Upheaval in the Middle East

I viewed an alarmist video on you-tube, the clip promoted a book published in December 2016 by Dr. John Casey et al. titled Upheaval. The book suggests that sunspot cycles correlate with the onset of geological ice ages, and since a new cycle of sunspot proliferation is about to begin, so will a new ice age and a period of catastrophic earthquakes.

Dr. Casey minimizes the effect of greenhouse gases on global warming, and promotes a theory that climate change and earthquakes are caused in large part by solar hibernation, or periods of proliferation of sunspots. I will place these two mechanism in perspective.

I attended an ISSS conference in Denver, CO in 1992. A very knowledgeable speaker summarized current knowledge as being aware of about twenty mechanisms leading to global warming and twenty more leading to cooling, the scientists at the time just did not know which mechanisms will kick in and be active in contributing to climate change. I am sure some of my old friends at ISSS and ASC will remember the talk. I was impressed by this argument because it cited multiple factors or causes, it did not single out only one and sensationalized its effect. I believe this is the way modern science should be understood and presented to lay people. The speaker gave the audience good perspective and concluded that world climate will probably become less stable no matter which mechanism activates; sharper and deeper swings in temperature, wind and precipitation are to be expected in all cases.

Greenhouse gases and solar activity are behind two mechanisms with different effects. The believers in global warming due to greenhouse gases greatly outnumber the solar activity activists. Among many observations, global warming activists point out to the fact that 18 out of 19 warmest years on record happened since 1998. Perhaps the most catastrophic global warming effect is sea level rising which threatens to drown many low lying areas of the world. Alexandria, Egypt is threatened but most of the surface area of the smaller gulf states is not threatened by the 5-6 metres rise. Other Gulf areas with higher vulnerability include the city of Basrah in Iraq and much of the province of Khuzistan in Iran. Another greenhouse catastrophe with Middle Eastern manifestation is the recent rain and floods. The floods of 2019 in Iran and Iraq were devastating, as well as in Kuwait and in the UAE.

A convincing greenhouse effect activist is David Wallace-Wells, who published a widely read article in the July 2017 issue of the New York Magazine. High among the catastrophes is the melting of permafrost layer and the addition of methane gas to the atmosphere. Wallace-Wells explained the destabilizing effect of global warming, where warming can accelerate due to multiple factors. In particular for the Middle East, the article cites some speculators who think that “the elevated level of strife across the Middle East over the past generation reflects the pressures of global warming” and “in 2015 the heat index registered temperatures as high as 163 degrees Fahrenheit (72 C ?).” And “As soon as several decades from now, the hajj will become physically impossible for the 2 million Muslims who make the pilgrimage each year.”

However, climate cooling due to solar activity is a different mechanism. The proliferation of sun spots in cycles means solar radiation on earth will also diminish. Less sun rays means colder climate, that makes sense. And the reliability of sunspots is fairly established from millennia of geological observations, therefore we are pretty sure that sunspots will come on time and cause the surface of the earth to cool, and shrinkage of the earth crust due to cooling could cause earthquakes along fault lines. This line of logical thinking, the ice age mechanism, does not negate the global warming mechanism and begs the question: What if both mechanisms kick in at the same time? The two Godzillas, global warming against ice age. I think their interaction will be complex; the effect of warming and cooling may not always cancel out.

My speculation will be based on the thermal dynamics of earth surface; slow changing parts with large mass, such as the world oceans, permafrost layer and arctic/antarctic ice caps, will cancel out as the small jolts of temperature rises accumulate. But fast atmospheric phenomena will act separately and continue destabilizing. I am not a specialist and I haven’t red all the literature; I have no fear of being proved wrong in predicting world climate. I just want to contribute my penny’s worth. So, I am predicting a reprieve from sea level rising and slower depletion of permafrost, but I think precipitation, temperature swings and floods will increase on a global scale.

As far as the Middle East goes, with increasing precipitation I think the scenario of blooming deserts will become feasible. The higher precipitation and availability of water may temper the dryness and swing of temperature, a more moderate desert climate fit for agriculture may not be far fetched. Earthquakes may increase but the fault line where quakes are most likely to strike passes through south east Iran and eastern Turkey, it will largely miss the gulf states and the rest of the Middle East and North Africa.

The political consequences of such changes may be even more speculative and colorful, could it be that we will see reverse immigration of Europeans and North Americans back to the Middle East? Surprises happen.

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