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Posted at 11:00 AM ET, 11/17/2008

Freedman: Dirty Skies -- the ABCs of "ABCs"

By Andrew Freedman

*** Coming Wednesday: CWG's Winter Outlook | Full Forecast ***

china-smog.jpg
Satellite image of smog over Beijing, China in March, 2006. Courtesy NASA (click here for more on this image).

"Atmospheric Brown Clouds" don't sound like a lovely weather phenomenon. After all, clouds are supposed to be almost any color but brown. Brown clouds, rare as they are, usually mean trouble - signifying either a dust storm, smog, or a tornado that has just demolished a factory that exclusively manufactures brown coats.

But now human activities have created brown clouds that are so large that the United Nations created a confusing acronym for them - "ABCs." The toxic atmospheric brews, however, aren't nearly as funny as their acronym. They increasingly smother large parts of Asia and occur elsewhere, and oozed through the global news media last week in the wake of a comprehensive report from the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP). The report found rapid industrial development is taking such a heavy toll on the atmosphere that the sun is actually being dimmed above large cities such as Shanghai, Mumbai and Cairo. It's as if the sun has accidentally been transformed into a three-way lightbulb, and then switched to a lower setting.

Keep reading for more on brown clouds.

For many climate scientists, ABCs present a formidable challenge. Although there is widespread agreement within the climate science community that greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, warm the climate, researchers are not as confident about the net effects of particulate pollution, or manmade aerosols. It is thought that ABCs, which are comprised of many types of aerosols produced from human activities such as automobile use, industrial production, and forest burning, could be simultaneously warming the atmosphere but cooling the earth's surface.

Although the media jumped on the UNEP report, most of the coverage lacked details of previous aerosol studies that help shed light on what role the brown clouds might play in the global climate system.

In the last several years there have been a number of studies that have sought to determine the precise mechanisms by which aerosols - both natural and manmade - can alter cloud formation and precipitation, as well as affect the balance of incoming and outgoing energy in the climate system. Unlocking these secrets would be a key achievement in atmospheric science, and would allow scientists to make more precise predictions of the impacts of climate change.

For example, studies have shown that dust particles (natural aerosols) blown across the Atlantic by trade winds from the Sahara Desert can inhibit the formation of hurricanes in the Caribbean by disrupting heavy shower and thunderstorm generation. The reason for this is that the dust floods the atmosphere with an essential ingredient in cloud formation -- cloud condensation nuclei. For clouds as well as people, too much of a good thing can be a bad thing.

Other studies have found evidence that heavily polluted air masses are less efficient at producing precipitation than clean air.

In a study published in the journal Nature in 2002, NASA researcher Yoram Kaufman, along with French scientists Didier Tanre and Olivier Boucher, found that overall aerosols could cool the earth's surface by absorbing and reflecting solar radiation back into space. This would tend to offset some of the warming due to greenhouse gases, which matches one of the conclusions of the UNEP brown clouds study. However, warming the atmosphere while cooling the surface below can make the atmosphere more stable, discouraging clouds and rainfall.

Such effects, the study found, have the "potential to shift precipitation away from polluted regions." This may already be playing out in Asia, where the UNEP brown clouds report noted declines in monsoonal rains, which it said might be connected to manmade aerosols as well as greenhouse warming.

Judging by the plethora of news articles, the UNEP report may have successfully put atmospheric brown clouds on the global environmental agenda. But major questions about the broader role of aerosols in the earth's climate remain. Luckily, the brown clouds are preventable if pollution reduction policies were put in place. But if the brown clouds are offsetting greenhouse warming, then cutting pollution could have the perverse effect of increasing surface warming.

By Andrew Freedman  | November 17, 2008; 11:00 AM ET
Categories:  Climate Change, Environment, Freedman, Science  
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Comments

Mr. Freedman said, "Although there is widespread agreement within the climate science community that greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, warm the climate, ..."

I don't believe that you can prove that statement. And if you can not prove it, should you make it?

Here is a list of 197 climate scientists who signed the Manhattan Declaration.

Senator Inhofe also has a long list of scientists who disagree with the current theory of catastrophic man made global warming. I believe he is up to around 500 or so scientists.

I have challenged you in the past to substantiate your claim, and you have not. Yet you continue to make your claim.

I humbly suggest that you either produce a list of scientists, whose number exceed 500, that have publicly agreed with the current theory of catastrophic man made global warming,

OR

you stop making your unsubstantiated claim.

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr_Q | November 17, 2008 12:13 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Freedman said, "In a study published in the journal Nature in 2002, NASA researcher Yoram Kaufman, along with French scientists Didier Tanre and Olivier Boucher, found that overall aerosols could cool the earth's surface by absorbing and reflecting solar radiation back into space. This would tend to offset some of the warming due to greenhouse gases, which matches one of the conclusions of the UNEP brown clouds study. However, warming the atmosphere while cooling the surface below can make the atmosphere more stable, discouraging clouds and rainfall."

Interesting that the study is from 2002, would they make such a claim if they had known what the future temperature of the atmosphere would be. Obviously, the atmosphere is not warming. It is cooling.

I will be sure to add that excuse to my list of current excuses why man made global warming doesn't actually produce global warming. The list is getting rather long.

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr_Q | November 17, 2008 12:20 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Q: I don't know of a single climate scientist (not even the signatories of various skeptic petitions) who doubts that carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, and that it warms the climate in general. Earth owes its (relatively) pleasant climate in large part to greenhouse gases, without them the climate would be much colder than it is now. That CO2 is a greenhouse gas is not in dispute.

What you are taking issue with is different. You have asserted that there are hundreds of climate scientists who think that increasing concentrations of carbon dioxide is not causing global temperatures to increase. I agree with you on that point, there are in fact many such people out there. However, that in no way invalidates the dominant theory in the scientific community right now which holds that greenhouse gases are the main driver of recent climate change.

The dilemma for journalists such as myself is that there is such a disparity in numbers and influence between the climate change skeptics and the mainstream research groups. There are many articles that have explored the evolving journalistic treatment of climate science. You seem to think that journalists should treat each side of the "debate" as equal in scientific standing as well as numbers. I disagree, because that simply would not reflect reality. Virtually every major scientific research organization in the world has agreed that increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases are the main cause of recent climate change.

As for Inhofe's list, some writers have alleged it is full of holes in the form of scientists who have no background in climate, experts whose names were involuntarily added to the list, and people who aren't actually skeptics of climate science. Some of those articles can be found here, here, and here.

Posted by: Andrew-CapitalWeatherGang | November 17, 2008 5:18 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Freedman said, "However, that in no way invalidates the dominant theory in the scientific community right now which holds that greenhouse gases are the main driver of recent climate change."

Prove that greenhouse gases are the main driver of recent climate change.

If that bogus theory were correct, then how can the decreasing temperature of the last few years be explained since carbon dioxide and methane have increased?

As far as taking a list of hundreds and finding one or two names with whom one can possibly denigrate, I ask, "What about the other 397?" I find it odd that some people can take a list of 400, find disagreement with one or two names, and then act as if the whole list needs to be rejected. I wish you held that high of a standard when it came to accepting the theory.

Okay, I will concede that there are no more than 375 valid climate scientists who disagree with the theory of catastrophic man made global warming. Can you produce a list of names of 375 or more valid climate scientists that believe in the current theory of catastrophic man made global warming?

I don't think you can.

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr_Q | November 17, 2008 6:24 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Q: You've misframed the question you've posed to Andrew. The theory that the IPCC, the American Meteorological Society, the American Geophysical Union, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the National Academy of Sciences support and which Andrew writes about (and subscribes to) is that man made warming is very likely (greater than 90% chance) real and poses risks (and that there will be benefits and adverse effects, with the balance shifting to adverse effects if climate warming is above 2-3 degrees C in the next 100 years -though the exact rate and magnitude of future warming is uncertain). It is not that man made warming is or will necessarily be "catastrophic." That is your own misframing of the mainstream scientific opinion.

It would be very easy to find thousands of scientists who support the notion just described. Just go to the list of authors in the latest IPCC report.

Posted by: CapitalWeatherGang | November 17, 2008 8:19 PM | Report abuse

CapitalWeathGang said, ' It is not that man made warming is or will necessarily be "catastrophic." '

I am glad to hear you finally concede that any possible warming will be catastrophic. We are making progress at long last!

CapitalWeathGang said, "It would be very easy to find thousands of scientists who support the notion just described."

Don't talk about it. Just do it. Show me.

CapitalWeathGang said, " Just go to the list of authors in the latest IPCC report. "

As if! This has been debunked on this very site. It pains me to have to look it up again, but I shall. I will post again later tonight about this specific point.

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr_Q | November 17, 2008 10:55 PM | Report abuse

test

Posted by: Mr_Q | November 18, 2008 12:25 AM | Report abuse

First a correction. My last post should have read -

CapitalWeathGang said, ' It is not that man made warming is or will necessarily be "catastrophic." '

I am glad to hear you finally concede that any possible warming will NOT be catastrophic. We are making progress at long last!

Now, on to your other point.

CapitalWeatherGang said, "It would be very easy to find thousands of scientists who support the notion just described. Just go to the list of authors in the latest IPCC report."

Your first error is in assuming that every name found in the IPCC report's Annex denotes a scientist that worked on the chapter in question. They did not.

Your second error is in assuming that having one's name included in the report's Annex means that you *agree* with the findings. A GARGANTUAN error on your part. There are plenty of scientists who are listed but who disagree with the findings.

-continued in next post-

Posted by: Mr_Q | November 18, 2008 12:27 AM | Report abuse

--begin quote--
An example of rampant misrepresentation of IPCC reports is the frequent assertion that ‘hundreds of IPCC scientists’ are known to support the following statement, arguably the most important of the WG I report, namely “Greenhouse gas forcing has very likely caused most of the observed global warming over the last 50 years.”

In total, only 62 scientists reviewed the chapter in which this statement appears, the critical chapter 9, “Understanding and Attributing Climate Change”. Of the comments received from the 62 reviewers of this critical chapter, almost 60% of them were rejected by IPCC editors. And of the 62 expert reviewers of this chapter, 55 had serious vested interest, leaving only seven expert reviewers who appear impartial.

Two of these seven were contacted by NRSP for the purposes of this article - Dr. Vincent Gray of New Zealand and Dr. Ross McKitrick of the University of Guelph, Canada. Concerning the “Greenhouse gas forcing …” statement above, Professor McKitrick explained “A categorical summary statement like this is not supported by the evidence in the IPCC WG I report. Evidence shown in the report suggests that other factors play a major role in climate change, and the specific effects expected from greenhouse gases have not been observed.”

Dr. Gray labeled the WG I statement as “Typical IPCC doubletalk” asserting “The text of the IPCC report shows that this is decided by a guess from persons with a conflict of interest, not from a tested model.”

Determining the level of support expressed by reviewers’ comments is subjective but a slightly generous evaluation indicates that just five reviewers endorsed the crucial ninth chapter. Four had vested interests and the other made only a single comment for the entire 11-chapter report. The claim that 2,500 independent scientist reviewers agreed with this, the most important statement of the UN climate reports released this year, or any other statement in the UN climate reports, is nonsense.
--end quote--

source of the above quote -
The UN Climate Change Numbers Hoax.

-continued in next post-

Posted by: Mr_Q | November 18, 2008 12:27 AM | Report abuse

Only 62 scientists are associated with the chapter nine, where the statement ““Greenhouse gas forcing has very likely caused most of the observed global warming over the last 50 years.” appears.

Only 62!

Even if you ignore the biased scientists with a conflict of interest, and one grants you all 62 scientists, what did they review???? A statement that greenhouse gases have "very likely caused most of the observed global warming over the last 50 years". That is it.

I think you will hard pressed to find 50 scientists that would agree to that statement now. And it is not much of a statement is it? It says nothing about the future and isn't very firm on the past - "very likely caused most".

Did you know that Professor Robert Pilke Sr. attempted to do a survey to answer this question? He wanted to publish a survey in AGU EOS. They rejected it. They wanted no part of it.

You can't blame the journal. We all know how quickly they would be blackballed if they played any role at all in exposing the big "consensus" scam for what it is.

Now please do your part.

First, since we now know that you do NOT believe that any warming will be catastrophic, please expound on how severe it will be. And if time and space permit, perhaps you can expound on what you would like to see done to combat it.

Secondly, please compile a list of climate experts who EXPLICITLY agree with your view.

I look forward to reading it.

Oh, and since you didn't comment on why finding a few names on a list of 400 that are faulty invalidates the remaining names, I will assume that you concede the validity of my point. I will therefore further assume that your list of names will be, at minimum, 375 names long.

Mr. Q.

PS. Don't worry. I am not delusional. I don't for one second believe that you will attempt to substantiate your opinion. You will continue to claim an imaginary consensus that supports your vague and unstated position.

Posted by: Mr_Q | November 18, 2008 12:28 AM | Report abuse

Mr Q: You're mischaracterizing the comment re: catastrophic warming. It said the mainstream position is that climate warming poses risks. Do you understand what risk means? It means there IS a chance of catastrophic outcomes, but that they're not necessarily inevitable. You're smart enough to understand risk includes a whole spectrum of possibilities. The comment didn't concede anything.

Posted by: CapitalWeatherGang | November 18, 2008 1:50 AM | Report abuse

Mr. Q wrote "Even if you ignore the biased scientists with a conflict of interest, and one grants you all 62 scientists, what did they review????" Italics added.

And, Tom Harris isn't biased? Writing as a critic of global warming and director of a PR firm who's client base is comprised of energy companies including Canadian Electricity Association and the Canadian Gas Association. Conflict of interest perhaps?

Draw your own conclusions. For more information this site has many links to his bio(s), writings and reviews of his writings.

http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Tom_Harris_(Canadian_engineer/technology_specialist)

Or just google "Tom Harris climate"

Posted by: John-Burke | November 18, 2008 9:34 AM | Report abuse

I repeat:

"The best approach to Mr. Q is to ignore him - even if by chance you happen to agree with him!

Doing otherwise, as you can see from above, just evokes more of his rants which purposely or otherwise allow him to hijack CWG for his own political agenda. Be assured I'll not comment to the flak he'll do doubt fire in response to this comment.

BTW: Please note I have not written this in bold. This is my personal opinion only: I'm not speaking for or on behalf of anyone individually or collectively involved with CWG."

(Posted by: SteveT-CapitalWeatherGang | November 16, 2008 12:06 PM)

Posted by: SteveT-CapitalWeatherGang | November 18, 2008 10:29 AM | Report abuse

Here is yet another example of one those so called 2,500 in an interview he gave to Spiked-Online.

--begin quote--
Even though he has participated in the IPCC process (he was a referee for Chapter 19 in the IPCC’s report, which covers ‘Key Vulnerabilities and Risk Assessment’), Kellow is exasperated by the way in which critical responses to chapters are dealt with. He has noted elsewhere the criticisms he made to the IPCC about the way in which negative effects are overstated and the ability to adapt is understated. Yet he says: ‘I’m not holding my breath for this criticism to be taken on board, which underscores a fault in the whole peer review process for the IPCC: there is no chance of a chapter [of the IPCC report] ever being rejected for publication, no matter how flawed it might be.’

Now, even though Kellow has expressed public disagreement with the summary for policymakers, and the chapters that it flows from, he will still be listed as having taken part in the process - with the implication that he agrees with the final reports and is one of those thousands of experts who have apparently shown beyond all doubt that climate change will wreak havoc on the world.
--end quote--

source of the quote -
The IPCC Goes Looking For Bad News

The title of the article reminded me of a certain columnist.

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr_Q | November 18, 2008 12:37 PM | Report abuse

John-Burke,

You are missing the point, there were only 62 reviewers to the critical chapter. Only 62!

Although I didn't include them in my prior post, there are also -
coordinating lead authors
lead authors
contributing authors
expert reviewers or review editors
responsible for each chapter of the IPCC report

Chapter 9 had -
2 coordinating lead authors
7 lead authors
44 contributing authors
3 review editors
62 expert reviewers

Even if one assumes no bias and no overlap of names/roles, that is a only a total of 118 climate experts/scientists.

Now let's go further. There were a total of 52 climate experts/scientists that contributed to the summary for policy makers.

Let's further assume there is no bias and no overlap of names/roles within the additional 52.

That would only give you a total of 170 climate experts/scientists that support, or appear to support, the thrust of chapter 9.

That is less than half of the number of climate experts/scientists that are listed by name that disagree with the general thrust of chapter 9.

Only 205 more names to go. Start compiling and naming. I look forward to your list.

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr_Q | November 18, 2008 1:21 PM | Report abuse

SteveT - I see your point.

Posted by: John-Burke | November 18, 2008 3:18 PM | Report abuse

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