Those who worked to refute the huge IPCC 2007 study on global warming were wrong, perhaps. They had accused scientists of hyping their data, claims which have only recently been refuted. However, questions about global warming linger.
As a way to re-establish the credibility of the global warming scientific argument, over 300 experts and 160 research groups have banded together to produce the “State of The Climate 2009” which runs 224 pages and is impenetrable to the general public. The lead research group for the work was the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the organization which has been made famous by its scientific monitoring of the Gulf oil spill.
The amateur’s summary of the report was not given in the document itself but it is this: the professionals looked at what they claim are all the meaningful measures of global warming and each has gotten worse in the last decade. The calculations primarily come from data on ocean and land temperature, air temperature—including information taken from areas well above the earth’s surface—and the rate at which glaciers and snow cover melting has accelerated.
The trouble with the study and one reason it will find its share of detractors is that almost none of the data is linear. Information which includes temperature increases, actually shows drops for a few years followed by increases. The trend is what scientists argue is the issue, but the periods used to determine the changes seem arbitrary. The survey shows that the global temperature has risen about 1 degree Fahrenheit over the last five decades. The experts who wrote and edited say that this is important even if the progress was uneven over the 50 years.
Some part of the data is anecdotal which makes it seem less scientific. One of the points in the overview at the beginning of the study is that the US experienced its wettest October in 2009 based on information that goes back 115 years. That hardly addresses what happened in the other 11 months. Turkey received its heaviest rainfall over a 48-hour period in 80 years. The does not address what happened in the other 363 days of 2009.
These “stories” are mixed with very compelling studies of Arctic ice melting and other macro-trends. Each of the last 19 years the Arctic snow mass has grown smaller. CO2 uptake by the oceans has shown a multi-year trend that suggests that the water that makes them up is getting warmer. Coastal flooding around the word is more frequent most years and this has been true for a decade or more.
The trouble is that the “State of The Climate 2009” is not knit together by a presiding argument. The document’s authors want the reader to make connections among hundreds of data points, and that is asking too much for many who want to believe the case but find it is made unevenly.
Douglas A. McIntyre