So: Impending Ice Age Or Not?

I thought I’d follow up the current JD thread as it seems to have worried the warmists enough to send a few new trolls over; some of the new crop even appear to be scientifically literate.

The thing was sparked by a press release from Southwest Research Institute’s Planetary Science Directorate, which was picked up and reprinted here by Anthony Watts at WUWT. Basically, three different aspects of solar activity—the solar jet stream, changes in sunspot activity, and reduced movement at the solar poles—point to a greatly reduced Solar Cycle 25, and possibly a repeat of the Maunder Minimum of 1645-1715, during which almost no sunspot activity was observed. This period was characterized by exceptionally low temperatures, and as James noted, Frost Fairs and ice skating on the Thames.

The announcement is significant, insofar as that in the battle between man and sun for control of the earth’s atmosphere, we are at a considerable disadvantage—and that’s putting it mildly. I’ve already explained back here how the earth’s cycles of glaciation correlate closely with the 100,000 year oscillation of the eccentricity of the earth’s orbit around the sun. While correlation doesn’t imply causation, a causative mechanism (the persistance of winter ice across a succession of summers due to reduced insolation caused by increased distance at the aphelion) is regarded as compelling. That, and the currently poorly-understood mechanism of the cloud formation due to cosmic ray fluctuations, caused in turn by magnetic field anomalies related to sunspots, may well have a lot to do with the onset of ice ages.

The correlation (between sunspots and climate) has been common scientific knowledge since at least 1801, when astronomer William Herschel published a paper relating sunspot activity to grain prices on the London commodities markets. In 1843, Heinrich Schwabe demonstrated that sunspot activity fluctuates in a fairly stable 11-year cycle.

We’re currently in an interglacial anyway, and in terms of history, we’re overdue for it to get cold again. Crown tells us that woolly mammoth steaks are particularly tasty, and I see an opportunity for an entrepreneurial meeting of minds between genetic engineers and steak house chain proprietors.

That being said, and at the risk of appearing to “offer aid and comfort to the enemy”, I’m taking this latest announcement with a grain of salt or two. I don’t know about you, but over the last few years I’ve grown rather weary of big new announcements from the scientific community; particularly in the areas of atmospheric physics and “climatology”. This latest one does appear prima facie to have merit, but we should all be aware of the seductive effect of confirmation bias; it behoves us to treat it with the same scepticism we reserve for the incessant, braying announcements of impending catastrophe which constitute the overwhelming coverage of climate-related issues in the MSM.

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40 Responses to So: Impending Ice Age Or Not?

  1. Tucci says:

    From Chapter 2 of John Ringo’s novel The Last Centurion (2008):

    The article my dad sent me was from a British source. See, there was this solar physicist in Britain who had sort of gotten out of the solar physics field and entered the long-range forecasting field. Weather, that is. We all know, Lord God do we know, that all that baloney about “greenhouse gases” and “man-induced global warming” was so much horse sh-t. But back then it was all “global warming! CO2 will kill us all!” Man, we wished we’d had that sort of CO2, didn’t we?

    But the thing about this guy, don’t recall his name, was that he did long-range weather forecasts based on solar activity. He’d studied the sun until he should have been blind and had figured out that just about everything related to the sort of weather farmers cared about came down to solar output. Forget CO2, it was all the sun. We all know that now. Most of you probably know who I’m talking about. Damn, why can’t I remember his name?

    Anyway, Dad sent me this article. It was complicated. I had to dredge up some long-stored memories from my “Weather and Agriculture” classes but I finally figured it out. Basically, the guy was being very cautious in saying that Our Friend the Sun had turned off.

    Oh, not completely. But his predictions were way more cautious than normal and just f–king dismal for the next growing season. He even put a caveat in the end. I recall it to this day.

    “Based upon these indicators, NYP (Next Year Predictions) indicate significant chance of severe cooling regimes.”

    Severe cooling regimes. That would be 2019. Nobody has to be reminded about 2019.

    And then there was Dad’s note at the end. “Investing heavily in triticale.”

    For all you non-farmers and non-Star Trek buffs, triticale is rye. See, there’s a couple of things about rye. The first thing is that it’s not exactly a big need crop. Wheat? Lots of markets for wheat. Ditto corn. (Maize to you Europeans and Canoe-Heads.) Soy? Always good markets for soy. Beans of various sorts. Peas. We grew it all, even seasonals like broccoli. All good markets.

    Rye is a niche market. Not a bunch of people lining up for rye. (Didn’t used to be back then. Less so now, too. Thank God we’re past eating nothing but rye bread from the lines, huh?)

    But the main thing about rye is that it grows fast and is cold hardy. Winter wheat’s cold hardy but . . . Oh, it’s complicated. There’s also only so much winter wheat market and it’s touchier than rye in certain cold and wet conditions. Look, I’m a professional. Do not try this at home.

    Bottomline? Dad trusted this guy enough to be prepared to take a big hit economically on the basis that that was going to be the only way to survive.

    Farmers are planners.

    I looked at it and shrugged. “How bad could it be?”

    Obviously, the “” to whom the author was indirectly referring was Piers Corbyn of WeatherAction.

    The first nine chapters of The Last Centurion are available as free samples of the work online. Read it. Ringo had the AGW fraud thoroughly taped and targeted more than a year before Climategate was even a glint on the horizon.

    G’day Tucci. Down here in Australia the Walker family have similarly been producing long-range forecasts based on observations at their own Queensland solar observatory for over 120 years. You know these folks are good, because people such as farmers and livestock dealers pay them, year in, year out, for their forecasts. The Walkers claim a long-term accuracy of 80% – Oz

  2. Kitler says:

    Well I’m cautious about the news since we can only guess at this point how the sun may behave it’s merely a best guess. However while cold weather will be the inevitable outcome it’s what history tells us will happen during such times. We can expect famine and as a consequence massive political upheaval the world over.
    It is no accident that North America was colonized during this time whereas during the warm spell just prior caused the failure of the Roanoke colony attempt. The Stuart Kings suffered for it as did a lot of Europe.

  3. fenbeagle says:

    Dunno whether it’s significant or not……. (But I’m going to make use of it)…If the sun spots don’t have an effect, the volcanoes will. And we’ll all know better in a few years time (I think).

  4. fenbeagle says:

    hi Oz….Yes I followed you debate with mr D with interest, and some entertainment (sorry). He’s a bit prickly (to say the least) And he doesn’t have the sense to know not to big himself up. But I think there is more to him than that…… He might settle down, and be a good contributor. …..More likely he won’t.

    Yes, the stereotypical “ugly American”; larger than life, knows more than you, more degrees than a Death Valley thermometer and if we were any more dazzled by his brilliance he’d have to start passing out sunglasses to the rest of us; and when I suggested that to his vast array of talents one could add a slightly vivid imagination, he’s reduced to throwing the F-bomb at me. At which point, as you saw, I decided discretion was the better part of valour; it would have been an abuse of James’ hospitality for me to swear on his blog. And in truth, the only way I know how to respond to such behaviour is face to face.

    Never mind… my colleagues at DT know better than I how to deal with him – I fear he’ll end up in the troll cage with budgie and friends – Oz

  5. Dr. Dave says:


    Where and when did the exchange you and Fen were talking about take place? I feel as though I missed “a good one”. I always read JD’s articles but I try to stay out of the swampland of the comments. The trolls are too wearisome for me.

    I mentioned it to you the other day; I was very tired after holding a chain saw for about 6 hours. Better I cop one on the chin and walk out than Ozboy remove his gloves. I’m a bartender, too – Oz

  6. Dr. Dave says:


    Oh yeah…I remember briefly scanning over those comments. The guy was a goof. I seldom participate in the JD/DT blog comments because they are usually the same cut n’ paste warriors on both sides of the debate. Once in a while someone offers up a fresh perspective, but more often than not it’s the same sandbox fight with the usual players and over a thousand comments long.. On your site we discuss things and (usually) avoid childish ad homs. Lately I’ve been hanging out on WUWT.

    A few days ago there was an article about Australia killing feral camels for “carbon credits”. Now, I have no problem with culling animals as necessary, but the thought of doing so because they produce GHGs is offensive. Anyway….I’m reading through the comments when I come upon a disagreement. I engaged, but only in the most polite way. It took three of us to either convince or (as likely as not) silence some guy who maintained that vegetation left to decompose on the ground will release as much methane as the same vegetation eaten by your camels. What I experienced was an incredibly civil and polite explanation of anaerobic bacterial decomposition. The same debate on the DT blog would have devolved into a food fight.

  7. farmerbraun says:

    I reckon that if we get a few harsher winters over the next few decades then things will be more like what they were in the 50s and 60s when the puddles could be walked on without breaking the ice; when you had to go and smash the ice on the troughs so that the cows could drink; when the frost didn’t thaw until the afternoon, if it did at all.
    In other words, it’s just normal variation (he said somewhat hopefully).

  8. Kitler says:

    farmerbraun it’s the Fimbulwinter so nothing to worry about at my location a cooler temperature would be most welcome but the farmers would not be happy as the crops they grow like warm temperatures.
    Well all you have to worry about are savage hordes of extras masquerading as Orcs looking for food.

  9. Luton Ian says:

    Slightly OT,
    I’ve been watching TV,

    It’s a big event, as I don’t do it very often.

    The recent king kong movie…

    part way through, I got to wondering whether there was an allegorical theme to it ( apart from the Samson and delila story). At the end, the director’s name rang a bell (I’m terrible with names) so a quick check through my host’s dvd collection showed it was the same bloke who did Lord of the rings.

    I’ve only recently found out that Tolkein and C S Lewis were close friends and both wrote Classical Liberal – Libertarian allegories.

    Is Jackson one of Hollywood’s few closet classical liberals or a fellow traveller palaeo conservatives?

    I suspect not, Ian. I’d say he’s a good filmmaker, and a bit of an opportunist. If Peter Jackson’s selection as director of the Lord of the Rings trilogy had been connected with any philosophical outlook, the third LOTR movie would have included Tolkien’s penultimate chapter “The Scouring of the Shire”, and the hobbits’ uprising against the invading socialist “gatherers and sharers”. I am a hard-core Tolkien fan and have read all of his published works many times; and I was particularly pissed off when Jackson excluded it – Oz 👿

  10. Luton Ian says:

    Back to the real world.
    I’ve a week of hard work and hard drinking ahead of me.

    I’m helping a pal for a few days and he’s got a bunch of Kiwi shearers coming, who’ll need a continuous supply of sheep during the day and beer at night. Apparently some of them need beer all day to!

    wish me luck, it’s over 20 years since I’ve done anything like this, and my middle age won’t be helping.

    I’ll be trying gently to quiz the shearers for global weather reports ( they visit all continents) and I’ll be trying to add a few liberrtarian memes if there’s ever a gap. Wish me some subtlety in that endeavour -please!

    Now, with complete lack of subtlety and decorum; as a teenager, with school holiday jobs on farms, there were a couple of times that I managed to get suitably friendly responses from girls – before I’d had the chance to wash the all pervading essence of sheep off.

    This still surprises me, as one, I was never a cool teenager and two, I find the smell of the critters (and everything else about them apart from the taste of their meat – roasted until crisp), disgusting. what do others think?

    Awww, Ian… they smell just fine. And I do a lamb roast every other Sunday – traditional Aussie fare. Just wait till Farmerbraun reads it! – Oz 😀

  11. Luton Ian says:

    Point taken on the Hobbit uprising and the slaying of wormtongue – propagandist of the collectivists.

  12. Luton Ian says:

    Despite the cold winter in England, the bit I’m in at pres has a complete plague of bunnies. – so many that they have Mixy already, they don’t normally get it until late summer – the fields are full of hopping ones and of rotting ones.

    Britain has a stupid ban on burying dead sheep – the farmers have to collect them – or face very stiff fines – like tens of thousand £!

    Pal’s yard was stinking, and I was giving him a hand servicing tractors before hay time. there were some oilbath air filter gauzes full of vegetable remains, so I washed them in petrol and threw a lit match at them. that made the maggots wriggle, and the sparrows had a feast when the flames died down. his yard now stinks of braai*

    * ask a South african

  13. Dr. Dave says:


    You triggered a little factoid I learned a long time ago. People who consume a lot of mutton can actually start to smell like sheep themselves. There are lipids in sheep fat that are absorbed by humans and are actually excreted through our pores. There are two or three foods that do this. I think curry might be another but I’m not sure.

  14. Luton Ian says:

    Curry does indeed!

    I used to hate curry, but going out with a woman who liked it converted me to the cause. She was cute to!

    working with pigs and dairy cows is bad, the smell absolutely refuses to wash out of your skin. Rotten dead lambs too, if you have to pull one of them out of a ewe, the smell takes days to get off your skin.

  15. Luton Ian says:

    Apparently there are some sea slugs that eat sea anemones, but during digestion, the anenome stinging cells are somehow saved and migrate to the skin of the slug, where they continue living and defending the slug from unwelcome attention.

    It’s a bit like biscuits with dimples in them and human females…

    I’m off to the land of nod before I get thumped


  16. izen says:

    I got slightly involved in the first WUWT thread on this issue. It had the benefit of contributions from a respected (by both sides!) solar researcher Leif Svalgaard.
    A problem with the WUWT blog is that it rarely generates an in-depth discussion. Around 50% of the contributions seem to be content-free me-too posts expressing their belief that ‘everything the scientists tell us is a fraud’ – unless it is something that satisfies their confirmation bias and can be interpreted as evidence AGAINST AGW. Then with the very rapid rate of new thread/topic postings the subject is soon of the front page. The WUWT thread on the initial press release from NASA is already in the archives….

    But variations in solar activity are NOT evidence against AGW, just an additional factor in the climate system.
    The present prediction that the sun may eneter a prolonged quiet phase is just that. A computer model based projection from some of the people working on the solar magnetic cycle. It is still very uncertain and based on models of solar dynamics that nobody would claim are robust or reliable.

    The problem is one of magnitude of effect.
    Showing a solar influence on the climate is surprisingly difficult. Given any bit of climate data without the date information and detecting an 11 year cycle within it that corellates with the solar cycle is barely possible. The inherent chaotic variation from ENSO/PDO/AO etc factors generally swamp the solar signal. True – and every other signal, too – Oz There is some indication that ENSO cycles MAY be entrained by the solar cycle, but it is far from a strong link.

    The actual change in energy from a complete shutdown of the solar cycle is rather small. In terms of W/m2 around a fith or less of the extra energy retained by the rising CO2. If this magnitude of energy change can cause measurable cooling then climate sensitivity is so high that the rising CO2 will cause MUCH more warming.

    The best estimate I have seen culled from a number of comments on this issue is that a ‘Maunder minimum’ would cause between 0.1 and 0.3 degC cooling over several decades. But AGW is projected to continue to cause over 0.1 degC warming per decade while levels continue to rise, so the cooling Sun will negate at most a few decades of AGW.
    While the Maunder and Dalton Minima occurred within the LIA, they are not exclusively coincident, the LIA started before any solar minimum and continued through periods of higher solar activity. BE10 and C14 isotope measurements show that even during these ‘quiet Sun’ periods there was still solar activity comparable with the present levels. The Oort minimum was a period of reduced solar activity, during the MWP. In fact the solar activity level has been at or below 1900 levels for at least a year and a half, but we are certainly NOT at 1900 climate levels!

    The climate history – depending n how much reliance you put on the various proxy indicators, does show corellation between low solar activity and cooler climate sometimes, but at other times there is a breakdown in such correlation. There have been times when the indicators of solar activity show a dip with no climate response, and times when the climate varies with no corresponding solar change.

    Given the difference in magnitude of the energy change between the effect of rising CO2 and falling solar activity, the only way that CO2 changes would NOT cause a climate change several times larger than solar changes is if there is an alternate process that makes the climate much more sensitive to solar changes than to energy changes from CO2.
    Svensmark and the cosmic ray hypothesis is one idea on these lines, but after over a decade of experiment is no nearer to any statistical proof, correlation between climate and cosmic ray flux is still poor, and the CERN experiments are showing that surface contamination can overwhelm any cosmic ray contribution to cloud nuclei formation. Rather as in the real world bio-chemicals (DMS) and dust seem capable of providing more than enough CCNs relagating GCR to a most a bit-player.

    One reason that the Solar influence is so difficult to detect is that with the oceans acting as a massive thermal ‘flywheel’ providing inertia to the system much of the energy that flows through the climate system is not directly from the Sun, but is stored energy from the oceans. The oceans have gained significant heat content over the last few decades and that is the source of current climate and ENSO variations etc as much as a particular day, year or sunspot cycle of solar input.

    For a concerntrated collection of solar info see Leif’s graphics here –

    Click to access Does%20The%20Sun%20Vary%20Enough.pdf

    You’re forcing me to think, right before my bedtime! 👿

    G’day, Izen. I’ll give that lot a go when I wake up tomorrow, OK? – Oz

  17. farmerbraun says:

    Izen wrote:
    While the Maunder and Dalton Minima occurred within the LIA, they are not exclusively coincident, the LIA started before any solar minimum and continued through periods of higher solar activity.

    farmerbraun ponders: if the LIA (and presumably the warming following) are independent of solar factors ( and anthropogenic CO2) then what factor(s) initiated and terminated the LIA?

  18. izen says:

    @- farmerbraun says:
    June 21, 2011 at 12:45 pm
    “farmerbraun ponders: if the LIA (and presumably the warming following) are independent of solar factors ( and anthropogenic CO2) then what factor(s) initiated and terminated the LIA?”

    One problem is that the LIA is rather ill-defined in time and space. It started, finished and had peaks/troughs at different times in different regions.
    NASA uses 1550 AD and 1850 AD as the start and end with warmer periods during this time.

    The coldest periods do match solar minima, but the initiation before the dip in solar activity coincides with a period of increased volcanic activity. The end of the LIA matches a period of increasing solar activity, reduced major volcanism and a stronger N Atlantic thermohaline circulation.

    Both the LIA and the MWP are varied enough in depth and timing to indicate that the total energy balance of the globe may not have changed very much, certainly less than over recent decades. Certainly with the MWP it may have been a see-saw event with cooling in the Southern Hemisphere, followed by a warm period with the same pattern repeated in the Northern hemisphere a few centuries later.

    Both the MWP and the LIA indicate, and are used to estimate the positive feedbacks, and negative homeostatic factors in the climate. When cooling occurs around the N Atlantic snow cover increases on land. That increases the surface albedo during the N.H. spring causing more cooling. The opposite process happens during warming.
    When temperatures cool the water vapour content of the air reduces lowering its ‘greenhouse effect’ and the oceans also absorb more CO2; although the impact of this is small.
    From the dust and sulphur content of sedimentsd and ice-cores an estimate of the volcanic input can be made and other indicators of sea temperatures in the N Atlantic enable estimates of the climate drivers that caused the LIA and that gives an indication of climate sensitivity.
    This is why the greater the global extent or depth of the MWP or LIA the greater the likely warming from the rising CO2.

    Some of the factors that modulated the LIA and the MWP are well established, the volcanism, solar changes and ocean current variations, but others are less certain so there is a bit of wriggle room in all this for both ‘sides’. But the bottom line is that the factors that are considered to be the most likely to have caused the MWP and LIA are not in play at present. The present climate changes are significantly greater, faster and more global than the MWP and LIA. The magnitude of the LIA and MWP give an indication of climate sensitivity which helps constrain the projected warming from the higher CO2 levels.

    On a completely unrelated note, I kinda doubt Peter Jackson, the director of LOTR and King Kong has any deep political or mythic message in his films. His first 3 films were ‘Bad Taste’, ‘Meet the Feebles’ and the best – ‘Braindead’. Very good, very funny, but not exactly loaded with philosophical significance!

    Spot on re Peter Jackson. Re AGW, sorry I haven’t had time to address your involved posts as they deserve. I’ve had some sleepless nights with the bub – Oz

  19. Luton Ian says:

    Generally OT

    Gunwalker Scandal;
    Firehand has an excellent roundup posted, seems the news is coming out “fast and furious”.

  20. Luton Ian says:

    an interesting interpretation of Tolkein’s messages in the Lord of The Rings trilogy here, based on his collected letters

    Much of that article is quite correct, Ian, but also Tolkien’s words are hijacked in places to make points he did not intend. I could bore you all for days on end going on about this. And one day I just might – Oz 😉

  21. Dr. Dave says:


    I have to agree with you. I’ve probably read LOTR over a dozen times in my life. EVERY time I pick up on some little nuance I seemed to have missed before. But no re-reading matches the awe and wonderment, the sheer “magic” as the first time I read them at age 16. I bought the DVDs as the movies came out. For the most part I was sorely disappointed. I thought the Hobbits were poorly cast. Many effects were great, but Jackson changed too much of the story. I would sit there watching and mumbling, “that’s not how it REALLY happened!”

    In the movies they eliminated entire sections of the book (e.g. the Old Forest, the fate of Saruman, the Scouring of the Shire, etc). They rewrote entire portions of the story…some of it for time, some for political correctness. But in the end they made a “Hollywood” movie that made a lot of money but destroyed a timeless tale. Too many kids won’t bother to read those books now that they’ve “seen the movie”. Pity…they’ll never experienced the story in their own minds.

    Christopher Lee as Saruman was magnificent – the best performance of the lot. He was a personal friend of Tolkien and still reads LOTR once a year. Which made me even madder when they “disappeared” his character halfway through the film. Sir Ian McKellen and Sir Ian Holm as Gandalf and Bilbo were also brilliant, they got the charaterizations dead on. Sean Bean’s Boromir and Sean Astin’s Samwise were pretty good. In fact it’s some of the Australian cast I didn’t like; David Wenham’s Faramir was a bit of a ponce; John Noble reduced Denethor to a twitching paranoid, and Cate Blanchett… don’t get me started about Cate Blanchett! Cate Blanchett warped Galadriel into a husky-voiced fairy princess… I kept looking for a magic wand with a sparkly star glued to the top. And casting eighteen-year-old Elijah Wood as the fifty-year-old Frodo was ridiculous; it made a mockery of the plot and much of the dialogue. In the book, Meriadoc among the hobbits was equal in maturity almost to Frodo, but the film made him a cross-eyed dimwit. urggghh.

    I had better leave it at that, or else this page will take forever to load – Oz 👿

  22. Kitler says:

    Was Frodo walking rings into Mordor?

  23. Kitler says:

    I actually prefer the Silmarillion and the Unfinished tales over LOTR and it is a great shame Tolkien never finished most of what was supposed to be his Great work, Turin Turambar ends half way through at Gondolin and it would take a genius to copy Tolkien’s style and stick to his notes as to plot. There are about 3 or 5 movies in the Silmarillion alone or 5 season TV show.

    Unfinished Tales is probably my favourite Tolkien work, and makes me wish he really did live to eleventy-one! Aldarion and Erendis particularly. The Silmarillion is generally regarded as more a work of Christopher Tolkien than his father; he précised much of J.R.R’s original texts, as a comparison with Unfinished Tales demonstrates well. You’re right, they could make about two dozen feature films out of that material and still have audiences wanting more.

    If you really want to get into his older stuff, try The Book of Lost Tales (generally sold as a two-volume set) – Oz

  24. farmerbraun says:

    Farmerbraun is very comfortable with the fact that he has never seen a Peter Jackson “movie”, and is unlikely ever to do so. Having read the Hobbit at about age 9, and LOTR at 13, he is very happy to be able to keep the unspoiled impressions that he gained of those works.
    It sounds stuffy , eh, but farmerbraun averages about 6 movie viewings per year. One may as well watch the good ones; they are rarely blockbusters.

    Understand perfectly FB. You’re quite right to keep it that way. So I will tell you that the Kiwi cast of LOTR (in particular Karl Urban as Eomer) acquitted themselves extremely well. And the scenery was jaw-dropping – Oz

  25. farmerbraun says:

    Izen, thanks for your comprehensive reply to farmerbraun’s questions about LIA and subsequent warming. It seems that a general increase in volcanism, associated with some reduced solar activity, could be a very uncomfortable prospect for many; clearly there are some advantages to living on some very shaky rocks currently uplifting along a ridge between the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean, particularly in terms of the moderating effect of a very large oceanic expanse.
    It being now 12 hours past the winter solstice, farmerbraun is very impressed with the current stasis/cooling which has resulted in shorts/T-shirt weather up to this point in time, while being aware that as the days lengthen, the cold strengthens.
    But the news reports this morning included mention of food parcels and employer luncheons for the ski- field workers who have nothing to work on; a 20 year event apparently (sort of like yesterday really, or more accurately, a couple of seconds ago, geologically speaking).
    Farmerbraun has enjoyed “unprecedented” (in his 35 yr. experience of N.Z. dairying) autumn/ early winter grass growth. Copious milk flow has resulted.
    This cycle of the PDO has certainly been a wonderful thing on a dryland farm. No wonder that farmerbraun recalls his Grandfather Leamy happily whistling his way back from the cowshed in the summer evenings of the 1950s.

  26. Kitler says:

    I did come across this article as to why volcanism appears to come in cycles….
    Now my astrophysics is really rusty so feel free to pick holes in it and I’m fence sitting on this one.

    As for LOTR I thought Hugo Weaving played an excellent Agent Smith in Rivendell. Liv Tyler was there for the eye candy as Arwen.
    However the one point or rather two that upset me the most about Hobbits and Elves were the pointy ears.

  27. izen says:

    Kitler says:
    June 22, 2011 at 4:45 pm
    “I did come across this article as to why volcanism appears to come in cycles….
    Now my astrophysics is really rusty so feel free to pick holes in it and I’m fence sitting on this one.”

    I am extremely dubious about such claims for even a corellation between volcanic activity and the planetry positions. Attributing the cause to movement of the baryocenter, the virtual axis of rotation for the solar system which will influence the tidal forces on the Sun and the Earth is highly speculative. The same arguement is used to attribute other climate ‘cycles’ to this barycenter variation.
    The problem is that you are trying to find a match between a long cycle (~179 years for the solar barycenter) and what to most people appears to be a chaotic, a-periodic series in volcanic eruptions. The eruptions do follow a power law, the greater the ferocity the greater the average time between them, but I have seen no credible evidence that they follow ANY regular cycle. There is always a danger given a regular cycle and chaotic or random data that SOME sort of corellation can be found. Tammino of ‘Open Mind’ has labeled this ‘mathturbation’ and it is a favourite technique of conspiracy theorists or cranks everywhere.

    The claim that volcanic activity has recently increased is also suspect, it depends very much on how and over what timescale you measure. This site gives a good summary of the recent eruptions –

    See figure 6 about half-way down the page.
    It also explains why it is tropical volcanoes that have the big climate impact, and what impact a mega-eruption like Yellowstone would have.

    One aspect of that which I find of concern, while the sulphur and dust/lava releases from a VEI8 mega-eruption like Yellowstone would cool the planet by around 5degC for a decade, and certainly disrupt human civilization (or at least wipe the US of the map!) the sulphur and dust would have a relatively short impact. It might be thought that the CO2 released from a mega-eruption of Yellowstone would have a climate influence, but best estimates put the CO2 release from Yellowstone as about the same as a year of human CO2 emissions. It puts into perspective just what magnitude the human addition of CO2 (and sulphur) is compared to major geological events.

    I tend to agree, invoking the planetary axis of rotation as an explanation of volcanism has the air about it of clutching at straws. The relationship between volcanism and climate, however, is understood far less well than the certitudinous pronouncements of climatologists would lead one to believe – Oz

  28. Luton Ian says:

    There probably is a very short term climatic/weather and possibly also tidal influence on when small earth quakes, and perhaps some volcanic eruptions occur, to the extent of a quake occurring in the rainy season, as groundwater levels rise, reducing the effective stress accross a fault which is already on the verge of movement, or a fumarole becoming active in the dry season as the lowering water table reduces confining pressure and allows de gassing.

    It is more of a triggering of an already imminant event, than a cause as my favourite animated geohazard will demonstrate:

    Izen, can I steal the “Mathturbation” label?, even if the vid maintained decorum, by missing a certain island state of its map of Australia…

    Murray Rothbard referred to the illness which is claimed to follow too much mathturbation as “quantiphrenia”

  29. Amanda says:

    Hello chaps.

    I read TLOTR when I was… 36, I think. Before seeing the first film (which I thought amazing, but the book is a literary marvel undimmed by the cinema). I had one real criticism, which is this: the adult characters lack real eros. To be a work suitable for adults as well as youngsters — and I know it began as tales for his children, as well as a way to work out some of his linguistic fancies — to be a work of the highest rank, it would have to have this element. And that element is conspicuously lacking. Whereas it is certainly present in for example Sir Walter Scott, who was certainly no merchant of salaciousness. Ivanhoe gives a glimpse of what LOTR could have been if Tolkein had lifted his sights to a more mature, but still receptive, audience.

  30. Tucci says:

    This continuing OT noise about Tolkien and his Lord of the Rings Middle-earth writings give me cause to observe that like most of the “hard” science fiction fen of my acquaintance, I consider Tolkien’s stories so thoroughly contrary to what is known about human nature by way of recorded history and so abjectly Luddite in its demonstration of the author’s anti-technological bigotry that they’re simply intolerable.

    The worst thing for me about LotR and the rest of Tolkien’s fiction is the gormlessness of the writer’s logistics, both military and sociocultural. The sort of largely literate complex of interacting polities and races described in LotR could not be sustained over thousands of years of recorded and generally well-known history without any real advance in either technology or methodologies of government, commerce, and warfare.

    Especially warfare. What we see in LotR‘s War of the Ring is precisely the same “Scream and Leap” strategies and tactics as had been referred to by Tolkien as having taken place throughout the thousands of years preceding. The one exception (insofar as I’m aware) was the use of a crude demolition charge by Saruman’s troops to break into the Hornburg, the self-bottled defenders of which forgot one of Murphy’s Laws of War (“If you make it too tough for the enemy to get in, it’s probably gonna be too tough for you to get out”).

    Anybody who’s either a student of military history or a “hard” science fiction reader knows full well that where there’s widespread literacy enabling the prevalence of a time-binding capacity in the population, somebody is going to innovate en route to the battlefield, and the one constant on which you can count is that things are most definitely NOT going to be just precisely the same in war today as they were thousands and thousands of years in the “shining swords hack and slay!” past.

  31. Dr. Dave says:


    About a year ago when my mother died I had to go back to Michigan and spend about two weeks bottled up in my folks’ home with my sister and youngest niece. In the evenings they love to watch those insipid crime shows (CSI, NCIS, Bones, etc). I couldn’t keep my mouth shut and kept pointing out how wildly unrealistic and even impossible these shows were. My niece got pissed. She told me to just shut up and enjoy the story. This was nearly impossible because without the bullshit premise the stories were weak and rather dull.

    LOTR is loaded with what might be regarded as “bullshit premise”. Hell, they elves and dwarfs, orcs and trolls, ents and wizards. The whole story was about a magic ring for crying out loud. It’s a pity you could not ignore the premise and enjoy the story. The story is everything. An imaginary Middle Earth is merely the setting.

  32. Kitler says:

    Tucci I think maybe you miss the point he was writing in the style of things like Beowulf in which I may point out spent a week under water fighting a sea monster.
    However Tolkiens world seemed remarkably empty of villages, towns and everything else needed to support a city such as Minas Tirith. The enemy seemed better organized with vast fields tended by slaves at the sea of Nurn near Mordor to supply food.
    One thing that was odd was that in the Hobbit Bilbo and the Dwarves traveled from Inn to Inn along the road to Rivendell before they petered out, in the LOTR after Bree these ceased to exist.

  33. Kitler says:

    Also to point out the obvious if you could smelt iron then you could produce a heat and fire equivalent to Orodruin so the Elves must have been really effing with Frodo, I suppose when you are immortal you get really really bored.
    The only fantasy world that has tried to answer the logistics question is Terry Pratchett’s Discworld which for those of you which have not read them I recommend as it’s comic fantasy.

  34. Tucci says:

    Dr. Dave speaks about his disgust over those “police pornography” TV shows and goes on to suggest:

    LOTR is loaded with what might be regarded as “bullshit premise”. Hell, they elves and dwarfs, orcs and trolls, ents and wizards. The whole story was about a magic ring for crying out loud. It’s a pity you could not ignore the premise and enjoy the story. The story is everything. An imaginary Middle Earth is merely the setting.

    Nope. It’s the sucky logistics and the artificially crippled thinking – societies in medieval stasis – that gets to me. I can read fantasy, and enjoy it. Stuff by writer Rick Cook has proven entertaining, particularly his series of novels beginning with Wizard’s Bane. Then there are the collaborative works of L. Sprague de Camp and naval historian Fletcher Pratt – particularly The Incompleat Enchanter – and the continuing flow of “modern” fantasy fiction (from which I pointedly exclude Tolkien and the multitude of “quest” fantasy copycats) largely begun by John W. Campbell when he started the short-lived magazine Unknown, and continued in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction (F&SF). Practitioners in this line have included Fritz Leiber as well as some of the hardest of “hard” SF writers, such as Robert A. Heinlein (“Magic, Inc.”), Poul Anderson (Operation Chaos), and Larry Niven (“What Good is a Glass Dagger?”).

    Cook’s Wiz Zumwalt stories I’ve especially enjoyed, and it’s because he gets his logistics right.

    I don’t mind “elves and dwarfs, orcs and trolls, ents and wizards” as long as the author managing the plenum doesn’t try to push the preposterous idea that after thousands of years of history in which everybody knows the doings of everybody else and they live in Middle-earth just about cheek-by-jowl, there’s not hellacious cultural and technological cross-over as the result of commerce if nothing else.

    Gawd, the Harvard Lampoon parody Bored of the Rings (1969) was actually more logically consistent and congruent with what we know of the conduct of sapient entities.

    “Do you like what you doth see…?” said the voluptuous elf-maiden as she provocatively parted the folds of her robe to reveal the rounded, shadowy glories within. Frito’s throat was dry, though his head reeled with desire and ale.

    She slipped off the flimsy garment and strode toward the fascinated boggie unashamed of her nakedness. She ran a perfect hand along his hairy toes, and he helplessly watched them curl with the fierce insistent wanting of her.

    “Let me make thee more comfortable,” she whispered hoarsely, fiddling with the clasps of his jerkin, loosening his sword belt with a laugh. “Touch me, oh touch me,” she crooned.

    Frito’s hand, as though of its own will, reached out and traced the delicate swelling of her elf-breast, while the other slowly crept around her tiny, flawless waist, crushing her to his barrel chest.

    “Toes, I love hairy toes,” she moaned, forcing him down on the silvered carpet. Her tiny pink toes caressed the luxuriant fur of his instep while Frito’s nose sought out the warmth of her precious elf-navel.

    “But I’m so small and hairy, and…and you’re so beautiful,” Frito whimpered, slipping clumsily out of his crossed garters.

    The elf-maiden said nothing, but only sighed deep in her throat and held him more firmly to her faunlike body. “There is one thing you must do for me first,” she whispered into one tufted ear.

    “Anything,” sobbed Frito, growing frantic with his need. “Anything!”

    She closed her eyes and then opened them to the ceiling. “The Ring,” she said. “I must have your Ring.”

    Frito’s whole body tensed. “Oh no,” he cried, “not that! Anything but…that.”

    “I must have it,” she said both tenderly and fiercely. “I must have the Ring!”

    Frito’s eyes blurred with tears and confusion. “I can’t,” he said. “I musn’t!”

    But he knew resolve was no longer strong in him. Slowly, the elf-maiden’s hand inched toward the chain in his vest pocket, closer and closer it came to the Ring Frito had guarded so faithfully…

    ROTFL – I’ve read some pretty good send-ups of LOTR, and that’s right up there with them.

    I’m very fond of Tolkien; I read The Hobbit and LOTR as a child, while Tolkien was still alive. In 2003, I prepared a special batch of “fourteen-twenty” home brew to celebrate his eleventy-first birthday. So you could call me a hard-core fan. But I guess I don’t make as many demands of the writer as some people. And I’m not really bothered by the innumerable criticisms (some well-founded) that I’ve read of his works over the last few decades. To each his own – Oz

  35. Kitler says:

    New post….

    Now back to LOTR one thing every has missed is how did Melkor manage to affect the climate in middle earth in such a way that the Tundra zone was only a couple of hundred leagues North of Hobbiton where in our real world you would have to travel three or four times that distance. Consider this the Sun in ME never varies has no sunspots so exactly how does it stay so cold? The Northern Ocean appears to be open to currents from the South?

    Yes, if you want to go down that route, you can pick as many plot holes in LOTR as you like; the biggest one occurred at the Council of Elrond…

    Elrond: We must send the Ring to the Fire… and the Nine Walkers shall be set against the Nine Riders that are evil –
    Gandalf: What? Walk all the way to Mordor? Do you have any idea how far that is? Or perhaps you do, and that’s why you’re not offering to come yourself O Elrond the Wise, Master of Spin? Stuff that mate. Listen – Gwaihir and his air taxi brothers owe me a favour. Pass me your palantίr, Elrond, I’ll give him a call. We should be rid of this blasted Ring in, oh, three or four hours, tops.

    Etcetera. To do so is easy and fun. It also misses the point completely – Oz

  36. izen says:

    @- Kitler says:
    June 23, 2011 at 5:07 pm
    “Now back to LOTR one thing every has missed is how did Melkor manage to affect the climate in middle earth in such a way that the Tundra zone was only a couple of hundred leagues North of Hobbiton where in our real world you would have to travel three or four times that distance.”

    There is an easy solution to that one;
    altitude and the adiabatic lapse rate.
    On this world you can go from tropical jungle to frozen tundra in less than a hundred leagues, as long as a few of them are up. Think the Himalayan plateau, or the S American Equatorial coast to the Andes.

    But as Ozboy indicates, LOTR is not operating in a realistic universe it is explicitly a fantasy, mythic and symbolic realm. Applying real-world criteria of judgment is a category error…
    Personally I liked the films but have never read the book, it is one of the ‘page 13’ books, those that I never got further than page 12, they include Gilgamesh, Dune, Herman Hesse, Steppenwolf and a few others that were off-puttingly popular when I was devouring large amounts of hard SF. -grin-

  37. Kitler says:

    Ozboy since I can not add the link at work, trying going to youtube and type in “how LOTR should have ended”.
    Izen your theory about LOTR is wrong I have seen the map and it’s not a matter of altitude although there is a mountain range cutting it off from the southern hospitable zone.
    The snow men of Forachel bay tried to save the last king of Arnor from the witch King of Angmar.

    Ah yes, my thoughts exactly…

    The eagles in LOTR play the rôle of the ancient Greek dramatic device “deus ex machina”. To make it bleedingly obvious, he has them quite literally descend from the heavens. Anyone who can’t grasp that will be impervious to any higher explanation anyway – Oz

  38. Luton Ian says:

    which one?

    there are several.

  39. Ozboy says:

    The War of the Ring seems to have petered out…

    I’m flat out at the moment, but here’s a new thread, with a question posed for you all.

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