March 27, 2007

Wildfires: The Results of Cyclic Oceanic Variations or Global Warming?

Filed under: Climate History

One of the common images associated with global warming is that that of a blackened and burned forest. The voice-over with such images either directly or indirectly links those images of wildfire to a worsening climate that is undoubtedly caused by us (see here for example). And as we all know, the modern 24/7 media loves to splash photos and imagery of any massive wildfires. Take for example those that have recently happened in such diverse places as Malibu, California and eastern Australia. Other massive widespread wildfires have swept western North America many times in the recent past, such as during 1996, 2000, and 2002. The implication—again sometimes spoken and sometimes not—is that greenhouse climate change is somehow responsible for these horrible calamities.

Given that graphic and much hyped scenario, one might be surprised to learn that most large-scale fire events in the western United States over the last five hundred years has been fundamentally the result of natural ocean climate cycles, and not global warming.


March 21, 2007

Signal vs. Noise in Atlantic Hurricanes

Filed under: Climate Extremes, Hurricanes

A just-published Comment and Reply exchange concerning the relationship between sea surface temperatures and the intensity of Atlantic hurricanes shows that there is just too much noise in the natural system (or at least in the observational record) at this time to clearly be able to identify a signal from sea surface temperatures on the maximum wind speed in major hurricanes.


A Winning Tactic?

Filed under: Climate Politics

On Wednesday March 14th a debate was held by the organization Intelligence Squared on the motion “Global Warming is Not a Crisis.”

Intelligence Squared’s (IQ2) mission is:

The goal of IQ2 US is to raise the level of public discourse on our most challenging issues. To provide a new forum for intelligent discussion, grounded in facts and informed by reasoned analysis. To transcend the toxically emotional and the reflexively ideological. To encourage recognition that the opposing side has intellectually respectable views. To engage the live audience as active participants who will ask questions and decide which speakers have carried the day by voting on the motions both before and after the debate.

Its debates are well-respected and broadcast on National Public Radio (NPR) and transcripts and podcasts are available for anyone interested in them.


March 20, 2007

What Do We Know About Clouds?

Proponents of the catastrophic effects of global warming on the Earth’s climate often point (somewhat contradictorily) to either heat-related clear-sky drought or evidence of increased heavy rains when discussing global warming. Both of these phenomena would undoubtedly be closely linked to variations in cloudiness around world—either marked increases or marked decreases. The rather obvious question one might ask, based on these statements, is simply: “Have we actually observed changes in cloudiness around the world?” If so, we might have a relatively clear indicator of climate change. “Are there changes in cloudiness” would seem to be a rather simple question that can be answered in a straightforward manner.

Not so fast, say the authors of a recent 2007 study published in the respected science journal Geophysical Research Letters.


March 16, 2007

The Coming Global Cooling?

Filed under: Temperature History

An article has appeared in a recent issue of Meteorology and Atmospheric Physics with a curious title “Multi-scale analysis of global temperature changes and trend of a drop in temperature in the next 20 years.” Wow, that’s a mouthful! Imagine publishing a paper in a respected, peer-reviewed scientific journal in which you predict global cooling over the next few decades? Apparently, the authors were not moved by the 46.6 million websites found when doing a quick search of the internet for “global warming.”

The article was produced by Lin Zhen-Shan and Sun Xian of the Nanjing Normal University in China (obviously, English is not their first language, if you couldn’t tell from the title, and some of the following quotes from their article are a bit awkward). The work was funded by the Chinese National Science Foundation, and not by coal interests in China. We have no reason to suspect that Zhen-Shan and Xian are puppets of any group with any interest in denying global warming in the coming decades.


March 14, 2007

Lower Mortality Thanks to Global Warming?

The release of the Summary for Policymakers of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), sent the media into a global warming frenzy. Headlines were literally predicting “climate chaos” in the coming decades, humanity and every specie on the planet are in deep peril, and according to an international group of celebrities (the “Global Cool” crowd), we have “10 years to save the planet.”

Among the usual claims, we learn that many humans will die as the temperature of the Earth increases, and that the elderly, the children, and the poorest among us are most at risk. Throw in a few pictures of Paris during the 2003 European heat wave, claim tens of thousands died in that event, and the icing is on the cake. A Google search of “Global Warming and Mortality” will lead you to 723,000 different sites – we sampled a dozen or so, and according to these sites, you will be lucky to survive much longer if temperatures continue to rise.


March 9, 2007

Saharan Dust: Savior of the Amazon Rainforests?

Filed under: Climate History

One of the most common images linked to global warming is that of an arid, dusty, cracked soil complete with the skeleton of a dead cow resting on it. One would get the impression that a dusty plain is consequently one of the worst environments imaginable. Certainly one would not expect such a visually hostile environment to be absolutely vital in accomplishing something good for one of the globe’s more visually appealing biomes—such as the Amazon rainforest, right?

Not according to a recent study in a research journal entitled Environmental Research Letters, in which researchers from Israel, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Brazil report they have discovered that a single, very dusty, location in the Sahara Desert literally supplies half of the amount of the critical mineral dust needed by the Amazon rainforest to survive. The native soil of the Amazon rainforest, because of the continual leaching of the soils by heavy daily rainfalls, is extremely limited in the vital mineral nutrients needed by the abundant tropical vegetation of the rainforest to survive and flourish. So a fundamental research question can be asked: how does the Amazon rainforest survive without continual nutrient input? Well, scientists say that the rainforest actually gets that continual mineral input and from a most unusual source. Researchers now demonstrate that the Amazon rainforest owes most of its health to massive airborne dust transport from the Sahara desert!


March 6, 2007

A 220-Year Hurricane Record?

Filed under: Climate Extremes, Hurricanes

A very interesting article was published in a recent issue of the prestigious Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and the results are of considerable interest in the debate about tropical cyclones and global warming.

Recall that global warming alarmists want us to believe that all the ups and downs in the frequency and intensity of Atlantic hurricanes during the better part of the 20th century have been caused by mankind’s enhancement of the atmospheric concentration of various gas and aerosol species, while climate moderates believe that while anthropogenic activities may very well have had some impact on Atlantic tropical storms, natural variations probably have played a much larger role in storm behavior.

This new paper sheds some light on this issue.


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