Friday, February 1, 2013

Climate Change Update

Caption: The Climate Change Cherry Tree. Like a commons that isn't really a commons, a clock that looks like a tree stump, and transmission lines, it's one of the many wonders of downtown Federal Way, WA.

Image credit: Cujo359

In yet another excursion to downtown Federal Way in which the main purpose was to get out of the house, I took some photos readings at the by now world famous Climate Change Cherry Tree. As readers will recall, we recently visited another location in Federal Way and noted, much to our surprise, that there were blooms on one of the local cherry trees there.

Three years ago, buds were starting to bloomon February 17.

Image credit: Cujo359

Buds are beginning to form on the branches, which means that blooms should be a couple of weeks away. So, this year they look to be on a similar schedule. It might even happen a bit earlier, but it's still well behind the cherry tree at the other location. This is, as I've mentioned before, earlier than I'm used to seeing these trees bloom by at least a couple of weeks. Early blooming has grown more common of late, at least in my experience.

So, yes, using a different tree wasn't scientific. I wouldn't want to cause anyone to panic about climate change, after all, by using different measurement techniques. (see NOTE 2)

Of course, there are plenty of people who do know how to make accurate measurements, and they seem to be saying that our cherry trees aren't the only indication of a warmer planet. Two weeks ago, NASA and NOAA jointly presented a study on climate change. As the summation notes:

NASA scientists say 2012 was the ninth warmest of any year since 1880, continuing a long-term trend of rising global temperatures. With the exception of 1998, the nine warmest years in the 132-year record all have occurred since 2000, with 2010 and 2005 ranking as the hottest years on record.

NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York, which monitors global surface temperatures on an ongoing basis, released an updated analysis Tuesday that compares temperatures around the globe in 2012 to the average global temperature from the mid-20th century. The comparison shows how Earth continues to experience warmer temperatures than several decades ago.

NASA Finds Long-Term Climate Warming Trend

Rough translation: Things aren't getting cooler.

The two agencies took climate data from around the world starting in the late 19th Century and examined the trends for average temperature level over the entire planet. Not surprisingly, they came up with similar results:

Image credit: NASA/NOAA (PDF)

The only areas of cooling are in the region near Antarctica where ice sheets have been melting, and the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Every place else has been getting hotter.

They go on to add:

"The U.S. temperatures in the summer of 2012 are an example of a new trend of outlying seasonal extremes that are warmer than the hottest seasonal temperatures of the mid-20th century," [NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies] director James E. Hansen said. "The climate dice are now loaded. Some seasons still will be cooler than the long-term average, but the perceptive person should notice that the frequency of unusually warm extremes is increasing. It is the extremes that have the most impact on people and other life on the planet."

NASA Finds Long-Term Climate Warming Trend

Or people with a camera and nothing better to do, I suppose...

The warming trend is real, then, and as the report notes:

Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas that traps heat and largely controls Earth's climate. It occurs naturally and also is emitted by the burning of fossil fuels for energy. Driven by increasing man-made emissions, the level of carbon dioxide in Earth's atmosphere has been rising consistently for decades.

The carbon dioxide level in the atmosphere was about 285 parts per million in 1880, the first year in the GISS temperature record. By 1960, the atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration, measured at NOAA's Mauna Loa Observatory, was about 315 parts per million. Today, that measurement exceeds 390 parts per million.

NASA Finds Long-Term Climate Warming Trend

We've known since at least the 1960s (see UPDATE/NOTE 1) that carbon dioxide can have this effect. The world is clearly getting warmer. Whether that's due entirely to our own contribution to the problem or only partly, it's pretty clear right now that the last thing we want to be doing is adding to the CO2 count. That's what's so foolish about climate deniers - they ignore both the evidence and the obvious conclusion to draw from it.

Which means that every year when I'm bored and have nothing better to do, you'll be seeing photos of this tree, I suspect.

UPDATE/NOTE 1: Actually, according to Wikipedia, it's been a validated idea since 1896.

NOTE 2: Perhaps I need to point out that I'm being facetious here. The CCCT is a long-running joke, lampooning the sort of arguments that are often used both in support of and in denial of the idea of anthropogenic climate change. When newscasters wonder, in all seriousness, why they are stuck in a snow storm even though the world is supposed to be getting warmer, mocking such thinking seems like a necessary thing.

No comments: