January 31, 2011

Arctic Ice “Tipping Point” Rejected

Filed under: Arctic, Polar

A common rhetorical device to make potential future climate sounds even scarier, is to invoke the concept of “tipping points”—events that no one is sure when or even if they will happen, but suggest that when and if they do come to pass, they will lead to some sort of catastrophe that can’t be recovered from. Of course, global warming will push us closer to reaching these “tipping points.”

President Obama’s advisor on Science and Technology and Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, John Holdren, is a fond user of such scare tactics.


January 24, 2011

Bye-Bye Polar Lows?

Filed under: Climate Changes, Polar

We suspect everyone who reads World Climate Report has experienced a mid-latitude cyclone. These are the low pressure features that routinely cross the United States with warm, cold, and occluded fronts that bring us rain and snow. Some of these lows, like the occasional Nor-easters, can produce high winds, large amounts of precipitation (either rain or snow), and can be associated with considerable damage. Many of our readers have also experienced tropical cyclones – low pressure features that can grow into hurricanes. With lows in the tropics, and lows in the mid-latitudes, some alert school child might ask about lows in the polar regions.

So here we’ll take at how “polar lows” and how they may change character in a warmer climate.


January 17, 2011

Fight the Flu with More CO2

Filed under: Adaptation, Plants

Like it or not, winter is here and with it comes the dreaded cold/flu season. We have heard it since we were kids—wash your hands, get plenty of rest, avoid folks who are already sick, and drink lots of orange juice to maintain higher levels of vitamin C. We are skeptical of just about everything, and if one seriously addresses the issue of vitamin C reducing the misery of having the flu, be advised that some studies in adults have shown that taking high doses of vitamin C daily may significantly reduce cold and flu symptoms. Other studies have seen a modest benefit in reducing the duration of a cold or flu symptoms, and a few studies in adults and children have shown that taking vitamin C might help prevent colds or flu, although the research is inconsistent.

It ultimately does not matter whether vitamin C can or cannot prevent or ease cold and flu symptoms, because it offers numerous health benefits when consumed through eating enough fruits and vegetables (3 or more cups per day). Plus, vitamin C acts as a cell-protecting antioxidant and an immune booster, which means it will help keep you healthy anyway—even if it is not a magic elixir for colds and flu specifically. Just remember to sidestep the supplements and stick to whole foods—especially vitamin C-rich foods such as strawberries, oranges, sweet red peppers, and broccoli—when you want to make sure you or your child gets enough of this powerful nutrient.

Given all the biological benefits of elevated atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2), we wondered if we could be so lucky to have CO2 increase the vitamin C of various fruits. Our search for an answer ended quickly when we discovered an article in Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment entitled “The effect of elevated atmospheric CO2 on the vitamin C concentration of (sour) orange juice.”

And while this study may be a bit of an oldie (published in 2002), the results are such a goodie, that we couldn’t resist dusting them off and shining them up!


January 11, 2011

OH OH! Redux II

Filed under: Health Effects, Ozone

About 10 years ago, Science magazine published a paper by Ronald Prinn and colleagues with the finding that the atmospheric concentrations of the hydroxyl radical (OH-) were declining, with the authors pointing squarely to anthropogenic global warming as a likely cause. As the hydroxyl radical is particularly good as scrubbing some forms of pollution (like low level ozone) from the atmosphere, the implication was that anthropogenic global warming was inhibiting the atmosphere’s cleansing processes.

Horror, horror!

And as you could imagine, the news media eagerly ran with the story.

At the time, we at World Climate Report were a bit skeptical (big surprise there!) and pointed out that if you got into the nitty-gritty of the research results, the actual story they told was a lot more uncertain than was being portrayed—with the overarching implication that any link to anthropogenic global warming was being grossly overstated, to say the least.


January 7, 2011

Calling BS on Peter Gleick’s Climate BS Nominees

It has just come to our attention that in his infinite wisdom Dr. Peter Gleick, president of the Pacific Institute, has decided to bestow “The 2010 Climate B.S.* of the Year Award” (*B.S. being defined by Dr. Gleick as “bad science”) which he unveiled about a week ago over at The Huffington Post (itself a consistent source of climate B.S.*).

One of Dr. Gleick’s nominees for his B.S. award is World Climate Report’s own Dr. Patrick Michaels for, according to Gleick:

Long-time climate change skeptic Patrick Michaels testified before the House Science and Technology Committee and misrepresented the scientific understanding of the human role in climate change and the well-understood effects of fundamental climatic factors, such as the effects of visible air pollution. Including these effects (as climate scientists have done for many years) would have completely changed his results.

This is simply untrue.

The logical behind the analysis Dr. Michaels presented to Congress (which is derived from this WCR article), has been discussed at length over at the blogs MasterResource and Climate Etc. There, it was firmly established that it would have been illogical for Dr. Michaels to have included the effects of “visible air pollution” (which we take Dr. Gleick to mean sulfate aerosols) when partitioning the observed warming among its contributors.

A simple analogy makes it clear why considering overall losses (e.g., the cooling influence of sulfate aerosols) is not necessary when divvying up the cash on the barrelhead (e.g., the amount of observed warming).

Let’s say that I (Chip Knappenberger) put 10 dollars into a pot, and Pat Michaels further adds another 10 dollars. We have thus each contributed 50% to the $20 in the pot. Now, let’s say that Dr. Gleick comes by and swipes $15, leaving only $5. Who does that remaining $5 belong to? Well, logically, 50% of it belongs to me and 50% of it belongs to Pat—neither of us can claim the entire $5 even though each of us originally contributed an amount more than what is remaining. Our proportionate claim would be the same whether Dr. Gleick took nothing at all, or whether he took $19.99 (if he took the full $20, then Pat and I would have nothing left to divvy up). So, on a percentage basis, it does not matter how much of the original contribution that Dr. Gleick made off with—of whatever is left, one-half is attributable to me and one-half is attributable to Pat.

The same is true when divvying up the amount of observed warming. How much potential warming may have been offset by sulfate aerosols doesn’t matter one iota when apportioning the observed warming among the various factors that have contributed to it—which is precisely what Pat set out to do in his testimony.

Dr. Gleick’s proposition (echoing the objection that Ben Santer raised during the testimony) that Pat was misleading Congress by not including the cooling effects of “visible air pollution” is in error.

We call B.S. on Dr. Gleick’s B.S.

January 6, 2011

Pumpin’ Up Pineapples!

Filed under: Adaptation, Agriculture, Plants

Winter is here for most Americans and doesn’t a trip to Hawaii sound perfect over the upcoming months? Sun, beaches, tropical drinks garnished with pineapple, pineapple at breakfast, pineapple on pizza, pineapple on hamburgers… pineapple here, there, and everywhere. Somehow a trip to Hawaii without pineapple just wouldn’t be a trip to Hawaii, would it?

Turns out a little extra carbon dioxide in the air will add to your experience as the extra CO2 boosts productivity of those perfect-with-anything pineapples from our Pacific paradise.


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