Scientists track deep history of planets’ motions, and effects on Earth’s climate

Posted: March 5, 2019 by oldbrew in climate, Cycles, research, solar system dynamics
Tags: , ,

Planetary theory lives on, even if it now has to nod towards trace gases in the atmosphere to be in fashion with the times.

Scientists have long posited that periodic swings in Earth’s climate are driven by cyclic changes in the distribution of sunlight reaching our surface, says

This is due to cyclic changes in how our planet spins on its axis, the ellipticity of its orbit, and its orientation toward the sun—overlapping cycles caused by subtle gravitational interplays with other planets, as the bodies whirl around the sun and by each other like gyrating hula-hoops.

But planetary paths change over time, and that can change the cycles’ lengths. This has made it challenging for scientists to untangle what drove many ancient climate shifts.

And the problem gets ever more difficult the further back in time you go; tiny changes in one planet’s motion may knock others’ askew—at first slightly, but as eons pass, these changes resonate against each other, and the system morphs in ways impossible to predict using even the most advanced math. In other words, it’s chaos out there.

Up to now, researchers are able to calculate the relative motions of the planets and their possible effects on our climate with reasonable reliability back only about 60 million years—a relative eyeblink in the 4.5 billion-plus life of Earth.

This week, in a new paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a team of researchers has pushed the record way back, identifying key aspects of the planets’ motions from a period around 200 million years ago. The team is led by geologist and paleontologist Paul Olsen of Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.

Last year, by comparing periodic changes in ancient sediments drilled from Arizona and New Jersey, Olsen and colleagues identified a 405,000-year cycle in Earth’s orbit that apparently has not changed at all over at least the last 200 million years—a kind of metronome against which all other cycles can be measured.

Using those same sediments in the new paper, they now have identified a cycle that started out lasting 1.75 million years, but is now operating every 2.4 million years. This, they say, allows them to extrapolate long-term changes in the paths of Jupiter and the inner planets (Mercury, Venus and Mars), the bodies most likely to affect our own orbit.

Olsen’s ultimate aim: to use Earth’s rocks to create what he calls a “Geological Orrery”—a record of climatic changes on Earth that can be extrapolated back into a larger map of solar system motions over hundreds of millions of years.

He says it would open a window not just onto our own climate, but the evolution of the solar system itself, including the possible existence of past planets, and its possible interactions with invisible dark matter.

We spoke with Olsen about the Geological Orrery, his work, and the new paper.

Interview follows here.

  1. tallbloke says:

    Interesting OB. Have you had a look at the ratios between 405k 1.75m and 2.4m yet? 🙂

  2. oldbrew says:

    2.4:1.75 is 48:35 or 144:(21*5) in Fibonacci terms, i.e. 1/5th of Phi^4.

    That’s a bit obscure, but the same result is found by taking the square root of the Earth:Mars orbit ratio.
    √1.8808476 = 1.3714399
    48/35 = 1.3714285
    1.3714399 * 5 = 6.8571995
    √6.8571995 = 2.6186254
    – – –
    We have this…

    Jupiter and Venus Change Earth’s Orbit Every 405,000 Years

    As Prof. Kent explained in a Rutgers Today press release:

    “The climate cycles are directly related to how Earth orbits the sun and slight variations in sunlight reaching Earth lead to climate and ecological changes. The Earth’s orbit changes from close to perfectly circular to about 5 percent elongated especially every 405,000 years.”
    . . .
    “There are other, shorter, orbital cycles, but when you look into the past, it’s very difficult to know which one you’re dealing with at any one time, because they change over time,” said Prof. Kent. “The beauty of this one is that it stands alone. It doesn’t change. All the other ones move over it.”

  3. Bazmd says:

    Interesting, considering that planetary models are slightly off before the discovery of Uranus and Neptune, even today we can’t know exactly where these two planets were because there were no observations of them, I published research nearly 10 years ago of observed patterns in planetary orbits that correlate with solar cycles and when planetary models break down in timing due to the lack of observations, I even suggested that it may be possible to correct planetary models using the sunspot record this includes proxies.

    I stopped publishing and contributing, I found it’s a lot of effort and years of study and research that mostly gets ignored but ends up in other peoples work without credit, I believe there was even a paper published on this site with some work of mine that took weeks of manual work to compile and graph without credit. I didn’t mind that because I enjoyed contributing here, but I realised that this was entirely my own fault for publishing my work open-source where anyone can rip it off and call it their own.

    I suppose it’s not that important and it’s great to see years of research and Ideas being adopted and used but it’s always nice to get a h/t

    Anyway, I’ve moved on to Quantum entanglement and have discovered a classical mechanism to explain what’s going on, I have a very fascinating particle wave duality theorem that actually works and there’s something very interesting about photons that blew my mind when I discovered it. I can’t bring myself to publish years of study on the subject due to the treatment so called “amateurs” receive… And it’s actually ground breaking stuff lol

  4. oldmanK says:

    Quote again “The Earth’s orbit changes from close to perfectly circular to about 5 percent elongated especially every 405,000 years.”” For the last 500K years that amounts to four glacial cycles, five interglacials. A bit beyond abrupt climate change.

    The evidence in geology screams ‘abrupt’.

  5. oldbrew says:

    The authors cite this paper:
    La2010: a new orbital solution for the long-term motion of the Earth
    J. Laskar1, A. Fienga1,2, M. Gastineau1, and H. Manche1

    In recent works, the modulation of the 405 kyr component,
    which is caused by the beat g3−g4 of period ≈2.4 Myr, has also
    been identified in the sedimentary records, and is thought to be
    a key factor in the onset of special climate events

    See section 7.1 including Table 6 – Main secular frequencies
    Also 7.2. The g4–g3 2.4 Myr cycle
    – – –
    Astronomical Solutions for Earth Paleoclimates
    [various links from Laskar et al]

    Solutions are also available for Mars paleoclimates here.

  6. oldmanK says:

    Sedimentary records are more clear on much shorter periods, and are corroborated over a much wider swathe of proxies. Over the past 10k years so much has happened geologically, that make time-scales over 0.5Myrs incomparable.

    This link is a case in point: The disturbances in the Med from geological and other factors are so great and frequent (they follow the Eddy cycle. why and what is ??? ) that it is very unlikely that, eg. the Zanclean flood, can really be identified.

  7. tallbloke says:

    Bazmd: I believe there was even a paper published on this site with some work of mine that took weeks of manual work to compile and graph without credit.

    Link it for me please, and link your original publication. This site will always credit work to it’s originator, given the necessary information. Thanks.

  8. Paul Vaughan says:


    Venus estimates

    1st order:
    V = φ
    0.618033988749895 = 1 / V
    absolutely fatal JEV failure

    2nd order:
    V = [5E-Φ√5(J+S)+1/25]/3
    0.615197163689601 = 1 / V

    3rd order (accounts for Milankovitch):
    V = (5/3)E-(1/3)[1+2(ΦE)(ΦE)-(ΦE)(ΦE)(ΦE)(φT)][(ΦΦ/T)(φ/E)(φ/E)(φ/E)(ΦΦ)^e]+(1/3)(√5/E)^(-4)
    0.615197242927538 = 1 / V

    0.615197263396975 = 1 / V

    (1.0000174)*(0.615197263396975) / (1.0000174 – 0.615197263396975) = 1.59868964566165
    harmonic of 1.59868964566165 nearest 1 is 1.59868964566165 / 2 = 0.799344822830825
    (0.799344822830825)*(1) / (0.799344822830825 – 1) = 3.98367405271028

    Every 2nd one is near a whole number of EV conjunctions (13:8) :

    (7.96734810542057)*(0.615197263396975) / (7.96734810542057 – 0.615197263396975) = 0.666674399955147

    Every 2nd one 1st order is NOT near a whole number:
    (8.47088723948194)*(0.618033988749895) / (8.47088723948194 – 0.618033988749895) = 0.666674399955147

    2nd order:
    (7.96733138199535)*(0.615197163689601) / (7.96733138199535 – 0.615197163689601) = 0.666674399955147

    3rd order:
    (7.96734467217774)*(0.615197242927538) / (7.96734467217774 – 0.615197242927538) = 0.666674399955147

    0.666674399955147 years = 243.5028246 days

    Recall that 2nd order was derived from 3rd (20/20 hindsight simplification in rear-view mirror).

  9. phil salmon says:

    Here’s an answer to a question I’ve been looking for for a while.
    It’s always seemed obvious that Milankovitch driven oscillation between glacial and interglacial represents “flicker” between two chaotic attractors, when the earth is slowly transitioning between deep glacial and non glacial. So the obvious question was – where is the evidence that at the start or finish of previous deep glacial epochs (e.g. Huronian, Marinoan, Varangian etc.), where is the evidence of Milankovitch driven flicker of interglacials? And sure enough (Popper alert! Hard test of hypothesis) here it is:

  10. oldbrew says:

    The Vostok Ice Core and the 14,000 Year CO2 Time Lag
    Posted on June 14, 2017 by Euan Mearns

    At the termination, CO2 follows dT exactly, but at the inception CO2 does not follow temperature down for 14,218 years. Full glacial conditions came into being without falling CO2 providing any of the climate forcing. This falsifies the traditional narrative that dCO2 amplified weak orbital forcing effects. It is quite clear from the data that CO2 follows temperature with highly variable time lags depending upon whether the climate is warming or cooling. [bold added]

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