Scientists have lots of theories about what causes and controls the variations in temperature that we refer to as glacial maximums and minimums.  The scientific consensus is that the globe has been warming for about 20,000 years as a result of one or more of a bunch of different theoretical causes.  And none of those theories has anything to do with increases in carbon dioxide.  In fact, in the NOAA data for the last several hundred thousand years, CO2 levels have lagged behind increases in temperature.  That is, temperature increases are followed by increases in CO2!  If that isn’t crazy enough the scientific consensus has suddenly determined that as of 50 to 100 years ago all those theories about the last 350,000 years are no longer relevant.  Now there is only one cause of global warming – CO2!  And – strangely – oddly – weirdly – the scientific consensus changed magically at the same time that it became a political issue.  You know all the government spending in the world can’t change the tilt of the earth’s axis or the magnetosphere or the flux of cosmic rays hitting the earth.  But it can spend money on CO2.  Hmmm…


Precession is a phenomenon that is easy to explain to anyone who has seen the operation of a child’s spinning top and difficult to explain to most others.  Basically, the earth’s axis today points very closely toward Polaris (AKA the North Star).  This is not always so.  If you could hang around for 26,000 years and you plotted very carefully the point in the sky that did not seem to move during the night you would see that that point would move around in the sky in a circular path and return to Polaris at the end of the 26,000 years.  Plotting that path would not be easy because it doesn’t always point in the direction of a star visible to the naked eye.  In fact, you might consider that mankind has been “blessed” because during the time of  mankind’s advancement to the point of being able to navigate by the stars, Polaris has been in a position to make it possible.

What does this have to do with ice ages?  Precession causes the tilt of the earth’s axis relative to the sun to vary between 22.5 degrees and 24 degrees over a 40,000-year period.  This has been linked to the cyclical changes we call the ice ages.  Currently, the axis is tilted at 23.5 degrees relative to the sun.  This is probably the most solid of the theories about the ice ages.


Experiments at CERN in Europe have demonstrated that cosmic rays from the sun can affect the formation of clouds in the earth’s atmosphere.  CERN has built a pristinely clean stainless steel chamber that precisely recreates the Earth’s atmosphere.  In this stainless steel chamber, 63 CERN scientists from 17 European and American institutes have demonstrated that cosmic rays promote the formation of molecules that in Earth’s atmosphere can grow and seed clouds.  More clouds increase global cooling.

Ice ages could be caused by changes in the flux of cosmic rays hitting the Earth according to three physicists.  Jasper Kirkby of CERN, Augusto Mangini of the University of Heidelberg and Richard Muller of the University of California at Berkeley suggest that solar cosmic rays exert their influence through their effect on clouds. Variations in solar output occur in both cycles of which we are aware and cycles totally unknown to us.  This challenges the established insolation theory of glacial cycles.

But cosmic rays do not only come from the sun.  A study of astronomical and geological data reveals that cosmic ray electrons and electromagnetic radiation from an outburst in our own Galactic core, impacted our Solar System near the end of the last glacial maximum. This cosmic ray event spanned a period of several thousand years and climaxed around 14,200 years ago. It was able to substantially affect the Earth’s climate.

The effects on the Sun and on the Earth’s climate were not due to the Galactic cosmic rays themselves, but to the cosmic dust that these cosmic rays transported into the Solar System. Observations have shown that the Solar System is presently immersed in a dense cloud of cosmic dust, material that is normally kept at bay by the outward pressure of the solar wind. But with the arrival of this Galactic cosmic ray volley, the solar wind was overpowered and large quantities of this material were pushed inward. The Sun was enveloped in a cocoon of dust that caused its spectrum to shift toward the infrared. In addition, the dust grains filling the Solar System scattered radiation back to the Earth, producing an “interplanetary hothouse effect” that substantially increased the influx of solar radiation to the Earth and would explain global warming of the other planets.”


Clathrates are a class of compound that consists of a cage of molecules that can trap gases, such as methane, in a solid form. For methane, the most important “cage” is one that is made of water molecules, and so is described sometimes as a hydrate. Some key facts about clathrates make them particularly interesting to climatologists. First, they may make up a significant portion of total fossil carbon reserves, including coal and oil. Current best guesses suggest that maybe 500 to 2000 gigatonnes of carbon may be stored as methane clathrates (5-20% of total estimated reserves). Some estimates are as high as 10,000 gigatonnes.

Clathrates occur mainly on the continental shelf where the water is relatively cold.  The theory holds that they act as an automatic controller that limits the amount of warming during the glacial minimums and limits the amount of cooling during the glacial maximums.  First, methane is a far more powerful greenhouse gas than CO2.   During warm periods when global continental ice has melted and sea levels have risen, the pressure increases on the Clathrates and that decreases the amount of methane gas released into the atmosphere.  This causes the planet to begin to cool.  As the planet cools more and more water is deposited as ice on the land masses and this lowers the sea level.  That, in turn, lowers the pressure on the clathrates.  The lowering pressure increases the amount of methane released to the atmosphere and that eventually reverses the cooling process.


The sun controls the amount of cosmic rays that reach the earth.  However, once those cosmic rays reach earth the cloud making ability of those rays is affected by the earth’s magnetic field.  Known as the magnetosphere, it shields us from these energetic subatomic particles.  Cosmic rays have effects apart from cloud making which are quite negative.  The stronger the earth’s magnetic field, the greater the protection.  The weaker the field, the less the amount of protection that is provided.

Prior to previous geomagnetic reversals, the earth’s magnetic field strength declined to about 15 percent of normal before suddenly reversing. During the reversal, scientists believe that magnetic field strength dropped to zero, thus disabling our protective  shield.  With no shield, huge amounts of cosmic rays would have rained down on our planet, thereby seeding the clouds (just as CERN suggests), leading to vast amounts of precipitation, cooler temperatures, and thence to an ice age.  The earth’s magnetic field strength has declined by about two thirds during the past 2,000 years. Unfortunately, the rate of decline is picking up: Magnetic field strength has declined about five percent in the past 100 years alone.

There are other theories related to the causes of the glacial maximums and minimums, but these are the ones with which I am most familiar.

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