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.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

BBC's 'Climate Chaos': mark the Series out of 50......

Somebody asked me recently to list the main factors that drive climate changes. I thought it might be useful to repeat the exercise here to demonstrate once and for all that, by trying to reduce climate change to carbon dioxide and temperature, the myth of 'global warming' illustrates to perfection the serious sin of monocausal explanation (a point so tellingly made by the famous meteorologist, Professor Richard Lindzen, in his video clips below [see Saturday blog]).

On Wednesday this week (24th May), the BBC (yet again!) launches a two-week television Series, 'Climate Chaos'. Readers of 'EnviroSpin' who are planning to watch (endure) this doom-laden odyssey of drowning polar bears, flooding islands, and the burning Bush (the published schedules, as you will see, are not encouraging with respect to any sense of balance) might like to take time to mark the BBC out of 50 by ticking off the number of the following climate factors from all scales which receive serious attention (nay, any attention) and balanced analysis during the Series. Earth obliquity rangeI have deliberately compressed the list to only 32 composite climate drivers to enable such a couch-potato exercise (please note that, because of their overall importance, the final two factors carry 10 marks each). Feel free to print out the list. It may make the Series more endurable. And, by "serious attention", I mean as much balanced coverage as Item 28: "Human-induced emissions of 'greenhouse' gases". The image opposite [NASA, from Wikipedia] illustrates just one of the 32 climate drivers selected below, a medium-term driver, namely the Earth's spin wobble, which causes a slow 2.4° change in the tilt of the axis (obliquity) on a cycle of c. 41,000 years. Currently the Earth is tilted at 23.44 degrees from its orbital plane. The more the tilt moves away from 22.1 degrees, the colder the winters, the warmer the summers, and vice versa.

The 32 Climate Drivers (Cycles upon Cycles)
(NB. All drivers carry 1 mark, except the last two which are worth 10 marks each)

+ Cosmic ray flux;
Sun spot cycles.+ Solar magnetic cycles;
+ Sunspot cycles [opposite, NASA];
+ Meteorite impacts;
+ Cosmic dust;
+ Changing shape of the Earth's orbit (eccentricity);
+ Changing axial tilt of the Earth (obliquity);
+ Shorter duration 'wobbles' of the Earth upon its axis;
+ Axial orientation of the Earth (precession);
+ Orbital inclination of the Earth;
+ The changing shape of the Earth (mean dynamic oblateness [J2]);
+ The changing rotational velocity of the Earth's core;
Erupting volcano.+ Changes in the Earth's magnetic field;
+ Tectonic movements of the Earth;
+ Volcanic eruptions [opposite: public domain];
+ Changes in the circulation patterns of the oceans;
+ Changes in ocean salinity and chemistry;
+ Changes in ice-sheet stability (mass-balance of glaciers) and sea-ice thickness;
+ Changes in atmospheric water vapour, the most important 'greenhouse' gas of all;
+ Clouds and cloudiness;
+ Natural variations in atmospheric gases, including carbon dioxide and methane
+ Changing albedo (reflectivity of Earth) through landscape change, natural and human;
+ Overall surface radiative energy fluxes;
+ Changing vegetation;
+ Natural biomass fires, agricultural and industrial fires, and their emissions;
+ The emission of aerosols and particulates, both natural and human;
+ The emission of tar balls;
+ Human-induced emissions of 'greenhouse' gases;
+ Known factors not listed;
+ Unknown factors;
+ Chaotic attractors (10 marks);
+ Non-linear feedback links for all of the above (10 marks).

Milankovitch cycles

[Image above: Milankovitch variations, from Wikipedia: GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2]

If your mark is lower than 25, just switch off and sustain yourself with a good, strong single malt.

But, before you do, and so you know, current estimates of what will happen in the geological long-term range from models predicting that the general cooling trend which began some 6,000 years ago will continue for the next 23,000 years to models that suggest the current warm climate may last another 50,000 years. Well, there you have it.

Philip, if I see another image of a drowning polar bear or a melting iceberg, I'll turn on a patio heater. I do wish we could grow up over climate change in the UK. Coffee - but it's too cold in the garden!

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

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