Around 3 million years ago, Earth's climate started growing colder. Glaciers began forming in high northern latitudes, while surface waters cooled in parts of the equatorial Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. At the same time, climate sensitivity to variation in the tilt of Earth's axis—called obliquity—increased substantially. Since that time, changes in sunlight associated with obliquity have caused variation in global ice volume and equatorial sea surface temperatures (SST). Inexplicably, variations at the equator occurred a few thousand years before those in high latitudes and thus could not have been a direct consequence of the waxing and waning of glaciers. Two new papers in the June 18, 2010, issue of Science attempt to explain the true causes of climate change.
In the midst of the clamor over global warming, greenhouse gas emissions and world energy supplies another, perhaps more immediate, environmental catastrophe is gathering momentum—the world wide shortage of fresh water. Though eclipsed in America by pictures of oil-soaked pelicans and fouled coastal wetlands, this potentially more disastrous and more permanent problem has been ignored by politicians and the public for decades. Experts are warning that by 2050 fully 45% of humanity may be chronically short of water. Unlike the eventual depletion of the world's oil supplies, there is no substitute for H2O.
There has been much wailing and gnashing of teeth over the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. This unprecedented accident for the American offshore drilling industry, the first significant spill in 40 years, will certainly have a calamitous impact on the Gulf marine environment and surrounding coastal areas. What is less certain, but potentially even more dangerous, is the effect that this spill will have on the US domestic oil industry. While environmentalists clamor for a shut down of all offshore drilling in the Gulf, realists know that this will make the threat to ocean life even greater. What has not being told to the public is that nature itself leaks more oil into the ocean each year than mankind, and has been doing so for millions of years. What is even less known is that offshore drilling can actually reduce the amount of crude released into the seas.
March 20, the Eyjafjallajökull volcano began erupting after slumbering for almost 190 years. The eruption also brought a threat of floods and earthquakes, while the resulting plume of volcanic ash shutdown the European airline industry, costing an estimated $200 million a day. In the short-term, the volcano has been bad for Northern Europe and given a boost to Iceland's tourist industry, but there are larger questions involved. With tedious predictability, a number of climate change alarmists quickly claimed that the volcano was caused by global warming. A more likely outcome is a cool Northern Hemisphere summer caused by airborne ash—which could give the alarmists an excuse for the continued lack of global temperature rise.
Climate scientists have decided that as much as half of the heat energy, believed to have built up on Earth in recent years, is hiding somewhere it can not be found. By measuring the radiative energy input at the top of Earth's atmosphere, scientists have a pretty good idea of how much energy is entering the planetary environment—the problem is figuring out where it goes. The most likely place is in the deep ocean, whose waters form a huge potential storage place for heat. Because energy is exchanged between the atmosphere and the ocean, this heat can resurface at a later time to affect weather and climate on a global scale. It has been suggest that last year’s rapidly occurring El Niño may be one way the “missing” solar energy has reappeared—the implication being more sudden El Niño events may be on the way.
The current hot buzzword in Information Technology (IT) circles is “cloud computing,” the concept of a shared grid of computer resources, made available to a wide range of consumers in an on-demand, self-service and pay-as-you-go fashion. Even those not immersed in the arcane details of IT are aware of the latest must have techno-doodad from Apple Computer—the iPad. Proving that they can find a dark cloud to go with any silver lining, the perennial eco-pessimists from Greenpeace have declared that the combination of iPads and cloud computing are going to greatly accelerate mankind's march to a planet frying future.
A surprising revelation from a new paper: industrial emission actually have a net cooling effect on Earth's climate. The paper that appears in the Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences early edition attempts to apportion blame for global warming among various economic sectors. Climate impacts of CO2, tropospheric ozone, fine aerosols, aerosol-cloud interactions, methane, and long-lived greenhouse gases were all analyzed and the appropriate human activities cited. When the dust settled, two sectors turned in large net negative (i.e. cooling) forcing values: biomass burning and industry.
The debate over anthropogenic global warming—a theory propounded by the UN IPCC—is often portrayed as an argument between deniers and true believers. The deniers supposedly claim that there is no global warming, man made or otherwise, and that the whole theory is a plot by left-wing agitators and closet socialists bent on world domination. The true believers, conversely, accept every claim of pending future disaster uttered by scientists and activists alike. As with most controversies both extreme positions are wrong and the truth lies somewhere in-between. As a scientist, I have studied the evidence and find the case for imminent, dangerous, human caused global warming unconvincing—here is why I am an AGW skeptic.
A new report in Science underscores what many scientists have been saying for years, it's water vapor, not CO2, that has been driving global temperature changes in recent decades. Stratospheric water vapor concentrations decreased by about 10% after the year 2000, slowing the rate of global surface temperature increase over the past 10 years. It also seems likely that water vapor in the stratosphere increased between 1980 and 2000, causing surface temperatures to warm by an extra 30% during the 1990s. These findings show that stratospheric water vapor represents an important driver of decadal global surface climate change, yet the IPCC crowd continues to focus on CO2.
One well accepted definition of the “Three Pillars of Science” lists the three as theory, experimentation and computation. For climate science this translates into climate theory, gathering climate data, and climate modeling. The three pillars are due an update in this post Copenhagen, post Climategate world. After reviewing the past year's crop of discoveries and disclosures, it seems that all three pillars are still wobbly at best—even without questionable conduct on the part of warm-mongering researchers.
A number of recent papers analyzing the nature of climate models have yielded a stunning result little known outside of mathematical circles—climate models like the ones relied on by the IPCC contain “irreducible imprecision.” According to one researcher, all interesting solutions for atmospheric and oceanic simulation (AOS) models are chaotic, hence almost certainly structurally unstable. Further more, this instability is an intrinsic mathematical property of the models which can not be eliminated. Analysis suggests that models should only be used to study processes and phenomena, not for precise comparisons with nature.
Climate and environmental scientists have become dependent on computer models in recent decades. The scientific literature and the popular press are filled with strident warnings of impending natural disasters, all predicated on the output of computer programs. The IPCC has solemnly predicted that climate change will drive thousands of species to extinction if anthropogenic global warming is not reined in. The coprophagous press has uncritically swallowed these computer generated droppings, reporting conjecture as fact and possibilities as certainties. Even though the climate change faithful continue to blindly believe the IPCC predictions, at least some researchers are aware of the glaring flaws in their computer models.
Tropical America is one of many regions that have seen significant losses of amphibian species over the past few decades. In 2004, the first global assessment of amphibians revealed that almost a third of the world's known species are threatened with extinction. Early on, experts linked the mysterious disappearance of frog species throughout Central and South America to a fungal disease that was supposedly exacerbated by global warming. Now, according to new discoveries, it looks like climate change isn't to blame after all.
For decades, the supporters of CO2 driven global warming have discounted changes in solar irradiance as far too small to cause significant climate change. Though the Sun's output varies by less than a tenth of a percent in magnitude during its 11-year sunspot cycle, that small variation produces changes in sea surface temperatures two or three times as large as it should. A new study in Science demonstrates how two previously known mechanisms acting together amplify the Sun's impact in an unsuspected way. Not surprisingly, the new discovery is getting a cool reception from the CO2 climate change clique.
The supporters of anthropogenic global warming (AGW) claim that they have science on their side. Time and again we are told that the debate is over, the science is settled and consensus among the world's scientists reached. If that is true, why are so many scientists coming forward to oppose and denounce the climate alarmist's theory? To understand the true nature of the climate change debate it is necessary to understand what a scientific theory is and how to judge a theory's validity.