Showing posts from August, 2015

Obama Speaks to Truth on Global Warming

Obama on Climate Change: Act Now or Condemn World to a Nightmare
"The time to heed the critics and the cynics and the deniers is past," the president said. Unless the world acts more aggressively and more quickly, he said, "entire nations will find themselves under severe, severe problems: More drought. More floods. Rising sea levels. Greater migration. More refugees. More scarcity. More conflict." Obama contended, "Any leader willing to take a gamble on a future like that, any leader who refuses to take this issue seriously or treats it like a joke, is not fit to lead."

And do I need to add that under these conditions not a single Republican candidate for President is fit to lead?

The Impact of Rates of CO2 Emissions

I've written before about the important distinction between a slow rate of CO2 increase and an accelerating rate. Geologists know that the planet's oceans and atmosphere are very resilient to fluctuations in its component parts.  We are undergoing a sustained increase in atmospheric and oceanic concentration of CO2, and the past is not consistent with regard to how the planet responds to these changes.

An article at the Skeptical Science website explores this issue in detail.  The differential impact of CO2 is determined by the rate of change of its concentration, whether it is fast or slow.  As is explained there, there are numerous chemical and biological processes involved, and some of them act quickly and others take millennia.  Basically, the absorption of CO2 into the oceans surface, where most CO2 emitted into the atmosphere goes, occurs far more quickly than the deeper processes that deal with the CO2.  The consequence is a large buildup of CO2 in the atmosphere and oc…

It May Be Way Worse Than We Thought

I posted about a year ago about the threat of ocean methane stored as ice, called clathrates, melting and bubbling to the surface.  This is a worst case scenario that brought about the greatest extinction of life on this planet called the Permian-Triassic Extinction Event.  There is some evidence that we are headed for something possibly worse:

We may be headed for the worst case scenario:

At no time in the past did humans exist under conditions that we are facing now, no matter how far back you go in history.

Global mean methane levels as high as 1840 parts per billion were recorded on August 4, 2015. This is the highest mean level since records began and this new record is likely to be superseded by even higher levels soon.

Methane releases from the seafloor of the Arctic ocean threaten to cause rapid local warming that in turn will trigger further methane releases, in a vicious cycle of runway warming that could destroy habitat for humans within decades.

The situation is dire and call…

Kids Getting Involved in Fighting Global Warming

I've already said that kids need to get involved.  Some are getting involved, and I'd like to encourage more to do that.

Fortunately, the kids are calling us out and making it impossible to ignore the facts.  Twenty-one youths filed an Oregon US District Court lawsuit last Wednesday seeking a court order “declaring that the Federal Government has violated and is continuing to violate the fundamental constitutional rights of youth and future generations to life, liberty, property, and public trust resources by causing dangerous CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere and dangerous government interference with a stable climate system . . .”

I'm hoping to get my grandkids involved too.

melting glaciers

Glaciers are one of the more important topics in climate change.  Snow and ice occur where there are low temperatures and lots of precipitation.  As the atmosphere warms it contains more moisture, and while global temperatures are climbing, whether or not a glacier grows or melts is a complex process involving places where temperatures remain cold and moisture increases precipitation.

Thus while in some places the glaciers are melting, in other places then can be growing, even while the global temperatures are increasing.  Obviously after a certain point, glaciers are likely to completely melt, as happened in the PETM, but we have some ways to go for that to happen at this time.

Global warming deniers like to use glaciation as evidence against warming.  But this is called "cherry picking".  What is happening globally?

That doesn't look good for glaciers.  What is the proportion of growing to melting glaciers?

Figure 2:  Percentage of shrinking and growing glaciers in 20…

Are Frogs Smarter Than People?

There is the apocryphal story about the frog in a pot being brought to boil.  The water temperature slowly increases and the poor frog never realizes what is about to happen until it's too late.  The story is not true.  A frog will leap from the pot long before it's cooked.

But humans seem to be another story.  There is clearevidence that ocean levels are rising.  And Florida is perhaps more vulnerable than any part of the country.

The densely populated megalopolis of South Florida is losing it's water wells as sea water intrudes into the Biscayne Aquifer. Salt water has already moved 6 miles inland in Broward County and is likely to continue to creep westward. Ninety percent of South Florida gets its drinking water from underground supplies, most from the Biscayne aquifer. This inland movement observed in Broward County is due to urban withdrawals from the Biscayne Aquifer, ocean water moving sideways into the aquifer and seepage of saltwater from surface sources.


An Incinerating 2016

July was the hottest on record and we're heading for the hottest year on record, smashing 2014's heat.

Two ancillary heating mechanisms are in play here, the El Nino, and Pacific Decadal Oscillation.  We  are on track for a Super or Godzilla El Nino, and the PDO is in an upswing.  These factors together promise not just a very hot 2015, but an incinerating 2016:

If the 2015-2016 El Niño does rival the 1997-1998 super El Niño, then just as 1998 crushed 1997 temperatures, we may see 2016 beat all the records set in 2015.  Bottom Line: the warming trend that made 2014 the hottest calendar year on record is continuing. We appear to be in the midst of of the long-awaited jump in global temperatures.

Most of the heat generated by the greenhouse gasses go into the oceans, but the El Nino is a process where the heat comes out of the ocean into the atmosphere.  As the Earth's biosphere, the oceans and the atmosphere together heat up, the El Nino's are going to get stronger.  An…

No Easy Solution For Ocean Acidification

Most of the CO2 we're pouring into the atmosphere is actually getting absorbed by the oceans.  It's called ocean acidification because that's what it's doing, acidifying them.  And the consequences are very bad for carbonate sea life sea life, oysters, shrimp, clams, krill, etc.  I've discussed this issue a number of timesbefore:

 We have an historical event showing us what happens when the CO2 concentration accelerates, the PETM boundary, the Paleoeocene-Eocene Boundary,  where 55.8 million years ago, the oceans and atmosphere were filled with greenhouse gases over a very short period of time. 

The ocean acidification at that time caused the largest loss of sea life in the history of the planet.  We are heading for something even worse.

A new study from Nature Climate Change reveals that even if we stop pouring CO2 into the atmosphere right now thus averting the worst consequences of global warming, it will not stop the damage to ocean sea life.  

Indeed, a 2010 study…


One piece of evidence for global warming is normally tropical diseases being spread by mosquitoes in temperate zones like Florida and other southern states and eventually farther north.  For example, the chikungunya virus carried by Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus.  As the planet warms we can expect a lot more such as dengue fever, malaria, and encephalitis traveling northward.

Clearly we are more and more going to need some way of warding off mosquitoes.  Everyone I know is familiar with Deet.  Jennifer Jolly in the New York Times says:

The only thing that worked really well is the stuff that worked well 40 years ago, back when I was just a young, fresh mosquito target traipsing across the tundra: bug spray with DEET. The more, the better. Sure, it can melt plastic, comes with a list of warnings to rival those in prescription drug commercials, and ate my nail polish off in a matter of minutes, but when it’s me versus mosquitoes in a winner-take-all-my-blood feeding frenzy, I use wh…

If You Thought Global Warming Was Bad...

Here in the Pacific Northwest the impact of global warming will be minimal.  The main problem will be all those people coming here from elsewhere to escape the droughts, rising sea levels, and uninhabitable heat elsewhere.

There will be important effects of warming in other parts of the world, social disorder, mass starvation, more droughts, typhoons, and uninhabitable heat.

As bad as that is though, there may be things worse than global warming, read this.

When Young People Finally See Their Future

I find my friends don't want to talk about the future -- it's too depressing. Let's be happy now and deal with the future when it happens. I've certainly found that no one wants me to bring up global warming at a dinner party no matter how important a topic I think it is. And at political gatherings, like Drinking Liberally on Wednesdays, where such a topic would be salient, no one really wants to talk about it because they already know all about it and we all know what has to be done, a carbon fee. And there's no hope of getting that by the Republicans in Congress.

The result of this is very little in the media, and very little about it in our daily lives. Just a few climate blogs and blogs like mine. The rest is silence.

So what are young people going to think when they find out what is going to happen to their future? Fifteen States have mandated the teaching of climate science in middle and high schools. Some percentage of the students in these classes …

Global Warming Deniers or Skeptics?

The dawning realization among climate scientists and their supporters of the dire consequences we can expect if nothing is done about our continuing to pour carbon dioxide into the atmosphere has moved them to deal with the people who have refused to accept that conclusion. The refusers have called themselves "skeptics" but a movement has begun to insist that they instead be called "deniers". Why is this distinction important and what does it mean?

The essential issue here is whether science is "settled" or not. It is possible to argue that science is never settled, and that is the approach of some global warming deniers.  But science can be settled yet get modified in future investigation.  For example, gravity.  Aristotle's ideas were overthrown by Newton's theory.  And later Newton was superseded by Einstein's theory of gravity, which even today people don't realize.   And Einstein's theory may too be superseded.  But with Newton t…