Friday, May 31, 2013

A pesky question from Tom Nelson

A Serious "settled science" question for Marshall Shepherd

I watched your entire TEDxAtlanta speech and blogged about it here.

I noted that you said that temperatures "went through the roof, relatively speaking" starting in 1850, when you said that we figured out how to burn fossil fuels.

But in 1989, well-known warmist Stephen Schneider wrote: "I strongly suspect that by the year 2000 increasing numbers of people will point to the 1980s as the time the global warming signal emerged from the natural background of climatic noise".

My question to you is:  How do you reconcile these two very different statements?  If the alleged human-induced warming signal emerged from the noise in 1850, why did Schneider suggest that the signal didn't emerge until 130+ years later?

A follow-up question would be this one: How do we know that the two warming periods starting around 1850 and 1980 weren't caused by something other than trace amounts of carbon dioxide?


Pesky finding:  New paper finds rainforests prospered & increased diversity during extreme global warming in the past

A new paper published in the Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Science finds South American rainforests thrived during three extreme global warming events in the past, each with temperatures much warmer than the present. "According to the fossil record, rainforests prospered under these hothouse conditions and diversity increased." "When carbon dioxide concentrations double, trees use much less water, which is further evidence that tropical forests may prove resilient to climate change."

Rainforests Take the Heat, Paleontologists Show

May 30, 2013 — South American rainforests thrived during three extreme global warming events in the past, say paleontologists at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in a new report published in the Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Science.

No tropical forests in South America currently experience average yearly temperatures of more than 84 degrees Fahrenheit (29 degrees Celsius). But by the end of this century, average global temperatures are likely to rise by another 1 F (0.6 C), leading some scientists to predict the demise of the world's most diverse terrestrial ecosystem.

Carlos Jaramillo, Cofrin Chair in Palynology, and Andrés Cárdenas, post-doctoral fellow, at the Smithsonian in Panama reviewed almost 6,000 published measurements of ancient temperatures to provide a deep-time perspective for the debate.

"To take the temperature of the past we rely on indirect evidence like oxygen isotope ratios in the fossil shells of marine organisms or from bacteria biomarkers," said Jaramillo.

When intense volcanic activity produced huge quantities of carbon dioxide 120 million years ago in the mid-Cretaceous period, yearly temperatures in the South American tropics rose 9 F (5 C). During the Paleocene-Eocene thermal maximum, 55 million years ago, tropical temperatures rose by 5 F (3 C) in less than 10,000 years.

About 53 million years ago, temperatures soared again.

According to the fossil record, rainforests prospered under these hothouse conditions. Diversity increased.

Because larger areas of forest generally sustain higher diversity than smaller areas do, higher diversity during warming events could be explained by the expansion of tropical forests into temperate areas. "But to our surprise, rainforests never extended much beyond the modern tropical belt, so something other than temperature must have determined where they were growing," said Jaramillo.

Jaramillo and Cárdenas' report also refers to findings by Smithsonian plant physiologist Klaus Winter that leaves of some tropical trees tolerate short-term exposure to temperatures up to 122 F (5 C). When carbon dioxide concentrations double, trees use much less water, which is further evidence that tropical forests may prove resilient to climate change.


A vote for permanent poverty

Late last month, the elected officials of a small, rural New Mexico county became the first in the nation to vote for permanent poverty. Mora County’s unemployment is double that of most of the country and nearly 500% greater than that of some other parts of the state where oil and gas development is taking place, and 23.8% of Mora County’s residents live in poverty.

With that in mind, you’d think that the Mora County Commissioners would welcome the jobs that are boosting the economy in the southeastern part of the state. Instead, they voted, 2-1—in a session that may violate the Open Meetings Act as the notice did not contain the date, time, and place of the meeting—to pass an ordinance that permanently bans oil and gas drilling.

Defending his vote, Chairman John Olivas, an employee of New Mexico Wilderness Alliance with no political experience, explained: “We need to create other jobs. First, sustainable agriculture; second, business development; and third, eco-tourism to keep people on the land."

Frank Trambley, the Mora County GOP chairman, disagrees: “In our economic climate, we simply cannot afford to needlessly throw the possibility for jobs down the drain.”

Currently, Mora County has no oil and gas activity—and now it looks like it never will (though the outcome of potential lawsuits could change that). But there is reason to believe that the potential for development and jobs is there. Shell Oil has 100,000 acres leased for development—not to mention private interest—in Mora County, and there are more than 120 leases on state lands within the county.

In adjacent Colfax County, there are 950 natural gas wells. There the Commissioners don’t seem too troubled by the activity. The Colfax Country Commissioners are looking at drafting an ordinance that would “allow oil and gas drilling to continue while setting standards and regulations to give county officials control over aspects of the industry’s work that affect landowners and other citizens.”

But this story is bigger than the sparsely populated—less than 5000 and declining—northeastern New Mexico County. Following the passage of their “ban” ordinance, the two “yes” vote commissioners sent a letter to all the county commissioners in the state: “We’re sending you this letter to urge you to consider adopting a similar law. In Mora, we decided that ‘fracking,’ along with other forms of oil and gas drilling are not compatible with Mora farming, forestry, and our quality of life.” Apparently unemployment and poverty are “compatible” with the Mora “quality of life.”

How did Mora come to believe that it might become the little county that could “force” change aimed at “restoring democratic control of our communities”? They had the help of an out-of-state environmental group: the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF)—which helped draft Mora’s “Community Water Rights and Local Self-Government Ordinance.” Thomas Linzey, executive director of CELDF explained: “This is the fight that people have been too chicken to pick over the last 10 years.” The CELDF press release on the ban states: “Mora is joining a growing people’s movement for community and nature’s rights” and brags about CELDF’s involvement in other communities across the country....

While this is a New Mexico story, beware. CELDF has its sights set on a national movement. Emboldened by its success in Mora County, they may be coming to a community near you. You may find that your local leadership voted for permanent poverty.

More here

Illinois should embrace fracking

Sandra Steingraber’s op-ed Thursday was disingenuous on many fronts.

First, she stated that hydraulic fracturing, as currently practiced, is too risky for Illinois to utilize. According to the Interstate Oil & Gas Compact Commission, a multistate government agency, 30,000 to 50,000 wells have been hydraulically fractured in Illinois since the 1950s without a single recorded case of groundwater contamination.

Hydraulic fracturing has since advanced, and it’s from those advancements that fracking is now able to allow the same amount of energy to be produced from fewer wells, minimizing its impact on the environment while revolutionizing the United States’ energy outlook. No state or federal regulator from anywhere where hydraulic fracturing is currently utilized has been able to cite a single case of contamination from the hydraulic fracturing process.

Over the past 15 years, people have been leaving Illinois at a rate of one resident every 10 minutes, according to the Illinois Policy Institute, and Steingraber states in her column that she too, once made the decision to leave. With the latest labor statistics showing Illinois unemployment having recently jumped to the second highest in the nation, things aren’t likely to get better on their own.

We need to take proactive measures to responsibly harness our economic resources and not get left behind the energy revolution sweeping the nation.


Britain's  coldest spring for half a century!

For those still donning jumpers and switching on the central heating, it will hardly come as surprise news.  The spring of 2013 has officially been the coldest for more than 50 years.

Following a harsh winter, March, April and May have all been chillier than normal.

The average spring temperature has been almost two degrees lower than average at just 6C (43F), the Met Office says.  That makes it the coldest spring since 1962 and the fifth coldest on record.

However, the last day of spring today will buck that trend, as parts of Britain could enjoy their hottest day of the year so far.

‘Today is going to be pretty warm, with many places seeing temperatures in excess of 20C (68F), particularly in the south,’ said Met Office forecaster Dan Williams.

‘There is even a chance we may see the warmest day of the year, with the potential for temperatures to reach 23C (73.5F) in London.

This spring bucked a recent trend that saw eight of the past ten warmer than the 7.7C (46F) long-term average.

An exceptionally chilly March – the second coldest on record – was followed by a slightly cooler than normal April and May.

Although May has been wetter than average – and saw snow as far south as Devon – spring as a whole was drier than normal, with 8 per cent less rain.  But it was not as dry as the springs of 2010 and 2011, which contributed to drought fears in early 2012 – only for floods later in the year.

The Met Office said cold air being drawn to the UK from the Arctic and northern Europe was mostly to blame for the chilly spring.




Preserving the graphics:  Graphics hotlinked to this site sometimes have only a short life and if I host graphics with blogspot, the graphics sometimes get shrunk down to illegibility.  From January 2011 on, therefore, I have posted a monthly copy of everything on this blog to a separate site where I can host text and graphics together -- which should make the graphics available even if they are no longer coming up on this site.  See  here and here


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