We here at The Resilient Earth wish all our readers the happiest of New Years. Hopefully 2013 will be a year without the drama of 2012. After all, the over hyped Mayan Apocalypse did not happen, nor did the Arctic ice-sheet disappear. The Arab Spring slogged on through the summer and fall and is now in the midst of a dismal, dysfunctional winter. The American presidential election finally happened, mercifully removing all the political noise from public media and allowing the populous to return ignoring the government (perhaps to their own detriment). The Euro zone continues on the edge of crisis, Asia boils beneath the surface and Africa remains an open sore. What could go wrong this year?
Something happened this year that has become rare in recent times, much of the United States has had a white Christmas. As of December 28th, 64.4% of the US was covered by snow with an average depth of 6.2 inches (15.7 cm). This compares with last month's coverage of only 19.8%. My own town of Conway, Arkansas, received 10 inches on Christmas day and a winter storm advisory is in effect as another storm makes its way eastward. For Arkansas, this has been the snowiest Christmas ever, breaking the old record set in 1926, and the 7th snowiest day overall since 1875. But North America is not alone in feeling winter's bite—record cold continues in Siberia, while a vicious cold snap across Russia and Eastern Europe has claimed nearly 200 lives. What does all this say about global warming?
A new “comprehensive” report about the melting of Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets is being touted by climate alarmists as “grim news” but in fact says no such thing. This latest estimate, published this week in Science, combines data from many sources including 20 years of satellite data and 32 years of ice-sheet simulations to arrive at a mixed conclusion. It estimates that, between 1992 and 2011, the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets lost 1350 ± 1010 and 2700 ± 930 Gt of ice, respectively. That is equivalent to an increase in global mean sea level of 11.2 ± 3.8 mm, less than 1/2 an inch. Moreover, while some areas were losing ice mass others were gaining mass from snowfall. The East Antarctic Ice Sheet (EAIS), which occupies over 75% of Antarctica, experienced mass gains during the final years of the study.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has consistently predicted expanding world wide drought as one of the horrors of global warming. New research suggests that things may not be quite as arid as they predicted. According to scientists, a commonly used technique for estimating drought severity may actually overestimate the effects of dry spells. Revisiting historical data for the period 1980-2008, a new assessment technique found that the global area stricken by drought grew by approximately 0.08% per year—less than one-seventh (14%) the increase previously reported. Moreover, researchers found that drought causes higher temperatures, not the other way around. Once again, the horrendous effects of anthropogenic global warming have been found to be over hyped by the self-serving savants of the IPCC.
In a mad rush to prove who can put out the most inane press release, various warm-mongers, news hacks and climate alarmists have gone on a predictable spree, trying to blame Hurricane Sandy and the resulting disaster in the US Northeast on CO2 levels. Who are these clowns? Even the IPCC issued a statement saying that global warming was not to blame. Have none of these empty headed blatherskites noticed that it has been more than seven years since a major hurricane struck the US, the longest such period since the Civil War? Evidently not, since they continue to spew unscientific twaddle and the news media continues to lap it up like a dog eating its own vomit.
Earth's climate is controlled by the global balance of energy. Radiation from the Sun heats up the planet while heat energy is re-radiated into space through complex interactions of land, sea and air. The journal Nature Geoscience has just published an update about the balance that controls Earth's temperature and overall climate. Scientists conclude the global balance of energy flow within the atmosphere and at Earth's surface cannot be accurately measured using current techniques and is therefore uncertain. The current uncertainty in this net surface energy balance is an order of magnitude larger than the changes associated with greenhouse gasses. In short, previous estimates of climate change are invalid, swamped by fundamental uncertainty.
Climate change alarmists point to the past several decades of European weather to reinforce their claim that global warming has the continent in its grip. A new report shows that this recent warm spell is nothing abnormal or unprecedented—during the 1990s there was simply a return to conditions present during 1931-1960. The reason for the shift is warm ocean temperatures that are, in turn driven by variation in warm ocean currents from the tropics. The instrumental record shows that, relative to the average temperature of the rest of the world’s oceans, the temperature of the North Atlantic Ocean has fluctuated between anomalously warm and anomalously cool phases, each lasting several decades at a time. Palaeoclimate records suggest that similar variations extend much farther back in time. The observed pattern of multidecadal variation in North Atlantic sea surface temperatures (SSTs) has become known as the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO).
Does fish fecal matter fight global warming by carrying organic carbon to the bottom of the ocean where it is sequestered in sediment? A new study claims that fish poo is under appreciated as a part of the natural carbon cycle and that it carries carbon to the ocean bottom much faster than dead zooplankton sink on their own. “Measurements of in situ abundance of fish fecal pellets or their flux are lacking, likely due to the difficulty of adequately sampling these particles,” the study's authors state, “to our knowledge, this is the first study to present estimates of fish fecal pellet abundance.” This study indicates that fish poo is an under appreciated component of both the carbon and nitrogen cycles. Surprisingly, waste from marine mammals, including whales, breaks up and degrades as it sinks, returning its carbon, nitrogen and other elements back to the environment.
Once again the fear-mongering hoards of lay-climatologists are denouncing the importance of the Medieval Warm Period (MWP), or Medieval Climate Optimum as some refer to it. On the strength of a single new study, involving algal lipids from a lake in Svalbard, Norway, one pundit referred to the “so-called” Medieval Warm Period and impugned the significance of the Little Ice Age for good measure. Of course the writer, an “ecological journalist,” saw nothing wrong with using such a dismissive and pejorative term since it is IPCC promoted doctrine that today things are warmer than they have ever been since the onset of the Holocene. Yet literally hundreds of other studies have shown that the MWP was as warm or warmer than today and that is the real consensus among paleoclimatologists.
Heralded far and wide as a harbinger of global climate change, this year's record Arctic ice melt has the uninformed climate alarmists celebrating and the more knowledgeable scratching their heads. You see, this summer's ice retreat was predicted by no computer model and few scientists even though it possible. While climate scientists ponder what is wrong with their theories nature has carried on—no fuss, no muss, no drama. Circulation patterns are shifting and living creatures from zooplankton to megafauna are taking the change in stride. What has flummoxed environmental scientists is the simple and now demonstrated fact that successful life forms have a common trait—they are adaptable, something many scientists are not.
Over the past 50 years or so, the Antarctic Peninsula, the northernmost part of the mainland of Antarctica, has experienced rapid warming and the collapse of a number of ice shelves. A new temperature record derived from an ice core drilled on James Ross Island, has triggered a reassessment of what triggered the recent warming trends. This new core provides the best record of climate events on the peninsula going back at least 20,000 years, and may extend back as far as 50,000 years. From this new data a team of researchers has constructed the most detailed history of climate on the Antarctic Peninsula known to science and it has revealed a number of interesting things. Most important of these is the fact that this area undergoes bouts of rapid warming periodically and that things were at least as warm on the peninsula 2,000 years ago. So much for “unprecedented” warming on the Antarctic Peninsula.
There has been a wave of triumphal announcements by climate change proponents recently, almost giddy over the summer shrinkage of the Arctic ice sheet. “Lowest level ever!” they proclaim, thought that is not quite true. Nonetheless, The Arctic pack ice has been receding over the last decade or so, but that is only natural. You see, there is a well known, if poorly understood, linkage between the ice at the north pole and the ice in and around Antarctica—and the ice around Antarctica is doing quite well. Satellite radar altimetry measurements indicate that the East Antarctic ice sheet interior increased in mass by 45±7 billion metric tons per year from 1992 to 2003. This trend continues today, reinforcing recent scientific investigations into this millennial scale oscillation between the poles. According to studies, this is how things have been for hundreds of thousands of years.
One of the main problems with the “theory” of anthropogenic global warming is its reliance on rising atmospheric CO2 levels to force a global rise in temperature. This is predicted by climate change proponents by running large, complex computer models that imperfectly simulate the physics of Earths biosphere: ocean, land and atmosphere. Central to tuning these general circulation models (GCM) is a parameter called climate sensitivity, a value that purports to capture in a single number the response of global climate to a doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide. But it has long been known that the Earth system is constantly changing—interactions shifting and factors waxing and waning—so how can a simple linear approximation capture the response of nature? The answer is, it can not, as a new perspective article in the journal Science reports.
The subject of human carbon dioxide emissions and their build up in Earth's atmosphere is at the center of the anthropogenic global warming controversy. It cannot be denied that humans produce CO2 in large amounts, both from burning fossil fuels and from land use changes. This has led to much gnashing of teeth and renting of garments by excitable ecological doomsayers, but there is something they do not mention: at the same time humanity is spewing forth carbon, nature is busily sucking up that carbon and storing it away. A new analysis of the carbon cycle has produced an unexpected result—not only is the absorption of carbon continuing unabated it has actually expanded. The latest scientific tally indicates that since 1959, approximately 350 billion tons of carbon have been emitted by humans to the atmosphere, of which about 55% has been reabsorbed by the land and oceans.
With the IPCC getting ready to churn out yet another frightening report based on consensus science in 2013, it is interesting to note that many things have changed since the previous report (AR4). For example, oxidation is a major factor in atmospheric chemistry and can impact many environmental issues: stratospheric ozone loss, acidification of water and soil, air quality, cloud formation and, naturally, climate change. In the AR4 report the only atmospheric oxidation factors included were ozone (O3), the hydroxyl radical (OH) and the nitrate radical (NO3). In a recent scientific report, measurements from a Finnish forest revealed a previously unknown atmospheric oxidant that promotes production of sulfuric acid—one of the main precursors for the formation and growth of aerosol particles and clouds. Scientists are still unsure what this mysterious chemical compound is, they refer to it as oxidant X.