CC1C. Stay Current—What Is the Greenhouse Effect?

Climate Change cover

Staying current for Chapter 1

{ Climate Change Contents }

Carl Sagan testifying before Congress in 1985 on climate change and the greenhouse effect. [] Youtube.

2021-10-05. Nobel Prize in Physics Awarded for Study of Humanity’s Role in Changing Climate. Source: By Cade MetzMarc Santora and Cora Engelbrecht, The New York Times. Excerpt: The work of Syukuro Manabe, Klaus Hasselmann and Giorgio Parisi “demonstrate that our knowledge about the climate rests on a solid scientific foundation,” the committee said. …In 1967, Dr. Manabe developed a computer model that confirmed the critical connection between the primary greenhouse gas — carbon dioxide — and warming in the atmosphere.… []

2021-06-16. [] – Earth is now trapping an ‘unprecedented’ amount of heat, NASA says. Source: By Tik Root, The Washington Post. Excerpt: The amount of heat Earth traps has roughly doubled since 2005, contributing to more rapidly warming oceans, air and land, according to new research from NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration…. 

2016-01-11. How many cars and burping cows equal the California gas leak? By Paul Blake, BBC News. Excerpt: A state of emergency has been declared in California over a broken natural gas well that is leaking natural gas into the atmosphere and displacing thousands of families. How does the scale of the incident compare? The methane and other pollutants spewing from the well is invisible to the naked eye, making it hard to comprehend just how large the leak is. Fortunately, the California Air Resources Board (Carb) has been taking periodic measurements – the most recently available being from 22 December – which we can use to make some comparisons. …the gas leak outside of Los Angeles is spewing about 30,300kg of methane into the atmosphere per hour. At that rate, at least 265,428,000kg would be released in a year. …1,411,851 [is the] number of cars that would need to be added to the road to have a similar greenhouse effect in a year. …Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas. Over a 100-year period, it has about a 25-times greater impact on climate change than the equivalent amount of carbon dioxide, the gas produced by running cars and other vehicles, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). If the gas well were to continue at its current rate and produce 265,428,000kg this year, that would have the same greenhouse effect of 6,635,700,000kg of carbon dioxide….

2010 March 2. Scientists Taking Steps to Defend Work on Climate. By John M. Broder, NY Times. Excerpt: WASHINGTON — For months, climate scientists have taken a vicious beating in the media and on the Internet, accused of hiding data, covering up errors and suppressing alternate views. Their response until now has been largely to assert the legitimacy of the vast body of climate science and to mock their critics as cranks and know-nothings.
But the volume of criticism and the depth of doubt have only grown, and many scientists now realize they are facing a crisis of public confidence and have to fight back. Tentatively and grudgingly, they are beginning to engage their critics, admit mistakes, open up their data and reshape the way they conduct their work.
…But serious damage has already been done. A survey conducted in late December by Yale University and George Mason University found that the number of Americans who believed that climate change was a hoax or scientific conspiracy had more than doubled since 2008, to 16 percent of the population from 7 percent. An additional 13 percent of Americans said they thought that even if the planet was warming, it was a result solely of natural factors and was not a significant concern.
Climate scientists have been shaken by the criticism and are beginning to look for ways to recover their reputation. They are learning a little humility and trying to make sure they avoid crossing a line into policy advocacy….

2008 October 27. Thoreau Is Rediscovered as a Climatologist. By Cornelia Dean, The New York Times. Excerpt: CONCORD, Mass. — Henry David Thoreau endorsed civil disobedience, opposed slavery and lived for two years in a hut in the woods here, an experience he described in “Walden.” Now he turns out to have another line in his résumé: climate researcher.
He did not realize it, of course…. In 1851, when he started recording when and where plants flowered in Concord, he was making notes for a book on the seasons.
Now, though, researchers at Boston University and Harvard are using those notes to discern patterns of plant abundance and decline in Concord — and by extension, New England — and to link those patterns to changing climate.
Their conclusions are clear. On average, common species are flowering seven days earlier than they did in Thoreau’s day, Richard B. Primack, a conservation biologist at Boston University, and Abraham J. Miller-Rushing, then his graduate student, reported this year in the journal Ecology. Working with Charles C. Davis, an evolutionary biologist at Harvard and two of his graduate students, they determined that 27 percent of the species documented by Thoreau have vanished from Concord and 36 percent are present in such small numbers that they probably will not survive for long….
“It’s targeting certain branches in the tree of life,” Dr. Davis said. “They happen to be our most charismatic species — orchids, mints, gentians, lilies, iris.”
Of the 21 species of orchids Thoreau observed in Concord, “we could only find 7,” Dr. Primack said….

2007 October 23. The Big Melt: The Arctic Ice Cap. Video on NY Times website, featuring Andrew Revkin.

2007 October 22. Carbon dioxide in atmosphere increasing. By RANDOLPH E. SCHMID
AP Science Writer Excerpt: WASHINGTON — Just days after the Nobel prize was awarded for global warming work, an alarming new study finds that carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is increasing faster than expected. Carbon dioxide emissions were 35 percent higher in 2006 than in 1990, a much faster growth rate than anticipated, researchers led by Josep G. Canadell, of Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, report in Tuesday’s edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Increased industrial use of fossil fuels coupled with a decline in the gas absorbed by the oceans and land were listed as causes of the increase….

2007 October 22. Inch by Inch, Great Lakes Shrink, and Cargo Carriers Face Losses. By FERNANDA SANTOS, NY Times. Excerpt: Most environmental researchers say that low precipitation, mild winters and high evaporation, due largely to a lack of heavy ice covers to shield cold lake waters from the warmer air above, are depleting the lakes. The Great Lakes follow a natural cycle, their levels rising in the spring, peaking in the summer and reaching a low in the winter, as the evaporation rate rises.
In the past two years, evaporation has been higher than average, and not enough rain and snow have fallen in the upper lakes – Superior, Michigan and Huron – which supply water to the lower lakes, to restore the system to its normal levels, said Keith Kompoltowicz, a meteorologist at the Corps of Engineers’ office in Detroit, which monitors water levels in the lakes. “Mother Nature is largely the driving force on what the water levels are, and it plays a large role in what we project water levels to be,” Mr. Kompoltowicz said.
The International Joint Commission, which advises the United States and Canada on water resources, is conducting a $17 million, five-year study to determine whether the shrinking of the Great Lakes is related to the seasonal rise-and-fall cycles or is a result of climate change, said Greg McGillis, a spokesman for the commission. A final report is expected in March 2012.

2007 August 26. Quarter-Degree Fix Fuels Climate Fight. By ANDREW C. REVKIN. Excerpt: Never underestimate the power of the blogosphere and a quarter of a degree to inflame the fight over global warming. A quarter-degree Fahrenheit is roughly the downward adjustment NASA scientists made earlier this month in their annual estimates of the average temperature in the contiguous 48 states since 2000. They corrected the numbers after an error in meshing two sets of temperature data was discovered by Stephen McIntyre, a blogger and retired business executive in Toronto. Smaller adjustments were made to some readings for some preceding years.
All of this would most likely have passed unremarkably if Mr. McIntyre had not blogged that the adjustments changed the rankings of warmest years for the contiguous states since 1895, when record-keeping began.
Suddenly, 1934 appeared to vault ahead of 1998 as the warmest year on record (by a statistically meaningless 0.036 degrees Fahrenheit). In NASA’s most recent data set, 1934 had followed 1998 by a statistically meaningless 0.018 degrees. Conservative bloggers, columnists and radio hosts pounced. “We have proof of man-made global warming,” Rush Limbaugh told his radio audience. “The man-made global warming is inside NASA.”
Mr. McIntyre, who has spent years seeking flaws in studies pointing to human-driven climate change, traded broadsides on the Web with James E. Hansen, the NASA team’s leader. Dr. Hansen said he would not “joust with court jesters” and Mr. McIntyre posited that Dr. Hansen might have a “Jor-El complex” – a reference to Superman’s father, who foresaw the destruction of his planet and sent his son packing….

20 August 2007. Arctic Sea Ice Extent Hits Record Low. BOULDER, Colorado (ENS) Excerpt: Arctic sea ice fell below all previous records for the lowest absolute minimum extent ever measured by satellite on Thursday and Friday, said scientists at the National Snow and Ice Data Center. Sea ice extent has fallen below the 2005 record low absolute minimum and is still melting, said researcher Walt Meier.
A rapid disintegration of Arctic sea ice during July has prompted scientists to warn there is a 92 percent chance that Arctic sea ice extent will hit an annual record low. Sea ice extent, the area of an ocean covered by at least 15 percent of ice, has been shrinking since the late 1970s, when satellite measurements began.
The decline is believed by many researchers to be due to higher temperatures due to global warming from a buildup of greenhouse gas emissions in the Earth’s atmosphere.
…Arctic sea ice researchers pay particular attention to the months of September and March because they generally mark the annual minimum and maximum sea ice extents respectively, said Drobot.
The record low September minimum for sea ice, set in 2005, is 2.15 million square miles, Drobot said. For 2007, the most likely minimum extent is 1.96 million square miles, he said.
…Arctic sea ice is “one of the better predictors of climate change on Earth,” Drobot said. “There will probably be about two-thirds as much sea this September as there was 25 years ago, a good indication that something significant is happening with the climate.”
…Find more information on CU-Boulder’s Arctic Regional Ice Forecasting System group at:

View a website with continuous updates on Arctic sea ice conditions maintained by researchers at CU-Boulder’s National Snow and Ice Data Center

13 September 2006. ARCTIC ICE MELTDOWN CONTINUES WITH SIGNIFICANTLY REDUCED WINTER ICE COVER. A new study shows that in the last two years sea ice is shrinking on the surface of Arctic waters to record low levels. NASA Earth Observatory.

January 2005. Popular Science, pp. 52-53. For the Earth, the Heat Is On. Overwhelming atmospheric evidence supports the reality of global warming-and humans’ role in causing it. It was the summer of animals gone weird. Alaskan salmon swam up rivers they weren’t born in, their native streams reduced to trickles. Scores of subtropical species, including seahorses and leatherback turtles, migrated into waters off northern England and Scotland. Polar bears were marooned on a remote Arctic island as large patches of what was normally sea ice melted into water. Hundreds of thousands of seabird failed to breed. The culprit for all this odd animal behavior? A Northern fever: from Alaska to Norway, meteorologists measured record-setting spring and summer temperatures. In addition to this anecdotal evidence for global warming, there was one hard truth this past year: Carbon dioxide hit record-high levels in the atmosphere. Soaring from an average of 376 parts per million in 2003, readings hovered around 379 parts per million, a jump much greater than the average annual increase of 1.8 ppm recorded over the past decade. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change projects that, if left unchecked, carbon dioxide concentrations will range from 650 to 970 ppm by the year 2100, resulting in a rise of 2.7 to 10.4 degrees Fahrenheit in global temperature. A heat surge like that is enough to cause today’s worrisome animal behavior to turn tragic, according to two studies published in the January 8, 2004, issue of Nature. Even slight increases in temperature can push species toward the poles or to higher elevations, but for many animals, migration to a cooler habitat is impossible. Scientists calculate that up to one third of the 1,103 plants and animals they studied could plunge into extinction by 2050. If extrapolated globally, more than one million species could disappear because of climate change by midcentury….

February 2004. The Case of the Missing Carbon. By Tim Appenzeller, National Geographic Magazine. Hooked on fossil fuels, humans pump carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Fortunately, plants and ocean waters gather it in. But what happens when the planet’s great carbon recycling system goes awry?

19 June 2003. A DELICATE BALANCE: A SIGN OF CHANGE IN THE TROPICS. Climatologists working under the controlled conditions of a laboratory rarely have the luxury of directly studying Mother Nature. They cannot bring a slice of El Niño back to the bench to observe its movements, nor encase a natural ecosystem in Pyrex and heat it up to see what happens. Climatologists must study firsthand the ongoing changes in the Earth’s climate system in all its chaos and mystery.

13 May 2003. RESEARCHERS FIND SOOT HAS IMPACT ON GLOBAL CLIMATE. A team of researchers, led by NASA and Columbia University scientists, found that airborne, microscopic, black-carbon (soot) particles are even more plentiful around the world, and contribute more to climate change, than was previously assumed by the Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change (IPCC). The researchers concluded that if these soot particles are not reduced, at least as rapidly as light-colored pollutants, the world could warm more quickly. The findings appear in the latest issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

14 January 2003 — Dinosaurs Experienced Climate Changes Before K-T Collision Pennsylvnia State University University Park, Pa. –Climate change had little to do with the demise of the dinosaurs, but the last million years before their extinction had a complex pattern of warming and cooling events that are important to our understanding of the end of their reign, according to geologists… An extraterrestrial object that impacted the Earth near the Yucatan in Mexico 65.51 million years ago doomed the dinosaurs and 70 percent of the Earth’s other species, vaporizing itself and the surrounding rocks and throwing enough ash, soot and debris into the atmosphere to effectively stop photosynthesis worldwide. This impact radically altered the natural progression of evolution. …”It could be argued that we are still recovering from that impact and the mass extinctions of dinosaurs, mammals, insects, plants and sea life that it caused,” says Wilf, who worked on this project at the University of Michigan before coming to Penn State. “For example, not only the dinosaurs, but also 80 to 90 percent of the Cretaceous plant species, including all the dominant species, disappeared.”