August 24, 2006

A Sea Change in Global Warming?

For years now, we have been deluged with the news that the earth’s oceans are heating up as a result of changes in atmospheric composition resulting from the combustion of fossil fuels.

Typical of these was a 2005 story titled “Where’s The Heat? Think Deep Blue,” from United Press International, describing a recent paper in Science by NASA climate modeler James Hansen. UPI wrote that “Over the past ten years, the heat content of the ocean has grown dramatically.” This study covered more than just the ocean surface temperature, which can fluctuate considerably from year to year. Rather, by considering a much deeper layer (the top 2,500 feet), Hansen could actually calculate the increasing amount of heat that is being stored. According to UPI’s story, this provided “a match” with computer model projections of global warming.

The ocean is a huge flywheel that integrates and stores long-term climate changes. Consequently, when computer models are driven with ever-increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide, the deep oceans warm, warm, and warm. But it takes time to start up, just like a big pot of water heated by a small match. Once the process starts, though, nothing should be able to stop it.

That’s the current wisdom of our climate models, but like current wisdom on so many other aspects of life, nature has behaved differently.

Within weeks, a paper is going to appear in the refereed journal Geophysical Research Letters, by John Lyman of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, showing that, globally, the top 2500 feet of the ocean lost a tremendous amount of heat between from 2003 through 2005—about 20% of all the heat gained in the last half-century.

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August 9, 2006

An Inconvenient Truth

Filed under: Climate Politics

It’s the rare bestseller that commits factual suicide in its first pages, but Al Gore has managed this feat in a big way in An Inconvenient Truth.

An Inconvenient Truth is mostly a picture book (or a movie) with screaming, large-fonted text superimposed to make sure we get the point—mankind is ruining the Earth. Everything bad, and nothing good—floods, sea level rise, drought, famine, disease, tornadoes, hurricanes, and fire, destruction etc.—are all caused by anthropogenic emissions of carbon dioxide.

Where’s the picture demonstrating that fossil-fuel powered societies have doubled life expectancy in the last 100 years. Where’s the amber waves of grain, pumped up in part by atmospheric carbon dioxide? Or, perhaps too close to home, where are all the plump Americans, because food is no longer a limiting resource?

Instead, picture after well-crafted picture provides the backdrop to Gore’s frightful but droning text (or speech, in the movie). Each page is slick and deliberate. Each is perfectly airbrushed climate porn with a Hollywood twist. “Twist” in the sense that truth becomes an inconvenience, right from the get-go.

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August 8, 2006

A Hot Urban Legend

According to news reports, the recent heat wave in California was responsible for about 150 fatalities. Many people including the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change believe this can only get worse with global warming, predicting a doubling or a tripling of heat-related deaths in North American cities in the next decade.

Global warming or not, our cities have been warming, and will continue to do so. Sprawling masonry and blacktop retain heat and impede the flow of ventilating winds. (Here in DC, there’s an additional warming: waste heat from all the money changing hands). So, this makes the notion of increasing heat-related deaths, as cities warm, a very testable hypothesis.

The United Nations is dead wrong.

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