Archive for December, 2007

Top 11 Warmest Years On Record Have All Been In Last 13 Years

Tuesday, December 18th, 2007

ScienceDaily (Dec. 13, 2007) — The decade of 1998-2007 is the warmest on record, according to data sources obtained by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). The global mean surface temperature for 2007 is currently estimated at 0.41°C/0.74°F above the 1961-1990 annual average of 14.00°C/57.20°F.

The University of East Anglia and the Met Office’s Hadley Centre have released preliminary global temperature figures for 2007, which show the top 11 warmest years all occurring in the last 13 years. The provisional global figure for 2007 using data from January to November, currently places the year as the seventh warmest on records dating back to 1850.

Other remarkable global climatic events recorded so far in 2007 include record-low Arctic sea ice extent, which led to first recorded opening of the Canadian Northwest Passage; the relatively small Antarctic Ozone Hole; development of La Niña in the central and eastern Equatorial Pacific; and devastating floods, drought and storms in many places around the world.

The preliminary information for 2007 is based on climate data up to the end of November from networks of land-based weather stations, ships and buoys, as well as satellites. The data are continually collected and disseminated by the National Meteorological and Hydrological Services (NMHS) of WMO’s 188 Members and several collaborating research institutions. Final updates and figures for 2007 will be published in March 2008 in the annual WMO brochure for the Statement on the Status of the Global Climate.

WMO’s global temperature analyses are based on two different sources. One is the combined dataset maintained by both the Hadley Centre of the UK Meteorological Office, and the Climatic Research Unit, University of East Anglia, UK, which at this stage ranked 2007 as the seventh warmest on record. The other dataset is maintained by the US Department of Commerce’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which indicated that 2007 is likely to be the fifth warmest on record.

Since the start of the 20th century, the global average surface temperature has risen by 0.74°C. But this rise has not been continuous. The linear warming trend over the last 50 years (0.13°C per decade) is nearly twice that for the last 100 years.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s 4th Assessment (Synthesis) Report, 2007, “warming of the climate system is unequivocal, as is now evident from observations of increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice, and rising global average sea level.”


Global Warming Is Destroying Coral Reefs, Major Study Warns

Tuesday, December 18th, 2007

ScienceDaily (Dec. 14, 2007) — The largest living structures on Earth and the millions of livelihoods which depend upon them are at risk, the most definitive review yet of the impact of rising carbon emissions on coral reefs has concluded.

If world leaders do not immediately engage in a race against time to save the Earth’s coral reefs, these vital ecosystems will not survive the global warming and acidification predicted for later this century. That is the conclusion of a group of marine scientists from around the world in a major new study published in the journal Science on Dec. 13.

“It’s vital that the public understands that the lack of sustainability in the world’s carbon emissions is causing the rapid loss of coral reefs, the world’s most biodiverse marine ecosystem,” said Drew Harvell, Cornell professor of ecology and evolutionary biology and head of the Coral Disease Research Team, which is part of the international Coral Reef Targeted Research (CRTR) group that wrote the new study.

The rise of carbon dioxide emissions and the resultant climate warming from the burning of fossil fuels are making oceans warmer and more acidic, said co-author Harvell, which is triggering widespread coral disease and stifling coral growth toward “a tipping point for functional collapse.”

The scientists argue that rising global CO2 emissions represent an ‘irreducible risk’ that will rapidly outstrip the capacity of local coastal managers and policy-makers to maintain the health of these critical ecosystems, if CO2 emissions are allowed to continue unchecked.

“This crisis is on our doorstep, not decades away. We have little time in which to respond, but respond, we must!” says Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, lead author of the Science paper, The Carbon Crisis: Coral Reefs under Rapid Climate Change and Ocean Acidification.

“Coral reefs have already taken a big hit from recent warm temperatures, but rapid rises in carbon dioxide cause acidification, which adds a new threat: the inability of corals to create calcareous skeletons,” said Harvell. “Acidification actually threatens all marine animals and plants with calcareous skeletons, including corals, snails, clams and crabs. Our study shows that levels of CO2 could become unsustainable for coral reefs in as little as five decades.”

“The livelihoods of 100 million people living along the coasts of tropical developing countries will be among the first major casualties of rising levels of carbon in the atmosphere,” says Professor Hoegh-Guldberg.


Worries About Water as Chinese Glacier Retreats

Tuesday, December 18th, 2007

The Tibetan plateau has been called “the roof of the world” and “the third pole” for its ice-covered peaks. There, global warming is happening faster than at other, lower altitudes, with serious consequences for hundreds of millions of people.

China’s lowest glacier, the Mingyong glacier — an enormous, dirty, craggy mass of ice wedged in a mountain valley 8,900 feet above sea level — is melting. And as it melts, the glacier on the edge of the Tibetan plateau is retreating up the mountain faster than experts can believe.

“It’s truly amazing how much it’s traveled,” says Barry Baker of The Nature Conservancy, part of a team of international scientists who recently visited the shrinking glacier. “It is just unbelievable.”

Baker has been tracking the glacier’s retreat for the past five years. He is flabbergasted by the difference since his last visit two years ago.

“The change is actually really remarkable,” he says. “The glacier looks like it’s gone back up the valley at least 300 feet in just the last two years.”

An Astonishing Increase

Baker says the rate of retreat is increasing quickly.

“When we first started observing this glacier, it was retreating at about 80 feet per year, and now it looks like it’s doubled,” he says.

To explain the change, he cites an increase in temperatures.

“We’ve seen just in this area about a 2.2 degree increase in temperature just in the last 20 years. And it’s interesting because it seems like, from the climate data that we’ve been studying, that this region is warming faster than some of the other parts of China. In fact, from the data that we have, this particular region is warming almost twice as fast as China,” he says.

The scientists must scramble over the rocky debris, known as the moraine — left behind after the ice has melted — to move closer to the snout, or lower end, of the glacier. Studying this ice mass is extremely difficult because local Tibetans see it as a sacred glacier, and they have banned people from touching or stepping on the ice. That rules out normal scientific practices like removing ice cores and sinking stakes in the ice to measure its retreat.

The scientists have to depend on GPS measurements and repeat photography. In this, they are lucky — because explorer Frank Kingdon-Ward snapped pictures of the glacier as early as 1913. Anecdotal evidence indicates the glacier has retreated 1 1/2 miles since the late 1800s, when its tongue was close to Mingyong village.


071218 – Tuesday – New Zealand Friends

Monday, December 17th, 2007

Left to right: Graham, Judy and Keith

New Zealanders are a friendly bunch of folks and none have been nicer to me than the folks here in the compound where our apartment is. Keith, the building manager and Graham and Graham’s wife, Judy, have made me feel very welcomed.

They’ve had me to dinner several times, been up to my place for Thai take-out and we’ve played many tennis games over the last month and a half. They have made being here a great pleasure.

Dimming the Sun

Sunday, December 16th, 2007

I think my friend, MD, sent me this one intending it to be a CounterCurrents category piece – but I don’t think it is. The global weather system is a complicated animal and there are many give-and-takes within its systems.

In this case, the solar dimming resulting from global atmospheric pollution may be sheilding us from more rapid global warming.

So, when we do begin to move away from oil-based economies and generating massive atmospheric pollution, that should be good, right?

Yes, until the clearer air begins to let the blocked sunshine in which will further antagonize an atmosphere already overloaded with CO2 – and then up goes the thermometer.

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New evidence that air pollution has masked the full impact of global warming suggests the world may soon face a heightened climate crises.

In the early 21st century, it’s become clear that air pollution can significantly reduce the amount of sunlight reaching Earth, lower temperatures, and mask the warming effects of greenhouse gases. Climate researcher James Hansen estimates that “global dimming” is cooling our planet by more than a degree Celsius (1.8°F) and fears that as we cut back on the pollution that contributes to dimming, global warming may escalate to a point of no return. Regrettably, in terms of possibly taking corrective action, our current understanding of global dimming has been a long time in the coming, considering the first hints of the phenomenon date back to 18th-century observations of volcanic eruptions. In this slide show, follow a series of historic events and scientific milestones that built the case for global dimming.



Sunday, December 16th, 2007

While recent studies have shown that on the whole Arctic sea ice has decreased since the late 1970s, satellite records of sea ice around Antarctica reveal an overall increase in the southern hemisphere ice over the same period. Continued decreases or increases could have substantial impacts on polar climates, because sea ice spreads over a vast area, reflects solar radiation away from the Earth’s surface, and insulates the oceans from the atmosphere.

In a study just published in the Annals of Glaciology, Claire Parkinson of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center analyzed the length of the sea ice season throughout the Southern Ocean to obtain trends in sea ice coverage. Parkinson examined 21 years (1979-1999) of Antarctic sea ice satellite records and discovered that, on average, the area where southern sea ice seasons have lengthened by at least one day per year is roughly twice as large as the area where sea ice seasons have shortened by at least one day per year. One day per year equals three weeks over the 21-year period.

“You can see with this dataset that what is happening in the Antarctic is not what would be expected from a straightforward global warming scenario, but a much more complicated set of events,” Parkinson said.


Illegal immigration of Americans to Canada

Sunday, December 16th, 2007
From the Manitoba Herald – Winnipeg, Canada

The flood of American liberals sneaking across the border into Canada has intensified in the past week, sparking calls for increased patrols to stop the illegal immigration.

The actions of President Bush are prompting the exodus among left-leaning citizens who fear they’ll soon be required to hunt, pray and agree with Bill O’Reilly.

Canadian border farmers say it’s not uncommon to see dozens of sociology professors, animal- rights activists and Unitarians crossing their fields at night.

“I went out to milk the cows the other day, and there was a Hollywood producer huddled in the barn,” said Manitoba farmer Red Greenfield, whose acreage borders North Dakota. The producer was cold, exhausted and hungry. “He asked me if I could spare a latte and some free-range chicken.

When I said I didn’t have any, he left. Didn’t even get a chance to show him my screenplay!”

In an effort to stop the illegal aliens, Greenfield erected higher fences, but the liberals scaled them. So he tried installing speakers that blare Rush Limbaugh across the fields. “Not real effective,” he said. “The liberals still got through and Rush annoyed the cows so much they wouldn’t give milk.”

Officials are particularly concerned about smugglers who meet liberals near the Canadian border, pack them into Volvo station wagons, drive them across the border and leave them to fend for themselves.

“A lot of these people are not prepared for rugged conditions,” an Ontario border patrolman said. “I found one carload without a drop of drinking water. “They did have a nice little Napa Valley cabernet, though.”

When liberals are caught, they’re sent back across the border, often wailing loudly that they fear retribution from conservatives. Rumors have been circulating about the Bush administration establishing re-education camps in which liberals will be forced to drink domestic beer and watch NASCAR races.

In recent days, liberals have turned to sometimes-ingenious ways of crossing the border. Some have taken to posing as senior citizens on bus trips to buy cheap Canadian prescription drugs. After catching a half-dozen young vegans disguised in powdered wigs, Canadian immigration authorities began stopping buses and quizzing the supposed senior-citizen passengers on Perry Como and Rosemary Clooney hits to prove they were alive in the ’50s.

“If they can’t identify the accordion player on The Lawrence Welk Show, we get suspicious about their age,” an official said.

Canadian citizens have complained that the illegal immigrants are creating an organic-broccoli shortage and renting all the good Susan Sarandon movies.

“I feel sorry for American liberals, but the Canadian economy just can’t support them,” an Ottawa resident said. “How many art-history majors does one country need?

New Study Increases Concerns About Climate Model Reliability

Saturday, December 15th, 2007

A definite CounterCurrents category post.

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ScienceDaily (Dec. 12, 2007) — A new study comparing the composite output of 22 leading global climate models with actual climate data finds that the models do an unsatisfactory job of mimicking climate change in key portions of the atmosphere.

This research, published online in the Royal Meteorological Society’s International Journal of Climatology, raises new concerns about the reliability of models used to forecast global warming.

“The usual discussion is whether the climate model forecasts of Earth’s climate 100 years or so into the future are realistic,” said the lead author, Dr. David H. Douglass from the University of Rochester. “Here we have something more fundamental: Can the models accurately explain the climate from the recent past? “It seems that the answer is no.”

Scientists from Rochester, the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) and the University of Virginia compared the climate change “forecasts” from the 22 most widely-cited global circulation models with tropical temperature data collected by surface, satellite and balloon sensors. The models predicted that the lower atmosphere should warm significantly more than it actually did.

“Models are very consistent in forecasting a significant difference between climate trends at the surface and in the troposphere, the layer of atmosphere between the surface and the stratosphere,” said Dr. John Christy, director of UAH’s Earth System Science Center. “The models forecast that the troposphere should be warming more than the surface and that this trend should be especially pronounced in the tropics.

“When we look at actual climate data, however, we do not see accelerated warming in the tropical troposphere. Instead, the lower and middle atmosphere are warming the same or less than the surface. For those layers of the atmosphere, the warming trend we see in the tropics is typically less than half of what the models forecast.”


Thx: MD

Current Melting Of Greenland’s Ice Mimicks 1920s-1940s Event

Saturday, December 15th, 2007

A possible candidate for the CounterCurrents category but a close reading of the article makes me think not.

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ScienceDaily (Dec. 13, 2007) — Two researchers here spent months scouring through old expedition logs and reports, and reviewing 70-year-old maps and photos before making a surprising discovery: They found that the effects of the current warming and melting of Greenland’s glaciers that has alarmed the world’s climate scientists occurred in the decades following an abrupt warming in the 1920s.

Their evidence reinforces the belief that glaciers and other bodies of ice are exquisitely hyper-sensitive to climate change and bolsters the concern that rising temperatures will speed the demise of that island’s ice fields, hastening sea level rise.

The work, recently reported at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco , may help to discount critics’ notion that the melting of Greenland ‘s glaciers is merely an isolated, regional event.

They recently recognized from using weather station records from the past century that temperatures in Greenland had warmed in the 1920s at rates equivalent to the recent past. But they hadn’t confirmed that the island’s glaciers responded to that earlier warming, until now.


Are We on the Brink of a ‘New Little Ice Age?’

Saturday, December 15th, 2007

This article, first published by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution on February 10th, 2003, is about the Thermohaline Circulation System – though they do not explicitly use that phrase within the article.

This could be considered a CounterCurrents article because the general expectation is that Global Warming will make the world warmer everywhere but, in fact in some places, it might get considerably colder – which seems very counter-intuitive.

If you don’t know about the possibility that the North Atlantic region could get a lot cooler as a a result of Global Warming, then this is a great article for you.

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By Terrence Joyce, Senior Scientist, Physical Oceanography and Lloyd Keigwin, Senior Scientist, Geology & Geophysics

When most of us think about Ice Ages, we imagine a slow transition into a colder climate on long time scales. Indeed, studies of the past million years indicate a repeatable cycle of Earth’s climate going from warm periods (“interglacial”, as we are experiencing now) to glacial conditions.

The period of these shifts are related to changes in the tilt of Earth’s rotational axis (41,000 years), changes in the orientation of Earth’s elliptical orbit around the sun, called the “precession of the equinoxes” (23,000 years), and to changes in the shape (more round or less round) of the elliptical orbit (100,000 years). The theory that orbital shifts caused the waxing and waning of ice ages was first pointed out by James Croll in the 19th Century and developed more fully by Milutin Milankovitch in 1938.

Undefined Ice age conditions generally occur when all of the above conspire to create a minimum of summer sunlight on the arctic regions of the earth, although the Ice Age cycle is global in nature and occurs in phase in both hemispheres. It profoundly affects distribution of ice over lands and ocean, atmospheric temperatures and circulation, and ocean temperatures and circulation at the surface and at great depth.

Since the end of the present interglacial and the slow march to the next Ice Age may be several millennia away, why should we care? In fact, won’t the build-up of carbon dioxide (CO²) and other greenhouse gasses possibly ameliorate future changes?

Indeed, some groups advocate the benefits of global warming, including the Greening Earth Society and the Subtropical Russia Movement. Some in the latter group even advocate active intervention to accelerate the process, seeing this as an opportunity to turn much of cold, austere northern Russia into a subtropical paradise.

Evidence has mounted that global warming began in the last century and that humans may be in part responsible. Both the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the US National Academy of Sciences concur. Computer models are being used to predict climate change under different scenarios of greenhouse forcing and the Kyoto Protocol advocates active measures to reduce CO² emissions which contribute to warming.

Thinking is centered around slow changes to our climate and how they will affect humans and the habitability of our planet. Yet this thinking is flawed: It ignores the well-established fact that Earth’s climate has changed rapidly in the past and could change rapidly in the future. The issue centers around the paradox that global warming could instigate a new Little Ice Age in the northern hemisphere.

Evidence for abrupt climate change is readily apparent in ice cores taken from Greenland and Antarctica. One sees clear indications of long-term changes discussed above, with CO² and proxy temperature changes associated with the last ice age and its transition into our present interglacial period of warmth. But, in addition, there is a strong chaotic variation of properties with a quasi-period of around 1500 years. We say chaotic because these millennial shifts look like anything but regular oscillations. Rather, they look like rapid, decade-long transitions between cold and warm climates followed by long interludes in one of the two states.

The best known example of these events is the Younger Dryas cooling of about 12,000 years ago, named for arctic wildflower remains identified in northern European sediments. This event began and ended within a decade and for its 1000 year duration the North Atlantic region was about 5°C colder.