Discover more from Diane Francis
The Big Heat
August 3, 2023
Smoke choked New York City for days caused by Canadian forest fires, then a heat wave followed everywhere, fuelling alarmist, “Armageddon” headlines about global warming. UN Secretary-General António Guterres said if July is a harbinger of what lies ahead, there is not a moment to waste. “The evidence is everywhere: Humanity has unleashed destruction. This must not inspire despair, but action.” Hysteria aside, extreme weather events throughout history — from ice ages to heat waves -- have been triggered by non-human volcanic or orbital activities. And this year is no exception. In March, scientific journal Eos revealed that this summer’s heat, are the result of a gigantic underwater volcanic eruption in January near the tiny Pacific Island of Tonga. Scientists estimate this explosion alone will be a major contributor to an increase in global temperatures for the next five years. Coverage on this was scant, as is the fact that there are at least one million underwater volcanos, and other natural phenomena, that greatly affect climate and always have. Political hysteria isn’t helpful. Humanity is to blame to a certain extent, but Mother Nature is mostly in charge.
On January 15, the volcano exploded, flattening buildings and killing four people in Tonga and two in Peru, thousands of miles away. It sent waves rippling throughout the Earth’s oceans and atmosphere, causing tsunamis, windstorms, and injuries around the world. Worse, the top of the volcano was just beneath the ocean’s surface and, as a result, also spewed a massive plume of water, along with sulfur-rich aerosole particles, into “outer space” 58 kilometers above the Earth’s surface. These materials will remain in Earth’s stratosphere for an indefinite time, and added 10 percent to the amount of water vapor that’s already there.
This is significant because gigantic volcanoes usually spew ash and sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere — which blocks sunlight for months or even years and causes temperatures to drop. But Tonga’s water vapor will remain for years, blanketing the Earth and raising temperatures by preventing heat from escaping. “Though seemingly innocuous, water vapor is the planet’s most common greenhouse gas. Whereas volcanic sulfates commonly block sunlight from reaching Earth, water vapor keeps it from leaving,” wrote Eos.
This volcano is part of a “volcanic arc”, formed by the shift in tectonic plates, and extends 1,600 miles from New Zealand to Fiji. The “trench” sits above one of the world’s most active seismic zones and there are hundreds of trenches globally where an estimated one million volcanoes lie. Most are dormant, but nobody knows the number or the potential for future activity because they are not monitored. However, these underwater volcanoes constantly spew hot lava without detection, contributing to temporary increases in ocean and air temperatures around the world. Their lava, or magma, escapes from the planet’s molten inner core (hotter than the melting point of iron) and eruptions can cause droughts or spontaneous forest fires around the world. For example, a similar volcanic event occurred in 2019, off Australia’s coast, and triggered a heat wave that resulted in disastrous forest fires in that country for months.
Volcanoes, this size or bigger, have changed the course of history by causing famines or floods and migrations of people or animals. This one will be no exception. It’s a whopper, noted Eco’s report, and its thermal effects are so significant that they have already sparked UN hysteria. “The Earth’s average temperature is teetering on the edge of surpassing its preindustrial level by 1.5°C — the target set by the United Nations in the 2016 Paris Agreement. In May 2022, the World Meteorological Organization announced there was a 50 percent chance of exceeding the 1.5°C threshold [sooner than 2100] over the next 5 years.”
The Tonga eruption may add up to 7 percent more to the possibility of exceeding the target, then its effect will dissipate. Even so, there will be a flood of headlines, doomsaying, and spate of proposals to enact ineffective remedies at great cost to economies and individuals. For instance, the New York forest fire smoke became another climate change hot button even though fires are: a) Mostly caused by humans and b) have been declining for years.
Borne Lomborg, author of “False Alarm: How Climate Change Panic Costs Us Trillions, Hurts the Poor, and Fails to Fix the Planet” recently debunked claims by the White House and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that the recent Canadian forest fires were the result of “climate change”. Most fires are caused by humans, campfires or ineffective preventative and firefighting measures, and the trend has been downward for years, he wrote. Wild fires are not spiralling out of control.
“The percentage of the globe that burns each year has been declining since 2001,” he wrote last week. “For more than two decades, satellites have recorded fires across the planet’s surface. The data are unequivocal: Since the early 2000s, when 3 percent of the world’s land caught fire, the area burned annually has trended downward. In 2022, the last year for which there are complete data, the world hit a new record-low of 2.2 percent burned area. Yet you’ll struggle to find that reported anywhere.”
“Take the Canadian wildfires this summer. The thick smoke from the Canadian fires that blanketed New York City got headlines, but fewer acres are burning each year across the world. The same alarms were rung when Australia’s wildfires burned in 2019-20, but the burning was extraordinary in two states but extraordinarily small in the rest of the country. Since the early 2000s, when 8 percent of Australia caught fire, the area of the country torched each year has declined. The 2019-20 fires scorched 4 percent of Australian land, and this year the burned area will likely be even less,” he added. “Prescribed burning, improved zoning and enhanced land management are much faster, more effective and cheaper solutions for fires than climate policy.”
Volcanic events like Tonga are “unsettling”, said a British expert, but do not mean weather systems have crossed an unalterable threshold. “I’m not expecting these hot years to directly trigger climate tipping points,” said David McKay at the University of Exeter.
Clearly, global warming is a challenge because of humanity, but blame must rest where it belongs in order to find solutions. Planetary and solar events have enormous impact, and such natural causes destroyed the dinosaurs, the French monarchy, and Europe’s agrarian systems over the centuries. The eruption of molten iron from the Earth core will continue and is fickle, but cannot be impeded, or ignored either. Humanity’s challenge is to stop over population and excessive consumption of its resources. And the good news is that technologies will help and, most importantly, the world’s population will peak by 2070 then decline.
Geology and demographics will determine the future, and human behavior must change at the edges. People must conserve air conditioning and heat, eat less, travel less, recycle, live in smaller units, have fewer children, and become vegetarian. Even so, some environmental disasters have and will always be around. So stay cool, pun intended.