Saturday, July 28, 2012

Himalayan glaciers really are melting

Climate change deniers like to jump on the smallest discrepancy in the scientific evidence as proof that the science is wrong. One of their favorite topics concerns melting of the glaciers in the Himalaya Mountains. There was an error in the last IPCC report and they repeatedly pull this out as proof of their claims, even though the error was minor. But, as a result of this they have been claiming the glaciers are not melting at all. Well, the science doesn't support them.

A new study released in Nature Climate Change where the authors report
Here we report on the glacier status over the past 30 years by investigating the glacial retreat of 82 glaciers, area reduction of 7,090 glaciers and mass-balance change of 15 glaciers. Systematic differences in glacier status are apparent from region to region, with the most intensive shrinkage in the Himalayas (excluding the Karakorum) characterized by the greatest reduction in glacial length and area and the most negative mass balance. 
This is pretty damning evidence for the people that claim there is no melting of the glaciers. Melting of glaciers requires warming. And, of course, the deniers want to deny there is any warming. Unfortunately, the evidence keeps piling up to show they are wrong and are just busy misleading the public.

Also unfortunately, while we are busy arguing about this the people that depend on these glaciers for their lives will be suffering.

Once again, the only way you can deny global climate change is to deny science.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Extreme climate change fighting ideas

I'm also as critical of extremist climate change advocates as I am of climate change deniers. I feel a big source of the difficulty we have convincing the public is the fact that there are some real kooks saying things that just turn people off.

Here is a National Geographic article on extreme climate change ideas. Some aren't so bad (painting roofs white is a very good idea and already practiced in many areas of the world). But, some are not very good at all.

Take a look for the fun of it, if nothing else.

A surge in Greenland ice melt

One serious concern with global climate change is the effects of melting ice around the world. With major ice sheets on Greenland and Antarctica, melting ice has the potential to cause a rise in sea levels around the world and to cause environmental changes due to an influx of fresh water into the world's oceans. The increase in ice melting is well documented.

Recently, data from three different satellites showed there was a surge in the melting of ice on Greenland. On July 8 about 40% of the ice cap was having surface melt. By July 12 that figure had increased to 97%.

In itself, it is not anything to be concerned with. Even at this increased rate it would take centuries to melt all of the Greenland ice cap. And, we can't even be sure this wasn't a naturally occurring ice melt surge. Ice cores indicate that ice melts like this occur about every 150 years. The last one occurred in 1889, about 123 years ago.

But, if this was a result of global warming then we will see more events like this in future years.  This will be something we will need to monitor on a regular basis to see just what is going on.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Climategate hackers may get away with it

In 2009 some hackers released a large amount of emails that were stolen from the servers of the University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit (CRU). Climate change deniers selectively picked individual phrases out of a mountain of emails and claimed these cherry-picked phrases proved misconduct on the part of climate change scientists and a conspiracy to cover-up any contrary viewpoint. The emails were leaked just before an international conference was to meet in Copenhagen to address climate change. The hackers have never been identified, but the computers used were located in Saudi Arabia. The scientists involved in this scandal have been investigated and cleared of any wrongdoing. A total of eight investigations were conducted and all of them cleared the scientists.

Of course, that has not stopped the climate change deniers of claiming otherwise.

Now, the U.K. police are closing the investigation into who was responsible for the hacking attack. The three-year statute of limitations is about the expire and they don't have any leads on who the culprits are. They did manage to clear everyone at the University of East Anglia. The attack was very sophisticated and was conducted by people that were very knowledgeable and adept at computer hacking.

But, even without knowing who the hackers were, we can deduce a lot. The fact that Saudi Arabia appears to have been involved says everything we need to know. Does anyone really think the Arabs are working in our best interests? And, the fact that climate change skeptics are still using false claims about Climategate to support their claims shows how invalid their stand on global climate change really is. If they had real science to support their arguments they wouldn't need to engage in false arguments like that.

What is most interesting is to realize that there are people out there who know who is responsible for these attacks are do nothing. If their stand on the issues is good, then they would turn in the criminals. You can tell a lot about someone by the company they keep.

And, we see what kind of company the skeptics keep.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Climate change blamed for severe weather

You cannot point at a single weather event and say that climate change is responsible for it. Weather has always happened, even before there was manmade climate change. But, a pattern of events can be used to paint a picture. That is what we are now seeing.

Weather in the U.S. has been very extreme the last few years. A notable example of this is the severe drought that was experienced in Texas. It may have been the most severe drought every recorded in Texas and covered almost the entire state. This, deniers will say, was the result of naturally occurring weather patterns. Texas has had droughts before and will have them in the future. While this statement is true, it is not complete. What we are seeing is the number and severity of Texas droughts are both increasing. These increases correlate with the rise in global temperatures.

Texas and the U.S. are not the only places to experience severe weather the last few years. It has been a worldwide phenomenon. Some of this is natural. Some of the disasters are actually manmade without global climate change. By changing water drainage humans caused the extensive flooding in Thailand last year in what would have been an otherwise relatively normal event.

But some of the extreme weather can be attributed to global warming.

The basic lesson is that the world's weather system is a heat engine. At a fundamental level, it takes in energy and produces weather. Add more energy and you get more weather. Add lots more energy and you get lots more weather. Crank up the energy and you crank up the engine.

Now, this year, the Midwest U.S. is having a drought.  It is so severe that it is affecting the crops, which is sure to have an impact on food prices later on. Now, farmers in Nebraska using surface water are told to stop irrigating. That isn't going to help.

As global temperatures continue to rise we will see weather that is more severe and we will see it more often.

Tree ring data is bad news for denialists

Jan Esper of Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz in Germany and his collaborators were able to assembled a record of tree rings that is unprecedented in its continuity and consistency. These data came from the trunks of young and long-dead Scots pines at 17 sites in northern Finland and Sweden.  Examining this database in a new way allowed them to identify the effects of small variations in Earth's orbit about the Sun on the climate. These small variations are the result of Earth's gravitational interactions with Jupiter and Saturn and are believed to be responsible for the ice ages. But, the researchers believe these small variations are also responsible for a cooling period of the last 2000 years. The data show that Scandinavia cooled from about 138 BC to about AD 1900 before it began warming again.

Of course, climate change deniers are jumping on this as proof that the current changes in our climate are not manmade. They want to claim that the current changes are just naturally occurring variations and that this tree ring data supports that conclusion. (Let's ignore how the denialists like to claim there is no change in the climate. Why are they trying to explain the changes if they think there are no changes?)

This is actually bad news for the denialists' claims and is another example of the only way you can reject manmade global climate change is to reject science. This research shows supports other work showing we are in a naturally occurring cooling cycle. The denialists, when they admit there is global climate change, say that the climate goes through naturally occurring cycles. This is correct. What is not correct is the belief we are in a naturally occurring warming cycle. The fact is, we are in a naturally occurring cooling cycle.

Just imagine how much worse off we are going to be when we really do enter a naturally occurring warming cycle.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

It keeps getting hotter!

Climate change deniers like to say that global warming has stopped and that the average global temperature has been dropping for the last 10 years. This, of course, is total nonsense. Just today I was reading about the heat wave and the thunderstorms that hit last week and it caused me to wonder.

If global warming has stopped, why do we keep setting new heat records? Temperature records have been falling all over the country this summer and the forecast is for it to continue. How could that be, if we are cooling?

Feds go after paid promoter

A story on states federal prosecutors cited how GlaxoSmithKline paid experts to promote drugs that were not yet approved by the FDA as part of their prosecution of the drug maker. The article states, "The government alleges that Pinsky was paid a total of $275,000 over just two months – March and April 1999 – to deliver messages about Wellbutrin SR, a Glaxo antidepressant, “in settings where it did not appear that Dr. Pinsky was speaking for GSK.”"

The question I have is this: Why is it illegal for GSK to pay someone to promote their unapproved product, but it is OK for the fossil fuel industry to pay millions to not-so-expert people that will promote climate change denial, even though their claims are false? The fossil fuel industry is doing precisely the same thing the DoJ is accusing GSK of doing.

The fossil fuel industry is engaged in a massive campaign that uses many of the same individuals and tactics used by the tobacco industry to deny research on the harmful effects of tobacco. Today, this well-funded machine is engaged in false science, false arguments and personal attacks to put out their message that there is no climate change and we don't have to do anything about it. Dealing with climate change will likely cost the fossil fuel industry billions of dollars, so they have a big vested interest in deceiving the public and government officials to prevent any actions.

So, why isn't the Department of Justice doing something about all of this?

Monday, July 2, 2012

East Coast thunderstorm

I spent last week at a family reunion. We met at Pigeon Forge, TN and had a very nice time. My son and I then drove through North Carolina and north through Virginia to get home. We arrived just an hour before a massive thunderstorm hit and knocked out the power. I love thunderstorms and have seen some real good ones in northern Texas and the Midwest plains, but this one was something to see. It slammed in very suddenly, had incredible winds and fierce lightning. The entire mid-section of the country had a tremendous heat wave last week with temperatures in the triple-digits. Of course, that heated air eventually made it's way east. As this hot air hit moist, cooler air in the east it resulted in the thunderstorms. And, these were not just local storms, either. They stretched from the Great Lakes to North Carolina with the most severe parts in Virginia, West Virginia and Maryland. If my son and I had driven the more direct route home through Virginia we would have been driving through the storm system all day long.

We were lucky, we got our power back on Sunday. News reports are that 14 people died and millions are without power. The local utility company is saying some areas may be without power for up to 10 days. That will be a true hardship in this heat.

Is this thunderstorm related to global warming? It is always difficult to point at a single example as evidence of global warming, but it has always been clear that increased warmth in the atmosphere will cause more severe weather. I believe last week's heat wave and Friday's thunderstorms were, in fact, the result of global warming. If the air had not been supercharged with energy the thunderstorms would not have occurred. And, the air was heated up because drought conditions in the Midwest made the ground dry. Instead of evaporating water in the ground, sunlight heated the ground up and caused the heat wave. The drought conditions are caused by changes in the climate.

The planet's weather system is a big engine, similar to the engine in your car. If you step on the gas pedal and deliver more gasoline to the engine it surges. Likewise, if you send a bunch of energy into the atmosphere the weather system will surge. Record heat waves across the United States followed by record thunderstorms require vast amounts of energy. No energy, no heat wave. No energy, no thunderstorms. Pretty simple, actually (the difficulty is in the details). Yet, climate change deniers will want you to believe that the increasing number of extreme weather events are just happening naturally and there is nothing to worry about.

But, there is something to worry about. This is just the beginning. Weather will be more and more extreme as global warming continues. And, it is continuing. This year, 2012, is on track to be the hottest year ever recorded. But, I will bet right now that the record won't last long.