The Best Global Warming Discussion Ever
The other day I went to a global warming presentation delivered by my friend, Mason Wilson (retired Professor Emeritus from the University of Rhode Island, College of Engineering). I was so impressed by the information he presented and by his organization of the material that I invited him to post it on my blog. He starts by explaining the difference between short range weather forecasting, based on real-time data – and longer range forecasting, based primarily on extrapolating historical data into the future. Next he points out the significance of the historical record of climate data on which there should be universal agreement. Lastly he points out some of the factors that may be more important than CO2 emissions in explaining some current conditions.
A Discussion of Global Warming and Latest Developments
by Dr. Mason Wilson
Global warming is most likely the most cited scientific problem in recent times, as many thousands of people rally behind those saying Global Warming is due to mankind, It satisfies the hunger of those who would like to see the downfall of the industrial giants who are profit centered, greedy - and are claimed to have no regard for the environment. And those opposed to the global warming concept are said to be bought off by these destroyers of the universe. The recent news items linking President Obama to the formation of the biggest carbon tax and trade company in the world and Al Gore's making millions off of the global warming problems make for hot topics of discussion. That’s the political side of the thrust to embrace global warming.
This article does not want to get in the middle of this..it is not science. To put the science in perspective we will review the problems of forecasting weather, short range, medium range and long range forecasting (climatology) and the role that greenhouse gases can expect to play in the long range predictions, where they should be found in the atmosphere and the degree of influence that they may have in the atmosphere.
Short range forecasting in recent years has improved considerably, mostly because of the satellite information that is provided - cloud cover, infrared scans, Doppler radar and a host of new technologies support the local weather forecaster with an enormous amount of information. The classical weather map is assisted by this information so that 24 hour forecasts have achieved 70 to 80 percent accuracy and reasonable 10 day forecasting represents fairly good estimates of what is in the future.
However as one tries to predict things like hurricanes in the next one, two or three months, most forecaster rely mostly on historical evidence, such as the frequency of storms as illustrated in the next four figures
Most forecasting of hurricanes is based on these historical histories together with the latest positions of La Nina, El Nino, weather conditions in the Sahara Desert, and sea surface temperatures in order to modify the historical predictions. Even with all of these latter meteorological inputs, forecasting the number of hurricanes and their intensity is only a little better than a true historical forecast as shown in the following table. (CLICK TO ENLARGE)
Hurricane Forecast Accuracy
Climatology on the other hand relies on information based on past weather history which only goes back a few hundred years and paleo-climatology which yields ancient weather evidence as found in ice core samples, tree rings etc. It is generally recognized that the climate of the earth is governed by plate tectonics, volcano eruptions, sun variability and the earth’s orbit. Modern climate models all include the most famous and pioneering work of Milankovitch who successfully correlated and predicted the cyclic temperature variations of the earth using the inclination and declination of the earth together with the orbit fluctuations of the earth around the sun. This inclusion makes all climate models appear accurate, sometime leading to a false reliance on these models.
Milankovitch results are shown in the following figures
100,000 year cycle...angle of earth's axis varies
from 22-24 degrees every 41,000 years, and earth
wobbles away from the sun every 19,000 to
23,000 years driven solely by solar radiation.
Global warming experts like to modify these temperature predictions by the effects of greenhouse gases such as shown in the following figure.
These are the absorption spectra, and climatologists who want to predict global warming from these figures must integrate the radiation absorbed by these gases together with the concentration of these gases in the atmosphere and their exposure to the incident radiation. No easy task. Much information can be derived from the above graph. The distribution of the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is primarily due to its density as compared to air. Gas density varies with the molecular weight and the molecular weight of air is 28.9. Hence greenhouse gases having larger molecular weight should be found in the lower atmosphere and those having a lower molecular weight should be found in the higher altitudes. The molecular weight of carbon dioxide is 44 which is much heavier than air, consequently it should be only found in the lower atmosphere. The argument that it can be carried into the upper atmosphere by thunderstorms is highly implausible since the carbon dioxide can be easily removed by the water in the raindrops. Natural gas (methane) is quite a different story. It has a molecular weight of only 16 which is almost half the density of air, Consequently it should be found mainly in the upper atmosphere. Notice that water vapor is one of strongest of all of the greenhouse gases and the most abundant in the atmosphere. It has a molecular weight of on 18 as compared to air of 28.9 and should be found in the upper atmosphere, unless it condenses or freezes. When a gas absorbs incoming radiation the energy is transformed into kinetic energy of the molecule such as the vibrational oscillation of the double bond between the carbon and oxygen atoms as in carbon dioxide and into translation into kinetic energy. Some of the energy is also reradiated. Some of the absorbed energy is transferred to surrounding molecules through a collision process. The kinetic energy of the molecule represents the temperature of the gas.
The famous IPCC Conference that had concluded that global warming was caused by anthropogenic carbon dioxide relied very heavily on the Antarctic ice core data and global mean temperature trend as shown in the following two figures:
MEAN GLOBAL TEMPERATURE
The first figure clearly shows that carbon dioxide leads the temperature profile, hence the conclusion that carbon dioxide causes global warming. The temperature increases shown in the second figure illustrates that the average global temperature increased during that time that carbon dioxide increased. The problem with this figure is in determining what portion of the increase is due to carbon dioxide greenhouse effect and what portion of the temperature increase is due to solar variability. If climate modelers assign to the carbon dioxide portion of this increase that is due to solar variability, their models will overcompensate the solar activity and will predict much higher temperatures. IPCC uses a radiation forcing function that requires many assumptions concerning the amount of radiation absorbed and re-radiated by carbon dioxide . Using this method can easily result in overestimates of the temperature increases caused by carbon dioxide. Recent observations have born this out as shown in the following figure.
Recent data by NOAA shows that the hot spots in the Arctic fall surprisingly close and along the intersection of two tectonic plates that form the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. It is well known that many vents occur along this ridge. These vents heat up the surrounding water and provide many minerals that support local marine fauna. The vents surface at Iceland and provides this country all of its power and heating needs. This ridge exits Iceland to the northwest and then to the northeast along the Greenland coast where most of the glacial melting is occurring. What a coincidence!
This striking comparison does not prove that plate tectonics is the cause of Arctic warming but does suggest an explanation of why this region is so much warmer than the surrounding area. It can also explain why the Arctic is losing ice cover while the Antartic appears to be gaining, as seen in the following two figures
Inspection of the ice and snow graph of the Antartic shows that in recent years there has been a record buildup of ice and snow in this region. This causes a greater pressure at the heads of the glaciers forcing them to calve more rapidly. Recent reports suggesting that the higher calving of these glaciers is due to global warming is very misleading.
Recent ice core studies also shows some conflicting data that leads one to question some of the assumptions made in the IPCC report. The following figure of a 2000 ice core shows that some of the time carbon dioxide leads the increase of temperature and some of the time the temperature precedes the increase of carbon dioxide. Recent cores in 2003 and 2005 appear to support the above figure.
Note: The blue line (CO2) sometimes leads the temperature line (red line) and sometimes follows it. This is in conflict with a conclusion that CO2 forces global warming.
The following figure also is not in line with the prediction of the global warming forecasts.
Recent findings indicate that solar variability more closely follows the climactic temperature than the increase of carbon dioxide.
One of the initial studies showing an increase of temperature with an increase in carbon dioxide is revisited and shown to correlate more with solar variability than any increase in carbon dioxide as shown below.
Last but not least if one still believes in global warming is due to anthropogenic carbon dioxide and thinks that we can do something about. The following figure show that even with a Herculean effort we are going to have an abysmally small effect.
I decided to add one of the slide exhibits that Professor Wilson presented at his talk, but did not include in this post – a slide that details the fact that the historical record clearly shows our planet going through cycles of cooling and warming. We are now in a cooling period of a warming cycle, and extrapolations would seem to show a continuation of this cooling period.
CLICK TO ENLARGE