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Monday, November 7, 2011

A Little Climate Change Rant

I am just curious what is happening and why. I know there will never be a complete solution, but every little step in that direction is an improvement. That is why I get so frustrated when I allow myself to take the debate or myself too seriously. There are just too many misconceptions and flawed theoretical points to justify the confidence that most people have about how much and why climate is changing.

Misconception 1) DWLR warms the surface because of CO2. With the exception of minute amounts of energy tantamount to the did the tree make a noise when it fell in the woods relevance, DWLR does not directly warm the surface. A smaller difference in the net radiation outgoing versus incoming is a warming effect, i.e. the surface cools less quickly. CO2 emits in its spectrum which is for all intents and purposes blocked from a radiant impact by CO2 more than a few feet above the surface. DWLR in the atmospheric window from sources such as the water and ice in clouds have the most impact on the real net radiation at the surface. Winter clouds with light winds make the largest change in the net surface flux. Those same winter clouds in high winds have little impact, because of convection. Conduction and convection are more efficient thermal fluxes at surface temperatures and pressures.

Misconception 2) Man's activities have no effect on climate. Nonsense. The combination of land use changes, surface water changes, pollution including CO2 have impacts on climate. The question is the degree each have and in combination the total impact considering natural variability. In drought periods, the local impact is higher because the atmosphere cannot cleanse itself through precipitation. Was smog in large cities a figment of our imagination? Of course not. If we had not made changes our local environment and climate would not be the same. The question is still how much, for how long and will natural processes change the amounts.

Misconception 3) CO2 doubling will warm the Earth x degrees. Right genius, like you really know! How's that Antarctic prediction panning out for you? The climate system is too complex to know much of anything without significant uncertainty. Theory predicts, some happen, some don't, I look at what don't and wonder why it didn't. That seems to indicate that uncertainty and theory are diverging. Without CO2 the Earth would still have a climate and we would not necessarily be living on a snowball Earth. Grand predictions by some of the most famous scientists in the world have and will not pan out.

Misconception 4) CO2 is a well mixed gas. Like hell it is! CO2 concentrations change continuously with temperature, season, precipitation, cloud cover and emissions. 90% of the CO2 being added to the oceans from the atmosphere is due to tropical rainfall. The tropics have had and will continue to have little temperature change because they have their own climate controlled by the sun and the sea. Man's activity amount to squat in the tropics climate wise. The Northern hemisphere is where the impact is felt. That is where there is the greatest fluctuation of CO2 concentration and land use change to amplify its impact.

Misconception 5) CO2 is bad for the climate. Don't know about that one. More CO2 should warm the climate to a point which should stabilize the climate to a point. If there is a new ice age coming, CO2 might be nice. Then again, more CO2 may trigger that ice age. Instead of just saying it is bad, I would rather find out a little more. Adding stuff to our atmosphere is probably not a smart thing to do, but what is done has been done, we need to figure this out a little better before jumping to conclusions.

There! I feel all better, but I may have some ice cream to calm down, just in case.

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