Global Warming and Climate Change

Last month I shared with you a perspective of fossil fuels and carbon sequestering from my perspective as an organic farmer. One of the things that I stated is that "It is important for us to try to be independent thinkers, to research facts for ourselves, and to step back and try to look outside the ‘box’ that everyone is looking in." We hear a lot about global warming and climate change. Billions of dollars are being spent to correct the stated problem. However, one of the things that I noticed when I heard things on the news about global warming and climate change is that they did not state how many degrees that the earth has warmed up. This made me curious to find out the facts. I will share with you what I found.

The National Climatic Data Center of the US Department of Commerce has a chart listing the global temperatures from 1880 to the present. The temperatures listed are in hundredths of a degree Celsius. Note that in the past 107 years the global temperature has changed a little over one half a degree Celsius which is less than the statistical margin of error. According to the statistics, global temperatures have remained stable for the last 10 years. The following is an excerpt from that chart:

1900   -0.0281
1901   -0.0974

1997    0.4615
1998    0.5763
1999    0.3947
2000    0.3629
2001    0.4934
2002    0.5573
2003    0.5565
2004    0.5336
2005    0.6044
2006    0.5428
2007    0.5458
http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/oa/climate/research/anomalies/anomalies.html#anomalies

A similar chart can be found at NASA’s website. Please note, this is the first chart I looked at. At first I thought that there were very significant increases in global temperatures until I realized that the temperatures listed on this chart were not in degrees but in .01 degrees Celsius!

http://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/tabledata/ZonAnn.Ts.txt

I never gave it much thought about how difficult it is to measure the actual global earth temperature until I read the following article on NASA’s website. Note, there is no standardized procedure for measuring the temperatures at various locations around the world. I had assumed that there was a standardized procedure. The following article describes how inaccurate a non-standardized procedure for recording the global air temperature can be. Remember, this is on NASA’s website.

The Elusive Absolute Surface Air Temperature (SAT)

Q. What exactly do we mean by SAT ?

A. I doubt that there is a general agreement how to answer this question. Even at the same location, the temperature near the ground may be very different from the temperature 5 ft above the ground and different again from 10 ft or 50 ft above the ground. Particularly in the presence of vegetation (say in a rain forest), the temperature above the vegetation may be very different from the temperature below the top of the vegetation. A reasonable suggestion might be to use the average temperature of the first 50 ft of air either above ground or above the top of the vegetation. To measure SAT we have to agree on what it is and, as far as I know, no such standard has been suggested or generally adopted. Even if the 50 ft standard were adopted, I cannot imagine that a weather station would build a 50 ft stack of thermometers to be able to find the true SAT at its location.

Q. What do we mean by daily mean SAT ?

A. Again, there is no universally accepted correct answer. Should we note the temperature every 6 hours and report the mean, should we do it every 2 hours, hourly, have a machine record it every second, or simply take the average of the highest and lowest temperature of the day ? On some days the various methods may lead to drastically different results.

Q. What SAT do the local media report ?

A. The media report the reading of 1 particular thermometer of a nearby weather station. This temperature may be very different from the true SAT even at that location and has certainly nothing to do with the true regional SAT. To measure the true regional SAT, we would have to use many 50 ft stacks of thermometers distributed evenly over the whole region, an obvious practical impossibility.

Q. If SATs cannot be measured, how are SAT maps created ?

A. This can only be done with the help of computer models, the same models that are used to create the daily weather forecasts. We may start out the model with the few observed data that are available and fill in the rest with guesses (also called extrapolations) and then let the model run long enough so that the initial guesses no longer matter, but not too long in order to avoid that the inaccuracies of the model become relevant. This may be done starting from conditions from many years, so that the average (called a ‘climatology’) hopefully represents a typical map for the particular month or day of the year.

To read the rest of the page go to:

http://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/abs_temp.html

After reading the above information, I had to wonder if the children’s story of "Chicken Little" has more relevance than just a story for children. Often one of our hens will get excited and alarmed about a perceived threat and get all the other hens squawking about it too. They make a huge racket. It is amusing to watch. After a while they realize that the perceived threat was nothing and they go on about their business.

Are we destroying the global climate as fast as some would lead us to believe? From the actual statistics it does not appear so. However, that doesn’t mean we can pollute the air, spray chemicals on our ground and pollute our water. We do have a responsibility to be stewards of the earth and care for it. As I pointed out last month, sequestering carbon is important, not to correct global warming, but to build the fertility and nutrient density of our soils so that we can be healthy and live productive lives. Farmers have been depleting the soils for generations and it is important that we change that direction. Organic farming is moving in the right direction. Thanks for your support.