Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Global Warming Hiatus

The underlying global warming trend is being driven by the CO2 we're pouring into the atmosphere.  Most of the CO2 is being absorbed by the oceans acidifying them and thereby endangering carbonate sea life (oysters, clams, shrimp, krill).  What remains in the atmosphere is warming us and it has been steadily increasing:

Mauna Loa CO2


There's an important distinction to be made between the underlying secular trend and the variation around that trend.  The observed time series of the atmospheric global temperature has slowed over the last 15 years, providing fodder for global warming deniers.  But the observed time series is not the underlying secular trend.  Other independent factors, such as ENSO which operates on top of the secular trend, both positively and negatively, must be taken into account.

Recently a paper by Chen and Tung, climate scientists, has been published in Science offering an additional explanation for the slowing in the observed data, also described here and here.  A large part of the heat generated by atmospheric CO2 is being absorbed by the oceans in addition to the CO2 itself.  This has slowed down the observed rise in global atmospheric temperatures though not the underlying secular trend in the increase in temperature in the biosphere which includes both atmosphere and oceans.

These findings though do have implications for the impact of global warming on our daily lives.  My original contention was that dramatic effects were five years away or so, but Chen and Tung are saying that the atmospheric impact could be delayed for another ten or fifteen years.  At the end of that period, however, the full impact will hit the atmosphere.

This is very troubling because the resistance to reducing the impact of global warming will continue for many more years, far after an effective strategy to save our civilization must be enacted.

My view about future events has always been very pessimistic because it seems that the human race is not capable of timely reaction to new information.   One hundred years after Copernicus' demonstration of the heliocentricity of our solar system, most people still believed that the sun orbited the earth.  Even today, one hundred years after Einstein's General Theory of Relativity, people still believe that gravity is an attractive force.

We don't have that much time for people to get global warming, and thus I'm very pessimistic.