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By Cliff Harris

My independent climatological research has shown that, since our ‘sun went silent’ in 2007, the mid-latitude rural agricultural areas of both hemispheres have cooled nearly a full degree Fahrenheit, less so in the urban ‘heat island’ regions.

We’ve had a series of cold and snowy winter seasons followed by wet and cool springs with little sunshine and briefly warm summers that fail to ripen tomatoes and other produce in the backyard gardens. It’s mid-spring and our trees still haven’t ‘leafed-out.’

This 2010-11 winter season in Coeur d’Alene, as of the end of a very cold and snowy April, has measured more than 120 inches of the white stuff locally for the third time in four seasons since 2007-08. Only last winter, during a warm ‘El Nino’ sea-surface temperature event, did we see far less snow than usual at a puny 18.4 inches on Player Drive.

If the mid-latitudes are indeed cooling off following an extended period of warming in the 1980s and 1990s, why then are we seeing the rapid melting of sea ice and snow in the Arctic regions? There are several reasons, read on.

Many scientists are blaming SOOT for the Arctic warming of late. Much of this soot has pushed northward into the polar regions from forest fires in Russia and other drought and fire-ravaged regions. This black carbon is likewise produced by auto and truck engines, aircraft emissions and the widespread North Country use of wood and coal-burning stoves and coal-burning utilities.

Soot warms the atmosphere by absorbing heat from the sun, much like a person wearing a black shirt on a hot day in downtown Coeur d’Alene. When carbon covers snow and ice, solar radiation is absorbed and not reflected.

In February of this year, the United Nations Environmental Program urged global cuts in soot emissions for a variety of reasons, including a rather serious threat to human health from inhaling these lung irritating pollutants. (I hate wood stoves!)

The Arctic Council, which represents the eight countries that border the Arctic regions, is expected to seek extensive reductions in soot production in the next decade. Instead of going ‘green,’ it seems they’ll be going ‘white.’

While I do believe that less soot in the Arctic would help reduce the rapid rate of warming in the polar regions, it remains my climatological opinion of sorts that TIME will spell a cooler Arctic....eventually.

Remember, land surfaces cool faster than ocean waters. There is a definite ‘lag effect’ in the process of global cooling. The Arctic waters are perhaps five years or more behind the mid-latitudes in the current cycle of cooling.

"Time heals all wounds," including those inflicted on our environment by soot and other pollutants.

As I’ve pointed out in past ‘Gems’ columns, the violent ‘clashes’ resulting from the collisions of widely-opposing air masses, that are both warming and cooling to record levels at the same time, produced KILLER STORMS like the ones that have given us the most tornadoes ever sighted nationally in the month of April, nearly 400 ‘twisters’ in the U.S. as of April 28, many of them deadly.