Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Does It Seem A Bit Warm?

Several people at the blogs we are linked to have commented on the unusually warm winter they are experiencing in their parts of the world, and there's been some discussion on whether or not the steeper slope of global warming is now upon us.

For about 15 years I've been saving articles and charts related to global warming and climate change so I thought I'd share some of these with you, so you can digest the information and arrive at your own conclusions, or speculations.

The graph below is from a newspaper article this past December and shows annual average temperatures since 1880.

Temperatures started their steepest climb in 1975, but if you study the graph you'll see they started gradually climbing back around 1910, just about the time the automobile was becoming popular and everyone was getting their own personal infernal combustion engine.

It's interesting that the heading reads "Slowly warming", because when I look at the rest of the charts, it appears to me that, historically speaking, this is actually a quite rapid and alarming change.

Click on graph to enlarge

The following graph shows the correlation between atmospheric CO2 and temperature change over the past 2,000 years. I think this graph includes data through 2003.

Click on graph to enlarge

The next graph very clearly shows the relationship between CO2 and temperature during the past 20,000 year period. As you can see, the longer the timeline for the CO2/Temperature comparison, the more extreme the recent increases seem to be.

Click on graph to enlarge

Below, another CO2/Temperature correlation spread out over 160,000 years, really looks scary to me. It includes the projected increase in the very near future to over 600 ppm of CO2 in the atmosphere. The is an X on the upward line marking 380 ppm which is the current level of of CO2. If you notice how closely the temperature aligns itself with CO2 levels it looks to me like we're in for some really big changes very, very soon.

To the left a graph shows the increase in our human population since about 950 A.D. and not surprisingly the steepest increase starts at just about the same time as that CO2 begins its climb.

And last, but not least, the chart below shows the radical increase in species extinctions since about 1910.

I'm no scientist but good old-fashioned common sense tells me there's something very disturbing in this information. I don't think it takes a genius to conclude that what is happening is the result of human activity, and that we are in real deep trouble if we don't change our ways soon.

Click on graph to enlarge

I've posted this incomplete as I'll be adding some links to it if any of you would like do some more research.

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Blogger Tabor said...

I think one of the confusing issues about global warming is that it means dramatic changes in temperatures and greater extremes...not necessarily a straight line into warmer weather. Species demise is also due to our depletion of species that may be involved in the food chain...i.e. fish!!

2:52 PM  
Anonymous kara said...

but how do you get the masses to care? i feel like most of them see us as *chicken littles.*

7:39 PM  
Blogger Norene said...

Ranger Bob has a relevant posting over at his Neocommons blog. He points to an article in The Independent in which James Lovelock, the Gaia theorist, asserts that we're past the point of no return with climate change and that civilization is doomed. Not recommended reading for the gloomy of heart, but could be valuable to share with the overly optimistic among us. Visit Neocommons for additional commentary.

9:40 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

I've been following some of the "climate change skepticism" for years, more closely in the last couple of years. Amazing to watch how people who obviously know better, willfully seed little half-truths and subtle distortions, and then let sit back and watch the less-informed run with the misinformation. Those who want to believe that climate change is all a hoax will expend an amazing amount of energy trumpeting this misinformation to other eager disbelievers. But it seems to me that lately the tone has changed. There are still a few voices chanting about how much carbon is stored in limestone and how CO2 is not toxic, it's a plant nutrient; but there isn't the same eager chorus of agreement when those voices speak up. If even the proudly right-wing people are starting to believe that the climate is changing, then... either somebody is getting through to them, or it's becoming directly obvious to everyone.

I'm afraid there are signs that the dominoes have started to fall already. There are big thaws going on in the north (both Siberia and Canada), which have been predicted for some time, but which are now starting to release methane, creating a positive feedback loop to drive temperatures farther faster.

I don't usually give any significance to the weather in a given year, since climate is about averages which include wide swings, but I find it disturbing to see the prolonged continent-wide strange winter weather this year. Up in northern Saskatchewan, I just heard today, several isolated communities are without their usual ice roads across the rivers and lakes. Supplies that normally come in during winter by truck, are now being flown in at huge cost. The ice roads would normally be in place by now, but the ice has to be 20 inches thick before the roads can be built (by clearing snow off to make it freeze even thicker), and so far it's only about 12.

10:20 PM  
Blogger lené said...

Thanks for letting me know that you had these posted, Jim. They are quite disturbing. As I said in my post, I don't know much about global warming, but when I was doing research on mercury contamination, I was reading reports that the USGS did with ice core studies. I've heard that the same type of science is being used to look at other pollutants, as well. Are you familiar with them?

11:29 PM  
Blogger lauren said...

Thanks for posting these graphs. I think they tell a compelling story better than words in some ways. I think that most people, when asked, would agree that global warming is happening and that human activity is the cause. The problem is taking it a step further and actually changing that human activity. That's when a lot of heads get buried in the sand.

3:42 AM  
Blogger I_Wonder said...

I read an interesting and optimistic article yesterday about minimizing oil usage and related pollution. It appears we have the knowledge and technology to make rapid positive changes to significantly curtail major causes of global warming. The two unanswered questions are 1) will we change and 2) is it too late?

7:06 AM  
Blogger Jim said...


Yes, and I should have made it clear, that just because this winter is relatively mild so far that it won't neccesarily stay that way, or that next year might be an extremely cold one, it's the trend of the average temperature that tells the story, but things like Hurricane Katrina, and that entire record breaking hurricane season we just had, along with the rapidly melting polar ice, do have dramatic effects on our perceptions.


I don't think we can get the masses to care, but we can work on ourselves, share our thoughts, and hope for the best.

signed---Chicken Little;~)


Thanks for the link to Neocommons, I may be adding Ranger Bob to our links.


I love reading yours posts, you seem quite knowledgeable in so many fields and I always learn something from you, thanks for your comments.


I save newspaper stories about core sample studies, and the nature journals I read sometimes have related articles. I know they measure any number of atmospheric and greenhouse gasses including CO2 and methane, radioactive isotopes, chlorides, sulfates, mercury of course, and surely many pollutants. I'll attach some core sample links to this post.


The graphs reach out and grab me too, and I think, maybe if I keep looking at this stuff I'll get my head a little more out of the sand.

It seems to be working a little, I'm so overwhelmed by the rising extinction rates that I just can't own a car, and can barely stand to be in one.

I wonder-

I agree, I believe we do have the knowledge, and maybe even the technology to change, but do we have the will, or the time?

That is the big question, but I'd say there's no time like the present.

11:11 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Here's a relevant new article from Grist.

10:07 PM  
Blogger Granny said...

I just left a comment over on maison madcap about the temps. Just local observation but we've been around 10 degrees warmer than usual all winter here. CA central valley.

I say global warming, people laugh. Thanks for the charts.

I'm woefully ignorant but I've begun subscribing to some of the environmental publications and learning a little. Meantime, we do what we can in small ways.

Haight-Asbury? I lived in the city for 25 years off and on. Just retired a few years ago and came down here.

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