20 May 2010

Some Well Said Facts from America's Top Scientific Body

Posted by Dan Satterfield

The top scientific body in the U.S. is the National Academies of Science. It’s the American version of the Royal Society in England, which is the world’s oldest scientific body (Once headed by Sir Isaac Newton).

The National Academies today published three reports on climate change. I read one particular passage that was so well put, it was worth a blog post. It’s actually something that I have said many times in posts here. Just not as well as they did.

From a philosophical perspective, science never proves anything—in the manner that
mathematics or other formal logical systems prove things—because science is fundamentally
based on observations. Any scientific theory is thus, in principle, subject to being refined or
overturned by new observations. In practical terms, however, scientific uncertainties are not all
the same.
Some scientific conclusions or theories have been so thoroughly examined and tested,
and supported by so many independent observations and results, that their likelihood of
subsequently being found to be wrong is vanishingly small. Such conclusions and theories are
then regarded as settled facts. This is the case for the conclusions that the Earth system is
warming and that much of this warming is very likely due to human activities.

You can download for free a brief summary of the report here.

Now a more professional blogger would stop right here and not change the subject to another aspect of climate change. Well, if you have been reading my posts for awhile you know I am definitely not on the group of professional bloggers…

from Trenberth NATURE 20 May 2010 Click for full size.

Big paper in Science today. It’s about the OCA. Ocean Heat Content. The planet’s REAL Thermometer!

We know surprisingly little about our oceans, but we are making up for lost time. Researchers have long known that most of the warming from increasing greenhouse gases should be going into the oceans, not the temperatures near the Earth’s surface.

Unfortunately, the data has been lousy. Not until a few years ago did we manage to get a flotilla of sensors into the oceans. These sensors are called ARGO and are making detailed measurements of temperatures in the upper 700 meters of the ocean. Reconciling this data with much more uncertain data gathered in the past has been a problem.

Lyman et.al in a paper in NATURE today have made a huge dent in that problem. They have combined different data sets and used some new techniques to estimate and reconcile the uncertainties.

The result?   Indeed the oceans are warming. Not only that, but they are likely warming as expected by theory. A slight leveling of the trend over the last few years is postulated to be due to increased warming below 700 meters.

When I read this paper, my first thought was “what does Kevin Trenberth at NOAA think”? If it has to do with oceans and the atmospheric heat budget, you want his opinion. If you don’t follow the science, you’re just going to have to trust me on that.

Good ole NATURE. They have an article in the same issue by Trenberth with his thoughts. The long and short of it is this. The oceans are warming. Yes, there are questions and lots of them, but the planet’s thermometer is agreeing with the ones we humans look at in our backyards everyday.

Anyone who now thinks the planet is not getting warmer is in the same group as those who think the Moon landing was a hoax, or those white lines visible in the sky behind jets everyday are a form of government mind control.  (Still getting emails from those folks!)