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NASA Finds Slower Global Warming
8/4/2011
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We think there’s more than enough evidence of human-fueled global warming to ignore the risk of inaction.
 
Which us why we’ve been offsetting the carbon emissions associated with our shipments by supporting various sustainable energy projects (Visit our Vital Green program page).
 
And it’s obvious that non-fossil energy should provide a far larger part of our mix, for health, environmental, economic, and national security reasons.
 
The warming debate is complex, with new data coming in all the time.
 
Findings do not slow the predicted pace of ocean acidification
Ocean acidity has increased almost one-third since the mid-1800's, and the rate of acidification will accelerate in the coming decades.
 
Fast-rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are changing the chemistry of the world's oceans, which will likely damage shellfish populations and the fish and people that depend on them.
 
Acidification could also devastate wild salmon, which depend pretty heavily on zooplankton and mini-shrimp such as krill, which can be damaged by acidification.
 
A new study from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution shows that many countries will suffer adverse impacts in the next 10 to 50 years … particularly ones heavily reliant on clams, oysters and mussels.
 
This prediction fits with research presented at the 2009 UN Copenhagen Climate Change summit.
 
Carbon-caused ocean acidification can spell disaster for the marine food chain… with dire consequences for fishing communities as well as human health and nutrition.
 
We urge you to learn more about this overlooked crisis. The New York Times rand an Op-Ed essay by British marine scientist Dan Laffoley of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, titled “To Save the Planet, Save the Seas.”
 
And the accelerating danger of ocean acidification is also detailed in the moving documentary “A Sea Change.
 
For example, it was just reported that applications of nitrogen-rich fertilizer – synthetic or natural – to fields stimulates release of nitrous oxide (dentists’ “laughing gas”) from the soil – and nitrous oxide is a much stronger greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.
 
Now, data from NASA’s Terra satellite shows that when the climate warms, Earth's atmosphere releases more energy to space – and substantially faster – than we thought.
 
If confirmed, these findings will render obsolete the models now used to forecast climate change, which have been programmed to assume lesser, slower energy release in response to warming.
 
NASA finding could warrant changes to warming models
The previously unexplained differences between model-based forecasts of rapid global warming and meteorological data showing a slower rate of warming have been the source of often contentious debate and controversy for more than two decades.
 
Drs. Roy Spencer and Danny Braswell compared what the half dozen top climate models say the atmosphere should do, with satellite data showing what the atmosphere actually did during the 18 months before and after warming events between 2000 and 2011 (Spencer RW, Braswell WD).
 
“The satellite observations suggest there is much more energy lost to space during and after warming than the climate models show,” Spencer said. “There is a huge discrepancy between the data and the forecasts that is especially big over the oceans.” (UAH 2011)
 
Not only does the atmosphere release more energy than previously thought, it starts releasing it earlier in a warming cycle. The models forecast that the climate should continue to absorb solar energy until a warming event peaks.
 
Instead, the satellite data shows the climate system starting to shed energy more than three months before the typical warming event reaches its peak.
 
“At the peak, satellites show energy being lost while climate models show energy still being gained,” Spencer said. (UAH 2011)
 
This is the first time scientists have looked at radiative balances during the months before and after these transient temperature peaks.
 
Climate may be less sensitive to warming than models have assumed
Applied to long-term climate change, the research might indicate that the climate is less sensitive to warming due to increased carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere than climate modelers have theorized.
 
A major underpinning of global warming theory is that the slight warming caused by enhanced greenhouse gases should change cloud cover in ways that cause additional warming, which would be a positive feedback cycle.
 
Instead, the natural ebb and flow of clouds, solar radiation, heat rising from the oceans and a myriad of other factors, added to the different time lags in which they impact the atmosphere, might make it impossible to isolate or accurately identify which piece of Earth's changing climate is feedback from manmade greenhouse gases.
 
“There are simply too many variables to reliably gauge the right number for that,” Spencer said.
 
He went on to make a key point about current and near-term predictions:
“The main finding from this research is that there is no solution to the problem of measuring atmospheric feedback, due mostly to our inability to distinguish between radiative forcing and radiative feedback in our observations.” (UAH 2011)
 
For this experiment, the UAHuntsville team used surface temperature data gathered by the Hadley Climate Research Unit in Great Britain. The radiant energy data was collected by the Clouds and Earth's Radiant Energy System (CERES) instruments aboard NASA's Terra satellite.
 
The six climate models were chosen from those used by the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
 
The Huntsville team used the three models programmed using the greatest sensitivity to radiative forcing and the three that programmed in the least sensitivity.
 
 
Sources
  • Spencer RW, Braswell WD. On the Misdiagnosis of Surface Temperature Feedbacks from Variations in Earth’s Radiant Energy Balance. Remote Sens. 2011, 3(8), 1603-1613; doi:10.3390/rs3081603 Published: 25 July 2011
  • University of Alabama, Huntsville (UAH). Climate models get energy balance wrong, make too hot forecasts of global warming. July 26, 2011. Accessed at
  • http://www.uah.edu/news/newspages/campusnews.php?id=564
  • Zaehle S et al. Carbon benefits of anthropogenic reactive nitrogen offset by nitrous oxide emissions. Nature Geoscience. (2011) Published online 31 July 2011. doi:10.1038/ngeo1207
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