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27 October 2011

FollowUp 5: Republican Denial of Climate Change

In the last followup of this series on 21 October 2011, we saw that the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature study, conducted by a previously skeptical physicist, found that climate change is real.  In this installment, I will take a quick look at three more studies.

13 October 2011, City College of New York, NYC, New York.

Professor Marco Tedesco is finding that glacial melting in Greenland continues even when temperatures are not at the warmest.  This self-amplifying effect will make it very difficult to undo the effects of climate change.

“We are finding that even if you don’t have record-breaking highs, as long as warm temperatures persist you can get record-breaking melting because of positive feedback mechanisms,” said Professor Tedesco, who directs CCNY’s Cryospheric Processes Laboratory and also serves on CUNY Graduate Center doctoral faculty.

This is not simply a concern for the glaciers Professor Tedesco studied directly.

Professor Tedesco likens the melting process to a speeding steam locomotive. Higher temperatures act like coal shoveled into the boiler, increasing the pace of melting. In this scenario, “lower albedo is a downhill slope,” he says. The darker surfaces collect more heat. In this situation, even without more coal shoveled into the boiler, as a train heads downhill, it gains speed. In other words, melting accelerates.

Only new falling snow puts the brakes on the process, covering the darker ice in a reflective blanket, Professor Tedesco says. The model showed that this year’s snowfall couldn’t compensate for melting in previous years.  “The process never slowed down as much as it had in the past,” he explained. “The brakes engaged only every now and again.”

The team’s observations indicate that the process was not limited to the glacier they visited; it is a large-scale effect. “It’s a sign that not only do albedo and other variables play a role in acceleration of melting, but that this acceleration is happening in many places all over Greenland,” he cautioned. “We are currently trying to understand if this is a trend or will become one. This will help us to improve models projecting future melting scenarios and predict how they might evolve.”

21 October 2011, Lund University, Lund, Sweden.

Professor Svante Björck has found that modern climate change is unlike previous shifts in climate.  Today's changes are affecting both the Northern and Southern hemispheres, which is not natural.

Simultaneous warming events in the northern and southern hemispheres, have not occurred in the past 20 000 years, which is as far back as it is possible to analyse with sufficient precision to compare with modern developments. Svante Björck’s study thus goes 14 000 years further back in time than previous studies have done. “What is happening today is unique from a historical geological perspective”, he says.

He concludes that humans are a source of climate change.

“As long as we don’t find any evidence for earlier climate changes leading to similar simultaneous effects on a global scale, we must see today’s global warming as an exception caused by human influence on the earth’s carbon cycle”, says Svante Björck, continuing: “this is a good example of how geological knowledge can be used to understand our world. It offers perspectives on how the earth functions without our direct influence and thus how and to what extent human activity affects the system.”

25 October 2011, Institute of Physics, a professional society of physicists.

Southwest China is experiencing increases in temperatures resulting in loss of glaciers.

Scientists examined data from 111 weather stations across south-western China and have shown that temperature patterns were consistent with warming, at a statistically significant level, between 1961 and 2008.

Of the 111 stations examined, 77 per cent displayed statistically significant increases in annual temperature.

Collating a broad range of research on glaciers during this time period, the researchers, from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, identified three characteristics that were consistent with the increasing trend in temperature; drastic retreats were observed in the glacial regions, along with large losses of mass and an increase in the area of glacial lakes.

This is not trivial change.

The implications of these changes are far more serious than simply altering the landscape; glaciers are an integral part of thousands of ecosystems and play a crucial role in sustaining human populations.

The synopsis at the Institute of Physics page concludes

The lead author of this study, Dr Zongxing Li, said, “I think glacial loss is caused mainly by rises in temperature, especially in the high altitude regions. From the 14 weather stations above 4000 m, there was an annual mean temperature increase of 1.73 °C from 1961 to 2008.

“It is imperative we determine the relationship between climate change and glacier variations, particularly the role of precipitation, as the consequences of glacial retreat are far reaching.”

How much more science is needed before the Republican presidential contenders pull their heads out of the sand and stop denying climate change?  The truth is before us, the studies are reaching the same conclusions.  The results are being found in the Americas, in Europe, in Asia.  Denial of science is adequate grounds for any candidate for any office to lose my vote.

 1 October 2011, Original Pedantic Political Ponderings posting.
10 October 2011, FollowUp 1.
11 October 2011, FollowUp 2.
17 October 2011, FollowUp 3.
21 October 2011, FollowUp 4.

30 November 2011, FollowUp 6.
29 January 2012, FollowUp 7.
15 February 2012, FollowUp 8.
18 February 2012, FollowUp 9.
2 March 2012, FollowUp 10.
11 March 2012, FollowUp 11.
4 June 2012, FollowUp 12.

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