Knee Bone Connected to theThigh Bone

It’s amazing how hard it is for a man to understand something when his paycheck depends on his not understanding it.
……………………………Upton Sinclair

Substitute “his cherished prejudice” for “paycheck” and the theorem still holds.

The latest meme at climate denial central seems to be the notion that all climate is local. To put it bluntly, this notion is laughable. In the first place, climatologists have looked at the statistics, and it just is not so. More importantly, it ignores the whole physics of weather and climate.

Everyone, except maybe those who choose not to know, knows that the equator absorbs a whole lot more heat than the poles. This circumstance and the second law of thermodynamics drive the engines of weather, climate, and ocean circulation. On average the mid-latitude flux of energy pole ward in midlatitudes is a few peta-Watts (say 3 x 10^15 Watts). This energy transport drives the associated transport of momentum and moisture, and hence essentially all weather and precipitation. Since it is weather and precipitation that make possible life on land, anything that significantly alters this balance can have global ecological consequences. Life in the ocean is also heavily dependent on the circulating currents that bring essential nutrients upwelling from the deep.

It shouldn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that warming the Polar Region by ten degrees C or so, while changing the equatorial temperature only a bit is going to make a large change in this transport. This effect is what anthropogenic global warming theory predicts, and what has already, in part, been observed.

The curious may ask: Why is the warming concentrated at the pole? The models tell us so, of course, but the idea is simple. There is a lot of water vapor in the atmosphere at the equator, and very little at pole. Water vapor is a very good greenhouse gas and dominates where there is a lot of it, so CO2, a less effective GHG, has a relatively small effect there. At the poles, there is little H2O, so every little extra bit of CO2 makes a big difference.

Lubos is correct to observe that melting ice in the Arctic ocean doesn’t raise sea level, but he is also completely beside the point. Arctic melting is important as a symptom of Arctic warming, but it’s also important for a couple of feedback effects. Open water absorbs far more solar radiation than ice or snow, so it tends to warm the Arctic directly. Also, open water increases evaporation and hence water vapor in the local atmosphere. That too increases temperature by means of its greenhouse effect.

The point is not that global warming will shutdown the weather any time soon - it is that it can affect it and that that could be bad. The other point is that it is a dangerous fantasy to pretend that the world climate is a bunch of isolated systems. It is an integrated thermodynamic system, and most life on Earth depends on the transports of energy and moisture through those dynamic mechanisms.

Denial, still not just a river in Egypt.


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