Saturday, July 20, 2013

A Changing Climate

Glacier Bay
Voltaire said, "Men argue, Nature acts."

Indeed the Earth is a planet of relentless action.

Science draws from an abundance of data to interpret Earth's changes.

The Paleoclimate Record

Paleoclimatologists consider data preserved within rocks, sediments, ice sheets, tree rings, corals, shells and micro-fossils when determining the past states of the Earth's climate and atmospheric system.
“The paleoclimate record shouts to us that, far from being self-stabilizing, the Earth's climate system is an ornery beast which overreacts even to small nudges.”
Wallace Broecker
The Modern Record

The modern record of science (since the late 19th century) gives us a plenitude of atmospheric temperature data from weather stations distributed around the globe.

A NASA animation (below) uses near surface atmospheric temperatures between 1880 and 2011 to illustrate above average temperatures (shades of red) and below-average temperatures (shades of blue) over 131 years.

Clearly global temperatures have warmed significantly since 1880 and most notably since the 1980s. Many of us see and feel the effect. What is the cause?

Cause and Effect

Cause and effect is a fundamental principle of classical physics. The effect of temperature change is a matter of record. There are a wealth of globally distributed temperature measurements that render the effect indisputable. Temperatures are rising.

The cause of this temperature change has been controversial. However an overwhelming majority of the controversy has been stoked by science-averse, and fact-challenged, climate change deniers with a political ax to grind.
“Those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.”
George Bernard Shaw
The overwhelming majority of scientists attribute the steady temperature rise to the corresponding rise in greenhouse gas emissions from energy production, industry and motor vehicles.

The science and engineering challenge of this millennium is to address the symptoms of climate change, but more importantly, to understand, buffer, and counter-act the destabilizing impact of humanity.
“Go to heaven for the climate and hell for the company.”
Mark Twain