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UFPPC (www.ufppc.org) Digging Deeper: April 4, 2005, 7:00 p.m.

Richard B. Alley, The Two-Mile Time Machine: Ice Cores, Abrupt Climate Change, and Our Future
(Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2000).

“Earth’s wildly complex, linked, feedback- Ch. 4: The Icy Archives ― Ice Sheets and
dominated climate system in which atmosphere, Glaciers. Chapter on “how an ice sheet works”
oceans, ice, land surface, and living things interact (31). If all ice melted, ocean would rise 200’ (32).
with each other and with the solar system to drive Glaciers flow because ice is a “‘hot’ solid,” i.e. near
weather forecasters and climate scientists to its melting point (33). Layers thin and stretch (34-
distraction” (131). 27). Flow corrections (38-39).

PART I: SETTING THE STAGE Ch. 5: Ice through the Ice Age. Tree rings (12,00
years) and sediments (tens of thousands of years)
Ch. 1: Fast Forward. Much evidence that abrupt used for dating (42-43). Layers of snow identifiable
climate change is typical (3-4). “‘Conveyor belt’ by sun’s transformation of summer snow into
circulation” can be “suddenly shut off or turned on hoarfrost (coarse-grained, low-density snow) (43-
again” (5). “This book is a progress report on 44). Walls of snow pits (44-48). Compacted snow
abrupt climate change” (5). Importance of climate is called firn (48-49). At 200 feet, snow becomes
(5-7). Thousands are engaged in “Earth system ice, trapping bubbles (49). At just less than a mile,
science” to develop an “‘Operator’s Manual’ for gas bubbles become “an ice-air mixture called gas-
planet Earth” (7). Importance of historical record to hydrate or clathrate” (50-51). Layers observable by
climate modeling (7-8). Plan of book (9). electroconductivity (51-53). 1783 Laki eruption
used for reference point (54-55). Several counters
Ch. 2: Pointers to the Past. Sediment is indicative to check consistency (55-57). Other climatic
of climate (11-12). Ice cores, generally 4”-5” in indicators (57-58).
diameter, can be two miles long and “include the
entire history of the ice sheet and the air above it” Ch. 6: How Cold of Old? Temperature change
(13). (paleothermometry) (59-60). Isotopic effects on
evaporation and condensation, which vary with
PART II: READING THE RECORD temperature and can be measured with a mass
spectrometer, make possible paleothermometry (60-
Ch. 3: Going to Greenland. Henri Bader of the 64). Explaining borehole ice temperature variations
U.S. Army Corp of Engineers working in what is as the effect of air temperature at time of
now known as the Cold Regions Research and precipitation (65-68). Matching the two is a test of
Engineering Laboratory (CRREL) initiated modern the reliability of an ice core for paleothermometric
ice coring, as chief scientist for IGY (1957-1958) in purposes (69-70).
NW Greenland (17-18). Mid-1960s, Byrd station in
Antarctic (Tony Gow) (18-19). S. Greenland core Ch. 7: Dust in the Wind. Aerosols (71-72). Effect
from Dye 3 finished 1981 (19). GISP2 (Greenland of cosmic rays (72-73). Meteorites (73-74).
Ice Sheet Project 2) & GRIP (Greenland Ice Core Contamination must be avoided (73-74). Effect of
Project) drilled 20 miles apart for control purposes, wet and dry deposition (74-75).
1989-1993 (21-22). GISP2 supplied by U.S. 109th
Air National Guard (22). Polar Ice Coring Office & Ch. 8: Tiny Bubbles in the Ice. Gases mix well in
Univ. of New Hampshire’s Paul Mayewski handled the atmosphere in a few years (77). Greenland and
drilling (23). Storage in onsite lab; later in National Antarctic ice cores yield same atmospheric results
Ice Core Laboratory in Denver (23-24). Drilling (78). Carbon dioxide and methane lower in ice ages
routine (25). GRIP (26). Drilling technique (27- (78).
30). Core space filled with butyl acetate (27-28).
PART III: CRAZY CLIMATES
Ch. 9: The Saurian Sauna. Summary: past changes are coupled to the rest of the world’s
climate has varied widely; climate is like a drunk: it climate (114-15). Rapid changes (on the order of a
either sits or staggers (83). Diverse, small ‘pushes’ decade) confirmed by sediments showing
have caused large changes; humans can effect Venezuelan winds lessening (116-17). Such
climate change (84). Feedback effects: large  changes are faster than any in historic times (118).
small; small  large (84). CO2, through the Record of last 100,000 years shows these
“weathering” reaction (CaSiO3 + CO2  CaCO3 + “Dansgaard-Oeschger events or cycles” are typical,
SiO2) and its reversal give earth a natural thermostat however (118-20). Gerard Bond of Columbia’s
(85-86). This is a long-term negative feedback, but North Atlantic sea floor cores confirm Greenland
many short-term feedbacks are positive (87). The ice core patterns over longer periods (121-22).
slow negative CO2 feedback operates on a cycle Heinrich events (dumping of layers of rocks on
circa 100 million years. Plate tectonics also ocean floor in North Atlantic) and Bond cycle (a
operates on a circa 100-million-year ‘cycle’ (88-89). few thousand years of cooling leading to an iceberg
The meteorite hitting Yucatan 65 million years ago inundation, and then a few years or decades of
had short climatic effect, but it is believed to have spectacular warming) explained by ice from bottom
killed the dinosaurs (89). layer of Hudson Bay Ice sheet ‘skating’ over
bedrock to ocean, due to trapped heat (122-26).
Ch. 10: The Solar System Swing. Amount of ice Recap: “a roller coaster riding the orbital rails, with
was much greater 20,000 years ago (91). Isotopic Heinrich-Bond bungee-jumping off the roller
analysis of shells reveals size of ice sheets (92-93). coaster while playing with a Dansgaard-Oeschger
Fourier analysis can be used to sort out sorts of yo-yo” (126). Anomalies (127). “The current
variability (93-95). Ice periodicities are 100,000; period of stable climate is among the longest on
41,000; 19,000 & 23,000 years (95). Milutin record” (128).
Milankovich predicted this (95). Earth’s rotation
axis has an angle varying from 22° to 24° in 41,000 PART IV: WHY THE WEIRDNESS?
years (96-97). Orbital eccentricity varies on a
100,000-year cycle (97). Wobble in earth’s rotation Ch. 13: How Climate Works. Earth’s balance of
axis creates precession of seasons on a 19,000- or radiant energy exchanges (131-34). Atmospheric
23,000-year cycle (97). [“Ice-age cycles were heat exchanges drive the weather (134-40). Ocean
caused . . . by orbital wiggles” (108).] Related circulation also accounts for about half the
“curiosities” (98). movement of heat in the climate; the saltiest and
therefore densest water, in the North Atlantic, plays
Ch. 11: Dancing to the Orbital Band. Why large an especially important role (140-42). Wally
ice sheets melt more quickly than small ones (99- Broecker of Columbia’s conveyor belt paradigm, or
102). Water vapor scarcer during ice ages (102-03). ‘cartoon’ (142-44). The importance of the north
Same for other greenhouse gases (103-04). Carbon Atlantic is due to the combination of Drake’s
dioxide levels affected by a variety of processes passage and the Coriolis effect (144-45).
(105-08).
Ch. 14: A Chaotic Conveyor? The descending
Ch. 12: What the Worms Turned. More rapid part of the conveyor belt (the north Atlantic) is the
changes (109-10). Greenland ice cores tell “the easiest to jam, by freshening the water (147-48).
clearest story” (110). Pollen from Dryas, a Computer models best tests (148-49). “Models
mountain flower also called avens, in bog cores, indicate that when the sinking stops in the north
identifies three recent cold periods: the Younger Atlantic, nearby regions cool a great deal and most
Dryas (11,500 to 12,800 years ago), the Older of the hemisphere cools at least a little” (150).
Dryas, and the Oldest Dryas (110-11). Windblown Analysis of shells of bottom-dwelling animals
contaminants and isotopic measurements indicate seems to show “north Atlantic circulation has three
15° F. change in a decade at the end of the Younger modes: the hot mode, with far-north [north & east
Dryas (111-12). Jeff Severinghaus of Scripps of Greenland] and near-north [south & west of
measured temperature-induced isotopic sinking that Greenland] sinking; the cool mode, with only near-
confirms this (112-14). Methane levels show these north sinking; and the cold mode, with no northern
sinking” (153) (151-54). Operation of these modes
creates compensating effects elsewhere (south
Atlantic, for the “cold mode”) (154-56). Shutting Ch. 17: Down the Road. Future is unknown;
off sinking seems to be the source of climate prediction may be impossible (181). Not certain
“flipping” (156-58). that global warming will preserve us from abrupt
changes (182-83). Thomas Stocker of Univ. of
Ch. 15: Shoving the System. Volcanoes not very Bern’s model shows speed of increase of
important (159). Solar variation and magnetism greenhouse gases determines whether the conveyor
seem relatively unimportant (160-61). Floods have belt shuts down (183). When this happens would be
probably played a major role (161-62). Likewise decisive as to the effects (183-84)..
ocean currents (162-63). But Dansgaard-Oeschger
oscillations not yet fully understood (163). Other Ch. 18: An Ice-Core View of the Future. What to
possible switches: the tropics (El Niños), Antarctic do? “I don’t know” (185). Opinions: change is
waters (163-65). coming; there will be winners and losers (186).
Losers will outnumber winners (186-87). Slowing
PART V: COMING CRAZINESS? down is an insurance policy (187-88). Saving
excess capacity is insurance (188). Overpopulation
Ch. 16: Fuelish. Critical questions: Will nature or a danger (189). Hopes for “soft landing” of
humans return climate to ‘normal’ wild stabilization but doesn’t know how to achieve it
fluctuations? And if so, what can we do about it? (190-91). Trench metaphor: in the absence of
(169). Origin of fossil fuels: geothermally cooked ability to see how big it is, it’s best to speed up (i.e.
algae, coal from woody plants, natural gas from educate and ‘empower’ people) (191-92).
either one (170). Carbon dioxide we are putting in
the atmosphere will remain there for a long time, Appendix 1: A Cast of Characters. GISP2 (193-
but will eventually be recycled (170-72). “The 96). GRIP (196). Graduate students (196-98).
modern scientific consensus is that positive
feedbacks will amplify global warming,” but Appendix 2: Usage of Units. “I switched back to
prediction is difficult (172-73). On consensus and using customary units” (199).
contrarians (174). Correlation of CO2 and
temperature leads Alley to support IPCC consensus Sources and Related Information. 22 pp.
(175-76). Economic notion of discounting
encourages doing little about global warming (177- Acknowledgments.
78). Finiteness and fairness as arguments for
“nontraditional discount rates” (178). On the big .
questions, “we don’t know” (178-79).