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February 03, 2012

Big Myths, Mini Ice Age

Climate deniers can't get their stories straight. They'll say the world is warming, but it's not due to human activity. Then they'll say the world is cooling. Or rather, it was warming but now it's cooling, so don't worry.

Meanwhile, scientists continue to use ... science! to explain our planet's climate. For example, this week a study was released that sheds light on the Little Ice Age that took place centuries ago. Namely, that this cold period happened because of four violent volcanic eruptions. The ice age lasted centuries because the eruptions probably triggered a lasting chain reaction in the ocean currents, "affecting sea ice and ocean currents in a way that lowered temperatures for centuries," says the study's co-author.

Previously, scientists thought a drastic drop in solar activity played a role in causing this cold era. But "this study showed that even if the Sun were less active, and therefore not warming the Earth as much, it would have had little effect," writes science blogger Phil Plait. The Little Ice Age ended with the commencement of the Industrial Revolution in the 18th century.

The point here is that scientists use data and evidence to draw conclusions. Not talking points. And the consensus says that the planet is warming at an unnatural rate because of human activity.

Unfortunately, some in the media in recent weeks have perpetuated the myth of an upcoming mini-ice age even though no one in the science community is making such predictions. The above video, by Peter Sinclair of the "Climate Crocks of the Week" YouTube series, showcases the perfect example of cable news gone awry with distortions and fabrications. Sinclair in the video then tracks down and interviews an actual scientist, something some media outlets rarely take the time to do.

-- Brian Foley

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