Friday, February 5, 2010

Don't confuse weather - climate

.....Studies from both hemispheres indicate that 95 percent of the world’s alpine glaciers are retreating. Glacier National Park in Montana is down to 26 named glaciers from 150 in 1850. If this trend continues, the park is expected to be ice-free by 2030. Glaciers in the Himalayas are shrinking so rapidly that the summer flow of the major rivers (Indus, Ganges, Mekong, Yellow, Yangtze) they feed may eventually be seriously affected.

Permafrost regions are thawing in high northern latitudes, causing buildings to sink, roads to crumble, and a variety of other troubles for human infrastructure. The great ice sheets are retreating. The Greenland ice sheet melting began to accelerate in the 1990s. Now the margin of the entire ice mass is melting even in its northernmost reaches. The West Antarctic ice sheet has begun extensive melting, mostly since 2000, and the rate of melting has increased since then.

Sea level is rising, and the rate of rise has accelerated over the last century. A tide gauge on a concrete, open-ocean pier in Duck, N.C., indicates the sea level is now rising at a 1 1/2-foot-per-century rate. In the Pacific, atoll nations such as Tuvalu already are being abandoned because of the rising sea. Soon the Maldives must follow.

The summer sea-ice cover of the Arctic Ocean is shrinking and thinning, and may disappear altogether.

So, one can argue for hours regarding whether this year was warmer or colder than last. It really doesn’t matter. We should be reading the planet, not thermometers. The Earth is clearly warming and sea level is clearly rising....

The complete article in the Atlanta Journal Constitution is here.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Is global warming a crock of s&%! ?

We are being warned and exhorted that, unless serious measures are taken to reverse our contributions to greenhouse gases, humans have put the planet on an unsustainable course for potential crises up to extinction. The irony is that, on the news, there is little agreement on what's caused massive shifts in temperatures over the past millennium.

"Global warming is a crock of s*%t!" When Bob Lutz, vice-chairman of General Motors, said this in February 2008, it immediately became the most widely distributed quote regarding global warming on the Internet. After all, this was one of the major power players in the automobile industry, and he was implying that anyone who believed that global warming was real, man-made, and altering the planet was something akin to a moron. But the problem with that quote is that it's incomplete. I know. I was there.

It was at a small private luncheon at Cacharel in Arlington, Tex., when Lutz uttered those words. But the quote omits what he said next: "Don't misunderstand me, I'm not a climate denier." As he explained to those present, he simply questions the mindset that blames all the climate change of the past few decades on mankind.

Lutz's comments that day were far more balanced and thoughtful than anyone who heard that particular quote might believe. And therein lies the problem with the current discussions on global warming: The media have taken the position that the science is complete and settled. A unanimous agreement that global warming not only exists but is man-made -- and we're almost past the point where we can still save the planet from it. Moreover, anyone who questions those absolute statements is quickly labeled a "Climate Change Denier." This label is intended to shame and discredit doubters, much like 500 years ago when church officials prosecuted anyone who preached the earth was not the center of the universe.

However, labeling to discredit someone by calling them a "denier" is a distorted and completely unjust position to take on such an important subject. In fact, virtually no one believes the earth has not gone through a period of unexplained warming. Therefore, the term "denier" is not just inaccurate, it's a complete and intentional mis-characterization of those wanting more open and honest scientific studies on the subject.

For the complete article in Sci-Tech-Today click here.

Radio operators are the eyes of the National Weather Service

Even in the age of high-powered Doppler radar, instant communications and the Internet, the National Weather Service and local safety officials still rely heavily on old methods for accurate observations and emergency communications.

Volunteer amateur — or ham — radio operators still play a primary role in providing on-site information about tornadoes and storm conditions to weather forecasters and letting emergency responders know what’s going on.

"There’s nothing like ground troops," said Keith Wells, assistant coordinator with the Tarrant County Office of Emergency Management, who was helping the National Weather Service on Saturday at the annual Skywarn storm spotter training session at Texas Christian University.

"One of the most important things we do all year is train the spotters," Wells said. "When you have a trained observer on the ground at Bryant Irvin Road reporting golf-ball-sized hail or a funnel cloud, that really tells a meteorologist what’s going on."

More than 400 people showed up for the training, most already members of Tarrant County RACES (Radio Amateurs in Civil Emergency Service). The volunteers are willing to fire up their radios and vehicles and often head out looking for storm action to provide instant observations to the weather service.

It’s a service that amateur radio operators have provided locally since the early 1970s.

The Fort Worth Star-Telegraph has the complete article here.

Pentagon review to address climate change for the first time

The Pentagon is addressing climate change for the first time in its sweeping review of military strategy.

The Pentagon is set to release the Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) on Monday, along with the 2011 budget request.

In the review, Pentagon officials conclude that climate change will act as an “accelerant of instability and conflict,” ultimately placing a burden on civilian institutions and militaries around the world.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-Mass.), a key architect of Senate climate plans, was the first to draw attention to the significance of climate change in the QDR. Kerry said last week that the QDR will list climate change as a security problem that could claim U.S. lives.

“I will tell you that the defense review of the United States Pentagon next week is going to come out and list climate change for the first time as an instability factor that affects our troops and may in fact wind up costing us lives down the road,” Kerry said at a forum hosted by labor, business, veteran and other groups backing climate legislation.

The complete article in the "The Hill" publication is here.

Why has global warming paused? Water vapor may be the answer

A decline in stratospheric water vapor between 2000 and 2009 followed an apparent increase between 1980 and 2000, a team of scientists has found. That finding may have implications for global warming.

A decade-long plateau in global warming appears to have occurred in large part because the stratosphere – the layer of atmosphere that few but airliners enter – got drier.

That’s an explanation by a team of atmospheric scientists from the United States and Germany. They’ve studied trends in stratospheric water vapor over the past 30 years and calculated the effects of those trends on temperatures.

A decline in stratospheric water vapor between 2000 and 2009 followed an apparent increase between 1980 and 2000, according to balloon and satellite measurements that the team used. The decline slowed the long-term growth in global average temperatures by some 25 percent, compared with the warming one could expect from rising concentrations of greenhouse gases alone, the team estimates.

"There's not a lot of water in the stratosphere. It's extremely dry," says Susan Solomon, an atmospheric scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder, Colo., who led the team. "But it packs a wallop" in terms of its climatic effects, she says.

Other factors probably played a role as well in the temperature plateau, the team acknowledges.

Another contributor could have been sulfate aerosols from the rising number of coal-fired power plants in China, point out researchers such as Drew Shindell, with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York.

The complete article in the Christian Science Monitor is here.

Climate change blamed for Olympic snow shortage

More mud than snow for the '10 Winter Olympics in Vancouver?

The David Suzuki Foundation says global warming and climate change are in part responsible for what's happening to a key Olympic venue.

Olympic organizers are working around the clock to ensure there's enough snow on Cypress Mountain, home to freestyle ski and snowboard events for the Games.

Record warm temperatures and heavy rains this winter have forced VANOC to use bales of hay and to truck in snow to create the courses for the events.

The Games are a perfect catalyst for Canada to take climate change seriously in the long term, according to Ian Bruce, the lead climate change campaigner at the Suzuki Foundation.

"It's crucial, as far as our economy goes here in Canada [and] it's crucial to protect winter sports as far as our culture goes," Bruce said.