Saturday, January 23, 2010

NASA gives global warming theory a boost

It's one of the most controversial subjects on earth, but if data from NASA

is to be believed, the past decade on the planet has been the warmest ever.

Well, when NASA says ever, that's since records began in 1880 - it has been very very hot at other periods in the earth's history. The earth was molten once, scientists think.

The survey, conducted by the Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) that 2009 was the warmest year since records began. 2008 was the coolest year of the decade.

James Hansen, who has come under attack from those who dispute global warmings exist, said: "There's substantial year-to-year variabilty of global temperature cause by the tropical El Niño-La Niña cycle. But when we average temperature over five or ten years to minimize that variability, we find that global warming is continuing unabated."

The last three decades, according to GISS data, show that the surface temperature is heating up by 0.36F per decade. GISS says that this means there's a clear warming trend, although things didn't show the same trend between the 1940s and the 1970s.

The rest of the article is here.

The New York Times has an article on the warm decade here.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Military considers global warming threat

The hand-wringing over global warming is often done by scientists and preservationists, but on Tuesday several high-ranking current and former military men visited Atlanta and talked about the possible consequences for U.S. security.

They imagine disruptions in the supply of food and water that lead to unrest and to conflict around the globe. They see poverty-stricken countries becoming increasingly unstable. And they worry about whole populations on the move, as the seas rise and rivers change their courses.

Rear Admiral David Titley said there is strong evidence that old arctic ice has melted much faster than new ice can replace it. It's a trend that scientists predict could someday yield a rise in sea level by a meter or two, he said.

"I've had people ask me: ‘Why should the Navy care?'" he said. He has a dry response loaded with sarcasm: "Well, we tend to build our bases at sea level."

(The complete article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution is here).

Monday, January 18, 2010

Nobel-winning panel's warning on glaciers discredited

A much-publicized United Nation panel’s estimate about the rapid melting of Himalayan glaciers from climate change is coming under fire as a gross exaggeration.

The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change had said in 2007, the same year it won the Nobel Prize, that it was “very likely” that Himalayan glaciers would disappear by 2030 if current warming trends continue.

That date has been much quoted and a cause for enormous consternation, since hundreds of millions of people in Asia rely on ice and snow melt from these glaciers for their water.

The panel is the United Nations’ scientific advisory body on climate change and it ranks its conclusions according to a probability scale in which “very likely” means there is greater than 90 percent chance that an event will occur.

But it now appears that the estimate about Himalayan glacial melt was based on a nearly decade-old interview of one climate scientist in a science magazine, The New Scientist, and that hard scientific evidence to support that figure is lacking. The scientist, Dr. Syed Hasnain, a glacier specialist with the government of Sikkim and currently a fellow at the TERI research institute in Delhi, studies “index glaciers” and has more recently suggested that only small glaciers would disappear entirely.

The panel is considering whether to amend the estimate or remove it. “We are investigating this issue and our members have been asked for further input,” said Brenda Abrar, a spokeswoman. The panel’s reports are exhaustive compilations of climate science created through the efforts of hundreds of scientists, and no one person can make the change.

The complete article in the NY Times is here.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Good news for the world; bad news for the IPCC

It’s the best news of the decade so far, but not for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the official ultimate authority on climate science, for it poses a much greater threat to its credibility than the much-hyped “Climategate” emails and puts further questionmarks over its embattled chairman, Dr Rajendra Pachauri.

Reports today suggest that the IPCC may soon retract one of the more alarming predictions in its latest massive review of climate science, that the glaciers of the Himalayas are very likely to disappear by 2035, after it was found to be unjustified. That is emphatically good news for the world. At least three quarters of a million people in the most populous part of the planet depend on the glaciers for water: their rapid disappearance would be an unimaginable catastrophe.

Leading glaciologist Prof Graham Cogley of Ontario’s Trent University – who says that, at current rates, the melting might take ten times longer – has been worried for some time about the prediction. At one stage he thought IPCC had wrongly transposed two figures in the date from a 1996 scientific paper that forecast the glaciers’ disappearance by 2350. But the truth is even more embarrassing. It goes back to a story published in New Scientist in 1999 by its excellent environment specialist, Fred Pearce, which reported an Indian glaciologist Syed Husnain as saying they could be gone by 2035. This was mentioned six years later in a campaigning document by the environment group, WWF, and the IPCC then picked it up.

This is serious, as the authority of the IPCC rests on meticulously basing its reports on peer-reviewed literature and, indeed, on taking a conservative view. Traditionally it has erred on the side of caution, sometimes excessively so. In the same report, for example, it grossly underestimated future sea-level rise, by excluding contributions form melting ice from the Greenland and Antarctic ice-sheets, though these would be major factors: last December a highly authoritative report suggested that its forecast level should be doubled.

(Potentially embarrassing news for the IPCC, which should have got this - glaring - error, but good news for people living in Asia - the rate of melting of the glaciers in the Himalayas seems to be considerably less than anticipated in the latest IPCC prediction - ultimately giving the world more time to do something about it). The rest of the article is here.