April 01, 2006

Questions about climate change

A while back Tim McGuire interviewed me on his blog about climate change. I sent him answers to a series of questions-- for example:

Is the earth's climate getting warmer?
Why is it getting warmer?
What effects have been seen so far?
Are scientists who question global warming ostracized or regarded with suspicion?

You can see the answers to these questions and others by following this link.

2 Comments:

At April 01, 2006 7:18 PM , Anonymous Tim said...

Got some more questions:

1. There was an article the other day about Antarctica air temps being warming than the models predicted. What is your take on this? Is it another signal of doom or just a natural fluctuation. It sounds like a significant warming.

2. The first question leads to a question about models. My Uncle said that his group drew up plans for a computer that could be really good at modeling climate and soon discovered that if it was built, it would incinerate an area the size of Texas. (Well, that's how I remember the telling, anyway). my question is, "can puny humans ever hope to accurately model climate?"

2. Positive Feedback Loops. Seems like everytime I read an article about global warming or talk to someone (like you) about it, I find out about a new positive feedback loop. The most recent one is about plankton and other sea life acting as carbon sinks. Is it true that global warming could mess up this carbon sink?

Another one often mentioned is that glaciers get "lubed up" by warming a little bit and they slide into the sea faster, making the ice melt faster.

Got any more positive feedback loops?

 
At April 06, 2006 1:24 PM , Blogger Matt_J said...

Antarctica is a whole different ballgame. The temperature difference between the equator and the pole means that a whole lot of air would like to move longitudinally (N/S). But air at the equator is spinning with the planet, whereas air at the pole is not spinning at all. In order for air to get from the equator to the pole it needs to lose that angular momentum via friction with the surface. The interesting thing with the earth is that most of the land is in the northern hemisphere. Land is rough, making it relatively easier for air to move from the rotating equator to the stationary pole. In the southern hemisphere the only way the air can generate the necessary friction with the surface (smooth water) is by turning up the wind speed. This means that there is a permanent vortex surrounding antarctica that acts to cut off the continent from the rest of the atmosphere. The temperatures observed on Antarctica have something to do with the complexities of the exchange of air between the center of the vortex and the rest of the atmosphere. This is one reason why the ice core research on Greenland compliments the work on Antarctica-- Greenland is in much better contact with the northern hemisphere and the global atmosphere as a whole, whereas Antarctica provides a longer time series since snowfall rates are lower (but the glacier is still many kilometers deep).
And, Yes they can, yes they could and yes indeed, I do.

 

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