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!