May 29, 2008

Tropical Cyclones Down-Under

Filed under: Climate Extremes, Hurricanes

We have written so much about the link between climate change and hurricanes (a.k.a., tropical cyclones, TCs) that we sometimes wonder if there could be anything new to report. No sooner than we have such a thought, yet another article on the subject appears in some leading scientific journal. A sentence in the abstract from this new article really caught our eye as we read “For the 1981/82 to 2005/06 TC seasons, there are no apparent trends in the total numbers and cyclone days of TCs, nor in numbers and cyclone days of severe TCs with minimum central pressure of 970 hPa or lower.”

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May 22, 2008

A Sea Surface Story

Filed under: Temperature History

Sometimes we wonder if authors of papers are not outright campaigning for coverage in World Climate Report. Chose a title like “Ocean surface warming: The North Atlantic remains within the envelope of previous recorded conditions” and you will be guaranteed coverage by our skeptical scientists!

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May 16, 2008

Where Are All The Drowning Polar Bears?

Filed under: Adaptation, Animals, Arctic, Polar

The Interior Department just announced its decision to list the polar bear as “threatened” under the U.S Endangered Species Act (ESA). The justification behind the decision is that polar bears are highly dependent on sea ice in the Arctic for their livelihood—hunting, mating, birthing, family rearing, etc.—and thus if sea ice declines, so will the overall health of the species. While this may, in fact, be true in some sense, it also gives short-shrift to the bears adaptive abilities, which must be large, given that they survived the previous interglacial warm period as well as an extended period of warmer-than-present conditions in the Arctic (which undoubtedly were associated with reduced sea ice levels) about 5,000 to 7,000 years ago (give or take a thousand years) (see here fore example). If the bears fare worse this time around, it will mostly likely be because their natural adaptive response may run up against a human roadblock in the form of habitat disruption or other types of difficulties that an increased human presence may pose to the adapting bears. It seems that this is what the intent of the ESA is aimed at tempering, not trying to alter the climate—precisely how the Act should have be applied, despite all the criticism surrounding the decision.

All this renewed attention to polar bears has piqued our interest in just how the bears have been faring recently. Al Gore made movie stars out of drowning bears in his 2006 film An Inconvenient Truth with an animation sequence depicting a small patch of floating ice disintegrating under a struggling polar bear until it was left swimming alone in a vast expanse of open ocean. One couldn’t help to get a little teary-eyed at the notion.

And as the public just can’t get enough of cute, cuddly, slightly aggressive movie stars who are a little down on their luck, the paparazzi are never too far behind to document their each and every move. Pictures of Paris Hilton partaking in every activity imaginable abound and Britney can’t even pull out of a parking lot without running over a photographer’s foot. So where are all the pictures of drowned and drowning polar bears?

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May 9, 2008

Lessons of the Quaternary

Filed under: Climate History

When climatologists talk about the Quaternary Period, you probably think they are referring to events that occurred thousand of years ago. You would likely be right, but for the official record, the Quaternary Period is the geologic and climatic time period that began roughly 1.8 million years ago and includes the present. The Quaternary includes two major geologic epochs including the relatively cold Pleistocene when glaciers ruled the Earth and the Holocene period that began approximately 12,000 years ago when the glaciers retreated. We see the climate alarmists sometimes arguing that we have left the Holocene and entered the Anthropocene – a time when the human impact has significantly altered the Earth. So, we are currently living in the Quaternary, Holocene, and Anthropocene, all at the same time.

One of the world’s leading journals focusing on the geology, geomorphology, geography, archaeology, soil science, palaeobotany, palaeontology, and palaeoclimatology of the Quaternary Period is published by Elsevier and is titled Quaternary Science Reviews. Three articles have been published recently in the journal with what we are calling the “Lessons of the Quaternary.”

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May 6, 2008

Slower Sea Level Rise

Filed under: Sea Level Rise

One of the major pillars of the greenhouse scare is that sea level is rising due to global warming, coastlines will be inundated, and disasters will occur in coastal areas throughout the world. Who could ever forget Al Gore’s documentary showing us the World Trade Center Memorial under water due to sea level rise? A year ago, climate change hero James Hansen warned the world that non-linearities in the ocean-atmosphere system could lead to a whopping 5 meter or more sea level rise over this century.

As we have covered many times in the past, sea level is certainly rising – of course, it has been rising for the past 10,000 years. During the last glacial period, sea level dropped 400 feet as water was tied up in ice, and as we have moved out of the cold glacial period, sea level has recovered. The question for climate change experts is not “Is sea level rising” but rather “Is sea level rise accelerating?” In 2001, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) wrote “No significant acceleration in the rate of sea level rise during the 20th century has been detected”, while in 2007, IPCC wrote “Global average sea level rose at an average rate of 1.8 [1.3 to 2.3] mm per year over 1961 to 2003. The rate was faster over 1993 to 2003: about 3.1 [2.4 to 3.8] mm per year. Whether the faster rate for 1993 to 2003 reflects decadal variability or an increase in the longer-term trend is unclear.” To say the least, the IPCC has been very cautious on the issue of accelerated sea level rise.

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May 2, 2008

China is #1!

Thousands of websites present the usual view of global warming claiming that greenhouse gases are increasing in atmospheric concentration, this is causing the planet to warm, and if we don’t act immediately, an endless number of calamities are certain to become reality. These sites then make every effort to make you believe that much of the problem can be placed at the feet of President Bush, Vice President Cheney, and just about anyone associated with the gas, oil, and coal companies in the United States. There are mentions here and there of contributions from other countries, but you will constantly be reminded that the United States is the largest emitter of greenhouse gases, that the relatively small population of the USA has an immoral per capita emission level, and that no one on the planet should feel more guilty about global warming than folks who voted for the current administration.

To be fair, there have been news reports recently that China’s total emission of carbon dioxide (CO2) has surpassed the emission from the United States. Along these lines, an important article has appeared in Geophysical Research Letters that shows China is now our global leader in CO2 emission, which is certainly newsworthy, but other results presented in their article may be received as bad news by the global warming alarmists. The research was conducted by three scientists at the University of Maryland, the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and Austria’s International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis; a portion of the research was funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Science, Biological and Environmental Research Programs.

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