Many in the press, especially those in New York and New Jersey, seem to have woken up after Hurricane Sandy and decided that climate change is real and we need to do something about it right away. Climate scientists have been talking about this for more than 30 years. Personally, I’ve looked at the data several times (2001 and 2007). There are multiple different ways you can look at the data. There is ground temperature data, sea temperature data, glacier melt data and tons more. One of the things that makes the climate change data so robust is that scientists are not depending upon one set of data. Instead, they’re looking at multiple different sets of data and they all are basically saying the same thing. Climate change (man’s burning of fossil fuels causing increased carbon emissions which in turn causes changes in the climate) is real. I sit down and talk with Joe Romm from the Climate Progress blog which is associated with the Center for American Progress. Enjoy.
Again, it is time to act boldly on climate change. From ClimateProgress:
Stanford climate scientists forecast permanently hotter summers
The tropics and much of the Northern Hemisphere are likely to experience an irreversible rise in summer temperatures within the next 20 to 60 years if atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations continue to increase, according to a new climate study by Stanford University scientists….
“According to our projections, large areas of the globe are likely to warm up so quickly that, by the middle of this century, even the coolest summers will be hotter than the hottest summers of the past 50 years,” said the study’s lead author, Noah Diffenbaugh,
That’s from the Stanford release for a new Climatic Change study. The study, based on observations and models, finds that most major countries, including the United States, are “likely to face unprecedented climate stresses even with the relatively moderate warming expected over the next half-century.”
As a taste of things to come, much of the United States has just been hit by a monster heat wave. Steve Scolnik at Capital Climate analyzed the data from NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) and found, “U.S. heat records in the first 9 days of June have outnumbered cold records by an eye-popping ratio of 13 to 1″ — 1609 to 124:
I like the statistical aggregation across the country, since it gets us beyond the oft-repeated point that you can’t pin any one record temperature on global warming. If you want to know how to judge whether the 13-to-1 ratio for the first 9 days of June is a big deal, here’s what a 2009 National Center for Atmospheric Research study found over the past six decades (see “Record high temperatures far outpace record lows across U.S.“): (more…)
I’m going to try and do a better job and post more information on climate change. (I’m going to use the term climate change instead of global warming. For me, climate change will be shorthand for climate change secondary to human activity, specifically the burning of fossil fuels.) I have found a new blog called Climate Progress. This blog has done a wonderful job of finding scientific articles and explaining those articles and what they mean to our climate. I will be borrowing heavily from this eco-blog.
From Climate Progress:
One of the single greatest concerns of climate scientists is that human-caused warming will cause amplifying feedbacks in the carbon-cycle. Such positive feedbacks, whereby an initial warming releases carbon into the air that causes more warming, would increase both the speed and scale of climate change, greatly complicating both mitigation and adaptation.
The most worrisome amplifying feedback is the defrosting of the tundra. Another major, related feedback now appears to be soil respiration, whereby plants and microbes in the soil give off more carbon dioxide as the planet warms.
As Nature reports (article here, study here, subs. req’d), a review of 439 studies around the world — including 306 performed from 1989 to 2008 — found “soil respiration had increased by about 0.1% per year between 1989 and 2008, the span when soil measurement techniques had become standardized.” Physorg.com interviewed the lead author, who said bluntly:
“There’s a big pulse of carbon dioxide coming off of the surface of the soil everywhere in the world,” said ecologist Ben Bond-Lamberty of the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. “We weren’t sure if we’d be able to measure it going into this analysis, but we did find a response to temperature.”
The increase in carbon dioxide given off by soils — about 0.1 petagram (100 million metric tons) per year since 1989 — won’t contribute to the greenhouse effect unless it comes from carbon that had been locked away out of the system for a long time, such as in Arctic tundra. This analysis could not distinguish whether the carbon was coming from old stores or from vegetation growing faster due to a warmer climate. But other lines of evidence suggest warming is unlocking old carbon, said Bond-Lamberty, so it will be important to determine the sources of extra carbon.
Indeed the study itself concludes:
The available data are, however, consistent with an acceleration of the terrestrial carbon cycle in response to global climate change.
One of the other gases, maybe not talked about quite as much as carbon dioxide, is methane. Methane, like carbon dioxide, will trap heat in our atmosphere. It appears that there are huge quantities of methane trapped in the Siberian tundra. As temperatures warm, that methane is released into the atmosphere.
From Climate Progress:
Scientists learned last year that the permafrost permamelt contains a staggering “1.5 trillion tons of frozen carbon, about twice as much carbon as contained in the atmosphere,” much of which would be released as methane. Methane is is 25 times as potent a heat-trapping gas as CO2 over a 100 year time horizon, but 72 times as potent over 20 years!
The carbon is locked in a freezer in the part of the planet warming up the fastest (see “Tundra 4: Permafrost loss linked to Arctic sea ice loss“). Half the land-based permafrost would vanish by mid-century on our current emissions path (see “Tundra, Part 2: The point of no return” and below). No climate model currently incorporates the amplifying feedback from methane released by a defrosting tundra.
The new Science study, led by University of Alaska’s International Arctic Research Centre and the Russian Academy of Sciences, is “Extensive Methane Venting to the Atmosphere from Sediments of the East Siberian Arctic Shelf” (subs. req’d). The must-read National Science Foundation press release (click here), warns “Release of even a fraction of the methane stored in the shelf could trigger abrupt climate warming.” The NSF is normally a very staid organization. If they are worried, everybody should be.
It is increasingly clear that if the world strays significantly above 450 ppm atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide for any length of time, we will find it unimaginably difficult to stop short of 800 to 1000 ppm.