A Weblog monitoring coverage of environmental issues and science in the UK media. By Professor Emeritus Philip Stott. The aim is to assess whether a subject is being fairly covered by press, radio, and television. Above all, the Weblog will focus on science, but not just on poor science. It will also bring to public notice good science that is being ignored because it may be politically inconvenient.

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

A case of Sooty and Sweep.....?

There still seems to be a desperate desire to make climate change too simple! This remains the big delusion. Soot has, of course, been fingered before, if not much by the IPCC. And the albedo - the surface reflectivity of the Earth - has long been a spectre at the 'global-warming' feeding frenzy. Now these two variables (factors) have been brought together cleverly in a new paper for the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences which is pretty well-reported by Alex Kirby (except for the headline): 'Soot "makes global warming worse"' (BBC Online Science News, December 23):

"It was the results of this modelling that persuaded them that soot is twice as effective as carbon in raising global surface air temperatures. The report says high soot emissions may have contributed substantially to global warming over the past century, notably to the growing trend in recent decades for ice, snow and permafrost to melt earlier in the spring."

"The authors believe there may be a second effect at work here as well - they suggest soot may cause glaciers, sea ice and ice sheets to melt at lower temperatures than they would otherwise. This could happen, they say, because the black carbon absorbs more solar energy than clean snow and ice."

Human influences on the albedo of the Earth's surface have been cruelly neglected in climate work, and I have long pointed out that, if you really want to mess up the tropics and Lois Lane's hairdo, then you should get Lex Luther to cover the Tibetan High Plateau with black plastic sheeting.

The authors conclude that: "Restoration of snow albedos to something approaching pristine pre-anthropogenic values would have the double benefit of reducing global warming and raising the global temperature threshold at which dangerous anthropogenic interference with climate occurs... "

But the trouble is that we continue to stagger from fashionable variable to fashionable variable - from carbon dioxide, to methane, to the cosmic ray flux, and now to 'Sooty and Sweep'.

When will we acknowledge that climate is the most complex, coupled, non-linear, chaotic system, which is incapable of being managed predictably by fiddling about at the margins with any one or two (politically-?) selected variables? This remains the great self-delusion at the heart of the 'global warming' myth, especially in Europe.

Nevertheless, this new research is to be warmly welcomed because, above all, it starts to re-assert the complexity of even the human effects on climate (notwithstanding, of course, the cosmic ray flux, and clouds, and all the rest!).

See a very good blog on this, and associated research on aerosols, at Crumb Trail (December 22): 'Moties'.

Philip - "Never-trust-any-idea-predicated-on-a-single-variable" - Stott.

[New counter, June 19, 2006, with loss of some data]

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