The long article below discusses in detail the data showing a weakening of the Gulf Stream function over the last century (maybe two centuries). The Gulf Stream moves hot water from the Equator north to northwestern Europe, such that average temperatures there in the winter are as much as 40 degrees warmer than at the same latitude in Canada. The weakening seems to happen when volumes of fresh water, less dense than salt water, fail to sink even after cooling, halting the flow caused when warm Gulf Stream waters cool and sink off Europe and then wander south deep in the ocean. There is a worldwide current flow as well, taking about 1,000 years for a full cycle. A warming Arctic has melted volumes of sea ice and Greenland glacier ice and this less dense fresh water, not sinking as it should, seems to be slowing the Gulf Stream.
What happens if the Gulf Stream collapses, and the transfer of heat slows or stops? Waters get hotter around the Equator, and colder near the North Pole. Europe and North America and Asia will become colder; in the case of Europe, much colder. Entire weather patters will change in ways impossible to predict. The much colder conditions might even start off another ice age, because perhaps winter snows won’t melt year to year and over decades and centuries a huge ice sheet forms.
While it looks like the Gulf Stream may have been slowing even before the last half century of warming, especially near the North Pole, recent warming, allegedly caused by man’s industrial growth and CO2 emissions, may have ironically accelerated the melting of fresh water ice in the north such that the Gulf Stream slowdown, or even collapse, has been hastened, thereby hastening a return to cold conditions and even the next ice age.
If we go back to the last warm time before this one, the Eemian 120,000 years ago, which lasted about 10,000-15,000 years, we learn the earth was one or two degrees Centigrade warmer than today, arctic ice nearly all gone, and sea levels 10-20 feet higher. Maybe, back then, the melting of the Arctic and Greenland ice slowed the current and brought on the cold, and the ice. Maybe, in fact, the entire system of ice ages over the last two million years, at roughly 100,000 year intervals, happened the same way – the marine current systems shift and adjust such that warmer Equatorial waters are sent north to warm the north of Europe and start the melting of the ice, until the great ice sheets are gone, ushering in a relatively warmer and stable time when temperatures are more stable and warmer, until the warmth itself sends enough fresh water into the northern ocean to slow the current and bring back the cold. And then, once the cold is established, again and again during the ice age there are fits and starts to recreate that warmer flow, resulting in the documented frequent warmings and coolings, still all colder than during an interglacial, until, finally, one takes “hold” and a 10-20,000 year interglacial emerges.
The Younger Dryas, a period lasting 1,000 years shortly after the end of the last ice age, might have been caused when a great glacial flood burst into the Atlantic and slowed or stopped the Gulf Stream, bringing back cold conditions for ten centuries. Maybe this flood was the great flood that drained a huge lake south of Hudson’s Bay. That flood hit the sea at around 40 degrees north, well south of the latitiude of the Greenland glaciers. Maybe the cold time was shorter because at that latitude the warmth of the ocean and the Gulf Stream handled the less dense fresh water better than a thousand miles to the north.
It is interesting that while the current alarm about climate change is the cooking of the earth, it may well be that it is precisely this “cooking” that triggers the next cold time, or ice age, by sending all that Greenland fresh water into the fast cooling Gulf Stream south of Iceland.
We, or our grandchildren, or theirs, are going to find out.
Posted in Real or Folk Tale? and tagged climate change, global warming, Gulf Stream, ice age, weather, Younger Dryas by Charles Sheldon with no comments yet.
First of all they aren’t talking about bringing BACK the mammoth but creating an elephant-mammoth hybrid with long hair and a lot of fat. To live where? Second, lower in the article is the statement that mammoths pushing away snow to get at the grass beneath exposes the soil so the permnafrost can stay frozen. Really? Seriously?
Scientists Say They Could Bring Back Woolly Mammoths. But Maybe They Shouldn’t
Updated September 15, 20216:24 AM ET
An artist’s impression of a woolly mammoth in a snow-covered environment. Leonello Calvetti/Stocktrek Images/Getty Images/Stocktrek Images
Using recovered DNA to “genetically resurrect” an extinct species — the central idea behind the Jurassic Park films — may be moving closer to reality with the creation this week of a new company that aims to bring back woolly mammoths thousands of years after the last of the giants disappeared from the Arctic tundra.
Flush with a $15 million infusion of funding, Harvard University genetics professor George Church, known for his pioneering work in genome sequencing and gene splicing, hopes the company can usher in an era when mammoths “walk the Arctic tundra again.” He and other researchers also hope that a revived species can play a role in combating climate change.
“We are working towards bringing back species who left an ecological void as they went extinct,” the company, Colossal, said in answer to questions emailed by NPR. “As Colossal actively pursues the conservation and preservation of endangered species, we are identifying species that can be given a new set of tools from their extinct relatives to survive in new environments that desperately need them.”
To be sure, what’s being proposed is actually a hybrid created using a gene-editing tool known as CRISPR-Cas9 to splice bits of DNA recovered from frozen mammoth specimens into that of an Asian elephant, the mammoth’s closest living relative. The resulting animal — known as a “mammophant” — would look, and presumably behave, much like a woolly mammoth.
Some say reintroduced mammoths could help reverse climate change
Church and others believe that resurrecting the mammoth would plug a hole in the ecosystem left by their decline about 10,000 years ago (although some isolated populations are thought to have remained in Siberia until about 1,700 B.C.). The largest mammoths stood more than 10 feet at the shoulder and are believed to have weighed as much as 15 tons.
Mammoths once scraped away layers of snow so that cold air could reach the soil and maintain the permafrost. After they disappeared, the accumulated snow, with its insulating properties, meant the permafrost began to warm, releasing greenhouse gases, Church and others contend. They argue that returning mammoths — or at least hybrids that would fill the same ecological niche — to the Arctic could reverse that trend.
“With the reintroduction of the woolly mammoth … we believe our work will restore this degraded ecosystem to a richer one, similar to the tundra that existed as recently as 10,000 years ago,” the company says.
Love Dalén, a professor in evolutionary genetics at the Stockholm-based Centre for Palaeogenetics, is skeptical of that claim.
“I personally do not think that this will have any impact, any measurable impact, on the rate of climate change in the future, even if it were to succeed,” he tells NPR. “There is virtually no evidence in support of the hypothesis that trampling of a very large number of mammoths would have any impact on climate change, and it could equally well, in my view, have a negative effect on temperatures.”
The body of Lyuba, a baby woolly mammoth who lived about 42,000 years ago on the Yamal Peninsula of Siberia, is exhibited in Hong Kong. South China Morning Post/South China Morning Post via Getty Images
The techniques might be better used to help endangered species
But even if the researchers at Colossal can bring back mammoths — and that is not certain — the obvious question is, should they?
“I can see some reasons to do the first steps where you are tinkering with cell lines and editing the genomes,” Dalén says. “I think there is a lot of technological development that can be done [and] we can learn a lot about how to edit genomes, and that could be really useful for endangered species today.”
Joseph Frederickson, a vertebrate paleontologist and director of the Weis Earth Science Museum in Menasha, Wis., was inspired as a child by the original Jurassic Park movie. But even he thinks that the more important goal should be preventing extinction rather than reversing it.
“If you can create a mammoth or at least an elephant that looks like a good copy of a mammoth that could survive in Siberia, you could do quite a bit for the white rhino or the giant panda,” he tells NPR.
Especially for animals that have “dwindling genetic diversity,” Frederickson says, adding older genes from the fossil record or entirely new genes could increase the health of those populations.
Speaking with NPR in 2015, Beth Shapiro, a paleogeneticist at the University of California, Santa Cruz and author of How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction,said emphatically, “I don’t want to see mammoths come back.”
“It’s never going to be possible to create a species that is 100% identical,” she said. “But what if we could use this technology not to bring back mammoths but to save elephants?”
Mammoths might upset existing ecosystems
Colossal’s expressed aim also brings up another ethical concern: Although the extinction of the mammoth thousands of years ago left a gap in the ecosystem, that ecosystem has presumably now adapted, at least imperfectly, to their absence.
“There is a new normal that has existed for thousands of years that has adapted to the continually changing climate,” Frederickson says. “Bringing back something that has all the characteristics that would have thrived in the Pleistocene doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to survive today, especially when you’re mixing in the unknowns of other genes that are acting in a warm-weather tropical animal and then trying to move it to a new environment.”
“There were plants and animals that were living alongside the mammoth that are now long gone or have drastically shrunk in their range, and just bringing back the mammoth won’t bring those back,” he says.
Colossal says it’s not trying to bring back an invasive species but instead wants to “enrich an ecosystem that has been, and continues to be, steadily degrading without its presence.”
In yet a different sense, there’s the question of how mammoths might fit in.
“The proposed ‘de-extinction’ of mammoths raises a massive ethical issue. The mammoth was not simply a set of genes — it was a social animal, as is the modern Asian elephant,” Matthew Cobb, a professor of zoology at the University of Manchester, told The Guardian, in 2017. “What will happen when the elephant-mammoth hybrid is born? How will it be greeted by elephants?”
Predicted six-year timeline would be exceptionally short
All of this, of course, assumes that producing a mammophant is even possible. Colossal says it hopes to produce an embryo in six years. But with an estimated 1.4 million individual genetic mutations separating the ancient creatures from Asian elephants, the task of gene splicing could prove a mammoth undertaking.
Perhaps an even bigger obstacle might be developing an artificial uterus for gestating the embryos. Even Church acknowledges that this might not be so easy. Among other things, the company plans to create “a pumping system for exchange of gas, nutrient and waste metabolites, and umbilical blood supply with the goal of carrying a woolly mammoth embryo to term in vitro.” Researchers have been working on just such a device, but technical hurdles remain.
“Is this going to happen anytime soon? The answer is absolutely not,” says Frederickson.
Dalén agrees that the six-year timeline is “exceptionally short.” “It seems pretty ambitious,” he says.
But Church and his colleagues aren’t alone in their ambition. The idea of mammoth de-extinction has been around for some time, and other groups, such as the California-based nonprofit Revive & Restore, which last year managed the first-ever clone of an endangered species, the black-footed ferret, have also been working on a mammoth-elephant hybrid.
The traditional scientific view is that our ancestors hunted the mammoth to extinction, while more recent theories point to habitat destruction at the end of the last ice age as the biggest factor, but with humans still copping part of the blame.
Frederickson thinks that’s one of the reasons that the question of de-extinction — fueled by pop culture and real-world advances in science — is raised so frequently by
the patrons at the museum he heads. “I think, as humans, we have a little bit of guilt in us, still knowing that we almost certainly contributed to that extinction event.”
“This may be a way of getting that burden off of our backs,” he says.
Posted in Real or Folk Tale? and tagged arrogance, climate change, humility, ice age, mammoth by Charles Sheldon with no comments yet.
I built this theory that during the last ice age, thousands of years, even tens of thousands of years before the accepted time of crossing the land bridge ( less than 15,000 years ago), people might have been in the Americas, living along the coast, sheltering on islands in glacial refugia away from the great carnivorous animals and near fish and marine mammals for food. Because, then, people must have been few in number, and because even in our earliest days humans knew it was healthiest to find mates not directly related to family members, I think it is fair to guess that bands of raiders went out and sought to steal people from other groups. This behavior has often been documented even in recent memory, as for example knowledge that First Peoples from way north in British Columbia sailed their great canoes south to the Strait of Juan de Fuca to capture women and slaves from Puget Sound tribes living along the shores of the strait.
Evidence exists that ancient people were tremendous seafarers, surely able to leave the sight of land for fish, for travel, and while a coastline in an ice age might have long sections bounded by cliffs of ice, I speculate travel was possible, and frequent. The structure of the ice age world revealed in the Strong Heart Series is, of course, fiction, but as true as I could make it based on the research I did. It seemed to me then, and still does, it would be a lot easier to have other people capture and steal mates from inland neighbors if you could offer something of tremendous value in exchange. In my stories, I imagined that these ancient People walked south across the Great River for razor stone – they crossed the Columbia for the obsidian available in Oregon – and then they headed toward the Bering land bridge with this razor stone to trade for wives at a meeting place somewhere midway along that land bridge.
Of course this idea contradicts accepted theory on every level – my tales took place not 12,000 years ago nearly 70,000 years ago – I suggest people could navigate their great canoes 2,000 miles along an exposed coast and survive, I argue that because of the great animals humans barely survived in out of the way and hard to reach refuges, protected by ice, by water; that humans lived and even thrived all this time along the strip of shore now buried hundreds of feet beneath a rising ocean.
This tale came to me in 2012, or the first draft did, and I thought, then, God has a sense of humor, a wicked one, and as sure as I am writing this today, at some time in the near future something will be found confirming that humans have been in the Americas far longer than 15,000, or even 20,000 or 40,000 years. It better be a damn good find because everyone with careers built the current thesis will fight to the death to protect that thesis, as even now some still fight to protect the 12,000 year “Clovis” thesis, which was debunked by the finding of a spear point in a mastodon bone in Sequim, Washington that is 13,800 years old – the oldest evidence of hunting, I think, anywhere in the Americas.
But, that razor stone, and the idea a people collected that stone for use in trade for wives with other people living far, FAR away, beyond the land bridge, was not when my story first appeared ridiculous to me, and now may be even more reasonable based on the report that obsidian – razor stone – only available in Oregon, has now been found under Lake Huron, at least 9,000 years old. The age of this find fits within current dogma about the end of the ice age, but also shows that people, even back just as the ice was melting, traded materials over thousands of miles.
We know so little….
Posted in Origins and tagged ancient humans, archeology, Bering Land Bridge, ice age, migration, obsidian, razor stone, strong heart by Charles Sheldon with no comments yet.
Right now, May 24, 2021, there are at least two volcanoes erupting, one in Iceland and another in the Congo. Both eruptions are big and long lasting, producing rivers of lava. The video below is the Iceland volcano, which has been erupting for a couple of weeks. To me it is astonishing to see the molten rock flowing like water, even producing waves. Even more astonishing is the realization that beneath us lie cubic miles of hot molten magma. Here in the Pacific Northwest we live beneath a line of great volcanoes, one of which exploded 40 years ago, Mount St. Helens. It seems that these great volcano areas lie along the edge of a continental plate, such that when another great plate thrusts beneath it, huge earthquakes happen. There was an earthquake here in 2001, big enough to cause damage, shake buildings, cause higher buildings to sway back and forth, and this earthquake was nowhere the size of what everyone is predicting eventually. It seems the energy of the rock thrusting beneath other rock creates friction and heat, and magma, which will burst to the surface under pressure. There are other areas, like Yellowstone, which have been called “super volcanoes” because of the size of the magma chamber beneath.
We have evidence of huge eruptions in the past, huge. We know about huge flooding of magma across thousands of square miles of land, just as we now know of enormous glacial floods in the past, not to mention asteroid strikes, some large enough to create craters fifty miles ion diameter.
So, are these two eruptions occurring now an indication of a period of greater volcanic activity? We won’t know until after it happens.
All of which to say, again, geologic time is totally different than human lifespan time-sense. Our ability to hear eye witness accounts of events is limited to, at best, 70-90 years. Then information is second-hand, then third-hand. By the time of third and fourth hand transmission memory has been lost, the stories have changed, the great event is lost in the mists of time. We humans like to erase uncomfortable history, and we do it all the time. We seem wired to forget pain, discomfort, such that we can endure it again. There is evidence that 700 to 1,000 years ago great forest fires swept the entire U.S. West, all of it, a thousand times worse than the worst fire season we have seen to date.
When I see a video like this one here I am reminded of how little we know, and how humble we should be…..
Posted in Blog Posts, Real or Folk Tale? and tagged ancient man, astewroid strike, Congo eruption, crater, geology, glacial floods, humility, ice age, Iceland eruprtiopn, Mt. St. Helens, volcano by Charles Sheldon with no comments yet.
This doesn’t look like much but it is astounding. This is a piece of bone found about 40 years ago in Sequim, Washington – a mastodon skeleton was discovered when Mr. Manis was digging out a pond on his field on the Olympic Peninsula. A mastodon is sort of like an elephant but a little smaller. The little lighter thing in the middle is actually a spear point, stuck in the bone, also of mastodon bone. There is a sweet but tiny exhibit in Sequim that displays the bones and this point and I took the picture when I visited few weeks ago. Here’s the thing. This bone, and spear point in it, have been dated to 13,800 years old. It is one of the oldest, if not THE oldest, proven evidence of early humans in North America, right here on the Olympic Peninsula in the shadow of Olympic National Park. People used to think the great ice covered this area that long ago, but apparently not. Apparently parts of the peninsula were a refuge from the ice, and maybe the hunters who took this animal lived there.
Posted in Origins and tagged Animals, history, ice age, olympics by Charles Sheldon with no comments yet.