The past two snowy winters for the nation may become more common. Has this late winter storm left you scratching your head about global warming? This winter itself has proven to be cold and snowy for most of the US, including many southern locations (Las Vegas, New Orleans, Houston, and Hawaii). The snow finally arrived in the Mid Atlantic, albeit late in the season. The irony of five inches of snow still did not stop the Global Warming protest in DC on Monday, but the onslaught of new research may hinder others.
Michael Reilly posted an article in Discovery News that is getting a lot of internet traffic, as well it should. It brings up the possibility that warming of the planet will not resume. First, Reilly cites a new study in Geophysical Research Letters which suggests that global warming might stop for up to 30 years. Wait, in the 1970s, there was fear of an impending ice age. Newsweek published The Cooling World in 1975. Since then, the planet has warmed for, uh, about 30 years!
Just last week I reported that 2008 was the coolest year for the planet since 2000. One climate expert tried to argue against it, which put the spotlight on inconsistent data. There is a debate now just on the accuracy of data. Arctic sea ice measurements were just discovered to be flawed and were missing ice the size of California due to a faulty sensor. Even Denver Weather Examiner, Tony Hake, discussed how moving the weather station to the new airport has disrupted their records. Can we even trust the data we are getting now?
Reilly asked Kyle Swanson of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee about some recent warming: “How does this square with temperature records from 2005-2007, by some measurements among the warmest years on record?” When added up with the other four years since 2001, Swanson said the overall trend is flat, even though temperatures should have gone up by 0.2 degrees Centigrade (0.36 degrees Fahrenheit) during that time.
As a scientist, I have been hesitant about the runaway warming train for one main reason: Feedback Mechanisms. Regardless of my belief in the natural cycles and variability, Earth has a way of balancing out extremes. For example, melting arctic ice would in turn cool the ocean and add fresh water that forces warmer salt water to sink, suppressing a heat source. Another feedback that is not fully understood is the result of warming on clouds. Will the atmosphere fill with more clouds since warmer temperatures will lead to more evaporation? In that case, more rain would be a cooling feedback. This was seen by Dr. Roy Spenser (former NASA climatologist), who was a pioneer in climate modeling. His initial data did not include precipitation, and the IPCC ran with those numbers. When he included precipitation and corrected his numbers, a lot of the expected warming disappeared.
Reilly’s article suggests that this could be part of the natural system: “It is possible that a fraction of the most recent rapid warming since the 1970s was due to a free variation in climate,” Isaac Held of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Princeton, New Jersey wrote in an email to Discovery News. “Suggesting that the warming might possibly slow down or even stagnate for a few years before rapid warming commences again.” Okay, so we have to wait for perhaps another 30 years to see more warming? Doesn’t this contradict the letter from James Hansen (and Al Gore) to President Obama stating that we only have 4 years left before the point of no return? Or will the number of years actually increase with the next report? That does seem to be the trend. Back on April 30th, the US Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works stated: The UK Telegraph reports on April 30: Global warming will stop until at least 2015 because of natural variations in the climate, scientists have said. Researchers studying long-term changes in sea temperatures said they now expect a “lull” for up to a decade while natural variations in climate cancel out the increases caused by man-made greenhouse gas emissions.
More scientists and more research continue to support that the Global Warming Theory has some flaws. The media reports may have been overdone. However, the barrage of attacks against those of us that care to share some of this information is getting worse. Roger Pilke, Jr. wrote on his blog Prometheus: One climate scientist suggests that my calling out Al Gore for misrepresenting the science of disasters and climate change (as well as Andy Revkin's comparison of that to George Will's misrepresentations) to be morally comparable to killing 1,000 people. It sounds a lot like Dr. Heidi Cullen (The Weather Channel’s former Climate Code) telling Larry King in 2007 that degreed meteorologists who don’t promote Global Warming awareness should lose their certification. It also sounds like the Catholic Church imprisoning Galileo for promoting heliocentrism. At that time, the accepted public view was that Earth was the center of the universe. Speaking out against it, even with scientific proof, was subject to imprisonment or even death. Scary....