Global warming ‘confirmed’ by independent study

The Earth’s surface really is getting warmer, a new analysis by a US scientific group set up in the wake of the “Climategate” affair has concluded.

The Berkeley Earth Project has used new methods and some new data, but finds the same warming trend seen by groups such as the UK Met Office and Nasa.

The project received funds from sources that back organisations lobbying against action on climate change.

“Climategate”, in 2009, involved claims global warming had been exaggerated.

Emails of University of East Anglia (UEA) climate scientists were hacked, posted online and used by critics to allege manipulation of climate change data.

Fresh start

The Berkeley group says it has also found evidence that changing sea temperatures in the north Atlantic may be a major reason why the Earth’s average temperature varies globally from year to year.
The project was established by University of California physics professor Richard Muller, who was concerned by claims that established teams of climate researchers had not been entirely open with their data.

He gathered a team of 10 scientists, mostly physicists, including such luminaries as Saul Perlmutter, winner of this year’s Nobel Physics Prize for research showing the Universe’s expansion is accelerating.

Funding came from a number of sources, including charitable foundations maintained by the Koch brothers, the billionaire US industrialists, who have also donated large sums to organisations lobbying against acceptance of man-made global warming.
“I was deeply concerned that the group [at UEA] had concealed discordant data,” Prof Muller told BBC News.

“Science is best done when the problems with the analysis are candidly shared.”

The group’s work also examined claims from “sceptical” bloggers that temperature data from weather stations did not show a true global warming trend.

The claim was that many stations have registered warming because they are located in or near cities, and those cities have been growing – the urban heat island effect.

The Berkeley group found about 40,000 weather stations around the world whose output has been recorded and stored in digital form.

It developed a new way of analysing the data to plot the global temperature trend over land since 1800.

What came out was a graph remarkably similar to those produced by the world’s three most important and established groups, whose work had been decried as unreliable and shoddy in climate sceptic circles.

The Berkeley group's record of global land temperature mirrors existing ones closely

Two of those three records are maintained in the US, by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa) and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa).

The third is a collaboration between the UK Met Office and UEA’s Climatic Research Unit (CRU), from which the e-mails that formed the basis of the “Climategate” furore were hacked two years ago.

“Our biggest surprise was that the new results agreed so closely with the warming values published previously by other teams in the US and the UK,” said Prof Muller.

“This confirms that these studies were done carefully and that potential biases identified by climate change sceptics did not seriously affect their conclusions.”

Since the 1950s, the average temperature over land has increased by 1C, the group found.

They also report that although the urban heat island effect is real – which is well-established – it is not behind the warming registered by the majority of weather stations around the world.

They also showed that in the US, weather stations rated as “high quality” by Noaa showed the same warming trend as those rated as “low quality”.

‘Time for apology’

Prof Phil Jones, the CRU scientist who came in for the most personal criticism during “Climategate”, was cautious about interpreting the Berkeley results because they have not been published in a peer-reviewed journal.

“I look forward to reading the finalised paper once it has been reviewed and published,” he said.

“These initial findings are very encouraging, and echo our own results and our conclusion that the impact of urban heat islands on the overall global temperature is minimal.”

The Berkeley team has chosen to release the findings initially on its own website.

They are asking for comments and feedback before preparing the manuscripts for formal scientific publication.

In part, this counters the accusation made during “Climategate” that climate scientists formed a tight clique who peer-reviewed each other’s papers and made sure their own global warming narrative was the only one making it into print.

But for Richard Muller, this free circulation also marks a return to how science should be done.

“That is the way I practised science for decades; it was the way everyone practised it until some magazines – particularly Science and Nature – forbade it,” he said.

“That was not a good change, and still many fields such as string theory practice the traditional method wholeheartedly.”

This open “wiki” method of review is regularly employed in physics, the home field for seven of the 10 Berkeley team.

Bob Ward, policy and communications director for the Grantham Research Institute for Climate Change and the Environment in London, said the warming of the Earth’s surface was unequivocal.

“So-called ‘sceptics’ should now drop their thoroughly discredited claims that the increase in global average temperature could be attributed to the impact of growing cities,” he said.

“More broadly, this study also proves once again how false it was for ‘sceptics’ to allege that the e-mails hacked from UEA proved that the CRU land temperature record had been doctored.

“It is now time for an apology from all those, including US presidential hopeful Rick Perry, who have made false claims that the evidence for global warming has been faked by climate scientists.”

Ocean currents

The Berkeley group does depart from the “orthodox” picture of climate science in its depiction of short-term variability in the global temperature.

The El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is generally thought to be the main reason for inter-annual warming or cooling.

But by the Berkeley team’s analysis, the global temperature correlates more closely with the state of the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO) index – a measure of sea surface temperature in the north Atlantic.

There are theories suggesting that the AMO index is in turn driven by fluctuations in the north Atlantic current commonly called the Gulf Stream.

The team suggests it is worth investigating whether the long-term AMO cycles, which are thought to last 65-70 years, may play a part in the temperature rise, fall and rise again seen during the 20th Century.

But they emphasise that anthropogenic global warming (AGW) driven by greenhouse gas emissions is very much in their picture.

“Had we found no global warming, then that would have ruled out AGW,” said Prof Muller.

“Had we found half as much, it would have suggested that prior estimates [of AGW] were too large; if we had found more warming, it would have raised the question of whether prior estimates were too low.

“But we didn’t; we found that the prior rise was confirmed. That means that we do not directly affect prior estimates.”

The team next plans to look at ocean temperatures, in order to construct a truly global dataset.
By Richard Black – bbc.co.uk

The Ozone Hole: Summer 2011

NASA, NOAA Data Show Significant Antarctic Ozone Hole Remains
The Antarctic ozone hole, which yawns wide every Southern Hemisphere spring, reached its annual peak on Sept. 12. It stretched to 10.05 million square miles, the ninth largest ozone hole on record. Above the South Pole, the ozone hole reached its deepest point of the season on Oct. 9, tying this year for the 10th lowest in this 26-year record.

http://youtu.be/JZ1M4TJMUAc
NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) use balloon-borne instruments, ground-based instruments and satellites to monitor the annual Antarctic ozone hole, global levels of ozone in the stratosphere and the manmade chemicals that contribute to ozone depletion.

“The colder than average temperatures in the stratosphere this year caused a larger than average ozone hole,” said Paul Newman, chief scientist for atmospheres at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. “Even though it was relatively large, the area of this year’s ozone hole was within the range we’d expect given the levels of manmade ozone-depleting chemicals that continue to persist in the atmosphere.”

The ozone layer helps protect the planet’s surface from harmful ultraviolet radiation. Ozone depletion results in more incoming radiation that can hit the surface, elevating the risk of skin cancer and other harmful effects.

“The manmade chemicals known to destroy ozone are slowly declining because of international action, but there are still large amounts of these chemicals doing damage,” said James Butler, director of NOAA’s Global Monitoring Division in Boulder, Colo.

In the Antarctic spring (August and September) the sun begins rising again after several months of darkness and polar-circling winds keep cold air trapped above the continent. Sunlight-sparked reactions involving ice clouds and manmade chemicals begin eating away at the ozone. Most years, the conditions for ozone depletion ease before early December when the seasonal hole closes.

Levels of most ozone-depleting chemicals in the atmosphere have been gradually declining as the result of the 1987 Montreal Protocol, an international treaty to protect the ozone layer. That international treaty caused the phase-out of ozone-depleting chemicals, which had been used widely in refrigeration, as solvents and in aerosol spray cans.

However, most of those chemicals remain in the atmosphere for decades. Global atmospheric computer models predict that stratospheric ozone could recover by midcentury, but the ozone hole in the Antarctic will likely persist one to two decades longer, according to the latest analysis in the 2010 Quadrennial Ozone Assessment issued by the World Meteorological Organization and United Nations Environment Programme, with co-authors from NASA and NOAA.

NASA currently measures ozone in the stratosphere with the Dutch-Finnish Ozone Monitoring Instrument, or OMI, on board the Aura satellite. OMI continues a NASA legacy of monitoring the ozone layer from space that dates back to 1972 with launch of the Nimbus-4 satellite. The instrument measured the 2011 ozone hole at its deepest at 95 Dobson units on Oct. 8 this year. This differs slightly from NOAA’s balloon-borne ozone observations from the South Pole (102 Dobson units) because OMI measures ozone across the entire Antarctic region.

That satellite-monitoring legacy will continue with the launch of NASA’s National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System Preparatory Project, known as NPP, on Oct. 28. The satellite will carry a new ozone-monitoring instrument, the Ozone Mapping and Profiler Suite. The instruments will provide more detailed daily, global ozone measurements than ever before to continue observing the ozone layer’s gradual recovery.

It will take a few years of averaging yearly lows in Antarctic ozone to discern evidence of recovery in ozone levels because seasonal cycles and other variable natural factors — from the temperature of the atmosphere to the stability of atmospheric layers — can make ozone levels dip and soar from day to day and year to year.

NOAA has been tracking ozone depletion around the globe, including the South Pole, from several perspectives. NOAA researchers have used balloons to loft instruments 18 miles into the atmosphere for more than 24 years to collect detailed profiles of ozone levels from the surface up. NOAA also tracks ozone with ground-based instruments and from space.
www.nasa.govl

The real Greek tragedy may be the climate

David Strahan
Greece’s debt crisis threatens more than the collapse of the euro and the European Union – it would also be a climate disaster

GREECE is going to default, one way or another, that much is clear. The bigger question is whether it will also leave the euro and what that would mean. What is so far underappreciated is that a Greek exit would have appalling consequences for the climate.

Just three months after a second bailout, Greece is failing to deliver its end of the bargain and bond markets are signalling that it will not repay all its debt. The International Monetary Fund, the European Union and the European Central Bank are struggling to deliver a third rescue package.

Even if that succeeds, the wild card remains Greek politics. The country is wracked with strikes, riots and protests. Deep cuts to jobs, wages and pensions were passed by a slender majority, and it would not take much of a political shift for Greece to abandon its debts – and the euro.

Departure would be economic suicide, though. Paul Donovan, a London-based economist at UBS investment bank, calculates the Greek economy would shrink by half in the first year. Moreover, a Greek exit would likely trigger a domino effect. Ireland, Portugal, Spain and even Italy could go too. It would be a short step to the break-up of the euro and a continent-wide credit crunch….. Continue reading The real Greek tragedy may be the climate

Moon’s shadow creates a wake

A total solar eclipse

During a total solar eclipse the Moon comes directly between the Sun and the Earth, casting a dark shadow that moves across land and sea. Now, researchers in Taiwan and Japan have shown that this shadow creates a pocket of high-pressure air that cuts through the atmosphere much like a boat through water – leaving a discernible wake. As well as confirming a 40-year-old prediction, the discovery could have implications for how nuclear tests are monitored.
Along with plunging a region into darkness, an eclipse also causes a sudden cooling of the atmosphere. The effect this has on atmospheric pressure is complicated and not properly understood. Some places cool faster than others, creating regions where the pressure increases and regions where it decreases.
Jianlin Liu of the National Central University in Taiwan and colleagues have used Global Positioning System (GPS) technology to confirm a 40-year-old prediction that “shadow boats” are created in the atmosphere during an eclipse. These are thought to be pockets of high-pressure air directly under the Moon’s shadow that push their way through low-pressure air much like a boat pushing through water…. Continue reading Moon’s shadow creates a wake

What’s the weather like on other planets?

Anyone wanting to holiday on Mars should be prepared to take shelter from passing sandstorms Photo: AFP/GETTY IMAGES

Mercury

he baby of the Solar system and closest to the Sun, smallest-planet Mercury has no atmosphere, so its weather forecast is usually fairly dull. However, visitors would be advised to either wrap up very warm, or slap on lots of SPF 50, depending on which part of the planet they stop off at – temperatures vary from -183C to 427C between the scorching subsolar point and freezing poles.

Venus

The hottest of all the planets, and second from the Sun, there’s no escaping the cloud cover on Venus. With an atmosphere that’s choked with carbon dioxide and nitrogen and suffused with sulphuric acid, glimpses of sunshine are unlikely. Mugginess doesn’t come close to describing the experience of sweating it out on the rocks with 92x the atmospheric pressure of Earth bearing down on you, trying to cool off in 480C heat.

Mars

The fourth planet from the Sun, Mars may have seen some heavy precipitation in the past but visitors these days would have to content themselves with strapping on their ice skates to explore the chilly polar regions. Expect to see blue sunsets and sunrises. Passing sandstorms on the horizon; take shelter.

Jupiter

Gigantic Jupiter is a gas planet, made up of hydrogen and helium. At 318 times the size of Earth, Jupiter gives off more heat than it gets from the Sun. Storms are highly likely as high pressure forces helium to become liquid, causing heavy rain, and winds of up to 360kph may be expected. Watch out for ammonia clouds, likely to be a common feature.

Saturn

The sixth planet from the Sun, Saturn is also made up of gas. The second-largest planet in the Solar system is not a hospitable place, with winds of up to 1,800kph, temperatures up to 14,727C at the core and a layer of ice 10 kilometres thick. Cloudy days expected, made up of ammonia, hydrogen and helium. Every 30 years or so, a super-storm called the Great White Spot brews up. Saturn is best avoided at this time.

Uranus

Stormy weather is forecast for this gas-and-ice planet, which is the third-largest and seventh from the Sun. Blue clouds of methane gas are expected, and visitors are advised to wear thermals to ward off the -197C chill.

Neptune

Brrr. The blue planet – furthest from the Sun – is also aptly the coldest, with temperatures plummeting to -224C. Another gas giant but with an icy core, expect similar weather to Uranus but at the more extreme end. Winds can reach 2,100kph.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk

Firing laser beams into the sky could make it rain, say scientists

Water droplets have been created by shooting lasers into the air. The technique might be used to create or prevent rain

Ever since ancient farmers called on the gods to send rain to save their harvests, humans have longed to have the weather at their command.

That dream has now received a boost after researchers used a powerful laser to produce water droplets in the air, a step that could ultimately help trigger rainfall.

While nothing can produce a downpour from dry air, the technique, called laser-assisted water condensation, might allow some control over where and when rain falls if the atmosphere is sufficiently humid.

Researchers demonstrated the technique in field tests after hauling a mobile laser laboratory the size of a small garage to the banks of the Rhône near lake Geneva in Switzerland.

Records from 133 hours of firings revealed that intense pulses of laser light created nitric acid particles in the air that behaved like atmospheric glue, binding water molecules together into droplets and preventing them from re-evaporating.

Within seconds, these grew into stable drops a few thousandths of a millimetre in diameter: too small to fall as rain, but large enough to encourage the scientists to press on with the work.

“We have not yet generated raindrops – they are too small and too light to fall as rain. To get rain, we will need particles a hundred times the size, so they are heavy enough to fall,” said Jérôme Kasparian, a physicist at the University of GenevaA report on the tests appears in the journal Nature Communications.

With improvements, shooting lasers into the sky could either help trigger or prevent showers. One possibility might be to create water droplets in air masses drifting towards mountains. The air would cool as it rose over these, causing the water droplets to grow and eventually fall.

An alternative might be to stave off an immediate downpour by creating so many tiny droplets in the air that none grew large enough to fall. “Maybe one day this could be a way to attenuate the monsoon or reduce flooding in certain areas,” Kasparian said.

Efforts to bring the weather under control have become a matter of national pride in China, where the Beijing meterological bureau has an office devoted to weather modificationIn 2009, the department claimed success after 18 jets and 432 explosive rockets laden with chemicals were sent into the skies to “seed” clouds. The chemicals, usually dry ice or silver iodide, provide a surface for water vapour to condense on, and supposedly trigger downpours from pregnant skies.

Kasparian believes laser-assisted rainmaking has advantages over blasting chemicals into the sky. “The laser can run continuously, you can aim it well, and you don’t disperse huge amounts of silver iodide in the atmosphere,” he said.

“You can also turn the laser on and off at will, which makes it easier to assess whether it has any effect. When the Chinese launch silver iodide into the sky, it is very hard to know whether it would have rained anyway,” Kasparian added.

The team’s Teramobile laser can shoot beams of light several kilometres into the sky, putting within easy reach the regions of the atmosphere where water vapour normally condenses into raindrops.

One modification the team is considering involves sweeping the laser across the sky to produce water droplets over a greater area. “From a technical point of view, sweeping the laser is not an issue. They do it in nightclubs all the time,” Kasparian said.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2011/aug/30/firing-laser-beams-atmosphere-rain?CMP=twt_fd