More Random Notes on Climate Change

Posted on January 16, 2010


Ending the hottest decade, the hottest year on record for southern hemisphere

Global warming denialists say that global climate change stopped for the last decade.  A new report from NASA says that 2009 was the hottest year on record for the southern hemisphere.  Temperatures were on average 0.49o C warmer in 2009 than the average for the period between 1951 and 1980.  The 2nd warmest year for the southern hemisphere was 1998, when much of the warming was coincident with the most severe recorded instance of El Niño warming in the 20th century.  The year 2009, however, was accompanied by only a medium strength El Niño event, and thus the warming in the year just past can be attributed more clearly to global warming than 1998.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the World Meteorological Organization, in related news, have recently declared that the first decade of the twenty-first century was the hottest decade on record, surpassing the 1990s, and was 0.54o C warmer than the average for the 20th century.  For comparison, the 1990s, the second hottest decade on record, were 0.36o C warmer than the average for the 20th century.


Mid-Pliocene Arctic a proxy for 3o C of warming


The mid-Pliocene period, 3.3 to 3 million years ago, had temperatures about three degrees C. warmer than today, and thus represents a model of what might happen if we do not act decisively to combat climate change today.  During that period summer sea-surface temperatures in the Arctic were between 10 and 18o C warmer than today.

It does not take a genius to realize that a 10 to 18o C rise in temperature would be catastrophic to any ecosystem.  A one degree rise in a human is called a fever, and much more than that is called death.

According to Science Daily [14Jan2010], the loss of sea ice under such warming conditions “could have varied and extensive consequences, such as contributions to continued Arctic warming, accelerated coastal erosion due to increased wave activity, impacts to large predators (polar bears and seals) that depend on sea ice cover, intensified mid-latitude storm tracks and increased winter precipitation in western and southern Europe, and less rainfall in the American west.”

And likely, the above statement represents not a fraction of the consequences.

The world is more sensitive than has been previously thought.

Upset one system, affect many.

Cold winds in eastern US and Europe not global cooling

It may be cool in the Eastern US and Europe this year, but it’s only because it’s warmer up north.  A periodic climactic system appearing over Greenland is sending cold air south and warm air north.  Paris feels cold, Inuvik feels tropical.

No, it’s not global cooling.


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CO2 could become fuel

Dermot O’Hare of the University of Oxford is working on taking carbon dioxide from the air and turning it into methanol to use as fuel.  “The trouble,” O’Hare says, “is that the molecule is so stable, it’s hard to find chemicals reactive enough to target CO2 but specific enough to ignore other components of the atmosphere such as carbon monoxide and oxygen.”  O’Hare, along with Andrew Ashley, also of Oxford, have found out to do it at 160o C, a step toward a practical solution for carbon sequestration.

However, Doug Stephan of the University of Toronto says, “to be viable [to reduce greenhouse gases and build alternative energy sources] this process would have to be coupled with a process that generates hydrogen.”


Capitalists representing $13 trillion US calling on governments to fight climate change

Quote from Scientific American:

“Global investors representing $13 trillion in assets called on the United States and other countries to adopt policies to fight climate change.”


Mid-century targets critical to achieving climate change goals


A recent study measures the importance of achieving certain targets by mid-century in terms of the overall goal of decisively combating climate change and limiting warming to 2o C by the end of the century.

If certain targets are not met by mid-century, the study suggests, then the goal of limiting catastrophic climate change might not be possible.


Posted in: climate change