Warming to Climate Claims

February 9, 2010 | By | 11 Replies More

As Washington D.C. gets record snowfall, climate denialists cackle with glee. It was a cool summer, and now a cold winter. So, they wonder, where is this global warming?

“People,” I want to condescendingly say, “look at the sun.” Weather girls of all genders and persuasions are mentioning that this is the coldest winter in 11 years. Notice that? Are they unaware that there is an 11 year cycle of solar warming and cooling that corresponds to — and can be measured by — sunspots? So it’s like saying with implied importance that this is the coldest month since 12 months ago. The spots are just starting up, much like the days getting longer at the end of December. Here is a nice look at the sunspot phenomenon.

It is intuitively confusing that dark spots mean more heat. But the pair of images here shows visible and ultraviolet views of the same scene. Those dark spots are tunnels into the gamma-hot regions of the sun. Our eyes can only see one octave on the spectrum. Both hotter than blue and cooler than red ranges are invisible. Dark. Red hot is the coldest temperature that gives off light. (Read about Black Body Radiation if you want to know how this is known.)

Another detail that climate denialists get wrong is the meaning of heavy snowfall. If you get heavy precipitation, it implies much moisture aloft. That is, many more megatons of water are evaporated. By heat.

So before you point to a low local current temperature as evidence against global warming, please look at the time scale that climatologists use, like the Temperature record of the past 1000 years, or even for the last century and a half:

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Category: Astronomy, Communication, Current Events, Education, Energy, Environment, global warming, ignorance, nature, Science, Web Site

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A convoluted mind behind a curly face. A regular traveler, a science buff, and first generation American. Graying of hair, yet still verdant of mind. Lives in South St. Louis City. See his personal website for (too much) more.

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  1. Erich Vieth says:

    Dan: Are you certain that the average temperature isn't going up due to all of the hot air of climate change deniers? You know, all those conservatives who claim that lots of snow in DC means that the earth isn't heating up?

  2. Niklaus Pfirsig says:

    One thing that I find disconcerting it the polarization in the Global warming issue. Proponents of the anthropogenic CO2 hypothesis seem to everyone who is not entirely on board with their program as "Climate change denialists".

    I take exception to this for several reasons. First, I know the average global temperature has been on the rise for several centuries, if not millenia.

    however, CO2 is a trivial greenhouse gas. The major greenhouse gas is water vapor, which has amuch stronger thermal modullation effect on the climate because it can exist in all three phases in our global temperature range.

    In the past 50 years, a considerable amount of formerly arid land has been reclaimed as farm land through modern agriculture techniques such as irrigation and sod planting. This has resulted in of increase the average humidity over the reclaimed areas, making significant changes in the weather patterns.

    One must also consider that sunlight is not the only external energy input to our ecosystem. Gravitational strains is another. Yet another energy input comes from the interaction of the solar wind with the ionosphere, the Van Allen belt and the earth's magnetic field.

    These are all areas that warrant further study, but aren't receiving much because they don't support the politically supported hypothesis.

    But what bothers me most about the anthropogenic co2 hypothesis is how it has been promoted by politicians. I have a problem with accepting the trade part of cap and trade.

    If they truly believe that CO2 is causing the climate change, then limiting CO2 production makes sense. However, if the industrialized nations can simply buy the excess carbon credits of the non- industrial nations, they have little incentive to honor the caps. Who in Enrno came up with this scheme?

    • Erich Vieth says:

      Niklaus. We don't even need to get to the issue of the causation to see a big problem. Whatever the cause (I've put my chips on anthropogenic and you haven't), people who care about evidence should agree that A) average global temperature has been going up noticeably over the past century, and B) weather is not the same thing as climate. It perplexes me that the denialists can't agree as to even these basic facts. How can we even have a rational conversation about causation (your big concern) when so many of us can't agree about the two above-listed issues?

  3. Niklaus Pfirsig says:

    Erich,

    There is archaeological evidence that climate change has been ongoing for several centuries.

    But to the point:

    On one side you have some people who feel that they can make a lot of money in the short term by denying climate change altogether. On the other side you have some people who embrace and promote the anthropogenic CO2 hypothesis because they feel they can make lots of money by trading carbon credits as a commodity.

    The current political status quo favors the latter group, and any climate research that does not support, or even worse challenges, the Anthropogenic CO2 hypothesis is written off as junk science or denialist propaganda.

    Additionally, any scientist that can challenge the popular hypothesis cannot find venue on the popular media and often find support from the denialist camp, which costs him or her the "street cred" among the proponents of cap and trade.

    So what pisses me off is how the politicization of the issue is effectively blocking serious scientific discourse.

    • Erich Vieth says:

      BTW, I have almost no faith in the "cap and trade" proposals that are being bantered about. I plan to post on a recent Harper's article that convinced me to be highly suspicious of these proposals.

  4. Dan Klarmann says:

    Niklaus, you cite several alternative sources of heat and its retention. However, you should look at the actual numbers. Solar flux provides at least 99% of the heat that affect the surface of our planet. Those others just don't register.

    Atmospheric water vapor is a double-edged sword: It is a good greenhouse gas, but if you increase it beyond current levels, it creates a reflective layer (thicker clouds) that cools the surface, not heats it.

    Did you even bother to look at the 1,000 year temperature chart before saying that temperatures have been rising for centuries?

  5. Niklaus Pfirsig says:

    Dan,

    water vapor is such a strong modulator of temperatures, that it doesn't need to be available in high concentrations to trap and release heat through evaporation and condensation at ground level. And while clouds can reflect some sunlight back into space, the formation of the water droplets in the cloud releases considerable heat energy into the air, which is why which is why overcast nights are warmer than clear nights.

    And why only consider 1000 years? Paleoclimatologists with the NOAA have evidence of general warming over the past 10,000 years. In fact, warming has been occurring for about 70,000 years following a 1000 year ice age that was triggered by volcanic activity.

  6. Dan Klarmann says:

    Niklaus, you obviously don't have scientific training. Cloudy nights are warmer because the clouds reflect heat both ways. It is not some magical extra heat produced by the equilibrium of droplet formation within the clouds. If it were, then all nights would be cloudy and all days sunny. Check your math.

    I mention the most recent 1,000 years of data because that is to what I provided a link. I know there are several independent sources of data giving global climate data going back through several ice ages. Naturally, the climate has warmed since the end of the last ice age. But look at the rates of warming. And at the rate of change of rate.

  7. Niklaus Pfirsig says:

    Dan,

    I've been a science geek from an early age, and over the years, my interests have varied considerably. At one point I was interested in weather and climate. And I've had some scientific training.

    If you look at the last 1000 years of climate info ( I use the NOAA data ) you may notice the earlier part of the millennia actually shows a cooling trend.

    The strongest modulating effects of water vapor are at the ground level, where the condensation in the form of dew and fog, moderate the temperature near the ground. And while clouds reflect a lot of visible light, they also absorb infrared.

    A large number of people, through some need to simplify the physical world to simple cause and effect of simplistic systems have chosen to believe that a complex and dynamic system, the global climate, is completely controlled by one variable out of many.

    I respectfully disagree.

    However, we should be developing alternate renewable energy sources and technologies because we are running out of fossil fuels, the the current posturing is nothing more than a delaying smokescreen action

  8. Dan Klarmann says:

    The end of fossil fuels will certainly relieve the anthropogenic carbon dioxide problem within a century. However, as you pointed out, weather is a complex system. Systems theory shows that any unusual Impulse added to a complex system will cause oscillations (big swings in behavior). Those millennium-long repercussions of a century of fossil fuel excess that is of concern here. Core samples have not shown such a sudden rise in CO<sub>2</sub> since Chicxulub. And we know how well that went for the dominant race of the era.

    Monetizing all industrial waste products would help. The only plan for monetizing carbon emissions on the drawing board is Cap and Trade.

    But the point of this post was to show how media ignore even the relatively quick sunspot cycles in reporting things that may be perceived to be relevant to climate.

  9. Brynn Jacobs says:

    If you're interested in the topic, Reddit today hosts a rather large and involved discussion on the issue, titled "I'm a global warming skeptic and I invite you to change my mind."

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