Monday, May 07, 2007

Reid Bryson on Climate Change

I enjoyed this article on, and interview with, the celebrated climatologist Reid Bryson. A few key excerpts:
“Climate’s always been changing and it’s been changing rapidly at various times, and so something was making it change in the past,” he told us in an interview this past winter. “Before there were enough people to make any difference at all, two million years ago, nobody was changing the climate, yet the climate was changing, okay?”

“All this argument is the temperature going up or not, it’s absurd,” Bryson continues. “Of course it’s going up. It has gone up since the early 1800s, before the Industrial Revolution, because we’re coming out of the Little Ice Age, not because we’re putting more carbon dioxide into the air.”

...

Q: Could you rank the things that have the most significant impact and where would you put carbon dioxide on the list?

A: Well let me give you one fact first. In the first 30 feet of the atmosphere, on the average, outward radiation from the Earth, which is what CO2 is supposed to affect, how much [of the reflected energy] is absorbed by water vapor? In the first 30 feet, 80 percent, okay?

Q: Eighty percent of the heat radiated back from the surface is absorbed in the first 30 feet by water vapor…

A: And how much is absorbed by carbon dioxide? Eight hundredths of one percent. One one-thousandth as important as water vapor. You can go outside and spit and have the same effect as doubling carbon dioxide.

This begs questions about the widely publicized mathematical models researchers run through supercomputers to generate climate scenarios 50 or 100 years in the future. Bryson says the data fed into the computers overemphasizes carbon dioxide and accounts poorly for the effects of clouds—water vapor. Asked to evaluate the models’ long-range predictive ability, he answers with another question: “Do you believe a five-day forecast?”
I also enjoyed the fact that at age 86 he's still going strong. And here's why:
Clearly what those editors couldn’t fathom was that Bryson simply enjoys mulling over the reasons weather and climate behave as they do and what might make them—and consequently us—behave differently. This was immediately obvious when we asked him why, at his age, he keeps showing up for work at a job he’s no longer paid to do.

“It’s fun!” he said. Ed Hopkins and Joe Moran would undoubtedly agree.

“I think that’s one of the reasons for his longevity,” Moran says. “He’s so interested and inquisitive. I regard him as a pot-stirrer. Sometimes people don’t react well when you challenge their long-held ideas, but that’s how real science takes place.”
HT: Art De Vany

0 Comments:

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home