Class Warfare Blog

September 17, 2013

The Global Warming Misnomer

When the idea of global atmospheric warming was first broached, way back when I was still in college, the idea was simple: the atmosphere around the entire globe was increasing in temperature, a little bit at a time. But the atmosphere is a rather large entity. It weighs 5,200,000,000,000,000,000 kilograms, for example. (For Republicans, a kilogram weights 2,2 pounds or about the weight of a pair of heavy men’s dress shoes.) So much for being “light as air!” In that much mass, even a tiny temperature change represents a large amount of heat.

“So, what?” you ask. Isn’t this another example of the “the dilution of pollution is the solution?” Yes, it is but with all things there are unintended consequences. When the idea was first broached, the focus of scientists was upon questions like: Is it real? Is this a temporary phenomenon? Is this an artifact of the way we measure air temperatures? Is it truly a global phenomenon? These questions are important, because if it were a short-lived phenomenon or one that was local, then the problem would be different and the first rule of science is to know what the problem really is before trying to solve it. One of the confounding problems was the use of weather station data. Weather stations are placed mostly where people live or where people go (the airport, for example). Where people live is often paved and since growing things absorb sunlight, the lack of growing things results in higher recorded temperatures (the “heat island effect”). We had to figure a way to factor the heat island effect into those data.

“In other words: the outcome of global atmospheric warming is
“chaotic, energetic weather” for the foreseeable future.”

Once the data seemed real (from a bunch of different sources including satellite data), the questions shifted to more of “What will the consequences be?” Here the answers were confusing because only crude models of the atmosphere existed then (and now). The best answer was (and is) “we do not know” because there are so many possibilities. While people were looking at these (Remember “the ice caps are melting, the ice caps are melting!” Oh, by the way, they are.) they lost track of one of the certain truths. Weather is confined to the lower reaches of the atmosphere. Adding energy, in the form of heat, to the atmosphere means we will get more energetic weather and more energetic weather is unpredictable. In other words: the outcome of global atmospheric warming is “chaotic, energetic weather” for the foreseeable future.

The consequences of chaotic weather? Ask a farmer. We have had very unusually droughts over the last ten years. Colorado is experiencing bizarre floods right now. The East Coast was clobbered by a storm thought to be so strong that it was a 100 year or 200 year event, but there might be another in just a few years, meaning storms that happened only once in 100 or 200 years are coming once a decade now.

The term “global warming” sounds benign. Ask anybody in Minnesota and they would probably say “I’d like some of that.” It sounds like “tropical breezes.” Can’t be anything wrong with that. And, of course, the morons at Fox (sic) News still take the opportunity to say “Global warming, hah!” any time a major winter weather event occurs. They think it only means “things will become warmer.”

It means “Weather Chaos is upon us.”

If those scientists had only named it for the outcome, rather than the cause. No one would think “Weather Chaos” benign.

Weather Chaos is upon us!



  1. An ugly reality that an explanatory post like this is even required.

    Comment by john zande — September 17, 2013 @ 9:53 am | Reply

    • Of course, the motive can be found if you “follow the money.” Capitalism never had much of a moral compass and only a few countries have managed to rein it in, certainly not here in the U.S.

      Comment by stephenpruis — September 17, 2013 @ 9:56 am | Reply

      • Years ago, maybe 15, the delegate from Papua New Guinea (of all places) confronted the delegate from the US at some climate conference and told them “If you’re not going to lead then step aside and shut the fuck up.” It made news in Oz, not sure if it filtered through to the states.

        Comment by john zande — September 17, 2013 @ 9:59 am | Reply

        • Didn’t hear a whisper. Probably a good thing,too. I’d hate to see us bomb Papua New Guinea.

          Some wag offered recently that “War was invented to help Americans learn geography.” Ouch.

          I weep for my country.

          Comment by stephenpruis — September 17, 2013 @ 10:54 am | Reply

  2. Well, I don’t know about that term ‘chaos’. thinks that’s misleading.

    What we see happening is exactly what the climate models predicted: an increase in the frequency and amplitude of ‘typical’ weather. What this means is that weather patterns – created over time by the frequency and amplitude of events that constitute weather – are changing to reflect these extremes. In other words, it’s not unusual for Colorado to get rain; it IS unusual to get 30 cms over a rather wide area in only four hours( because of a stalled system blocked from moving eastward as would be typical by a high pressure are over Greenland and allowing a flow of warmer wet air from the south to travel north… the same blocking condition, by the way, that allowed Sandy to turn east rather than the typical west and snorkle the East Coast of the US with vast amounts of rain and historical high tides). The weather is not chaotic in this sense (it’s quite predictable)… there’s just a lot more of it because of these slower moving systems (causing drought here but flooding there, for example) caused by the decrease in the differential of temperature between the polar and the tropical regions. This is global warming in action and as the global temperature slowly rises, these temperature differentials become less, which means systems will continue to slow down and bring much more ‘weather’ – whatever it may typically be – to local areas, which in turn change the climate pattern. That’s why climate change is much better descriptor than ‘chaotic weather’ and why global warming is such a pressing problem. It is a global experiment we are running exactly once and we have no choice but to live with the results.

    Comment by tildeb — September 19, 2013 @ 9:26 am | Reply

    • Sorry for the terrible editing. Sandy, of course, moved west rather than track east as is typical.

      Climate change deniers get easily confused by local changes and think these conditions undermine the very good science produce by climatologists. The latest is the increase in polar ice this year from last year’s historical loss. What they fail to appreciate is the temperature gradient decrease (that slows weather systems down) has not been reversed but the rate of decrease simply slowed. (Also, I have yet to meet a denier who appreciates that the thinning of the polar cap matters. One good storm, for example, will break up this new ice in a matter of days.)

      Comment by tildeb — September 19, 2013 @ 9:35 am | Reply

      • As a scientist, I appreciate the accuracy of your statement. What I was trying to achieve was a sense of what the changing weather patterns would create, not that the weather was chaotic in and of itself. The sense I was trying for was chaos created by more intense weather.

        Comment by stephenpruis — September 19, 2013 @ 9:54 am | Reply

        • Ah. Gotcha. Yes, when every bridge has been washed away in your mountain valley and it will be two years before you can use your car again, I can certainly appreciate the chaos such a weather event brings into one’s life. And if your point is to say, “Hey folks, we’d better start getting used to these kinds of events happening more often causing us chaos!” then I’m right there with you. The insurance rate hikes that will be in response to these disasters will make the original cost of carbon taxes back in the day look like loose change.

          Comment by tildeb — September 19, 2013 @ 10:03 am | Reply

          • And yet, the Fox (sic) News crowd is actively undermining the public’s ability to understand that it is a very real problem. Possibly, also, I am offended that they claim it is trumped up by scientists trying to get grants, not that that does not happen, but that there would be widespread, almost unversal corruption of scientists when there has never been anything approaching that in the past. (Willful ignorance, hidebound certainty, stupidity, yes, but widespread malfeasance, no.)

            Comment by stephenpruis — September 19, 2013 @ 10:11 am | Reply

            • There is no qualitative difference between such conspiratorial thinking (ie scientific ‘orthodoxy’) and any other faith-based claim. They are of kind.

              Comment by tildeb — September 19, 2013 @ 10:32 am | Reply

  3. And the same old climate deniers in Congress are still not listening

    Comment by lbwoodgate — September 20, 2013 @ 6:02 am | Reply

    • Hey, it is a good paying gig! Otherwise I guy has to get by on a measly $175,000 per year, plus expenses. Accepting a few bribes, er, campaign contributions is only part of the job.

      Comment by stephenpruis — September 20, 2013 @ 9:01 am | Reply

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