Ben Bova: Global warming likely to resume — with a vengeance

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There’s an old story about a man who fell off the roof of a New York City skyscraper. As he plunged past the 32nd floor he said to himself, “So far, so good!”

That’s the way many of those who don’t want to believe that global warming is a threat have reacted to the news that for the past 10 years global temperatures have stopped rising and have leveled out.

So far, so good.

Analyses of temperature readings across the world have shown that on average the Earth’s temperature remained constant for the past 10 years. On average. Some of those 10 years have been the hottest ever recorded, while others have been far cooler. Average them all out and the globe’s temperature has remained steady.

Those who maintain that global warming is some sort of hoax instituted by Third World collectivists and promoted by Al Gore are rejoicing. It’s all a fake, they maintain. How could global warming be a threat if we’re not getting any warmer? Why bother to cut back on greenhouse-gas emissions?

Not so fast, warn the climatologists. Don’t break out the Champagne just yet. There have been plenty of instances over the past several hundred years when global temperatures leveled out for 10 years or so. Then they began to rise — or fall — again.

The past 10 years are more likely merely a respite, a hesitation in the world’s climate change. Incoming energy from the sun tapered off a bit. Instead of temperatures falling below normal, however, they merely held steady. When the sun starts beaming out energy at its normal rate, the climatologists maintain, global temperatures will start rising again.

In fact, the coming rise might be worse than ever, because we are still pouring greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. When the sun returns to normal, the levels of carbon dioxide and methane in the atmosphere will be higher than ever, they will absorb more radiation than before, and temperatures may climb more steeply.

The major source of the Earth’s warmth is the energy our planet receives from sunlight. But over the past century or so, human activities have become a powerful second source. Our factories and automobiles, our chimneys and tailpipes are pumping enough greenhouse gases into the atmosphere to make a measurable impact on global climate.

Nonsense, say the deniers. It’s all a fable invented by people who hate America and want to drive us into bankruptcy.

Frankly, I hope that the deniers are right. I hope that global warming is an illusion and that the climate will not change noticeably. I like our climate. I like living by the beach. I don’t want sea levels to rise or mammoth tropical storms to destroy my home.

But wishing doesn’t make it so. In fact, the Catlin Arctic Survey group just reported they expect the Arctic Ocean will be completely free of ice during the summer 10 years from now.

The hoped-for demise of global warming may be nothing more than a delay of the inevitable. To paraphrase Mark Twain, reports of global warming’s death have been greatly exaggerated.

* * *

Speaking of hoaxes, there’s a widespread rumble through the blogging world and elsewhere that the world will end in the year 2012.

This notion is based on the idea that the ancient calendar of the Mayans ends in 2012, with predictions of terrible disaster. The Mayans were excellent astronomers and carried out their calendar calculations to our year of A.D. 2012. That’s where they stopped.

The rumor is that they stopped because they somehow knew that the world would end at that point. Three years from now.

According to astronomer David Morrison, it’s all hooey. An expert on solar-system dynamics, Morrison says there’s nothing on our horizon that forebodes disaster. No giant meteor will impact Earth in 2012. No drastic change in the Earth’s spin or the sun’s energy output.

What Morrison did find is that the producers of a movie titled “2012” have opened several disaster-spewing Web sites, probably to hype their movie, which will premier this month.

Unlike climate change, this impending disaster really is a hoax.

Naples resident Ben Bova is the author of more than 120 books, including “The Return,” his latest futuristic novel. Bova’s Web site address is www.benbova.com.

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Comments » 5

codehead writes:

I doubt doubt your concern, but I get the feeling you are writing about what you've read, from other people writing about what they've read, from other...

For instance, your concern over "mammoth tropical storms". Both history and scientific research tells us to expect less tropical cyclonic activity in a warmer world. In fact, we've see less activity over the most recent decades. (Don't confuse the fact that populations development has dramatically increase during this period in areas commonly hit by storms, resulting in greater monetary loss when a storm hits, with severity. And don't confuse the use of satellites that can locate and categorize even tiny storms out at sea that would never have been detected in the past, with increased frequency.)

And this is what we would expect. Tropical storms are not driven by heat, but be temperature differential--cold air from the poles meeting warm, moisture-laden air from the tropics. In global warming theory, we have "polar amplification"--the poles warm more than the tropics. This result in a smaller temperature differential.

The people pushing for more tropical storms in a warmer world are hurricane experts, they are people who want you to worry about global warming.

Speaking of experts, the Catlin group isn't. Despite having to abort their mission to the North Pole this year due to cold and ice, making it less than half way, their 10-year projection is still getting press because it's so much more spectacular than other pessimistic yet at least plausible projections.

But, the scariest scenarios are the ones that get the headlines. If one group questioned Arctic melt, one said it was possible by 2050-2060, and a third said 2020, we know which we'd be reading about the next morning.

codehead writes:

>The people pushing for more tropical storms in a warmer world are hurricane experts

typo: "aren't", not "are"

jwputnam writes:

This nonsense just amazes me...especially when coming from seemingly educated people.

Google "Antartica". It is GROWING LARGER and it contains over 90% of the world's ice.

"Global Warming"....oh...excuse me...."Climate Change" is a political campaign conducted by zealots without ANY scientific basis. They have a very different agenda which has NOTHING to do with carbon emissions. God must be shaking his head in wonderment.

ratsnake writes:

in response to jwputnam:

This nonsense just amazes me...especially when coming from seemingly educated people.

Google "Antartica". It is GROWING LARGER and it contains over 90% of the world's ice.

"Global Warming"....oh...excuse me...."Climate Change" is a political campaign conducted by zealots without ANY scientific basis. They have a very different agenda which has NOTHING to do with carbon emissions. God must be shaking his head in wonderment.

Wrong on every point. Good job.

jwputnam writes:

see http://www.worldclimatereport.com/ind...

Incredibly, if you are interested in Antarctica temperature trends from the present back to 1982, the region has cooled. If you go from present back to 1966, the region has cooled. Like it or not, over the past four decades, and during the time of the greatest build-up of greenhouse gases, Antarctica has been cooling!

Reference:

Chapman, W.L. and J.E. Walsh. 2007. A Synthesis of Antarctic Temperatures. Journal of Climate, 20, 4096-4117.

But I was wrong on the water percentage. It is only a little over 70%.

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