Monday, April 12, 2010

Meteorologists, Climatologists And Climate Change

      A recent poll by researchers at George Mason University indicates that 55% of meteorologists believe in human-induced global warming, 25% don’t believe, and 20% don’t know.
      This parallels a recent CNN poll of the general public – when asked “. . . from what you have heard or read, do you believe increases in the Earth's temperature over the last century are due more to the effects of pollution from human activities, or natural changes in the environment that are not due to human activities?", 50% replied human activities, 46% said natural causes, and 5% were unsure.
      On the other hand, a survey published in 2009 by Peter Doran and Maggie Zimmerman of Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Illinois at Chicago, of 3146 Earth Scientists found that more than 97% of specialists on the subject (i.e. "respondents who listed climate science as their area of expertise and who also have published more than 50% of their recent peer-reviewed papers on the subject of climate change") agree that human activity is "a significant contributing factor in changing mean global temperatures."
      Before going any further, I wish to define a couple of terms:
      Meteorology - the interdisciplinary scientific study of the atmosphere that focuses on weather processes and forecasting.
      Data such as temperature, atmospheric pressure, wind measurements, and humidity occurring over a wide area are important tools for meteorologists. Such data, as measured by thermometers, barometers, anemometers and hygrometers are collected by weather stations, ships and weather buoys, while upper atmosphere measurements are made by radiosondes and aircraft. Wide range radar and satellite observations are also important. All these data are analyzed and summarized by computers. Forecasts by meteorologists are limited to a period of a few weeks.
      Climatology - the study of climate, scientifically defined as weather conditions averaged over a period of time. It is the study of weather events over many, perhaps even thousands, of years. Its data includes the atmospheric boundary layer, circulation patterns, heat transfer (radiative, convective and latent), interactions between the atmosphere and the oceans and land surface (particularly vegetation, land use and topography), and the chemical and physical composition of the atmosphere.
      Various tools used include ice cores, tree rings, and meteorological records covering many years. All of these are combined into statistical or mathematical models for analysis.
      While it is impossible for anyone to say what the exact temperature will be in 2050, most climatologists are as sure it will be warmer than 2010 as they are that August will be warmer than February (at least in the Northern Hemisphere). Time will tell.
      Upon comparison of the two branches, it is easy to see why meteorologists’ conclusions concerning climate change are in close agreement with those of the general public – they do not use the same tools, nor do they have the same training as climatologists. The two sciences have no more in common than a railroad engineer has to a designer of bullet or magnetic levitation trains. In other words, your guess is as good as a meteorologist's.

      To read more excerpts from the book, click here.

No comments:

Post a Comment