Bad news for climate modelers

Chronological Encyclopedia of Discoveries in Space cover

After being in print for twenty years, the Chronological Encyclopedia of Discoveries in Space, covering everything that was learned on every single space mission in the 20th century, has finally gone out of print.

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"The Chronological Encylopedia of Discoveries in Space is no passionless compendium of information. Robert Zimmerman's fact-filled reports, which cover virtually every spacecraft or probe to have ventured into the heavens, relate the scientific and technical adventure of space exploration enthusiastically and with authority." -- American Scientist

A new analysis of the orbits of Ceres and Vesta says that in a surprisingly short time those orbits become chaotic and therefore unpredictable. More significantly, those orbits interact with the Earth’s and also make its long term orbit chaotic and unpredictable. From the abstract:

Although small, Ceres and Vesta gravitationally interact together and with the other planets of the Solar System. Because of these interactions, they are continuously pulled or pushed slightly out of their initial orbit. Calculations show that, after some time, these effects do not average out. Consequently, the bodies leave their initial orbits and, more importantly, their orbits are chaotic, meaning that we cannot predict their positions. The two bodies also have a significant probability of impacting each other, estimated at 0.2% per billion year. Last but not least, Ceres and Vesta gravitationally interact with the Earth, whose orbit also becomes unpredictable after only 60 million years. This means that the Earth’s eccentricity, which affects the large climatic variations on its surface, cannot be traced back more than 60 million years ago. This is indeed bad news for Paleoclimate studies. [emphasis mine]

The scientists found that it became impossible to calculate the orbits of the two largest asteroids after only several ten thousand years. They also found that “numerous asteroids in the main belt will behave in the same way with . . . much more chaotic behavior than previously thought.” Worse, the possibility of collisions was far higher than ever thought. Ceres and Vesta have a 1 in 500 chance of colliding with each other every billion years, while other asteroids have chances as low as 1 in 1000.

The importance of this discovery, which still needs to be confirmed by other researchers, cannot be understated.

If true, it means that no climate model can ever successfully track the subtle fluctuations of the Earth’s orbit farther back than 60 million years. It had been believed from previous calculations that the ice ages before that time were caused by these orbital fluctuations. As the eccentricity and obliquity of the Earth’s orbit shifted slowly over time, the changes either combined or neutralized each other to cause the Earth to get less or more sunlight, thus producing ice ages at certain times. This new analysis says that this theory, while possibly true, can never be proven by orbital calculation.

You can read the full paper here.


One comment

  • jwing

    Throw away all that gravitational mumbo-jumbo, AlGore has spoken and the consensu of like-minded followers is that the earth’s climate is man-made and due solely to the internal combustion engine and the buring of coal, oil and natural gas. Why can’t we realize it is the trace gas, carbon dioxide, the by-product of man’s combustion over the past 100 years as well as all metabloic aerobic respiration of life that makes the earth heat up. Just forget about the billions of years of planetary, solar and extra-galaxy bodies influence on earth’s climate too for AlGore has spoken. So it be written…so it be done.

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