs to*.

            In a rational world, what we now call "nuclear waste" would be known as "fuel reserves" and we'd be set for the foreseeable future.

            --MarkusQ

            * But still nothing compared to what fossil fuels produce. There isn't a coal plant on the planet that could get an operating license as a nuclear plant, given the amount of radioactive carbon they dump into the air.

    • Re:gore (Score:5, Funny)

      by strelitsa (724743) * on Thursday August 21, 2008 @07:28PM (#24698263) Journal
      Market them as sleds for gerbils.
  • Oh goody... (Score:5, Funny)

    by bigtallmofo (695287) * on Thursday August 21, 2008 @07:23PM (#24698181)
    Here comes a raging global warming debate... haven't seen this on the Internet in 5 seconds.

    Hopefully for this one we'll get some cashiers, makeup artists and puppeteers to weigh in with their expert environmental opinion, just to mix things up.
    • Re:Oh goody... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by LeafOnTheWind (1066228) on Thursday August 21, 2008 @07:24PM (#24698211)

      Global warming is a misnomer anyway - it should be called, "global climate instability."

      • How about "Simple Global Carbontosis?
      • Re:Oh goody... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by mrjatsun (543322) on Thursday August 21, 2008 @07:43PM (#24698445)

        Mod parent up.. The earth's climate is a control system. As it becomes unstable, you will start seeing more records: cold, hot, rain, drought, record single day temperature differentials, etc.

        It's not going to just get warmer over short time periods.. It always amazes me that folks don't realize that.

        • Re:Oh goody... (Score:5, Insightful)

          by gEvil (beta) (945888) on Thursday August 21, 2008 @07:53PM (#24698555)
          Mod parent up.. The earth's climate is a control system. As it becomes unstable, you will start seeing more records: cold, hot, rain, drought, record single day temperature differentials, etc.

          It's not going to just get warmer over short time periods.. It always amazes me that folks don't realize that.


          I've been telling people this for a while. I liken it to a spinning top. When it begins to slow down it starts wobbling and becoming very erratic. The difference is that unlike a top, the climate will eventually begin to restabilize. It just might not stabilize in a way that humans are particularly comfortable with.
          • Re:Oh goody... (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Coryoth (254751) on Thursday August 21, 2008 @09:23PM (#24699527) Homepage Journal

            As it becomes unstable, you will start seeing more records: cold, hot, rain, drought, record single day temperature differentials, etc. It's not going to just get warmer over short time periods.. It always amazes me that folks don't realize that.

            I've been telling people this for a while.

            The you've been misleading them. You may see some variability on a local level, but fluctuating extremes on a mean global level are not something that the IPCC predicts as result of global warming. There will be fluctuations because, aside from the anthropogenic effects causing warming, there are plenty of other factors that make the climate variable; some years are colder than others, and that's still going to be true even with global warming. In this case there are a number of natural factors that have aligned to make 2008 colder than previous years. According to the IPCC global warming is simply dampening how cold this year is, not causing it to be cold through some instability. Compared to the 20th century 2008 will still be rather warm, and that can potentially be attributed to global warming.

            Can we lay this tired meme about increased variability due to global warming to rest though. A cold spell is merely not necessarily strong evidence against global warming*, it is not evidence for global warming.

            * At this point, given the historical temperature record, a significant (mid 20th century temperatures) sustained (5 or more years) cold spell would be required to count as strong evidence against global warming.

          • Re:Oh goody... (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Jodka (520060) on Thursday August 21, 2008 @10:02PM (#24699847)

            As it becomes unstable, you will start seeing more records: cold, hot, rain, drought, record single day temperature differentials, etc.

            Even if climate is unchanging records will still increase. Citing increasing records as evidence of global warming is an example of a classic fallacy [numberwatch.co.uk].

        • Re:Oh goody... (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Fleeced (585092) <fleeced@mail.LISPcom minus language> on Thursday August 21, 2008 @08:31PM (#24698917)

          Mod parent up.. The earth's climate is a control system. As it becomes unstable, you will start seeing more records: cold, hot, rain, drought, record single day temperature differentials, etc.

          Which, conveniently, lets just about any type of weather be attributed to global warming (or is that climate change?)

          • Re:Oh goody... (Score:4, Insightful)

            by beakerMeep (716990) on Thursday August 21, 2008 @09:03PM (#24699353)
            No, it lets records be consistent with the theory.

            You even quoted that part of his statement.

            But hey, maybe you're right maybe it's for convenience of political argument that the earth's climate works that way.

          • Re:Oh goody... (Score:5, Interesting)

            by Curunir_wolf (588405) on Thursday August 21, 2008 @09:06PM (#24699381) Homepage Journal

            Mod parent up.. The earth's climate is a control system. As it becomes unstable, you will start seeing more records: cold, hot, rain, drought, record single day temperature differentials, etc.

            Which, conveniently, lets just about any type of weather be attributed to global warming (or is that climate change?)

            Which is exactly what is happening anyway. Every big storm or unusual meteorological event these days is automatically assumed to be yet another affect of global climate change. According to some, it's even causing forest fires and earthquakes.

            NPR has a whole series where they go to some part of the world each week, and talk about how climate change is affecting the people there in some way or another, and how the people are coping (or are doomed).

        • Re:Oh goody... (Score:5, Informative)

          by nmb3000 (741169) <nmb3000@that-google-mail-site.com> on Thursday August 21, 2008 @08:41PM (#24699045) Homepage Journal

          Global warming is a misnomer anyway - it should be called, "global climate instability."

          The earth's climate is a control system. As it becomes unstable [...]

          Both of you are assuming that the Earth's climate has ever been stable, but even if it is stable, who's to say that it's becoming unstable now? We've seen evidence of relatively severe fluctuations in the climate, the ice age for example, which suggest that it's normal for the climate to change. To us it seems significant but when taken in the proper scope it's likely to be business as usual.

          Getting people worked up about things nobody can change is simply an ace-in-the-hole for politicians.

        • The 1830 Problem (Score:5, Interesting)

          by bill_mcgonigle (4333) * on Thursday August 21, 2008 @09:00PM (#24699313) Homepage Journal

          It's not going to just get warmer over short time periods.. It always amazes me that folks don't realize that.

          What surprises me even more is how few people know that we've been experiencing global warming since 1830 [mcgonigle.us]. AFAIK, we don't currently have a good model that can explain this.

          • Re:The 1830 Problem (Score:5, Informative)

            by Snocone (158524) on Thursday August 21, 2008 @10:23PM (#24700093) Homepage

            Yes we do. We've been warming since 1830 as sunspots have increased after the Little Ice Age. For details, see the Svensmark book.

            If his solar-driven model is correct, and if Solar Cycle 24 continues its petulant refusal to actually exist, then the entire-20th-C.-warming plunge over the last year and a bit is just a little foretaste and things are about to get very cold indeed.

      • by fiannaFailMan (702447) on Thursday August 21, 2008 @08:16PM (#24698781) Journal

        Global warming is a misnomer anyway - it should be called, "global climate instability."

        How about 'Intelligent Heating?'

  • Yarr! (Score:4, Funny)

    by shivamib (1034310) <.moc.liamg. .ta. .ittehgibodranoel.> on Thursday August 21, 2008 @07:24PM (#24698197)
    Score one fer bloody pirates, mate!
  • In New Zealand.... (Score:5, Informative)

    by zonky (1153039) on Thursday August 21, 2008 @07:24PM (#24698207)
    we're seeing the best ski season since 1992. There are now around 4.5 metres of base snow at Mt Ruapehu http://www.mtruapehu.com/winter/turoa-report/ [mtruapehu.com]
  • by tjstork (137384) <todd@bandrowsky.gmail@com> on Thursday August 21, 2008 @07:24PM (#24698213) Homepage Journal

    Those of us who are paranoid about the sun have got some justification for our beliefs. First off, the new solar cycle is somewhat late, depending on who you believe. Secondly, there have been very few sunspots this year. In fact, right now, we have gone 30 days without a single sunspot.

    http://www.solarcycle24.com/ [solarcycle24.com]

    Fire up those SUVs and coal plants, little ice age, here we come.

    • by ockegheim (808089) on Thursday August 21, 2008 @08:32PM (#24698937)

      First off, the new solar cycle is somewhat late

      OK, who knocked Sol up?

  • SIgh (Score:5, Insightful)

    by geekoid (135745) <`moc.oohay' `ta' `dnaltropnidad'> on Thursday August 21, 2008 @07:27PM (#24698243) Homepage Journal

    No, the heat output from the sun is not changing to reflect the temperature changes.

    Global warming doesn't stop or create the normal cycles. It makes them more active.

    The particulate matters in the air reflects light.
    Not enough to completly offset the global warming.

    Look up global dimming.

    The melting of the ice sheets is having a cooling effect on Europe.

  • by cpu_fusion (705735) on Thursday August 21, 2008 @07:38PM (#24698375)

    Hype the headline a little more, will ya?

  • Re: Global Warming (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Nezic (151658) on Thursday August 21, 2008 @07:43PM (#24698441)

    Basically, the logic is that every weather event or phenomenon is somehow either proof of global warming, or happened despite it and in no way can be used to refute it. Haven't you figured that out yet?

  • by Ungrounded Lightning (62228) on Thursday August 21, 2008 @07:43PM (#24698443) Journal

    ... unless the heat output from the sun is decreasing rather than increasing or the heat being absorbed by the earth is decreasing due to changes in the earth's albedo.

    TFA missed one: ... or the current sunspot shortage continues, as it did in the "little ice age", causing another one.

    Given that, by at least one model, we only have maybe 8 or so centuries until the fossil carbon runs out and we plunge back onto the orbital-mechanics driven end of the current interglacial and dive into a BIG ice age (whose steepening slope we may have been holding off with greenhouse gases since about the dawn of agriculture) we might not see any significant "global warming" at all.

    All of this is assuming that we don't establish enough space industrialization to let us tune the insolation and just FIX the issue. (Which seems likely. The current government prescriptions for patching "global warming" would destroy the wealth and technology bases needed to drive a space program.)

    And also assuming that polywell, POPS (Periodically Oscillating Plasma Sphere), and other fusion power approaches ALL don't work out. (Cheap aneutronic hydrogen fusion power would drive fossil-carbon based fuels out of the market for most uses and provide the energy needed to drive several technologies that could tune the Earth's temperature.)

  • by shma (863063) on Thursday August 21, 2008 @07:44PM (#24698457)
    2008 may be the coldest year of the 21st century, but every other 21st century year sits at the top of the list of warmest years on record. Currently seven out of the top eight spots [wikipedia.org] on the list of warmest years on record are occupied by one of the last seven years. Also from the BBC article:

    Even so, 2008 is set to be about the 10th warmest year since 1850, and Met Office scientists say temperatures will rise again as La Nina conditions ease.

    I hate to point out the obvious, but global warming models do not predict a year over year increase in temperature. Again, from the article:

    "The principal thing is to look at the long-term trend," said Dr Kennedy. "2008 will still be significantly above the long-term average. There's been a strong upward trend in the last few decades, and that's the thing to focus on."

  • by davidwr (791652) on Thursday August 21, 2008 @07:46PM (#24698479) Homepage Journal

    It would be a lot more interesting if 2008 was the coldest year in the last 100 years instead of the coldest year "this century."

    2001, or 2000 for those who short-change the first century, set a record as both the coldest and hottest year of the century. The following year broke one of those records.

  • by ilovesymbian (1341639) on Thursday August 21, 2008 @07:58PM (#24698605)

    This picture [beewulf.com] says it all - is it global warming or global cooling?

  • by Kr1ll1n (579971) on Thursday August 21, 2008 @07:59PM (#24698611)
    that don't like to be wrong.....
    and I quote the poster;
    ".....before global warming takes our planet into new warmth."
  • Storing heat? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MarkusQ (450076) on Thursday August 21, 2008 @08:20PM (#24698833) Journal

    there must be a lot of planetary heat being stored away somewhere

    Oh give me a break. The ice caps are melting, or haven't you heard?

    That's why we use ice in our cooler chests: when they melt they absorb a lot of heat, and the ice cold runoff keeps the things around them cooler than they would otherwise be. But just because the ice is melting but your beer is cold you can't conclude that the sun has cooled off.

    What you should conclude is that you'd better drink your beer before the ice melts, 'cause it's going to warm up real fast as soon as the ice is gone.

    --MarkusQ

  • by rossdee (243626) on Thursday August 21, 2008 @08:21PM (#24698841)

    Did you know that , at the time of 9/11 , 2001 was the coldest year of the 21st century.

    It was also the hottest year of the 21st century (at that time).

    The term 'century' is often used to refer to a period of 100 years. However we have had less than 8 years of the 21st century so far. Wake me up when you have the results from the whole 100 years (ie in 2101)

  • by suck_burners_rice (1258684) on Thursday August 21, 2008 @08:31PM (#24698911)
    Speaking of Al Gore (many people mentioned him already), this reminds me of the day he gave a speech about global warming in New York... on the coldest day in that city's recorded history!! Ok, so some will tell you that it's not global warming, it's climate change. I have no proof to either confirm or deny that, so I do not have an opinion. However, let's examine this situation from another vantage point: History indicates that the Earth has had warmer and colder periods (such as the Ice Age) in the past, so it stands to reason that the climate probably has periods of increasing warmth followed by periods of increasing coldness. We have recorded data going back decades or maybe a few centuries at most. Beyond that, we rely on data collected from cores drilled out of ice and whatnot, and we make certain assumptions about how to interpret that data. Let's also take into consideration that although it is possible to fly across an entire continent in a matter of hours (for example, a trip from New York to Los Angeles takes less than six hours in the air), if you try to trek across that same continent by means available to the human race two hundred years ago, you will find that it takes you months; thus, the Earth is a big huge ball. I once worked on a project where the temperature of a giant steel fixture was taken at various points, several feet apart, every hour of the day. Part of this fixture was exposed to sunlight for several hours. We only BEGAN to measure increased temperature AFTER the sun was no longer shining on it, since it took it that long to respond to temperature changes. Applying this to a huge ball like the Earth (which, as I said, is so big that trekking across a continent will take months), any change to the climate will be extremely slow and will only show up after a delay of years or decades. Indeed, I once heard (though I don't remember where) that when the industrial age began and there was incredible pollution (much more than today with all the regulations we have), it took several decades for the climate to respond, and several more decades to respond after changes were introduced. All I'm trying to say is that we should examine the methods used to determine this "climate change" and figure out if all the SUVs and factories are really making as large of a dent as we think they are. I have a feeling that the Earth is so large, and it's part of such an enormous larger system (the solar system) that it is probably heating up more due to effects from the sun and the ever-changing distance between the sun and the Earth than from what we're doing down here. So are we affecting the climate? Or is it something that simply changes and we couldn't possibly control it? If you have any data to back up one viewpoint or the other, please throw it in...
  • by roc97007 (608802) on Thursday August 21, 2008 @09:06PM (#24699383) Journal

    As a practical matter, it's going to be difficult to keep up political momentum in the face of cooler trends. The movement could be essentially dead in a couple years. In ten, we could be looking at films like An Inconvenient Truth, The Day After Tomorrow and Waterworld in the same way we now look at Population Explosion, ZPG and Soylent Green from the sixties and seventies.

    Hysteria tends to go in cycles. Buried amongst discredited doomsday theories might be the one that actually does kill us. When that happens, I wonder if we'll all be surprised that it's nothing like the articles running in Time, or if scientists will actually see the prediction-of-the-decade come true, whether by brilliant insight or sheer coincidence.

    What worries me is that with the best of intentions we do something profoundly stupid and damaging like, I dunno, dumping old tires in the sea in the insane (in hindsight) belief that they would serve as artificial reefs. In the seventies there were plans to coat the ice caps with soot to combat the global cooling that never came about. Now we're talking about dumping iron oxide in the sea as a solution to global warming, something that would be called "polluting our environment" if it didn't have the Climate Change seal of approval. Confidentially, it's unintended consequences from plans like this that scares me more than the fear that the seas will rise and drown us all.

  • by Tekoneiric (590239) on Thursday August 21, 2008 @09:11PM (#24699429) Journal
    Could have something to do with three volcanos going off in Alaska and the Aleutian islands. [alaska.edu] I've noticed the temperature in Texas drop and we've gotten a lot of rain after the 3rd one went off and cold fronts have come down from that area.
    • by BitZtream (692029) on Thursday August 21, 2008 @11:31PM (#24700739)

      You are fired. You are not allowed to be part of the climate debate every again.

      Please do not come into our discussion with obvious reasons for short term events. We have spent many years working many late nights to come up with theories that aren't likely to be proven during our life time and are based on theoretical data. It took as many years of research to find data based on other theories and concepts that have yet to be proven.

      We do not welcome your kind in our group. We are respectable scientists with families and lives. Your ideas could seriously undermine our ability to obtain grant money for research in far away lands, and, as a direct result may also result in starving Ethiopians losing out on the slave wages we pay them to move all of our 'equipment' around for our research. Think of the sled dog teams that will no longer get a whole $10 bill for carrying us 200 miles north of any human with an ounce of self preservation in the northern hemisphere.

      Please, before making such statements again, consider how the children will be effected by your statements.

      Thank you

  • Or... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by TaleSpinner (96034) on Thursday August 21, 2008 @11:48PM (#24700869)

    ...perhaps the fact that 2008 virtually wiped out any direct evidence for global warming should give us pause to reflect that we really don't understand how global climate works and that a multi-trillion dollar plan to combat it might help, hurt, or, most likely, do nothing but eat up so much tax money that if and when we finally do know what to do we will no longer be able to afford it.

    And that is a very inconvenient truth.

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