Studies May Alter Insights Into Warming (older article)greenspun.com : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread
Posters note: I am posting this Washington Post article of 2 years ago, in hopes that people might start see that a key premises of Global Warming Theory -- specifically the role of CO2 -- is in serious doubt.
In short, more recent data potentially nullifies virtually the entire basis of the Kyoto accords AND the IPCC report in regard to CO2.
Unfortunately "positions" have been staked out in this, now, highly politicized issue -- and -- are now at the point of being entrenched and defended at almost any cost, rather than being continually examined. We have reached the point where, waiting is not something people/governmetns/organizations do NOT want to do for many reasons some political, or, others just because they fought so hard to get this far.
Below, is a report of the results of research that indicates that the build up of CO2 in the atmosphere may, in fact, be the RESULT of global warming, NOT the cause.
Do you put huge burdens on world economies struggling as "we speak", that may tip the scales and move the world even closer to a deep recession/depression, when what those efforts may turn out to actually result in trying to get "an egg to lay a chicken" ?? (should be clearer when you read the article below). ============================== Studies May Alter Insights Into Warming
By Curt Suplee Washington Post Science Writer Monday, March 15, 1999; Page A7
Two new studies of the Earth's ancient atmosphere may alter the way scientists understand the relationship between airborne carbon dioxide and climate change--and hence the dynamics of future "greenhouse" global warming.
In one paper, published in the March 11 issue of the journal Nature, researchers said they found that during the past 11,000 years--the period known as the Holocene epoch that began around the end of the last ice age and extends to the present--levels of carbon dioxide, a potent greenhouse gas, did not remain constant until the onset of the industrial revolution, as many had long supposed.
Instead, although average global temperatures stayed relatively stable, carbon dioxide levels fluctuated considerably during the Holocene, according to a team from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and the University of Bern, Switzerland. "The system was never in equilibrium because the carbon dioxide levels never stabilized," said Martin Wahlen of Scripps, part of the University of California at San Diego.
Presumably this occurred because of still-unexplained changes in the amount of carbon dioxide taken up by oceans and vegetation, especially short-term variations of 10 percent or more in the quantity absorbed by plants. "This suggests that the terrestrial biosphere may also exhibit changes in the future," said Thomas F. Stocker of the University of Bern. What they might be, however, is uncertain.
In the other study, reported in the March 12 issue of the journal Science, Scripps investigators addressed one of the most vexing "chicken-and-egg" questions in climate research. Namely, when the Earth shifts from glacial to warm periods (as it does every 100,000 years or so), which comes first: an increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels, or an increase in global temperature? Contrary to what many believe, the team concluded that the temperature rise comes first, followed by a carbon dioxide boost 400 to 1,000 years later.
That's what the researchers found at glacial-interglacial transitions from 240,000, 140,000 and 13,000 years ago. That sequence of events appears to contradict the fundamental logic of greenhouse warming theories, which argue that increases in heat-trapping gases will be followed by higher surface temperatures.
The analysis also points to vegetation as a major source of the carbon spike. "Previously it was thought to have originated primarily in the ocean biosphere," said Julie Palais of the National Science Foundation, which supported both studies. "But this work suggests that the terrestrial biosphere played a significant role. . . . There are clearly implications for the future, considering the rate at which the rain forests in South America are currently being destroyed."
Both research projects used evidence from hundreds of ice specimens, or "cores," taken far below the surface of Antarctica. Each layer contains tiny bubbles of air snared in the ice when it formed from snow. Investigators placed the samples in vacuum chambers, released the traces of air, and analyzed them for carbon dioxide content and an isotope of carbon that indicates where the gas was last.
Carbon, a ubiquitous element in the Earth's surface and atmosphere, exists in three isotopes. Photosynthesis, the process whereby plants use sunlight to turn carbon dioxide into organic matter, favors the uptake of the lightest, carbon-12 atom, leaving the atmosphere with a relative plenitude of carbon-13, the next heaviest isotope. When plants die and rot, they release that carbon-12 back into the atmosphere. So the ratio between the two isotopes at any time indicates how much carbon dioxide is being absorbed by plants.
That quantity may be critical to future climate changes. In general, civilization releases about 6 billion tons of carbon (in the form of carbon dioxide) into the atmosphere every year. But only 3 billion tons stay there; the rest is absorbed into what are called carbon "sinks." Half dissolves into the ocean; the remainder ostensibly is taken up by vegetation. Consequently, the performance of these sinks is an important variable in how much carbon dioxide is left in the air to trap heat and possibly raise global temperatures.
The Scripps-Bern authors writing in Nature found that at the beginning of the Holocene, the atmosphere contained about 268 parts per million by volume of carbon dioxide, up from 180 to 200 ppmv in the depths of the last ice age about 18,000 years ago. By the late 1700s, it had risen to 285 ppmv. (Since then, the concentration has climbed to 364 ppmv and is still growing. That is, it rose by the same amount--80 ppmv--in the past 200 years that it had from the coldest part of the previous ice age to the late 1700s.)
In accordance with orthodox notions, "one commonly referred to the 'preindustrial CO2 concentration of 280 ppmv,' " as if it were constant, Stocker said. But now "this has to be revised," he noted.
As the world warmed its way out of the last ice age, carbon dioxide levels first dipped to 260 ppmv about 8,200 years ago, probably because receding glaciers made way for the increasing vegetation that took up a lot of gas. But then the carbon dioxide content began to creep back up as ocean temperatures rose (decreasing the amount of dissolved gas oceans could hold) and land masses cooled and dried out (decreasing the carbon-trapping activity of photosynthesis).
"The direct relevance of this finding," said Jean Lynch-Stieglitz of Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University, "is that we can expect that as climate warms, the terrestrial biosphere will probably be capable of holding more carbon than it can today."
As for the carbon dioxide lag-time findings, "the crux of the issue" for nonscientists is that "if the observation that increases in temperature lead increases in CO2 in the natural system, then industrialization is forcing the natural system backwards, and our natural analogs deduced from past behavior might not be good models for predicting what's going to happen in the future," said Joan J. Fitzpatrick, technical director of the U.S. Geological Survey's National Ice Core Laboratory in Denver. "That's a sobering thought."
-- Jackson Brown (Jackson_Brown@e-mail-me.com), August 01, 2001
Here is a different perspective-- water vapor, not carbon dioxide may be causing climate trouble. If you are interested in the details of this paper, it can be found at www.natureinstitute.org. This excerpt is from NetFuture e-magazine. ====================================================================== Issue #118 A Publication of The Nature Institute March 1, 2001 ====================================================================== Editor: Stephen L. Talbott (firstname.lastname@example.org)
On the Web: http://www.netfuture.org/ You may redistribute this newsletter for noncommercial purposes.
WATER, ENERGY, AND GLOBAL WARMING
Michael D'Aleo and Stephen Edelglass
The following is an abridgment, paraphrase, and summary of a larger paper (with explicit calculations and references) expected to be available by March 8 at www.natureinstitute.org/.
Author Michael D'Aleo (email@example.com), who is trained both as engineer and educator, has spent a number of years working in industry, receiving several patents along the way. His main interest has been to solve technical problems artistically, based on processes found in the natural world. He currently teaches physical science and mathematics at the Spring Hill Waldorf School in Saratoga Springs, New York. He co-authored the recent book, *Sensible Physics Teaching*, with Stephen Edelglass.
Dr. Edelglass was for many years on the faculty of the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art in New York City. He then taught high school mathematics and physics at the Green Meadow Waldorf School in Spring Valley, New York, until his death last year. In addition to *Sensible Physics Teaching*, he co-authored *The Marriage of Sense and Thought: Imaginative Participation in Science*.
* * * * * * * * *
WATER, ENERGY, AND GLOBAL WARMING
We suspect that the public's affinity for well-defined (and preferably villainous!) causes throws light on the current debates about global climate change. The fixation upon a single atmospheric constituent -- carbon dioxide, which has the advantage of now being widely viewed as a dangerous pollutant -- may have encouraged us to ignore elements of the larger picture. Our intention here is to fill out another part of that picture in a way that may prove startling: it appears that perfectly "harmless" water vapor and the actual quantity of energy produced with it may be at least as much the villains as carbon dioxide.
Some Questions --------------
Given the rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and given the insulating properties of this gas, it is natural to wonder whether we are looking at the cause of global warming. But has there actually been warming over the past century, and if so, how much?
The problem underlying the current debate is that there are two conflicting sets of data. Ground-based thermometer readings from land-based weather stations indicate a temperature rise of about 0.6 degrees C since record-keeping began in the nineteenth century. Most of this increase occurs in the second half of the twentieth century, with the greater part, 0.2 to 0.3 degrees, coming after 1975. While these figures may seem small, they are potentially significant for climate change.
A second set of measurements, available only since 1980, derives from satellites and balloons that scan the temperature of the lower atmosphere across the *entire* surface of the planet. These measurements show an increase ranging from under 0.1 degree C to essentially zero. So while the first method indicates a rather substantial change, the second suggests a fairly modest change. Much of the wrangling focuses on which set of data is correct.
The picture becomes more interesting when a comparison is made between urban and rural ground-based weather stations. Urban stations show a significantly greater temperature increase. In fact, many rural stations show no change at all. This has led scientists to speculate about the existence of a so-called "heat island effect", which might affect our global temperature measurements. In the late 1990s, NASA completed a study of this effect in Atlanta, Georgia. The study showed temperatures inside Atlanta up to 8 degrees F higher than the surrounding countryside. The suggested explanation is that man-made materials such as concrete and asphalt store more of the sun's heat energy than forests do. A number of studies also found significant temperature differences between downtown business districts and downtown treed parks. The treed parks were up to 7 degrees F cooler than adjacent business areas.
Another interesting phenomenon is the suspected link between forest fires and global warming. These fires may play a significant role in contributing to global temperature changes. At least one study suggests that up to 40% of the global greenhouse gas emissions may result from combustion due to forest fires that occur around the world. The report notes that forest destruction further reduces plant absorption of carbon dioxide.
The link between global temperature increases and increased levels of carbon dioxide is actually quite complex and not without its share of uncertainty. By analyzing gas bubbles trapped in ice core samples, one group of scientists found that the levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, previously thought to be constant, actually varied significantly during the last 11,000 years prior to the industrial age.
They also found that, during some earlier periods, the temperature increased *before* the carbon dioxide levels began to rise, sometimes with as much as a 400-to-1000-year lag. While this does not imply there is no link between global temperature and carbon dioxide levels, it does suggest that other mechanisms may help determine global temperature variation over time.
Finally and perhaps most puzzling: scientists have noted that while many weather stations worldwide have been reporting increases in average temperature, there also appears to be a worldwide decrease in global rates of evaporation. This was unexpected, since warm air can receive more moisture than cool air and thus, warmer air favors evaporation.
Has some mechanism put more water into the atmosphere, thereby reducing the global rates of evaporation?
Water Cycles and Their Alteration ---------------------------------
Water is essential for life. There are cycles of water transformation from the individual organism all the way up to the scale of the entire earth. As always, a certain balance must be achieved to prevent what supports life from becoming destructive. The farmer hopes for a balance of rain and sun for a good crop. Too little rain and the crop withers; too much brings decay and rot.
Water also plays a significant role in the earth's thermal balance. The specific heat of water (the amount of heat required to raise the temperature of one gram of water by one degree centigrade) is higher than for almost any other material. Likewise for the amount of energy released when water vapor condenses to the liquid state, although this effect is even more energy-intensive. The adage, "A watched pot never boils" pays tribute to water's massive ability to absorb heat. Nearly everyone has experienced the moderating effect of the ocean and large lakes on the climate of nearby cities. These masses of water are slow to warm in hot weather, and slow to cool in cold weather.
When a fossil fuel is burned, it produces not only carbon dioxide, but also water vapor (steam), in relatively equal amounts. A given unit of octane (the main component in gasoline), when completely combusted, then exhausted at 150 degrees C, and then cooled to an ambient temperature of 30 degrees, releases directly into the atmosphere *ten times* as much thermal energy from the water as from the carbon dioxide. In addition, the insulating effect of water vapor and carbon dioxide are essentially identical, so that water vapor adds substantially to any greenhouse effect in those areas where combustion is occurring.
Cities and industrial areas, of course, are primary sources of water vapor production via combustion. But they also channel water into the atmosphere by other means. Cities present vast evaporative surfaces preventing the return of water to underground aquifers. (The evaporation of water from hot asphalt after a summer rainstorm is particularly noticeable.) Water from city surfaces is channeled into storm sewers, where it is finally put into a holding pond or river, from which further evaporation occurs. Additionally, ground water tables are falling in many cities.
But if water tables are falling, where has the water gone? You might assume that levels have risen in surface bodies of water, but this has not been observed. Apparently the water has gone into the atmosphere.
Cities are not the only sites of large-scale, human-caused water vapor emission. Deforestation by burning releases tremendous amounts of water into the atmosphere: the tree itself is 50% water; combustion of the remaining 50% (carbohydrates and cellulose) produces more water; and destruction of the forest canopy exposes the moist forest soil to evaporation by sun and wind. Given present rates of deforestation, the potential for regional climate modification is considerable, quite apart from the production of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide. Deforestation releases more water vapor than carbon dioxide.
Water Emissions and Climate Modification ----------------------------------------
If we have been releasing more water into the atmosphere, might it be falling out of the sky somewhere? There is little evidence for increased precipitation on a global scale. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association reports a small (one percent) increase in precipitation over land in the twentieth century, while the same report notes a general increase in cloud cover over both land and oceans in recent decades. For the most part, areas experiencing long wet spells seem to be counterbalanced by other areas experiencing drought.
The fact that there seems to be little overall increase in precipitation despite increasing human contributions of water vapor suggests that the atmosphere's water content might be rising. However, this would not be a *global* effect. Water vapor, unlike carbon dioxide, does not diffuse easily through the atmosphere and is therefore concentrated near the earth's surface.
Further, the atmospheric water vapor content will be higher near the sources of water vapor -- for example, near cities and areas undergoing deforestation -- rather than being evenly dispersed in the manner of carbon dioxide. Higher atmospheric water vapor would be expected near cities on a continuing basis, as a result of the combustion of fossil fuels. It would also be expected near deforested areas on a short-term basis; once deforestation is complete, the effect would cease.
All this has definite implications for climate modification. In the first place, given the higher temperature of the products of combustion, the release of energy when water vapor is condensed, and the insulating effects of water vapor, we should expect an increase in the cities' average yearly temperature. As we have seen, this "heat island effect" has already been reported, although the link to water vapor and combustion processes has been widely missed.
All energy production ultimately manifests as thermal energy. A very general calculation is therefore possible by taking the overall energy produced in the U.S. in 1988 and assuming it to be evenly distributed on a per capita basis. In this case the energy production in a heavily populated region such as Queens County, New York, turns out to be a rather astounding 43% of the total solar energy incident upon the same area.
Of course, most of this energy production releases water vapor, and our calculation leaves aside the further, insulating and thermal properties of this vapor. (You'll have noticed, for example, that a cloudy night is generally warmer than a clear night, and that a hot desert cools off significantly at night due to a lack of water in the air and immediate surroundings.)
A second expectation is that moisture-rich metropolitan air should produce rain when it moves over cooler, rural areas. This is exactly what the NASA study of Atlanta found.
Taking the per capita U.S. consumption of fossil fuels and again applying it to Queens, one discovers that the water resulting from combustion would cover the entire 109 square miles of the county to a depth of nearly 4 inches -- this in a place where the average annual rainfall is 42.82 inches. Needless to say, not all the additional rainfall would fall within the county, but these figures suggest the relative significance of the added water.
Applying the same calculations to a rural area such as Herkimer County, New York (with a population of 65,809 on an area of 1412 square miles), one sees only a tiny fraction of the effects seen in urban areas. For example, human energy production turns out to equal only 0.1% of solar input.
Reconciling the Data --------------------
The role of water vapor and energy consumption also helps to explain *both* sets of temperature data mentioned earlier. Even though global levels of carbon dioxide are fairly consistent worldwide, temperature variations are not. But these temperature variations -- including the urban-rural disparity -- do correlate well with energy consumption and local water vapor production.
Moreover, there appears to be a strong correlation between areas of deforestation and temperature change, as our analysis suggests should be the case. Temperature increases in the Amazon region and Siberia, where significant deforestation is under way, seem to be unusually high. This contrasts with other interior areas, such as the Midwest Plains of the U.S., where no warming is apparent.
Finally, the decrease in measured evaporation rates now also finds explanation. While the decrease is puzzling when taken only in conjunction with a thesis of global warming, it makes sense once we add human-related sources of water vapor to natural evaporation. Furthermore, as expected, the atmospheric water vapor content in North America (the one place where reliable data are available) has been increasing during the two-decade period starting in 1973.
On the view presented here, one would expect to see *some* correlation between carbon dioxide levels and temperature change, since both water vapor and carbon dioxide are major products of combustion. But water vapor's dominant role fits better with the overall pattern of global data, helping to resolve the contentious debate between those who see global warming and those who don't. Local and regional warming *are* occurring, even if the global picture shows no clear warming trend.
One additional note: the role of increased cloudiness and its albedo (reflective) effect is not discussed here, and requires further study.
We Are Environmental Causes ---------------------------
In sum, atmospheric warming -- the warming for which we currently have the clearest evidence -- is a local and regional phenomenon more than a global one, and it appears to be due more to human-caused energy production and water emissions than to carbon dioxide emissions.
This is not to take a position for or against global warming as such. Nor is it to downplay the potentially grave significance of *any* large-scale alteration of the natural environment. Nor again is it to dismiss the global significance of local and regional warming. When a NASA study of the metropolitan Atlanta area finds that the rainfall in rural areas southeast of the city was the result of Atlanta's "heat- island" effect, we can no longer deny mankind's effect on the greater environment. The possibilities of even larger regional effects continue to be studied by various researchers.
Even if the globally averaged temperature fluctuations reflect improper measurements or natural periodic variations, it seems impossible to attribute local and possibly regional temperature fluctuations to anything other than man-made influences. We have yet to see a report that denies the existence of the "heat-island" effect. There is also sufficient evidence to suggest that the atmospheric levels of water vapor are rising and may be responsible for local and regional changes in temperature and in weather patterns.
If there is a moral to the story, it is that prolonged scientific debate and confusion can sometimes result from a failure to step back and look at all aspects of a problem. And a second moral is that out- of-context technological fixes aimed at a single aspect of a complex whole may prove destructive. Much of the research on alternative fuels today is premised on the belief that water vapor is a benign emission. But if we have learned anything over the past decade, it is that a life-giving element can become destructive if it is removed from a balanced context. The faith being placed in hydrogen and fuel cell technologies (which emit nothing but water) may need more thorough study.
The only solutions that will truly decrease the destabilization of the environment are those that work in conjunction with the entire natural process found in any given ecosystem. A greater study and understanding of the complex interactions found within natural ecosystems may indeed yield important details in this regard and point to real solutions to these problems.
-- neil ruggles (firstname.lastname@example.org), August 01, 2001.