You are here:

Astronomy/Earth's Axis Shift and Climate


I've just read your reply about this subject.
You say that it's a "theory" only and then you go on to give another "theory" as the REAL reason for Climate Change.
They are both "theories" so neither have been proved and your reply misleading.
It is quite possible for an Axis Change to create a chain reaction of events as happening now or in fact a chain reaction of events to create an Axis Change.
Only a small increase in Earth's tempreture can cause massive climate changes.
Even changes in relationship to other Planets/Moon/Sun can cause problems on Earth.
So the Axis Change causing Global Climate Changes isn't "proven" but neither is any other "theory".
Bottom line is, the Earth's Climate is changing and we have no control over it so we must prepare.


I pulled up the full answer in my original response and the term I used to describe the external variations was the “Milankovitch hypothesis". Note that a hypothesis is far looser than a theory and while the latter has confirmed all or most of its predictions, a hypothesis hasn't. It largely means it's been proposed but not tested fully - or when it was tested sufficient discrepancies emerged to prevent the same degree of quality assurance being allotted as say for a theory like global warming.

(And note, to avoid a lot of aimless conjectures on assorted "possible" variations of this or that, I am confining attention to the “Milankovitch hypothesis".  The bottom line here is large net external torque would be required to produce it and most celestial mechanicians - at least that I have met- aren't prepared to sign on to it. They want to see its predictions verified in terms of the orbital parameters of planets, not simply some geological artifacts.)

The Milankovitch hypothesis' first problem is that it was developed by a Serbian civil engineer (& later meteorologist) who acquired the avocation of astronomy – as a personal abiding interest. This is admirable, but puts him basically in the same class as Immanuel Velikovsky – who was a Russian psychologist – trying to do astronomy. Since astronomers wouldn’t let Velikovksy into the club, it was doubtful they’d let Milankovitch. (Though yes, they do allow his work is of a rather higher standard and at least meets the criterion of a putative hypothesis)

The second problem is that his hypothesis acquired its cachet and bulk of earnest support from outside the astronomical community and inside the geological research community that also spawned Wegner and Croll. The astronomical community cannot claim it as uniquely their own, so like the solar physics community – i.e. in regard to space physics incursions into their ‘territory’ in the mid- 20th century – has left it “still born” or a step child. This is perhaps why it appears in no standard astrometric texts or astrodynamic texts. It is the bastard offspring of a non-astronomer and doesn’t follow at all from any standard celestial mechanics principles, equations or theories.

For example, when conditions are favorable for an ice age in the northern hemisphere, they’re not favorable for one in the southern hemisphere. How could the Milankovitch Cycles cause a global change in climate then? Also, Milankovitch cycles can only account for a temperature difference of 1° to 2°. How is it possible then that sediment records show temperature differences of 7° to 10°? The 100,000 yr cycle is dominant in the record, yet it has the weakest astronomical effect; moreover, in the record, it doesn’t always occur at 100,000 years - ranges from 80,000 to 125,000. How can these variances be explained? Until they are – most astronomers won’t embrace the hypothesis.

Adding to that, in the paper ‘A Causality Problem for Milankovitch”, Daniel B. Karner and Richard A. Muller from the Dept. of Physics, University of California, note an earlier paper by W. Broeker (1992) ‘Upset for Milankovitch Theory’ – in which he discussed a troublesome new measurement. That is, oxygen isotope data from a cave in Nevada called ‘Devils’ Hole’ appeared to show that the timing of the penultimate termination of the ice ages- called ‘Termination II’ – was incompatible with the standard Milankovitch theory (cf. Winograd et al, Science, Vol. 258, p. 255; Ludwig et al, Science, Vol. 258, p. 284)

The data indicated a shift in (delta 16) to interglacial values that was essentially complete by 135 thousand years ago (ka). But at this time, the Northern Hemisphere summer insolation had not yet warmed to the point at which it should have triggered anything extraordinary, let alone a glacial termination. The termination event appeared to precede its cause.

Though the Milankovitchites attempted valiantly to rebut this, as the authors noted, the “causality” problem remained and it was really all an (initially) skeptical community needed to keep the Milankovitch hypothesis from being cemented into standard celestial mechanics. Too many loose ends!

Worse, the Devils Hole data had not been the first to indicate a problem. As far back as 1974,Bloom et al. (Quatr. Research, Vol. 4, p.185) had suggested that sea level had reached a high point, from melting glacial waters, by as early as 142 ka. Their work was based on U-Th ages of coral terraces from the Huon Peninsula in Papua New Guinea. These results were not used when Imbrie et al. (‘Milankovitch and Climate – Part I’, Doredrecht Reidel)) created the SPECMAP template, the most widely used model for explaining how insolation could drive ice age cycles. Instead, Imbrie et al. set the termination at 127 ±6 ka, based on radiometric dates from Barbados corals by Mesolella et al. (J. Geology, Vol. 77, p. 250) and Shackleton and Matthews (‘Nature’, Vol. 6, p. 445)

All of the above provides just enough ‘ammunition’ to those already skeptical – to justify their resistance to Milankovitch hypothesis and to preventing supporters from nudging it into text books (like evolutionists seek to prevent ID’ers)

This is reinforced by the fact that most astronomers’ prevailing skepticism is fuelled by the lack of a precise dynamic time scale, which would make it possible to test the match between the supposed cycles recorded in ocean sediments and the Milankovitch cycles calculated on the basis of the Earth's orbit in standard celestial mechanics. Until this is done, the Milankovitch hypothesis will rightly not be regarded as a part of legitimate celestial mechanics – but rather a marginal or fringe spinoff.

By contrast, the CO2 basis for global warming is well established. I can refer to the C14:C12 isotope ratio, such as detected in tree rings, and first noted by the late solar physicist John Eddy. Interestingly, this isotope ratio can also be used as a proxy for solar activity, for example, going back thousands of years to times when there weren't telescopes or where solar spot records are sparse.

In general, C14 is produced in the upper atmosphere via the impact –interaction with high energy cosmic rays, say from galactic sources. Solar activity in turn modulates the intensity of these cosmic rays via the action of the heliosphere which deflects a fraction of the intense cosmic ray flux and other harmful interstellar radiation. At times the Sun is more active, so also will the heliosphere be stronger, shielding the Earth from more intense cosmic rays the effect of which is to reduce the C14 produced in the Earth’s upper atmosphere. Conversely, when the Sun is less active – as it’s been from 2000- 2008 then the heliospheric shield was weaker and more intense cosmic rays penetrated to our upper atmosphere yielding more C14 produced.

It follows from this that if a record could be obtained of the ratio of say C14 to C12 then one would have a proxy indicator of cosmic ray activity as it influences our atmosphere and climate, for any time (With the C14 to C12 ratio extracted from tree rings or other plant tissue). Thus cosmic ray intensity will then be seen to be modulated by the C14:C12 ratio, and the lower this ratio the lower the putative intensity.

Fortuitously, a 2000-year record of C14:C12 deviations has been compiled by P.E. Damon ('The Solar Output and Its Variation', and appears in Eddy's monograph 'The New Solar Physics', The University of Colorado Press, Boulder, 1977, p. 17. To conform with solar activity the plot is such that *increasing radiocarbon (C14)* is downward along the vertical axis and indicated with (+). The deviations in parts per thousand are shown relative to an arbitrary 19th century reference level.

As John Eddy observes concerning this output and the data (ibid.):

“The gradual fall from left to right (increasing C14/C12 ratio) is…probably not a solar effect but the result of the known, slow decrease in the strength of the Earth’s magnetic moment exposing the Earth to ever-increased cosmic ray fluxes and increased radiocarbon production. The sharp upward spike at the modern end of the curve, representing a marked drop in relative radiocarbon, is generally attributed to anthropogenic causes—the mark of increased population and the Industrial Age. The burning of low radiocarbon fossil fuels- coal and oil- and the systematic burning off of the world’s forests for agriculture can be expected to dilute the natural C14/C12 ratio in the troposphere to produce an effect like the one shown.."

In other words, the evidence already inheres in this extended record that by the advent of the Industrial Age the natural C14/C12 ratio in the troposphere had begun to decline, disclosing the greater effects of anthropogenic causes- including the burning of low radiocarbon fossil fuels- coal and oil- and the systematic burning off of the world’s forests - and the mitigation of cosmic ray intensities in relation.

These results comport with modern findings that the last ten years have been the warmest ever, even as CO2 concentrations approach 550 ppm.  This is according to data from the World Meteorological Office. For reference: parts of Greenland had an average temperature 5.4 F above normal in 2010. Meanwhile, Russian officials have ascribed 11,000 “excess deaths” due to heat, arising from their prolonged heat wave in the same year. Last year was also been fearsome with more than 7,500 heat records broken in the U.S. alone. By the way, excellent documented footage on the current rapid melting of glaciers world wide can be found at this link:

I can also cite a paper in the journal 'Eos: Transactions of the American Geophysical Union'( Vol. 92, No. 24, June 14, 2011, p. 201).The essential data of the paper shows a time series of the anthropogenic carbon dioxide CO2 multiplier (ACM) calculated from  the time series data on anthopogenic CO2 emission rates. The time series data discloses that the projected anthropogenic CO2 emission rate of 35 gigatons per year is 135 times greater than the 0.26 gigatons per year emission rate for volcanoes, plumes etc. This ratio of 135:1 (anthropogenic to volcanic CO2) is what defines the 'anthropogenic multiplier', an index of anthropogenic CO2's dominance over volcanic inputs.

In other words, the usual red herring of "volcanoes" as generating more natural CO2 than the man-made version is shot down.

Far from being based on mere hunches, the findings rest on the firm scientific practice of testing theory against observations. These observations give a glaring warning sign that if we don't alter our behavior we are in trouble. Moreover, as noted some time ago, as alarming as one might think these findings are, they may very well be understating the danger, according to Daniel Schrag, professor of geochemistry and director of the Laboratory for Geochemical Oceanography at Harvard. For example one component of understating or under-estimation of warming may be on account of the "global dimming' effect that's concealed up to one-third of the warming since 1990. Now, as particulate pollutants in the atmosphere diminish, that concealment is abating, and warming is enhancing.

Finally, I vehemently disagree with your take that "we have no control over it so we must prepare". In fact there are thresholds which we can certainly avoid, that'd usher in the most disastrous consequences.

Bill McKibben has set out three threshold numbers leading to an uninhabitable Earth. The first was 551 gT (as in gigatons of carbon) which is the crossing threshold beyond which we surpass 2 degrees Celsius in mean global temperature. The effects here would be horrendous with extended heat waves, droughts, larger and more calamitous fires, and severe storms.  Given a current 30-31 gT/year deposition rate - and assuming we don't add to it, i.e. don't increase its rate - that leaves us roughly 18 years- give or take a fraction.

An even more foreboding threshold is at 2,770 gT beyond which we end up in a pre- runaway greenhouse world, on a track from which there'll be no return. We can DO something, but that entails withdrawal from our current fossil fuel addiction.

At the practical level, and given human greed and backward evolutionary brain tendencies (still around in the R-complex) I do concede that not much is likely to be done. However, this is not the same as saying we have NO control at all.

I will look forward - should you next respond - to an actual *question* to be answered. This forum, alas, is not for debate but responding to questions.  


All Answers

Answers by Expert:

Ask Experts


Philip Stahl


I have more than forty years of experience in Astronomy, specifically solar and space physics. My specialties include the physics of solar flares, sunspots, including their effects on Earth and statistics pertaining to sunspot morphology and flare geo-effectiveness.


Astronomy: Worked at university observatory in college, doing astrographic measurements. Developed first ever astronomy curriculum for secondary schools in Caribbean. Gave workshops in astrophysics and astronomical measurements at Harry Bayley Observatory, Barbados. M.Phil. degree in Physics/Solar Physics and more than twenty years as researcher with discovery of SID flares. Developed of first ever consistent magnetic arcade model for solar flares incorporating energy dissipation and accumulation. Develop first ever loop solar flare model using double layers and incorporating cavity resonators.

American Astronomical Society (Solar Physics and Dynamical Astronomy divisions), American Mathematical Society, American Geophysical Union.

Solar Physics (journal), The Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, The Proceedings of the Meudon Solar Flare Workshop (1986), The Proceedings of the Caribbean Physics Conference (1985). Books: 'Selected Analyses in Solar Flare Plasma Dynamics', 'Physics Notes for Advanced Level'. 'Astronomy and Astrophysics: Notes, Problems and Solutions'.

B.A. Astronomy, M. Phil. Physics

Awards and Honors
American Astronomical Society Studentship Award (1984), Barbados Government Award for Solar Research (1980), Barbados Astronomical Society Award for Service as Journal Editor (1977-91)

Past/Present Clients
Caribbean Examinations Council, Barbados Astronomical Society, Trinidad & Tobago Astronomical Society.

©2017 All rights reserved.

[an error occurred while processing this directive]