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Yesterday was a very big day for global climate research. I wasn't even aware of it until I went into work and noticed that some of the higher ups were marching the halls, which was strange considering it was a Friday in the Summer. Nobody was doing much work. They were mostly buzzing about 3 papers which were just published together in Science.
You can find them here . You'll need subscription to read them. I didn't want to post them here cause they're huge. If you want, PM me and I can email you the PDF.
The papers represent a coordinated (though I'm still trying to figure out just how coordinated) effort to help unravel how weather balloon and satellite data had come to counter the commonly held belief that the Earth's lower atmosphere is slowly warming.These satellites and balloons, which record temp directly, had shown either static or cooling trends since 1979. The satellite data, which was published by Dr John Christy in 1990, was particularly interesting because it broke so completely with all the models that had been done.
The first paper takes a closer look at the satellites. It turns out that when collecting the data, Chisty's team made a few very small but very costly errors. The typical drift of a satellite in orbit had not been fully taken into account. This is important because, apparently, it can change the timing of when a satellite passes over certain surface locations. Because of this change in orbit, along with the miscalculated splicing of two satellites, the troposphere temps were measured not only during midday as they were programmed to, but also during early morning, evening and even in the middle of the night. Because of this, the temps recorded appeared cooler than they should have. Some guys in California actually went through the ridiculous process of going through the data and mathematically correcting for the drift. The details, when described to me, went a bit over my head. But, in the end, they came out showing a warming trend that fit the surface data, and the previous models, quite nicely.
The second paper, done through Yale, deals with the weather balloons. Apparently the sensors in the older balloons were, for whatever reason, a bit too sensitive to direct sunlight, causing them to give incorrect readings. I guess some were also positioned wrong. Again, smart people got together and labored over the numbers, finding errors in the measurements and calculations. When all of this is taken into a account, a greater warming trend was found.
I haven't read the 3rd paper, but apparently it deals with climate modelling.
All in all, the data now shows a very clear increase of 1 degree Fahrenheit over the past 30 years. I think that's about 0.52 degrees Celsius for you foreigners and your wacky metric system.
So far, 100% of the reactions I've heard and read about the research have been very admirable. Dr S Fred Singer, who's been termed 'the godfather of global warming denial', caved in admitting that there does appear to be some warming (though I'm not sure if it was directly related to the publishing of the papers). And Dr Christy, who wrote the original satellite paper, says the new findings are right on.
I'm very glad that this work has been done, simply because it has moved scientists one step closer to being able to approach the issue without having to constantly debate whether there's an issue at all. Not that the debate isn't important. Skepticism is very healthy. But there comes a time when an idea must earn hardened scientific acceptance. For global warming, that day was probably yesterday. I think it would have been years ago if not for all the politics involved. 2 different docs I spoke to yesterday couldn't even begin to hypothesize a new finding that could now reassign a boldfaced question mark to warming.
Hopefully, this will now allow us to get similar definition on some long standing questions:
What are the chances of the warming accelerating during this century? And how severe could that acceleration be?
How probable is human contribution to presumed natural warming?
Human contribution or not, is there anything we can realistically do about the warming?
-------------------- what's with neocons and the word 'ilk'?
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