Monday, April 15, 2013

Relationship Between Warming Over Land and in the Sea

As we continue to pour billions of tons of greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution into our atmosphere each year the evidence continues to show that this is warming our climate both on land and at sea. The abundance of evidence for global warming comes from temperature records, atmospheric pollution readings, in ice cores and statistical analysis. A couple of recent studies reiterate this warming trend and help to explain the relationship between warming on land and at sea.

Since the 1980s each successive decade has been hotter than the one before.  Not a single month’s temperatures have fallen below the 20th-century average since February 1985. Half the world’s population is now too young to have lived through the last colder-than-average month. In worldwide temperature records going back to 1880, the 19 hottest years have all occurred since 1985. Eight of the nine hottest years on record were in the last decade.

Warming Over Land

According to a new study directed by Gilbert Compo a scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration there is strong evidence for global warming over land. Compo is a researcher at NOAA's Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences at the University of Colorado.

Compo and his colleagues reviewed the period from 1871 through 2010 using something called 20CR analysis which relies largely on barometers. According to their research, since 1952, the Earth has shown a rise of 0.78 degrees Celsius, which Compo termed "statistically indistinguishable" from 1.18 degrees Celsius. The study also showed an increase from 1901 to 2010 of 0.99 degrees Celsius,

What makes this study unique is that in addition to using barometric pressure rather than temperatures, it refutes the contention that this warming trend is caused by urban infrastructure which generates and retains heat.

Compo expressed the hope "that the general public and decision makers, no matter what their political affiliation, would recognize that the warming of the land areas is real. Even the barometers can tell that the planet is warming."

Warming of the Oceans

Our oceans may explain why steadily rising atmospheric temperatures appears to have plateaued in the last few years. This appears to be due to the fact that the ocean is absorbing more heat. This finding was reported in a study published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, a publication of the American Geophysical Union.

Here is how the USA Today reported the study's findings:

“[H]eat absorbed by the world's oceans has increased significantly...prompting the study co-authors to say that the warming has been diverted and is heating the oceans instead of the atmosphere.”

Conclusion

The warming of the oceans will increase the severity of extreme weather events, it is also killing sea life.  If we continue to do nothing (or too little) the world will get much hotter. As Fredd Krupp said, "We have reached the moment for action. There’s a new national conversation under way about how best to bolster our defenses against the extreme weather events." He goes on to suggest that a carbon cap and a carbon fee would go a long way to help us reduce GHGs and generate revenue.

© 2013, Richard Matthews. All rights reserved.

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