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Tuesday, September 05, 2006

A Chilling Reminder

I'm no scientific expert but these latest East Antarctic core findings certainly don't exactly fill me with reassurance:

Carbon dioxide levels are substantially higher now than at anytime in the last 800,000 years, the latest study of ice drilled out of Antarctica confirms.....

Initial results from the Epica core were published in 2004 and 2005, detailing the events back to 440,000 years and 650,000 years respectively. Scientists have now gone the full way through the column, back another 150,000 years.

The picture is the same: carbon dioxide and temperature rise and fall in step.

"Ice cores reveal the Earth's natural climate rhythm over the last 800,000 years. When carbon dioxide changed there was always an accompanying climate change. Over the last 200 years human activity has increased carbon dioxide to well outside the natural range," explained Dr Wolff.

The "scary thing", he added, was the rate of change now occurring in CO2 concentrations. In the core, the fastest increase seen was of the order of 30 parts per million (ppm) by volume over a period of roughly 1,000 years.

"The last 30 ppm of increase has occurred in just 17 years. We really are in the situation where we don't have an analogue in our records," he said.


Anonymous said...


The picture is the same: carbon dioxide and temperature rise and fall in step.

That, of course, says nothing about which, if either, is the cause and which is the effect.

If you put a pan of water on a stove burner and heat it, all of the types of dissolved gases in the water will increasingly tend to leave the water and end up in the kitchen atmosphere. It would be silly to conclude that the observed increased concentrations of any gas in the kitchen atmosphere were responsible for heating the water.

Regards, Don Lloyd

Edward Hugh said...

"That, of course, says nothing about which, if either, is the cause and which is the effect."

Well quite. My basic scientific training tells me that what you need to get a theory up and running is correlation and mechanism. In the present case we have several rival versions of mechanism, and this si what creates the difficulty.

The situation isn't as bad as ageing research though, where at the last count there were some 300 rival theories in existance, a situation which prompted veteran researcher Edward Masoro to remark that the only thing which senesces but doesn't get to die is a theory of sgeing.

I guess we can now extend that class of organisms to include theories of climatic change.

Of course if by one mechanism some have been exploring global warming eventually triggers rapid global cooling then not even the carbon dioxide temperature correlate will hold good, since the previous changes in carbon dioxide levels presumeably formed part of some kind of homeostatic mechanism, while a large part of the current rise is 'all our own work' and not subject to the same process.