AFTER nearly two weeks of snow and sub zero temperatures rivaling those of Siberia, the old joke about global warming being a good thing has had a new lease of life. So what has happened to doom-laden predictions of the world heating up as glaciers melt?
Mike Kelly reports from the SundaySun.co.uk Author claims we're in the grip of a mini ice age
So says author Gavin Cooke in his book Frozen Britain. He began writing it in 2008 and it was published last year when experts were scratching their heads at the cause of the bitter winter of 2009/10 which brought England to a standstill. Some said it was a one-off event, with experts predicting snowfall becoming increasingly rare.
Now, 12 months on, the current sub zero spell makes last year look just a bit chilly. Just like kids enjoying ‘snow days’ off school, Gavin ought to be delighted with the cold snap. After all, he can justifiably say ‘I told you so’. But he’s as glum as the rest of us.
“I’m getting sick of it myself,” he said.
When Gavin, 48, of Monkseaton, North Tyneside, began writing the book the acclaimed documentary ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ by former US Vice President Al Gore about global warming, was still fresh in the memory. It detailed how carbon emissions were contributing towards the melting of the polar ice caps causing the world to heat up.
Like Gore, Gavin’s interest in climate change went back to college when he studied energy and environment at what was then Newcastle Polytechnic.
He said: “The more I’ve looked into it the more fascinating it has become.”
He is quick to admit that he hasn’t got the scientific background of those who have spent a lifetime studying climate change. What he has brought to the table is his enthusiasm for the subject, his tracking of the arguments and a desire to make sense of a blizzard of information, so to speak.
To simplify, the basis of his theory seems to be sunspot activity, or rather the lack of it. Sunspots are dark, cooler patches on the sun’s surface that come and go in cycles.
They were absent in the 17th century – a period called the “Maunder Minimum” named after the scientist, Edward Maunder, who spotted it. Crucially, it has been observed that the periods when the sun’s activity is high and low are related to warm and cool climatic periods. The weak sun in the 17th century coincided with the so-called Little Ice Age. The Sun took a dip between 1790 and 1830 and the earth also cooled a little. It was weak during the cold Iron Age, and active during the warm Bronze Age.
Throughout the 20th century the sun was unusually active, peaking in the 1950s and the late 1980s. Recently sunspot activity has all but disappeared.
Gavin said: “It is the sun’s energy which keeps the earth warm and the amount of energy the earth receives isn’t always the same. I’ve looked at the evidence for global warming and while I understand and agree with a lot of it, there has been a lot missed out. A major factor is the activity of the sun.”
There is also solar wind – streams of particles from the sun – which are at their weakest since records began. In addition, the Sun’s magnetic axis is tilted at an unusual degree. This is not just a scientific curiosity. It could affect everyone on earth and force what for many is unthinkable – a reappraisal of the science behind global warming.
It was thought that carbon dioxide emissions rather than the sun was the bigger effect on climate change. Now a major re-think is taking place.
The upshot is that Gavin is not alone in predicting we face another 30 frozen years, each getting progressively colder than the last.
Particularly hard hit will be Britain and Northern Europe and it is only after the 30-year period that the effects of man-made global warming will kick in. He said: “When I was writing this it was new. To be honest I was kind of winging it, piecing it together. But recently there has been a sea change among some pretty significant figures.”
They include renowned international climatologist Mike Lockwood of the University of Reading. In 2007 he said the cyclical change in the Sun’s energy was not responsible for climate change. In April this year, writing in the New Scientist Magazine, he did a U-turn and said it was. After a study, he and his team concluded that recent cold British winters have coincided neatly with the biggest fall off in the sun’s activity for a century, contradicting the accepted view that carbon dioxide emissions and other greenhouse gases are likely to warm our climate.
Gavin laughed: “Looking at the weather outside, sometimes I really wish I was wrong. But we had better get used to it.”
Frozen Britain: How the Big Freeze of 2010 is the Beginning of Britain’s New Mini Ice Age by Gavin Cooke is published by John Blake Publishing Ltd and is out now priced at £7.99. Also available on Amazon.