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back to article Another negative climate feedback: Warmer plants cool the planet

Another powerful negative-feedback mechanism which acts to reduce the effects of global warming has been identified, as scientists say that rising temperatures cause plants to emit higher levels of planet-cooling aerosols. "Aerosol effects on climate are one of the main uncertainties in climate models," explains Pauli Paasonen …

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Anonymous Coward

Albedo

One of my lecturers back in 84 talked about increased cloud cover leading to more heat being reflected back into space, thus cooling the earth. Of course this doesn't solve the problem of heat from man made sources being stuck in the "greenhouse" but that's another problem (that isn't directly solved by most alternative "green" power sources).

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Re: Albedo

Heat from man made sources? Are you serious????

You really have no idea of how minuscule the output of heat from man made sources is compared to the heat the Earth receives from the Sun, or even the heat due to tidal forces from the Moon, do you?

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Re: Albedo

Abolutely right. Some friends from Imperial College and I did a simple bit of analysis years ago to find out how much energy would be released if all of the world's oil was burned. With some basic estimates and energy density numbers from the internet, we compared it to the total solar irradiation.

The result was that burning the earth's entire oil reserves released just less than the solar energy reaching the earth in one year.

Heat itself isn't really the problem now, but given a few decades and more efficient power sources (e.g. thorium, fusion) then everyone on the planet having the same ability to generate energy might be an issue. Energy always ends up as waste heat.

I'm confident that the whole AGW thing is an artefact of natural variation, made into a problem by dodgy global temperature measurement and statistical fiddling. At worst it is scientific fraud. Hope not though.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Albedo

The thing with clouds is that they are very complex indeed. There isn't a simple "reflects heat back into space" strapline that you can attach to them, at least because they're not a 100% mirror, so some of that energy will get through the cloud layer and then be trapped below it.

Like I said though, clouds in themselves are a multi-Phd subject and not accurately reduceable into nice little soundbytes like "the are cooling because they reflect the sun back into space."

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Re: Albedo

"Some friends from Imperial College and I did a simple bit of analysis years ago to find out how much energy would be released if all of the world's oil was burned. With some basic estimates and energy density numbers from the internet, we compared it to the total solar irradiation."

I hope you realize that has nothing to do with AGW.

The heat from AGW comes from an enhanced greenhouse effect, not from direct heat emissions by humans.

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Facepalm

Re: Albedo

Hence his stating " whole AGW thing is an artefact"

'WHOLE' being your clue as to the inclusivity of the closing statement instead of restricting it to previous alluded-to electric fires and the friction of gleeful Quango hand-rubbing when government pork is received.

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Happy

Re: Albedo

"Like I said though, clouds in themselves are a multi-Phd subject and not accurately reduceable into nice little soundbytes like "the are cooling because they reflect the sun back into space.""

I think (like a lot of climate modelling) clouds are a case of "it depends."

High altitude they reflect sunlight away from the Earth. Lower down they reflect re-emitted IR back to the ground. And of course possibly the simplest question (to ask, not to answer) clouds of what? Water vapour, Sulphur compounds, soot etc.

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Re: Albedo

"You really have no idea of how minuscule the output of heat from man made sources is compared to the heat the Earth receives from the Sun, or even the heat due to tidal forces from the Moon, do you?"

CO2 concentrations have increased by nearly 40% since pre-industrial times. Activity such as burning fossil fuels, deforestation, methane from cattle and so on has increased the amount of CO2 and other so-called greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. As the name suggests greenhouse gas absorb more thermal radiation which in turn affects the ambient surface temperature.

The "miniscule" argument doesn't even bear much scrutiny either. Even if it were miniscule If you had a set of scales perfectly in balance then dropping a "miniscule" weight on one side (and continuously doing it over time) will still cause the system to come out of equilibrium.

You figure it out, or read the IPCC reports which will explain it to you. Or just deny it. Reach for one of the usual gambits of the denialist movements to pretend man kind has absolutely nothing to do with it.

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@DougS

That's not the AC talking but his teacher, as he clearly shared. And its not uncommon too; I still remember the stories that when my father was still in school several teachers would predict / forecast the coming of a new ice age.

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Re: Albedo

>>I'm confident that the whole AGW thing is an artefact of natural variation, made into a problem by dodgy global temperature measurement and statistical fiddling. At worst it is scientific fraud. Hope not though.

The scientific shame brought about by selecting and massaging figures to put forward and support a point of view doesn't mean that point is invalid, if there was a piece of string attached to the apple that hit Newton on the head doesn't invalidate gravity, yes they were wrong, and yes their careers are in tatters for it, but like the cold fusion experiments, this doesn't mean there's nothing going on or that we might benefit from finding out about.

Take these two (vaguely related) arguments;

#1 Climate change is affected by burning fossil fuels -> Find alternatives

#2 Climate change is not affected by fossil fules -> Keep burning

This is what most people end up arguing about, enter the conspiracy nut argument;

#3 Those invested in fossil fuels want us to keep us distracted by arguing so they can keep making shed loads of money -> FInd alternatives

(those opposed just back to #2)

But!

There's a far simpler argument;

#4 Fossil fuels are being used faster than they are being discovered, from the smogs of the 50's to the people in China dying from pollution they are not good for the environment, even if there are natural feedback loops and controls preventing/slowing/controlling climate change we should consider how to make these cleaner and find alternatives (while continuing to study the changing climate, natural or otherwise).

At the end of the day, this is one occasion when Pascals wager has some legs because if we do nothing we could very well have a perfectly OK climate, but also no fossil fuels left and no alternatives either.

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Re: Fossil fuels are being used faster than they are being discovered

Except fossil fuel resources are being verified as quickly as we are using them. Thirty years ago we had 20 years of oil left and we still do.

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Black Helicopters

Re: Fossil fuels are being used faster than they are being discovered @Tom 13

Perhaps we have '00s of years of oil left? No idea, just throwing the idea in.

But if you were part of a multi-billion dollar cartel would you want this info out there pushing oil prices down to pennies per barrel, nope.

2 reasons -

They'd lose waaaay to much money.

it would be too costly to drill for it so there is some argument to keep oil at a sustainable even profitable level, problem is that it's at a very or extremely profitable level most of the time.

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Re: Albedo

It is *because* climatology studies a complex phenomenon that dire predictions of a 2-3 degree rise by 2100 should not become the daily fodder of the media and AGW apologist websites.

It is because a 2-3 degree rise by 2100 would simply put us in a temperature regime similar to the ecologically diverse mid-pliocene that we should not be bemoaning the heart-wrenching, drama-queen, loss of whales, polar bears and poor helpless sharks. But at least they can take heart in the purported high-latitude plague of malaria-bearing mosquitoes, fleas, locusts, frogs, camera-clicking tourists and the like.

It is because the world is not going to dissolve in a horrible bubbling effervescent acid-bath of CO2-ed ocean, and it is because the balance of carbo-philic plants, marine and terrestrial will simply take over where carbo-phobic species are compromised, and because carbophilic genes could be transplanted into many useful plants, and because the paleohistorical ecological diversity of the Earth does not show any more marked aversion to CO2—in fact the oceanic fauna suffered a 4-fold *increase* during the high-CO2 (and oddly coldish) late Ordovician—than it does to warmth that professor emeritus Al Gore, et al. should go jump in a cool lake.

It is because, although it's hard to 'falsify' hypotheses entailed by a complex system, the predicted steady thermal rise is risking a breach of the low end of the 95% confidence level envelope we should be alarmed that AGW computer-crystal-ball-prognosticators are developing an increasing stranglehold on the minds of world leaders who have the next decades' multi-terabuck economic decisions to make.

In short, carbocalyptic prophets should get off our leaders' backs.

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Re: @DougS

Shell, re-re-re-hashing misinterpretations of the past is not a particularly successful way of discrediting current science. Scientists are not gods, they do make mistakes, but lucky you, science is a self-correcting discipline, unlike politics. So, kudos for knowing that previously mistakes were made; big dodo for not knowing this mid+ 20th century finding has been thoroughly debunked in science. And yes, scientists are human and as such will continue to make mistakes, but the body of science as a whole does not suffer from stupidity.

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Re: Fossil fuels are being used faster than they are being discovered

There's a difference between total fossil fuel reserves and economic fossil fuel reserves. The new reserves are almost all at the very high end of the price spectrum and would have been completely uneconomic even ten years ago. We have adapted to a world where oil costs $75-100 a barrel, we might be prepared to go even higher.

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Re: Albedo

"and because the paleohistorical ecological diversity of the Earth does not show any more marked aversion to CO2—in fact the oceanic fauna suffered a 4-fold *increase* during the high-CO2 (and oddly coldish) late Ordovician"

It's not the level, it's the rate of change. Change ocean pH slowly over millions of years and species have millions of generations to adapt. But make the same change over two centuries, they only have 200 or so generations.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Albedo

The only thing that has changed is the ability to measure it so acurately as to cause people to think something is causing it, like the boy racer who has multiple gauges in his car.....still runs with the same variation as the car with no gauges and causes less worry

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Childcatcher

Re: Albedo

Correction.

Tidal forces are not generated by the moon, or the sun come to that, but by the Earth. If the earth did not rotate there would be no tide.

The idea of taking energy from the tide is to take energy from the earth's rotation. Let me ask you do you fancy living on Earth with a 30hr day or even longer? It would be baking the day and freezing at night no matter where you tried to live.

Tidal power is total crap and never never ever renewable.

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Boffin

Re: Fossil fuels are being used faster than they are being discovered

>>Except fossil fuel resources are being verified as quickly as we are using them. Thirty years ago we had 20 years of oil left and we still do.

Well, that's nonsense for several reasons, firstly the "20 years of oil left" is a number (I suspect) you pulled out of your arse, or you are regurgitating someone else's arse sourced data.

Secondly, there are some studies that are based on actual data, there's a concept called "peak oil" a well known, measured quantity, constantly being (like the oil) refined, peak oil (approximately half way through the resource) is easy to define for known sources and fields, and you can predict with confidence when current technology will exhaust it - there is no debate here.

What you're alluding to is discovering more sources with the implication that this can go on for ever, hence the "we had 20 years of oil left and we still do", there is obviously some truth in this, we are also using shale oil, fracking, better gas usage etc. etc.

If you actually think about #3 this obviously can't go on forever, we know some major fields have hit peak, and we have discovered new fields, and new ways of exploiting existing fields, but this can't go on forever (if you think it can, please explain), I don't think that anybody believes we have only 10 years left, but (fag packet estimate) approximately 5 trillion barrels left would last 150 years at current usage, this obviously disregards increasing use and new discoveries, but it's ball park.

For arguments sake, lets take that "reasonable" number of 150 years until complete depletion, that means we must have absolutely no dependence on fossil fuels by then, but it's not going to be a switchover from one to the other in 150 years, it has to be a gradual move away from fossil fuels.

But the argument is accedemic, make that 150 years 1,000 years or 10,000 years it's inevitable, and the only reason not do do something now is because you're indifferent to future generations.

Unconvinced? seriously - don't take my word for it, look for the Hirsch report (The Inevitable Peaking of World Oil Production) it's a good starting point, make your own mind up, but do so with facts not anecdotes pulled out of your arse.

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Boffin

Re: Fossil fuels are being used faster than they are being discovered

@Mike Richards

>>We have adapted to a world where oil costs $75-100 a barrel, we might be prepared to go even higher.

We have, and we will, it all comes down to "Energy returned on energy invested" or "ERoEI" the cost is what's invested, and the return is what we get for that money, but don't forget as it gets more costly to invest for a lower return the cost goes up, this particular feedback loop is not self maintaining, it escalates as the ERoEI ratio drops, this is why coal was dropped in favour of oil, not just the energy that could be released, but the logistics of moving it, burning it (mechanical vs pumps), UK coal will be mined again (and not just the open pits that have some resurgence).

This still doesn't change the fact that no matter how much money you have if it costs more in energy to get the energy you've already lost.

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RE: Re: Albedo...try this

I'm confident that the whole AGW thing is an artefact of natural variation, made into a problem by dodgy global temperature measurement and statistical fiddling scientists looking for new program funding sources, and creating a problem that does not exist in nature.

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Ongoing Modelling

I'm assuming that the core climate models are being updated with the new inputs, either positive or negative as in this case... Have we had updates on existing papers etc showing changes and effects on the likely global climate as well as matching against the historical record?

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Re: Ongoing Modelling

It would be a bit costly and time-consuming to update models every time something new (either way) is discovered.

I imagine once sufficient bugs have accumulated we may see the release of a Service Pack, or an upgrade to AGW 2.0.

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Re: Ongoing Modelling

Give them a few days, and I'm sure new papers will appear. With all the free parameters in current climate models (even more than the 'Standard Model' of physics), matching the historical record is no great feat. As no less a scientist than John von Neumann remarked:

If you allow me four free parameters I can build a mathematical model that describes exactly everything that an elephant can do. If you allow me a fifth free parameter, the model I build will forecast that the elephant will fly.

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Re: Ongoing Modelling

You need to dissect the word 'assume' more closely and run it through an SMS to English converter.

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Trollface

Time to troll

Off to find some Greenpeacers and talk about Gaia. This shall be fun.

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Devil

Re: Time to troll

I can suggest you another troll option - time to find some hay fever sufferers and asthmatics and talk with them about plant aerosols.

Just make sure you have a Kevlar vest as well as the flame-proof jacket.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Time to troll

Or you could ask some Cyberneticists about Gaia, and get told what it's really about, rather than all the supposed hippie bollocks.

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Joke

The underlying trend is cooling

At about this spot in the time series the temperature is supposed to start dropping precipitously. We need to get cracking on solving this problem before we escape the end-holocene event and have to go on as a culture for another 50,000 years - or perhaps indefinitely (shudder).

All this shrill noise about the climate is wasted. Nobody is going to do anything about it.

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Re: The underlying trend is cooling

>All this shrill noise about the climate is wasted. Nobody is going to do anything about it.

Wow finally a comment that doesn't matter which side of the debate you are on to agree with. If the Chinese (much bigger polluters than the US these days) tolerate their cities so clogged with smog they can't see the sun doesn't really matter if you buy that Prius or not sadly.

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Re: The underlying trend is cooling

>>the Chinese (much bigger polluters than the US these days)

Not per capita they are not, the US has that crown by some significant margin, don't forget the US has a quarter of the people that China has (same for India).

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Headmaster

Re: The underlying trend is cooling

Why did you mark that as a joke? It's more likely proper recognition of human nature when in huge aggregates.

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Facepalm

Re: The underlying trend is cooling

The joke was about desperately hoping to end the Holocene and have everybody freeze to death. That last bit wasn't part of the joke.

That's just an observation: there is money to be made, and there are regions like Russia and Canada that would wholeheartedly embrace a world that's 8C warmer. Have a look at a globe sometime. There are other places that just don't care as long as they can boil their water today. Since reducing global CO2 output requires the simultaneous cooperation and discipline of everybody on the planet - many against their own immediate self interests - it will not happen short of a global unified totalitarian government that is not to be wished.

Take coal for example. What with the US now has oil and gas coming out their ears there is not as much need to burn coal for power generation. Are the mines shutting down? No. Oil is powering trains that take the coal to ports, where it's loaded on ships that burn the worst sort of oil as they steam for foreign ports.

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Coat

Climate Modelling

I think we could possibly say (to paraphrase Douglas Adams).....

The climate is complicated. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind- bogglingly complicated it is. I mean, you may think it's difficult to do calculus, but that's just peanuts to the climate.

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Re: Climate Modelling

You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind- bogglingly complicated it is. I mean, you may think it's difficult to do calculus differential equations, but that's just peanuts to the climate.

There, fixed it for you.

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Boffin

Re: Climate Modelling

The incredible sensitivity of the inputs to climate models vastly causing different outputs is what led to the discovery of chaos theory.

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Frist

"The effect of enhanced plant gas emissions on climate is small on a global scale -- only countering approximately 1 percent of climate warming, the study suggested. "This does not save us from climate warming," says Paasonen."

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130428144921.htm

How did that become:

"But he and his colleagues consider that it means forecasts should be adjusted downward by around a degree, which is a big deal in global-warming terms"

in the register article?

Another page in the Canon of False Hope?

"Various other previously unknown cooling or negative-feedback effects have been identified in recent research"

??

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Frist

Err... Should that have been: Another Page in the canon of false hope?

Here's how it works: Cite sources, say what you want them to say and hope nobody follows them up, it's becoming an MO.

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Re: Frist

"Here's how it works: Cite sources, say what you want them to say and hope nobody follows them up, it's becoming an MO."

Climate change deniers tore a page from the same book of denial tactics used by creationists, 9/11 truthers, holocaust deniers, moon hoaxers, anti-vaxxers.

1. Make liberal use of mined quotes. Make sure they're out of context and preferably presented to imply the original author supports the position even when they're usually against it. Or that the author is part of some vast conspiracy to fabricate the evidence or further some agenda.

2. Cherry pick data. Pick out the favourable data even when it belongs to a larger data set which goes the other way.

3. Pseudoscience. Employ it liberally and often.

4. Place enormous weight on unreliable or low quality information and use it to deny or ignore high quality information. e.g. favour crank blogs over peer reviewed publications.

5. Compile a list of canards and repeat them ad nauseum no matter how many times they are debunked.

6. Nitpick. Get so lost in the minutiae and statistical uncertainty that the big picture somehow magically becomes irrelevant.

7. Arguments from authority. Compile big long lists of scientists who "question" the conventional explanation, even if most of them on inspection turn out to have little or no expertise in relevant specialisations.

8. On no account ever produce a credible alternative theory which more adequately accounts for the data

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Frist

@DrXym

When making a point you may need to ensure your soapbox is a solid foundation. Everything you said could apply to cultists of the 'we all gonna die' and the 'nothing is happening'. By being certain of either side makes both cults wrong as the science isnt set. We dont know enough to be certain either way.

It is interesting that the cult of the MMCC co2 theory was quickly recognised to be a religious cult and now that very misunderstanding by those cultists is being used to call deniers creationists. Its like watching 2 religious sects brand each other heathens.

The only thing we know about climate is it is damn complicated. However your point number 8 is very wrong to a religious degree. You might as well say that god made the earth and deniers dont produce any credible alternative theory. You have 2 huge flaws-

1. Credible to who? Most of the statements supporting MMCC co2 theory are far from credible unless said in the right crowd. What is credible evidence to a cult?

2. The onus of proof is on the shoulders of those presenting the theory. A wrong theory isnt right because nobody has come up with an alternative one yet. A theory has to be proven right and competing theories require proving right too. When one is proven wrong it goes back to the drawing board and furthers our understanding.

Also from an IT perspective I take issue with point 7 too. The weakest link in security is often the human element and perceived levels of authority. This has been an ongoing problem for those claiming the theory is fact as they have been caught out plenty.

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Anonymous Coward

Another article where Lewis Page decides to selectively read a journal and only pull out the bits he wants readers to see?

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Name a writer that doesn't do that.

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ars scribendi

Andy, perhaps Samuel Pepys? (Or any diarist, for that matter.)

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Science marches on

It's good to see that scientists are still working to improve our comprehension of the Real World (tm) and thus our models of it.

The dogs bark, the caravan of science passes.

Climate is difficult, based on thermodynamics which is a very difficult subject. Anything that forwards our knowledge in the subject is good to take, regardless of the changes in our conclusions it can bring. We need to finally understand how our climate works sooner rather than later, in order to shut up the zealots (on both sides) and get on with doing what is really necessary.

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Thumb Up

Reading the Science Daily description and the Nature Geoscience preview is interesting

The emphasis is a bit different.

The preview

http://www.nature.com/ngeo/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/ngeo1800.html

describes biosphere produced aerosols as contributing "roughly 50%" of cloud condensation nuclei across Europe.

Which sounds pretty significant.

SD OTOH says they counter 1% of global temperature rise but possibly 30% in rural, forested areas.

So I'd say the journal preview is a bit more positive than the science website.

But thumbs up for more field work (11 sites around the world) to capture actual data and hopefully incorporate it into the GCM's.

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Stop

Also, don't forget

the Earth itself is pumping masses of heat out - without any solar radiation. And given the news last week that the Earths core is much hotter than previously thought ...

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Re: Also, don't forget

Average heat from the Sun 340W/m2; from the Earth's interior 0.09W/m2.

The Earth radiates an enormous amount of heat, but it is utterly dwarfed by the mind-buggering amount of energy arriving from the Sun.

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Holmes

Media: On hold for how long

It is like boiling water. The temperature rises quickly to boiling temperature and then stays there until the water is gone. Then it rises again to never seen heights. The problem with all these models is that the fundamental parameters are not all known. So many feedback loops, either positive or negative. The earth will survive, whether we do is yet to be seen. The only really known is that, at some point, there will be no more fossils left to burn. The human species may be around to see that happen, but it also may go extinct way before then.

The media has made the whole thing into a fantastic headline frenzy. "We're all going to die!", "We'll be heated to extinction", "No problem, only 0.1 degree", etc... Media meddling in the discussion over fractions of a degree in one or the other way is just hype, no more. The fact is, nobody knows what exactly will happen in the long term. The only consensus is that our "previous" lifestyle will no longer cut it. Whether this is due to 1, 2, 3 or 6 degrees temperatures is irrelevant. The timescale is also irrelevant for all practical intends. It is our children and children's children who will need to adapt (and they will curse us no matter what we do).

I'd suggest that the media concentrates on reporting on (practical) solutions for the human species to survive in the long run, seen in the light of a changing climate. That may actually help us all so that our children and children's children still are there to curse us (and may curse us a little bit less if we do a good job).

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Re: Media: On hold for how long

The media wouldn't be meddling if the warmist witch doctors weren't prompting them to in order to get more research dollars.

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I think the lesson should be

That the climate is damn complicated, and simplistic politicians answers don't work...

Climate change will happen sooner or later, whether artificial or not, just like, sooner or later an asteroid strike will happen. In both cases, depending on scale, the effects could be catastrophic and we ought to be ready to cope with it.

The problem I have with the *A*GW fanatics is that they are convinced that there is only way to deal with climate change. That method is ferociously expensive and probably ineffective, and if the cause doesn't turn out to be what they would like to think it is guaranteed ineffective. That means there's an awful lot of losses, but not many gains. Its like betting that the next big meteor strike will come from one specific direction, and spending a fortune on a system that's useless if it comes from another direction...

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