We welcome David Archer of the University of Chicago to the RealClimate team. David adds to our expertise in ocean and carbon cycle modelling and has already contributed a guest post, with more on the way. RealClimate actively solicits contributions from the wider climate science community and so if you’d like to help out, drop us a line.
Guest contribution by James Annan of FRCGC/JAMSTEC.
“The more unpredictable the world, the more we rely on predictions” (Steve Rivkin). The uncertainty of an unknown future imposes costs and risks on us in many areas of life. A cereal-growing farmer risks a big financial loss if the price of grain is low at harvest time, and a livestock farmer may not be able to afford to feed his herd if the price of grain goes up. One way to reduce the risk is to hedge against it in a futures market. The two farmers can enter a forward contract, for one to deliver a set quantity of grain to the other for a fixed price at a future date. And indeed farmers do routinely use futures contracts to reduce their risks.
Contributed by Corinne Le Quéré, University of East Anglia.
This question keeps coming back, although we know the answer very well: all of the recent CO2 increase in the atmosphere is due to human activities, in spite of the fact that both the oceans and the land biosphere respond to global warming. There is a lot of evidence to support this statement which has been explained in a previous posting here and in a letter in Physics Today . However, the most convincing arguments for scientists (based on isotopes and oxygen decreases in the atmosphere) may be hard to understand for the general public because they require a high level of scientific knowledge. I present simpler evidence of the same statement based on ocean observations, and I explain how we know that not only part of the atmospheric CO2 increase is due to human activities, but all of it.
A while ago, we wrote about Global Dimming – a reduction in downward solar radiation of about 4% or about 7W/m2 from 1961 to 1990 was found at stations worldwide. We said at the time that there were hints of a recovery underway post-1990; now research has been published showing this. From Dimming to Brightening: Decadal Changes in Solar Radiation at Earth’s Surface by Martin Wild et al. (Science 6 May 2005; 308: 847-850; subscription required for link) uses surface measurements; Do Satellites Detect Trends in Surface Solar Radiation? by Pinker et al., Science 2005 308: 850-854 uses satellites; both find a recovery of surface downward radiation since about 1990.
You read it here first!
Update (09/05/05): Markus Rex was kind enough to send us the full figure from which Nature made their thumbnail, and which is a little clearer. He also cautions that the 2005 numbers are still preliminary, however there is a clear trend towards increasing potential for Arctic ozone loss, which is realised or not depending on the vagaries of each individual winter.
Due to some odd behaviour with our blog software, many people have had problems this week posting comments. We would like to apologise to our readers if they encountered these problems (bizarre redirections and WordPress login screens appearing where they shouldn’t).
We appear to have fixed the problem (fix from here for those interested), but please let us know if anything weird or unusual continues to occur. Thanks for your patience.
Normal service will resume after the break.
Guest commentary by Loretta Mickley, Harvard University
Every summer over much of the United States, we brace ourselves for heat waves. During these periods, the air turns muggy and usually smoggy. After a few days, a cold front moves in, sweeping away the pollution and ending the heat. Given that we are on a path towards global warming, atmospheric chemists are asking how climate change could affect air quality. Will warmer temperatures mean more pollution during these episodes? Will episodes last longer? Most importantly, what effect will changes in air quality have on human health?
The recent retreat of ice shelves on the Antarctic Peninsula has been widely attributed to warming atmospheric temperatures. There is, however, little published work describing the response of glacier margin positions to this regional climate change. In the paper Retreating Glacier Fronts on the Antarctic Peninsula over the Past Half-Century published this week in Science, we presented new data describing trends in 244 marine glacier fronts on the Antarctic Peninsula over the last 50 years. The data come from matching archives of over 2000 aerial photographs of the Antarctic Peninsula to satellite images, and represent about three years of work by Alison Cook. The work was carried out at British Antarctic Survey, but was funded by the US Geological Survey, as part of a larger programme to map change in the coastline of all Antarctica.
Of possible interest to our readers, there was an interview yesterday on the BBC (“Today Programme”) regarding the supposed controversy about the “Hockey Stick”: A climate scientist Professor Michael Mann suggests global warming is caused by mankind (mp3 file). Also available on the BBC website is the real audio file of the interview.