Editorial By Larry Gomes
December 2, 2009

It's not often that I weigh in on international news stories, but after doing some research I find myself questioning my own long held belief's on global warming.  For years, I have tried to reduce my carbon footprint by super-insulating my houses, installing more efficient furnaces and water heaters and most recently installing a pellet boiler so I can burn renewable fuel rather than heating oil.

The payback in doing all of this I thought, was to help preserve our winter season so New Hampshire doesn't turn into North Carolina.

Then all of a sudden, Climate-Gate happens.  A hacker gets into one of the leading climate research facilities in Denmark and finds a bunch of emails between these scientists going back over 10 years talking about hiding temperature data that is not supportive of their thesis that increasing CO2 levels is causing climate change.

What bothers me about this is that I always believed most scientists were working for the good of mankind.  They are highly educated, have peer review boards were above the usual scams that are pervasive in many other sectors. 

Obviously, I no longer hold that belief and after doing some further research, I found out some even more interesting facts:

So what is the truth about global warming?  It appears right now, no one really knows.  Many of the published studies were based on temperature data that is now suspect. 

I am still going to continue to continue to reduce my consumption of fossil fuels and support efforts to migrate to renewable energy resources.  As for believing that CO2 is public enemy #1, I am no longer on board.

Do your own research and let me know what you think.



Related News Stories

UK climate scientist to temporarily step down

(AP) – December 1, 2009

LONDON — Britain's University of East Anglia says the director of its prestigious Climatic Research Unit is stepping down pending an investigation into allegations that he overstated the case for man-made climate change.

The university says Phil Jones will relinquish his position until the completion of an independent review into allegations that he worked to alter the way in which global temperature data was presented.

The allegations were made after more than a decade of correspondence between leading British and U.S. scientists were posted to the Web following the security breach last month.

The e-mails were seized upon by some skeptics of man-made climate change as proof that scientists are manipulating the data about its extent.

Climate change data dumped


LONDON - SCIENTISTS at the University of East Anglia (UEA) have admitted throwing away much of the raw temperature data on which their predictions of global warming are based. It means that other academics are not able to check basic calculations said to show a long-term rise in temperature over the past 150 years.

The UEA’s Climatic Research Unit (CRU) was forced to reveal the loss following requests for the data under Freedom of Information legislation. The data were gathered from weather stations around the world and then adjusted to take account of variables in the way they were collected. The revised figures were kept, but the originals — stored on paper and magnetic tape — were dumped to save space when the CRU moved to a new building.

The admission follows the leaking of a thousand private emails sent and received by Professor Phil Jones, the CRU’s director. In them he discusses thwarting climate skeptics seeking access to such data. In a statement on its website, the CRU said: “We do not hold the original raw data but only the value-added (quality controlled and homogenized) data.”

The CRU is the world’s leading centre for reconstructing past climate and temperatures. Climate change skeptics have long been keen to examine exactly how its data were compiled. That is now impossible. Roger Pielke, professor of environmental studies at Colorado University, discovered data had been lost when he asked for original records. “The CRU is basically saying, ‘Trust us’. So much for settling questions and resolving debates with science,” he said.

Jones was not in charge of the CRU when the data were thrown away in the 1980s, a time when climate change was seen as a less pressing issue. The lost material was used to build the databases that have been his life’s work, showing how the world has warmed by 0.8C over the past 157 years.

He and his colleagues say this temperature rise is “unequivocally” linked to greenhouse gas emissions generated by humans. Their findings are one of the main pieces of evidence used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which says global warming is a threat to humanity.


Do Sunspots Cause Global Warming?

One Minute Astronomer
September 24, 2009

Our article last week about the zodiacal light resulted in quite a few emails. Seems that many of our readers can see this light, although some didn’t know what it was.

And some of you asked if it’s possible to photograph zodiacal light. In fact, this sight is not too hard to photograph with a simple camera and lens, although taking good astrophotos is a little different than daytime shots. If you’re interested in basic astrophotography with a digital camera, here’s a resource to help you get up to speed quickly…

Now, to today’s business… this one is a little longer than usual, but I think you’ll find it interesting…

sunspots recent history 300x228 Do Sunspots Cause Global Warming?

Images of the sun from a space satellite, showing the increase and decrease in activity from 1996 to 2006

In our last article on sunspots, we mentioned the strange period from 1645-1715 when sunspots seemed to disappear. Called the Maunder Minimum, this period coincided with the “Little Ice Age”, when Northern Europe and other parts of the world were plunged into a long period of cool summers and long winters when crop yields fell and rivers, harbors, and canals froze.

This quiet period of solar activity was closely followed by another, called the Dalton Minimum, from 1795-1825. It also matches up well with a period of cooler climate, though the eruption of the Tambora volcano in 1816 made some contribution as well.


Sunspot Cycle

The sunspot cycles since 1600, showing the Maunder and Dalton minima

So you may wonder… do periods of little sunspot activity lead to cooler climate on Earth? And do periods of increased sunspot activity, such as occurred from 1900-1950 account for periods of higher temperatures on Earth? Can sunspots explain the rise in temperature during the 20th century, perhaps, rather than greenhouse gases produced by human activity?

In fact, the sun does get hotter when there are more sunspots. Because although the spots are cooler, they’re accompanied by hotter, brighter patches called faculae that cause the overall brightness of the sun to increase by 0.1% at visible wavelengths, and more at ultraviolet wavelengths.

Such increases in solar brightness are included in climate models. It seems the 11-year sunspot cycle as well as the increase in solar activity earlier in the 20th century lead to an increase in average global temperature of 0.1 to 0.2 Celsius… which is only about 20% of the observed increase of 0.5 to1.0 degree.

So… case closed, right? It is greenhouse gases, and not solar activity, that are the main cause of climate changes this past century?

Well, not so fast. Because when sunspot numbers rise and fall, there’s more going on than simply changes in solar brightness. Periods of reduced sunspot activity correspond to periods of reduced magnetic activity on the sun, and reduced outflows of charges particles from the sun (the so-called solar wind). The solar wind whizzes past the Earth and deflects cosmic rays from deep space from hitting our atmosphere.

A recent proposal from Danish scientists suggest that when cosmic rays strike our atmosphere, they create tiny aerosol particles that lead to increased cloud formation and less sunlight hitting the Earth. So it’s a double whammy… fewer sunspots mean a dimmer sun, which also means more cosmic rays into the atmosphere and more cloud cover which further cools the Earth. And vice-versa when there is more solar activity.

Another recent theory suggests increased UV light from the sun drives energy flow from the upper to lower atmosphere by disrupting a layer of ozone high in the atmosphere. How this affects climate is unclear.

As it turns out (as far as we know), computer models of the climate do not take these indirect effects of solar activity into account when calculating the change in global climate. And while human activity counts for only 5% of carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere each year, the sun accounts for ALL the energy striking the Earth and driving its dynamic and enormously complex ocean currents and atmosphere.

So you see, despite what you hear in the media, there is still much uncertainty about how the Earth’s climate really operates and changes over time, and how changes in solar activity drive climate change. Healthy and open skepticism, as always, is appropriate.

And remember… the Earth is so complex that even the best computer model in the world can’t tell you with any certainty whatsoever whether you’ll need an umbrella when you head out the door to go the office a week from today.



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