Saturday, November 22, 2008

A few more points about global cooling

Here are a few more points about "global cooling" and whether global heating has "stopped," some anecdotal and another involving a reference to a more technical climactic discussion.

The take-away point is that weather is "noisy," it jumps around from one extreme to another in different regions of the world, and that you cannot make long-term climate predictions based on local regional observations.

It seems like the global-cooling advocates are cherry picking their data, and making the common mistake suggested by the latter paragraph.

For example, it is very cold in New England right now given the time of year. A hike on Mt. Washington right now is only for highly experienced and equipped winter explorers; it's killer cold!

However, just last week, I looked out my window and mosquitoes were swarming around my (uncleaned) gutters where water had pooled. It is unheard of in this region to still have mosquitoes in the winter (I grew up in this area), as we have the last several years. It was also 70 degrees Fahrenheit at night just a week ago, and I am 35 miles north of Boston, Massachusetts.

The point is that these weather extremes are caused by dominant air masses originating from Canada (when it's cold) and the Caribbean or the Gulf of Mexico otherwise, which are in turn affected by the position of the jet stream.
You cannot come to global cooling or heating conclusions based on these short-term differences. However, the long-term changes I have observed in New England, along with all of the other accumulated evidence (e.g., the melting in Greenland and of the North Pole sea ice; the substantial glacier melting in the Alps), have lead me to strongly embrace the theory of a global aggregate temperature increase.

The site says it better than me here:

"The climate system has enormous amounts of variability on day-to-day, month-to-month, year-to-year and decade-to-decade periods. Much of this variability (once you account for the diurnal cycle and the seasons) is apparently chaotic and unrelated to any external factor - it is the weather."

Monday, November 10, 2008

Hey wait, the earth is cooling...

I have heard a few arguments for global cooling of late.

This is a huge issue because, for example, President Obama may propose a far-reaching cap-and-trade system for CO2. While any opposing theory deserves consideration, "global cooling" discussions should not become another excuse for inertia unless the evidence is extremely strong and a scientific consensus forms around it, because the stakes are too high for future generations.

First, all short-term anecdotal evidence, such as glaciation in Alaska, should be thrown out, because one or two years is just a nanosecond in geological time.

You can just as easily find anecdotal evidence for continued warming in other regions.
Tell the Australians that their continent is "cooling off," or the people in southern California or Arizona, whose forested regions are often on fire. There are a lot of villages in Alaska where the permafrost is melting, causing their abandonment.
I've visited a glacier in Switzerland for the last 15 years (it has lost 30 percent of its mass since the 1970s), and it added snow last year, but that doesn't mean that "phew, global warming must be over."

"Global weirding" I've heard is a much better term for what's happening.

In addition, weather patterns are heavily affected by the growth of algae in the seas (algae is an important CO2 sink, and is critical for the formation of reflective clouds because it generates the cloud-seeding precursor chemical dimethyl sulfide).
The upper layer of the oceans has warmed over the decades, creating vast "deserts" where algae plumes used to flourish. Some scientists have concluded that runaway global heating can occur partly because of this massive algae destruction. See James Lovelock's "The Revenge Of Gaia."

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Obama energy plan

Now that the historically estimable Barack Obama will be the 44th U.S. President, what kind of energy decisions would he make?

We can draw some conclusions from the energy plan posted on his web site. Here is a sampling of their plan (with any of my comments in parentheses):

  • Help "create five million new jobs by strategically investing $150 billion over the next ten years to catalyze private efforts to build a clean energy future." (An "Energy New Deal" is not out of the realm of possibility, as it accomplishes two goals at once; puts Americans back to productive work, and helps the U.S. become an energy superpower again.)

  • Get one million plug-in hybrid cars on the road by 2015, partly by providing a $7,000 tax credit for the people who buy them.

  • "Ensure 10 percent of our electricity comes from renewable sources by 2012, and 25 percent by 2025." (This is a fairly lofty goal, as we get far less than one percent of our energy from solar photovoltaic or thermal energy, for instance.)

  • Help "develop five commercial scale coal-fired plants with clean carbon capture and sequestration technology." (This is unlikely as carbon sequestration is problematical and has not been implemented, as far as I can tell, with a commercial-scale coal plant in the U.S. I always thought of "clean coal" as a contradiction in terms.)

  • Implement an economy-wide cap-and-trade program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by 2050. (It is possible that President Obama, with his electoral mandate, will be able pass through this cap-and-trade system.)