The latest results from the EPICA core in Antarctica have just been published this week in Science (Siegenthaler et al. and Spahni et al.). This ice core extended the record of Antarctic climate back to maybe 800,000 years, and the first 650,000 years of ice have now been analysed for greenhouse gas concentrations saved in tiny bubbles. The records for CO2, CH4 and N2O both confirm the Vostok records that have been available for a few years now, and extend them over another 4 glacial-interglacial cycles. This is a landmark result and a strong testament to the almost heroic efforts in the field to bring back these samples from over 3km deep in the Antarctica ice. So what do these new data tell us, and where might they lead? [Read more…] about 650,000 years of greenhouse gas concentrations
Archives for 2005
Perhaps you’re interested in supplementing your tapas-style RealClimate reading with a full meal of a book to curl up with. Maybe you’d like to send such a book to your good-hearted but clueless Cousin Bob, to convince him not to buy an SUV next time. Here are some possibilities …. [Read more…] about Books books books
It’s been a busy week for water vapor, and I have two recent papers to discuss. The first is the paper "Anthropogenic greenhouse forcing and strong water vapor feedback increase temperature in Europe" by Rolf Philipona et al. (GRL, 2005, subscription required for full text), which has attracted a certain amount of media attention. The overall goal of the paper is to understand, from a physical standpoint, why European temperatures have been increasing three times faster than the Northern Hemisphere average. It focuses on the changes between 1995 and 2002, over which time good surface radiation budget observations are available. The paper reports some results on the role of large scale circulation changes (which they conclude are minor) but I’ll concentrate on the results relating to water vapor.
Recently, Oxford University launched a new initiative called Climate.Basics. This Internet site provides a nice explanation and simple illustrations on what is meant by ‘climate’ and how the climate system works. The Climate.Basics site is a collaboration with the climateprediction.net project, which is the world’s largest climate prediction experiment. We think this is quite good, but as always, let us know if you think something could be explained better
We here at RC continue to be disappointed with the tendency for some journalistic outlets to favor so-called “balance” over accuracy in their treatment of politically-controversial scientific issues such as global climate change. While giving equal coverage to two opposing sides may seem appropriate in political discourse, it is manifestly inappropriate in discussions of science, where objective truths exist. In the case of climate change, a clear consensus exists among mainstream researchers that human influences on climate are already detectable, and that potentially far more substantial changes are likely to take place in the future if we continue to burn fossil fuels at current rates. There are only a handful of “contrarian” climate scientists who continue to dispute that consensus. To give these contrarians equal time or space in public discourse on climate change out of a sense of need for journalistic “balance” is as indefensible as, say, granting the Flat Earth Society an equal say with NASA in the design of a new space satellite. It’s plainly inappropriate. But it stubbornly persists nonetheless. [Read more…] about The False Objectivity of “Balance”
The November 17th issue of Science has an interesting exchange of letters between Christy and Spencer; Mears and Wentz; and Sherwood and Lanzante (ref here; subs required for substance). The context of this discussion is the tropospheric temperature record; see Et tu LT and The tropical lapse rate quandary for two RC posts that discuss the issue, and in particular three papers in the August 11th issue of Science.
There is an interesting article in this month’s Global Environmental Change journal. The paper, Climate of scepticism: US newspaper coverage of the science of climate change (subscription only at the moment) by L. Antilla, documents the way in which the mainstream media (at least in the U.S.) tends to present climate science as more controversial than it actually is. A major focus of the paper is an analysis of the way in which climate science is “framed” (in the journalistics sense of “highlighting certain aspects of a story so as promote a particular interpretation”). In a recent Scientific American article (here), a similar argument is made with respect to the health industry; in this case the writer, David Michaels, is quite blunt that the “framing” is the purposeful fomenting of doubt by powerful industry lobbyists, rather than innocent errors by naive journalists. Antilla doesn’t go so far, but she does give some striking examples, such as an Associated Press piece about the impact of soot on the albedo of snow, which AP titled “Scientists blame soot for global warming”. As if the title weren’t misleading enough, the article goes on to say that “Many scientists believe the burning of fossil fuels is causing an increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide, triggering … the greenhouse effect.” Whether purposeful, or merely due to careless writing, this kind of statement casts the science (and the opinion of scientists) as far more uncertain that it is in reality — in this case implying that there is doubt that CO2 levels are increasing, something which actually has zero uncertainty. [Read more…] about Framing of climate science
Further to our post about whether 2005 will be a year of record warmth, Jim Hansen has put out a brief discussion on the Washington Post report and some of the subsequent discussion. One minor clarification to his statements is that the reporter involved (Juliet Eilperin) did in fact leave messages for the relevant people at GISS (including me) prior to publication, but sometimes people can just be difficult to track down. Oh….and for those who are counting, with the preliminary October data in, 2005 has pulled ahead of 1998 in both the GISS land based met. station index (0.76 to 0.73°C) and the GISS land-ocean index (0.59 to 0.58°C). All previous caveats still apply….
Nigel Lawson, one of Britain’s Chancellors of the Exchequer during the Thatcher Era (Secretary of the Treasury for those needing a US translation) and more recently known as the father of Nigella Lawson (a UK cooking diva), has weighed into the climate debate with a recent broadside calling for the abolition of the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change). Based on a curious report by the UK House of Lords Economics Affairs committee (in which they made clear that they had no scientific expertise), Lawson demands that the only global scientific assessment process on climate change be shut down, and replaced with ….well what exactly? [Read more…] about Lawson vs. the IPCC
By James Annan and William Connolley
In this post, we will try to explain a little about chaos theory, and its relevance to our attempts to understand and forecast the climate system. The chaotic nature of atmospheric solutions of the Navier-Stokes equations for fluid flow has great impact on weather forecasting (which we discuss first), but the evidence suggests that it has much less importance for climate prediction.