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A Brief History of Climate Change in the Arctic
White, J.W.C., Alley,R.B., Brigham-Grette, J., Fitzpatrick, J.J., Jennings, A.E., Johnsen, S.J., Miller, G.H., Nerem, R.S. and Polyak, L. 2010. Past rates of climate change in the Arctic. Quaternary Science Reviews 29: 1716-1727.

A long succession of climate models has consistently suggested that anthropogenic-induced global warming should be significantly amplified in earth's polar regions and, therefore, that the first signs of man's expected impact on the world's weather should be manifest in that part of the planet; or as Donella Meadows (2001) has described it, "the place to watch for global warming -- the sensitive point, the canary in the coal mine -- is the Arctic." So let's see what those who have looked for human-induced warming in the Arctic have found there.

What was done
Going to one of the most recent and substantial of such efforts, we encounter the paper of White et al. (2010), who produced a comprehensive review -- and thoughtful analysis -- of past climate change in earth's north polar region, which was published in Quaternary Science Reviews.

What was learned
The nine researchers begin by describing how "processes linked with continental drift have affected atmospheric circulation, ocean currents, and the composition of the atmosphere over tens of millions of years," and that "a global cooling trend over the last 60 million years has altered conditions near sea level in the Arctic from ice-free year-round to completely ice covered." They also report that "variations in arctic insolation over tens of thousands of years in response to orbital forcing have caused regular cycles of warming and cooling that were roughly half the size of the continental-drift-linked changes," and that, in turn, this glacial-interglacial cycling "was punctuated by abrupt millennial oscillations, which near the North Atlantic were roughly half as large as the glacial-interglacial cycles." Last of all, they note that "the current interglacial, the Holocene, has been influenced by brief cooling events from single volcanic eruptions, slower but longer lasting changes from random fluctuations in the frequency of volcanic eruptions, from weak solar variability, and perhaps by other classes of events."

What it means
In comparing the vast array of past climate changes in the Arctic with what climate alarmists claim to be the "unprecedented" anthropogenic-induced warming of the past several decades, White et al. conclude that "thus far, human influence does not stand out relative to other, natural causes of climate change." In fact, they state that the data "clearly show" that "strong natural variability has been characteristic of the Arctic at all time scales considered," and they reiterate that the data suggest "that the human influence on rate and size of climate change thus far does not stand out strongly from other causes of climate change."

Meadows, D.H. 2001. Polar bears and 3-year-olds on thin ice. AlterNet.org. Posted 6 February 2001.

Reviewed 1 December 2010