Results of studies
Weather cycles and the play Arcadia
This web link deals with questioning the existence of weather cycles.
All information and ideas presented on the following page are from William
James Burroughs' book, Weather Cycles. I only summarized the main points
of his book. For thousands of years meteorologists have tried to prove
and disprove the existence of weather cycles. Often there are hints of
success, but then a radical change in weather patterns completely throw
meteorologists astray. In the next millennium it will be crucial to grasp
why climate changes and if human activity does affect the natural global
climate in the form of global warming.
The biblical book of Genesis could be considered the first concept of
weather cycles. In the story, Joseph has a dream which accurately foretells
that seven years of good harvests will be followed by seven years of famine.
A more scientific approach happened in the fourth century BC with Aristotle
and his friend Theophrastus. The two studied nature, Aristotle - animals
and Theophrastus - plants. Their conclusion was that the start and finish
of the lunar month are likely to be "stormy." Even today scientists
argue the amount that lunar affects weather. In 1843 Heinrich Schwabe noticed
that the number of sunspots varied in a predictable way, which led to the
argument that weather could vary in a similar pattern. In 1926, Sir Napier
Shaw published a classic manual of meteorology that displayed 100 cycles.
Since Shaw, scientists have tried to both defend and refute the existence
of weather cycles.
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Burroughs examined six different types of weather cycles and came up
with these results and conclusions about each of them. If you would like
to read about how he got these results, where they took place, and who
calculated them, you should look at his book. The instrumental records
around 30 pages explaining what happened. Therefore, I cannot go into great
length in describing his data. Here are the six cycles he studied.
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Quasi-biennial oscillation (QBO) - This is an alternation of easterly and westerly winds in the equatorial stratosphere with an interval between successive corresponding maxima of 20 to 36 months. QBO used to measure range of 2.2 - 2.8 years. He found that the QBO can move in and out of phase in just a few years. So there is little potential value in using the QBO to predict future weather fluctuations.
3 to 4 years and 5 to 7 years- Rarely are these cycles significant. They either do not appear or are a transient feature of the records. None the less, Burroughs thought it necessary to print results.
11-year sunspot cycle - This cycle is the most praised by meteorologists. There are a vast number of studies that show this to be a successful cycle, but most are only transitory and only last for two to three cycles.
20-year cycle - One of the most identified periodicity in meteorological records. Scientists are still uncertain if it is because of lunar tidal effects or just doubling the sunspot cycle. It is uncertain right now if this is even a "true" cycle.
80- to 90-year cycle - This is infrequently examined mostly because a great majority of the records examined are hardly long enough to provide solid evidence of such a giant periodocity. It could still be a cycle though because it is linked in the lengthy records of the Nile floods.
200-year cycle - There is a hint that this might be a cycle, but as of right now there needs to be more data.
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In the play Arcadia, by Tom Stoppard, Valentine is trying to explain the ideas of chaos, disorder, and randomness found in the world to Hannah. Valentine gives this illustration, "We're better at predicting events at the edge of the galaxy or inside the nucleus of an atom than whether it'll rain on Auntie's garden party three Sundays from now." Valentine is obviously skeptical about the existence of weather cycles. Stoppard points out through Valentine's statement that no matter how exact and precise our technology, we cannot predict everything. There is always randomness.
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Even in a society that can send men into outer space, harvest the power of an atom, and clone a living organism, we cannot really prove or disprove the theory of weather cycles without playing with data. There are both hints that they exist and hints that they cannot exist. Some argue that weather just falls into place with the chaos theory. See chaos theory. This leads me to believe that maybe there are some things we shouldn't know and cannot know. The one thing we do know is that weather will continue to baffle farmers and meteorologists, droughts and floods will continue to trouble people, El Ninos will come and go, and the weather will always remain an uncertain variable in what seems a constant society.
Michigan State experiment on weather cycles
Information on obtaining William Burrough's book
Page by Chris Kuhlman