Digital Diatribes

A presentation of data on climate and other stuff

Archive for the ‘Magnetic Shield’ Category

Fun With Geomagnetism

Posted by The Diatribe Guy on January 6, 2009

One of the things I have been curious about is the impact of the earth’s magnetic shield on climate. According to some charts I have seen (Jose, Landscheidt) there appears to be some correlation with a lower intensity in the magnetic field around earth (geomagnetism) and the occurrence of ice ages in reaction to solar minimums. I admit to not having thought too much more about it than a couple of charts I’ve seen, so I’m not intending here to suggest that I understand that correlation, or even whether or not I fully understood those charts. As time allows, I’ll get back into that.

But that discussion is not really the point of this post. And I’ll state right away that there is no particular conclusion that I’m trying to draw here. But I messed around with some data, so why not post about it?

For some time, I had been intending to look more into the decay rate of the earth’s geomagnetic field, if for no other reason than I’ve heard about these potential reversals. While I heard a lot about the fact that the earth’s field has been decaying for at least 150 years now, and that the last reversal was about 750,000 years ago, I had no idea of what the actual numbers were. Is it a constant decay? Is it accelerating? What’s up with the whole magnetism thing, anyway?

At this point, I won’t go into the things I’ve read about the potential effects of geomagnetic reversals. Nor will I go into the historical record in the lava flows that track these reversals. Nor will I go into the elements in soil deposits that coincide with extinction events that coincide with such reversals. I’m just going to play with data.

In digging around for data, I came across this resource which allows you to pull annual averages from myriad geomagnetic observatories. It makes sense that there is no global average, since, the magnetism intensity is much stronger at the poles. So, in order to do a major study, I’d have to waste some serious time and need a lot of rationalization with my wife to embark on such a thing. So, once I realized that a really large, scientific, study was out the window for the moment, I decided to be far less statistically correct, and just look at what’s been measured in Boulder, Colorado. As we all know, Boulder is the summation of all goodness and light, so it seems a reasonable proxy for the whole world. (Yes, I’m joking.)

The Boulder data starts in 1965 and continues through to 2006. The 1965 average overall intensity was 56,057. The 2006 average intensity was 53,330.

As tempting as it may be to straight-line this, it’s really no fun at all to take such a simple approach. Plus, it isn’t accurate. In playing with the numbers, it was apparent that the drop from year to year has generally accelerated. Here’s a chart of the geomagnetic intensity in Boulder:


Geomagnetic decline in Boulder looks like a training ski slope...

Read the rest of this entry »


Posted in Cycles, Earth, Geomagnetism, Magnetic Shield, Science | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

In Like A Lion…

Posted by The Diatribe Guy on February 28, 2007

I can only hope the old adage that March entering like a Lion means it will end like a Lamb holds this year.  As I type this, the advent of another winter storm is upon us.  This last weekend we received well over a foot of snow with drifting.  Someone told me we received 21 inches.  I have my doubts about that number, but I’ll buy 14-16 inches.  And now, we are told, the next 2-3 days could bring us at least as much if we get the fluffy stuff, or “only” 6-10 inches if we get the heavier version.

It is winter in Wisconsin, my friends.  This precipitation is on the heels of 2-3 weeks of sub-zero weather.  And each year, I ask myself why I’m here.  I know the answer, of course.  It’s family ties, work, friends, and the beautiful summers.   Yet, I go through the mental questionnaire each year in order to convince myself that these things are worth it.

This is reminding me of the old days.  When I was in my youth, we had many winters I can remember where we had mucho snowfall and frigid temperatures.  As the years have gone by, we still get them, but it doesn’t seem like we get them as often as we did back then.  What I find amusing now, though, is that winter weather is such a huge story. 

I know, I know.  The earth is warming and we’re all doomed.  I’ve noted my skepticism on this point before, and I’m still debating whether or not I want to start turning this into a science blog.  I’ve contemplated the arguments in favor of and against the hypothesis of global warming, along with the critical question of humanity’s influence on it.  In order to present a cogent argument on the topic, I would need to dedicate numerous posts and myriad hours to it.  Since I’m a lazy oof who is more interested in posting an opinion with minimal work, that is not in the immediate plan.  I’ll let you know when I decide to start my thesis.

But nonetheless, I have some general observations.  You see, over the last couple decades I hear that global warming has provided us with milder winters.  That may even be true, for all I know.  I do seem to remember more snow and blizzards when I was a kid.  On the other hand, I was a lot shorter then, and 6 inches of snow probably seemed a whole lot more impressive than it does now.

The other thing is, I can’t recall a single winter that hasn’t had freezing temperatures in at least one significant stretch.  Since I haven’t kept a record of it myself, it’s entirely possible that this has happened, but I can’t recall it being the case.  And I’m just not sure if cold weather without snow instead of cold weather with snow means anything other than it snows in some years more than in other years. 

But now, we have a storm.  And now we need to figure out how in the world it could be snowing in Wisconsin at this time of the year.  I’m serious about this.  I’ve now been told that, for some reason, this is considered something that’s newsworthy.  And I think I have it all figured out.  See if you can follow this:  Thirty years ago we were headed for an ice age.  The earth ignored the industrial age and decided to cool off anyway.  In 1974, Time Magazine laid out the convincing evidence and the scientific consensus that certain places in the world were covered with ice.  In those days, it snowed a lot, and it was cold.  This all makes perfect sense, because that’s what you would expect in an ice age.

Somewhere between 1979 (when Newsweek was still promoting the theory of an ice age) and 1989, we learned that this cooling reversed.  Hooray!   We were not going to be plummeted into an ice age after all, and we’d all be saved.  Except that this meant that temperatures were now increasing.   Not that I’m suggesting mankind to be innately pessimistic, it seems that we all decided this can’t be a good thing, either.  Just when we thought we were out of the woods, we took a wrong turn and were deeper in the brush than ever before.  I blame it on the end of the Cold War, personally.

And in many ways, it appeared that there was warming.  Not as much snow seemed to indicate that.  And the cold snaps, we all learned, can be expected because for some reason warming the planet creates variations that can lead to cold temperatures.  It’s all very confusing for the novice, but we can trust the science, I’m sure.

So, now I’m seeing both cold snaps and a lot of snow.  Not only, I am told, is this within the realm of possibility with global warming, but now this is an indication of the dangers of climate change.  Look at these storms!  They are causing problems: high winds, electrical outages possible, a foot or more of snow.  If we don’t do something, this may happen more often.  Just like the old days.  Except then, it wasn’t a big deal because the earth wasn’t warming.  But now it is a big deal.  See the difference?

Admittedly, I’m having a little fun with this whole thing.  The recently released report that tells us there is a consensus on global warming (even though every time I try and find scientists who don’t agree, I manage to find them without much of a problem) has made this a “hot” topic, lately. 

 I will say this much, it does seem to be a pretty solid consensus that there have been increases in temperature in some parts of the globe over the last 50 or so years.  Many will even concede that a slight trend started in the mid-1700s (which doesn’t really help the anthropologic element to it).   But it is not consistent across the globe, and in fact by some measures it is not true at all in most of the Southern Hemisphere.  Which kind of diminishes the “global” element to it.  But even if we say that there is some warming, that empirical element is about as far as any consensus goes in the matter.  I guess it’s in how you define consensus.  And then there’s the less obvious question about how trustworthy any consensus is at all.

So, let me tell you the goofy place I’m coming from.  I’m still reading and researching the matter, but I think we’re missing the huge picture, and I am guessing we’ll never actually see it.  It all has to do with electromagnetism.  The Sun, the Earth, the Solar System, the Galaxy – all magnets.  All have poles.  All interact.   I won’t get into this now, and if you’ve never really read into this, it may not make any sense at all why the magnetic energy of all these things matters at all.  The fact is, it is a huge unknown, and there is a lot of speculation about the impacts of changes/reversals in the magnetic shield of the earth.   The reason it’s speculation is because nobody was around the last time a major change happened.  There is evidence that this will happen in our lifetimes, and some day I’ll get into why I think that’s the case, and why the interaction of all these things is behind any climate change we see, whether it’s warming or cooling.

Either that, or I’m a complete nutjob.  That’s entirely possible as well.  The scary thing is, the more snowed in we get, the more time I’ll have to sit around and think of things like this.

Posted in Climate Change, Global Warming, Magnetic Shield, Snow, Weather, Winter, Wisconsin | Leave a Comment »