Sunday, December 21, 2008

Global Warming

Well now, we finally have a president in the United States who wants to reemphasize scientific research and in particular, the body of observations which lead to the facts of global warming and the theory that civilization’s actions may be responsible or partly responsible.

I suppose that that will make a lot of people happy for a minute. Especially those looking forward to new engineering and construction jobs trying to sequester carbon dioxide and new jobs on Wall Street creating and trading CO2 swaps.

Isn’t it just so like mankind, always to focus, too late, on the last crisis and turn a blind eye to the next one coming at us?

If you show a stock trader or other market trader a chart which looks like this:

without telling them time frame or underlying fundamental of any kind, to a man they will predict that what will happen next will look like this:

Mother Nature is unerring in this pattern. But in this example, we are not talking about dollars and prices, about oil or gold or stock or real estate … this is “global warming”. And I believe that we have just past the peak.

If you dig for it, you can find a few scientific observers who will postulate that this is going to happen and who offer a plausible theory of explanation. All the ice in the polar regions is made up of fresh water. The salt and other minerals go out of it before it freezes. The earth has a giant circulation system which functions a bit like the radiators and hot water pipes and furnace in a hot-water heated building. Water carries the heat from the furnace to the whole house and then returns, cooled, to the boiler. Some 10% of the earth’s heat circulation is carried out by the trade winds. The other 90% is carried out by ocean currents, currents like the Gulf Steam, in each ocean, in each hemisphere. The mass of moving water is far, far greater than the earth’s entire atmosphere. By this means, heat energy is collected around the tropic regions and carried to the polar regions.
This is why, for example, the climate in London, England, at latitude 52 degrees,
Is habitable (yes, wet and dreary, but habitable) while the climate in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, same latitude, pretty much isn’t.

So what happens when a warm, salty ocean current comes up against a mass of cold, less salty water? Well, the warm water sinks, because warm salty water is still heavier than fresh cold water. It sinks and stops its flow.

There’s also the situation of the lack of data to consider – man did not collect an awful lot of observations at the start of the last ice age, or else he did not archive them and document his formats and his metadata very thoroughly.

Observers of the sun have noted a famine of sun spots and solar radiation for the last six months. Observations in the last century or two have recorded a regular 11-year cycle of sunspots and a period of a week or two of no spots was predicted for last summer,. But no one proposes that we know enough about the sun’s internal metabolism to explain why this cycle occurs. The prediction calls for a regular steady increase back to hundreds. The six month famine is unprecedented in modern observations. You have to go back 400 years to find spotty observations suggesting a similar event. And that event corresponded with what was called “a little ice age”. At least, we cannot blame the sunspot famine on the coal-mining industry.

Every cloud has a silver lining. A cold spell on this planet would bring about the return of Lake Chad, of rain and fertility to the middle east and across some of the Sahara and Sahel regions of Africa. But permanent ice covering Montana, North and South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, and parts of New York, Vermont and Maine, might, well bring about some larger life-style changes than “global warming” ever did or threatened to do.

Not much to do to prevent it. Mankind does not have power like that, no matter our egos that think we do. But it might be time to start thinking about relocating.

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