Media Misleads Audience on Climate Change Impact Report
(By meteorologist Jeffrey Allen Miller, publisher of Think & Ask,
NY) Analysis of historical climate data is largely based upon
fact -- especially since data collection continues to improve.
Projecting future trends from historical data is a scientific guess and
one certainly worth funding, following, and collaborating upon with all
parties across governments, the science industry, and private
Earth scientists have a solid understanding of earth's present
condition, however (and as with nature itself) earth does surprise. The
media does not, so reader caution is advised when reading The New York Times' account of
climate change published 2 February 2007.
In the latest global warming (or climate change) summary report by the
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 2 February 2007, while some
research aspects of the report confirmed earlier suggested global
climate shifts, once again the scientists did not address micro- or
Translation: This report offers
you -- on Main Street anywhere on earth -- no specific value. Do you
run to higher ground from pending sea level rise? No. Do you build a
home with 10-foot-thick walls to protect the structure from pending and
disastrous winds? No. Do you stay informed? Yes, you should, because
climate change is not steady state and there is time to adapt. (Don't
trust the media in the United States to say so.)
Climate in your town
The latest scientific discussion on climate change centered upon
temperature and precipitation increases or decreases by region --
arctic or polar, subtropical, tropical, North/South America, Asia,
Africa, Europe, and Australia -- oceanic, and severe weather
Do wine growers in California's Napa Valley benefit from this specific
report? No. Regions of the world with distinct microclimates today are
on their own, because science of climate change focuses on global not
As for the media --at this time in the United States not a single
mainstream press agency has an on-staff meteorologist as a reporter--
they do not have the in-house knowledge to discuss macro and
microclimate issues for your hometown.
It is up to you to demand of your media that they employ experts, not
journalists, to bring climate change information, future predictions,
and relevant research application to the local level.
After reviewing the report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate
Change (IPCC) there was no outstanding new information other than
having narrowed the effects of predicting continental and oceanic
temperature changes through the 2090-decade.
IPCC specifically assessed details from extensive research collected
during the past six years. The study included more sophisticated
analyses of data, improvements in understanding of processes and their
simulation in models, and more extensive exploration of uncertainty.
Authors wrote, "Global atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide,
methane and nitrous oxide have increased markedly as a result of human
activities since 1750 and now far exceed pre-industrial values
determined from ice cores spanning many thousands of years. The global
increases in carbon dioxide concentration are due primarily to fossil
fuel use and land-use change, while those of methane and nitrous oxide
are primarily due to agriculture."
One interesting note from the research was that in analyzing
balloon-borne and satellite measurements of lower- and mid-troposphere
temperatures, results showed warming rates that are similar to those of
the surface temperature." This data cleared-up earlier studies, which
were not conclusive for the higher atmospheric levels.
Translation: When you fly at higher altitudes and the pilot enjoys a
little joke by announcing the outside temperature at...37-degrees
'below zero,' in future this may be more like 33-degrees below
zero. It is and will remain - below zero.
Factor the unknown
What remains uncertain --and is certainly only going to be a guess from
all points of study-- is the relationship between warmer surface
temperatures and evaporation.
"The average atmospheric water vapor content has increased since at
least the 1980s over land and ocean as well as in the upper
troposphere," the scientists concluded. "The increase is broadly
consistent with the extra water vapor that warmer air can hold."
So, translation? This is a huge issue that must be addressed when
predicting future climate change. The warmer the atmosphere (relatively
speaking) more evaporation occurs. Picture a pot of water boiling on
the stove --the temperature is capped for water but evaporation occurs
at a faster rate -- it sends moisture into the air and as this example
is applied to lakes, rivers, and ocean water the result produces a mass
of moisture that rises, cools, and forms cloud cover.
Should earth's water become so warm that all bodies steam? In such an
extreme example, the sun would be hidden by a global deck of clouds,
thus moderating the temperature at the surface.
This factor plays a significant role in macroclimates and will indeed
mean to that Napa Valley wine grower whether or not those grape vines
grown today will survive in 20 or 50 years.
Oceans are a major climate influence and it moderates the range of
global climate temperature.
"Observations since 1961 show that the average temperature of the
global ocean has increased to depths of at least 3,000 meters and that
the ocean has been absorbing more than 80 percent of the heat added to
the climate system.
"Such warming causes seawater to expand, contributing to sea level
rise," authors of the report concluded.
While melting polar ice will play an important role in adding fresh
water to ocean bodies, the warming of water itself too adds bulk and
thus spreads out further than sea level today. Evaporation scenarios
are not factored into the study. Would a warmer climate and warmer
ocean temperatures mean faster rates of evaporation? Faster evaporation
means more cloud cover and less sunshine available to heat the body of
water more so than at steady state. Scientists have not addressed these
questions as the answers apply to climate change.
There is "insufficient evidence" to determine whether trends exist in
the meridional overturning circulation of the global ocean, authors
concluded, which means that it is not possible yet to predict future
trends of ocean currents today.
Precipitation and temperatures
Long-term trends (from 1900 to 2005) have been observed in
precipitation amounts across many large regions. Significantly
increased precipitation has been observed in eastern parts of North and
South America, northern Europe, and northern and central Asia. Drying
has been observed in the Sahel, the Mediterranean, southern Africa and
parts of southern Asia. Precipitation is highly variable spatially and
temporally, and data are limited in some regions.
"Long-term trends have not been observed for the other large regions
assessed," the report concluded.
As rainfall is one of the most valuable resources, whether or not it
falls as snow, is perhaps the most important issue facing humans should
climate change scenarios work out as stated in February 2007. (Which
they won't, remember what is stated at the top of this story -- nothing
is steady state and future projections are only guesses based upon what
we know. What we know in 2020 will likely change.) Future studies must
be more comprehensive on precipitation estimates than region-based, and
updated frequently as new data is analyzed.
The scientists concluded that: "There is no clear trend in the annual
numbers of tropical cyclones." Meaning, there is no accurate prediction
to state whether hurricanes would become more or less plentiful in
years ahead. However, scientists held to the argument that when
hurricanes do develop, their intensity would be more severe.
There is an old story about hurricanes -- these compact organisms are
earth's way of releasing heat into the atmosphere...consider them to be
rather like the tropical zone's air conditioning system. One would
think that the warmer the tropics become, the more hurricanes develop
in order to release heat. It remains uncertain however how much the
tropics would actually warm up -- as the bulk of warming on earth is
(and has been for some time) more evident in the polar regions.
More to come, since there is
improved understanding of projected patterns of precipitation on a
global scale. "Increases in the amount of precipitation are very likely
in high-latitudes (polar regions,) while decreases are likely in most
subtropical land regions (by as much as about 20 percent by 2100,)
which is a continuation of recent trends.
The most recent time the polar
regions were significantly warmer than present day was about 125,000
years ago, in which scientists estimate sea level rose 4 to 6 meters
from today's level. Polar studies indicated that temperatures were
about 3C to 5C higher than present.
Without specifying areas, the group concluded that "warmer and fewer
cold days and night over most land areas," and "warmer and more
frequent hot days and nights over most land areas" is "virtually
The global average increase by 2090 "is likely to be in the range 2C to
4.5C with a best estimate of about 3C, and is very unlikely to be less
than 1.5C. Values substantially higher than 4.5C cannot be excluded,
but agreement of models with observations is not as good for those
Projected warming in the
century shows scenario-independent geographical patterns similar to
those observed over the past several decades. Warming is expected to be
greatest over land and at most high northern latitudes, and least over
the Southern Ocean and parts of the North Atlantic ocean
From years 2000 to 2020 the
scientist predict warming of about 0.2 centigrade per decade with a
chance of adding another 0.1 centigrade should concentrations of
greenhouse gases and aerosols increase.
"Water vapor changes represent the
largest feedback affecting climate sensitivity and are now better
understood...but cloud feedback remains the largest source of
uncertainty," scientists concluded.
"It is very unlikely that climate changes of at least the seven
centuries prior to 1950 were due to variability generated within the
climate system alone. A significant fraction of the reconstructed
Northern Hemisphere inter-decadal temperature variability over those
centuries is very likely attributable to volcanic eruptions and changes
in solar irradiance, and it is likely that anthropogenic forcing
contributed to the early 20th century warming evident in these records."
Volcanic eruptions of course --one of earth's many surprises-- cannot
be factored into the long-term predictions yet. However, in the
event of a major volcanic eruption, historical data indicates major
cooling follows even though it is temporary.
There is insufficient evidence to determine whether trends exist to
enhance frequency and intensity of tornadoes, hail, lightning, and dust
Scientists concluded that (in general) heat waves (more so in
frequency) and heavy rainfall events were "very likely" over "most
Droughts, more intense tropical storms, higher sea levels were all
rated as "likely."
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