The wandering interests of JamaOwl

Posts tagged ‘book’

Climate and Weather part 4

More from “The Weather of the Future”, By Heidi Cullen, Harper, 2011

“Corals have probably existed on the GBR (Great Barrier Reef) for more than 25 million years.  The corals first formed during the geological era known as the Miocene. It was during the Miocene that India slammed into Asia and created the Himalayas. The Miocene also was a time when the Australian continent was on the move.” (p. 91)

“According to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA), the earliest record of complete reef structures dates back about 600,000 years.  Research suggests that the current reef structure started growing above this older platform about 20,000 years ago, during the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM), the peak of the last ice age.” (pp. 91-92)

“By around 13,000 years ago, corals began to move into the hills of what had been Australia’s coastal plain, but was now underwater. … Scientists estimate that the present-day, living reef structure is between 6,000 and 8,000 years old; in other words, it dates from the period during which the sea level is thought to have finally stabilized.” (p. 92)

“… in many places of the world – such as the Maldives, the Seychelles, and Palau – coral bleaching has effectively destroyed more than 50 percent of reefs.  In the Caribbean, the numbers are worse, with between 80 and 90 percent of the reefs destroyed by bleaching, disease, hurricanes, and a number of problems related to coastal development, fishing, and other human activities.” (p. 95)

“During El Niño conditions, ocean temperatures in the Indian Ocean and in the central to eastern Pacific Ocean increase. Along with the warmer ocean waters comes a stable mass of high pressure, exactly the kind of weather pattern that ushers in a prolonged period of hot, sunny days.  What might look like perfect weather is actually a condition for extensive coral bleaching.  El Niño turns the lights on in a very big way.” (p. 96)

“Bleached corals aren’t dead; they’re just starving.  …  If the stressful conditions come to an end soon enough – that is, if the weather changes and temperatures become cooler again – the algae can come back, and the corals can survive the bleaching event.  But corals that do survive a bleaching event come out of it in a weekend state.  … Prolonged bleaching often leads to coral death.”

“This situation is really not so different from a prolonged drought.”(p. 99)

“Roughly 30 percent of the excess carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere by human activities since the industrial revolution has been absorbed by the oceans. If not for the ocean uptake, atmospheric CO2 would be on the order of 450 ppm today.” (p. 100)

“Recent modeling studies indicate that if atmospheric CO2 levels hit 600 ppm, it will be very tough to save the corals.  By 650 ppm, it will be impossible to save them.” (p. 104)

“…scientists and conservationists are working hard to protect is an area called the Coral Triangle, which spans eastern Indonesia, parts of Malaysia, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Timor Leste, and the Solomon Islands and contains 53 percent of the world’s corals.  The Coral Triangle covers an area of 2.3 million square miles, about half the size of the United States. It has more than 500 reef-building coral species – 75 percent of all species known to scientists – and more than 3,000 species of reef fish.  It also has the greatest extent of mangrove forest of any region in the world.” (pp. 105-106)

“Right now only 1 percent of the ocean is protected, compared with about 12 percent of the land.” (p. 106)


Climate and Weather part 3

More from “The Weather of the Future”, By Heidi Cullen, Harper, 2011

“If changes in solar output had been responsible for the recent climate warming, both the troposphere and the stratosphere would have warmed.” (p. 46)

“Interestingly, scientists have learned that not all carbon in the air is the same; in fact, the carbon that comes from us bears our distinct fingerprint…” (pp. 47)

“Carbon from the oceans, the atmosphere, and the land contains a healthy mix of carbon 12 and carbon 14. But carbon from fossil fuels has almost no carbon 14 at all.” (p. 48)

“According to precise measurements from mass spectrometers at several locations around the globe, the carbon dioxide molecules currently in the atmosphere have very little carbon 13 and carbon 14.” … “The chemical fingerprints of the extra carbon dioxide in the atmosphere match only the fingerprints of coal, oil, natural gas, and deforestation because these are the only sources that produce carbon dioxide depleted in carbon 13 and carbon 14.” (p. 48)

From Wikipedia I learned that this is the Suess effect.  Named for the Austrian chemist Hans Suess.

“… roughly one out of every four CO2 molecules in the atmosphere today was put there by us.” (p. 49)

“… the Sahel is consistently identified as one of the most vulnerable places in the world to global warming.” (p. 63)

I wonder about high altitude deserts.  Are they more vulnerable or less?

Climate and Weather part 2

More from “The Weather of the Future”, By Heidi Cullen, Harper, 2011

“Numerical analysis looks for ways to find approximate solutions to problems that are too complicated to solve” (p. 32)

“… there are two types of climate model runs that test the impact of global warming on the climate system: transient runs and equilibrium runs.   In a transient run, greenhouse gases are slowly added to the climate system and the model simulates the impact of the additional CO2 at each time step.  In an equilibrium run, the atmospheric CO2 level is instantly doubled, and the model is run with the higher CO2 level until the climate has fully adjusted to the forcings and has reached a new equilibrium.” (p. 39)

“The climate sensitivity estimated by the top global climate models ranges from 3.6°F to 8.1°F for an atmosphere going from about 300 to 600 parts per million (ppm) of CO2.  This is not far different from Manabe’s estimate of 6°F in 1975 or Arrhenius’s calculation of 8°F in 1896.” (See previous post.) “It raises the question: how many more times do we have to do this experiment before we believe the answer?” (p. 43)

“In the United States, spring now arrives an average of ten days to two weeks earlier than it did twenty years ago.  Many migratory bird species are arriving earlier.  … (A) study of northeastern birds that migrate long distances found that birds wintering in the southern United States now arrive back in the Northeast an average of thirteen days earlier than they did during the first half of the last century.  Snow cover is melting earlier. Plants are blooming almost two weeks earlier in spring.” (p. 43)

“When you take us out of the calculations, you take out all the greenhouse gas emissions human activities have caused since the industrial revolution…”  “If a climate model, run with only natural forcings, cannot re-create the strong warming since the 1970s, then the real world is currently doing something Mother Nature cannot do on her own.” (p. 44)

“There isn’t a single computer model simulation, called a control run, that exhibits a trend in global temperature as large or sustained as the observed temperature record.” (p. 44)

“With hind-casting, scientists can use climate models to isolate the physical fingerprint of human activity and figure out where the heightened levels of carbon in the atmosphere are coming from.  Here’s how it works. Different forcings – such as changes in solar radiation, volcano eruptions, or fluctuations in greenhouse gas concentrations – imprint different responses, or fingerprints, on the climate system.” (p. 45)

“In 1784, Benjamin Franklin spoke of a constant dry fog all over Europe and North America that prevented the sun from doing its job and kept summer temperatures much chillier than usual.  Franklin correctly attributed the dry fog to a large Icelandic volcano, called Laki, that erupted in 1783. In North America, the winter of 1784 was the longest and one of the coldest on record.  There was ice-skating in Charleston Harbor; a huge snowstorm hit the South; the Mississippi River froze at New Orleans; and there was ice in the Gulf of Mexico.” (pp. 45-46)


I find this utterly amazing – ice in the Gulf of Mexico!  Apparently it really did happen, only it wasn’t a freeze-over as I first thought.

12 February 1784 Ice flows were spotted in the Gulf of Mexico after passing from the Mississippi River. Ice actually blocked the river at New Orleans, LA. This was only 1 of 2 times that this has ever occurred, the other was during the Great Arctic Outbreak of 1899. Storm Track, Fog, and Ice Charts of the North Atlantic Ocean, and Hurricane Track Charts of the Gulf of Mexico (Google eBook) Front Cover John P. Finley 1889

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Climate and Weather

Quotes, comments and other things I found interesting.

From “The Weather of the Future”, By Heidi Cullen, Harper, 2011

“…El Niño (EN) describes the ocean component; …the atmospheric component is known as the Southern Oscillation (SO).  That’s why climatologists generally refer to it as ENSO. (p. xiv)

“It’s a book about climate science and climate scientists…  It illustrates that doing nothing and remaining complacent are tantamount to accepting a future forty years down the road in which your town, your neighborhood, and even your backyard will not look the same.” (p. xviii)

“…many of the first important discoveries about global warming were made during the 1800s.”  (p. 15)  I found this very surprising.  We think that global warming is a relative recent phenomenon.  Most of the initial thinking did not include global warming as a man-induced climate change.  Scientists were studying the ice age and glaciation, which at that time was not accepted very well.

“… (T)he notion that the global climate could be affected by human activities was first put forth by Svante Arrhenius in 1896.  He based his proposals on his prediction that emissions of carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels (i.e., coal, petroleum, and natural gas) and other combustion processes would alter atmospheric composition in ways that would lead to global warming.” (p. 25)

“Arrhenius … calculated the temperature increase to be expected from a doubling of CO2 in the atmosphere – a rise of about 8°F.” (p. 25)

“With … a gas chromatograph, (Charles David) Keeling headed to the Scripps Institution of Oceanography to begin what is perhaps the single most important scientific contribution to the discovery of global warming.”  (p. 27) Keeling’s data tracked the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere.  This became known as the Keeling curve.

“The Keeling curve is a monthly record of atmospheric carbon dioxide levels that begins in 1958 and continues to today.” (p. 27)

“Keeling, using his Mauna Loa measurements, could see that with each passing year CO2 levels were steadily moving upward.  As the years passed… Keeling’s CO2 record became increasingly impressive, showing levels of carbon dioxide that were noticeably higher year after year after year. … The slow rise in its concentration over the first several years was enough to prompt a report … to President Johnson in 1965, indicating that the early prediction that an increase in CO2 could occur was correct and that global warming would indeed be expected to occur.” (p. 28)

“In the northern hemisphere during fall and winter, plants and leaves die off and decay, releasing CO2 back into the atmosphere and causing a small spike.  And then during the spring and summer when plants are taking CO2 out of the atmosphere in order to grow, carbon dioxide levels drop.”  (p. 29)

“The Keeling curve proved… that CO2 levels in the atmosphere can indeed change and that they can change on very short timescales.” (p. 29)

“…(T)he level (of CO2) from A.D. 1000 to 1750 in the atmosphere was about 280 ppm…”  “…the concentration of CO2 has increased about 36 percent in the last 150 years, with about half of that increase happening in the last three decades.”  “… the CO2 concentration is now higher than any seen in at least the past 800,000 years.” (p. 30)