Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Water vapour and global warming

The debate over man-made global warming seems very much alive notwithstanding pronouncements from prominent global warming watchers that the facts supporting Anthropogenic Climate Change are irrefutable; the debate is over. Climate Change, we are told, will cause massive change to our planet—all negative. And we are rapidly running out of time.

Climate scientists have based their predictions on ancient tree rings and core samples from ice sheets and marine sediment because the human race has only been keeping cohesive written records of climate statistics for less than a couple of hundred years. In addition to obtaining a record of historical and pre-historical temperatures from ice cores, scientists can use the cores to correlate the concentration of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere with changes in climate.

Many greenhouse gases—carbon dioxide, methane, halocarbons, nitrous oxide and others—affect climate. But so too does water vapour. And the water vapour record and its long-term effect on climate change is still being debated.

Scientists seem to agree that if you add carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, warming will result. But how much warming and how quickly? Increasing water vapor is also know to lead to warmer temperatures, and warmer temperatures cause more water vapor to be absorbed into the air and so on in a spiraling cycle of warming and water absorption increase.

Scientists at the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) recently reported that an increase in atmospheric water vapor is responsible for at least a third of the average temperature increase since the early 1990s. The scientist who lead the research,Susan Soloman, says that, while this finding does not undermine man-made global warming theories, it does suggest human emissions are having a much smaller role in climate change than previously thought.

NASA researchers and climate scientists have reviewed the NOAA water vapor research. Researcher Andrew Dessler from Texas A&M University described the effect of water vapor on atmospheric temperature as “enormous.”

So where do we stand. Global warming does seem to be a long-term trend. And some warming may be caused by human activity. Is carbon dioxide the culprit? Partially, yes, but so too are other factors like water vapour. Do we need more information and study before spending hundreds of billions on mitigation and coping strategies? Yes, a lot more.

The debate is alive and well.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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  1. "Global warming does seem to be a long-term trend."

    What constitutes a 'long term trend'?

    Everyone seems to agree that the temperature has not increased at all over the last ten years but in geological terms ten years is not a long term trend. Ten years isn't even a blip on the geological scale. It's a very small part of a very small blip.

    If anything we might be about due for our fourth or fifth Ice Age since we're 15,000 years into this current inter-glacial period and that's the bottom end of the 15,000 to 25,000 years that scientists estimate they last for so.
    Add to that the fact that some scientists believe we could slip into an Ice Age in as little as 20 years and you have cause for concern. The ice sheet here in Niagara during the last Ice Age (the one that carved out the Great Lakes as it retreated) was 3 to 5 kilometers thick and was so heavy it caused the earth to depress 150 feet. We're still in the rebound stage and have another 50 feet to go.

    Humans are merely bit players in the evolution of Earth.

    I suggest Canada buy land in South America just to be prepared.

  2. Canada, indeed every country should follow India's lead and set up their own climate research institutes. A lot of governments around the world are prepared to pour hundreds of billions, if not trillions of dollars into this madness, yet they won't cough up a few tens of millions to double check the accuracy of the scientific findings of the IPCC.
    Would you buy a house without having an independent inspection done? Or would you just take the realtor's word that everything is fine.
    It's exactly the same thing and Canada's politicians better wake up on this file before it's too late.
    Downloading our national interest to the UN IPCC is not responsible government.
    It's a dereliction of duty.