Archive for June 12th, 2011
WC should know better than to read the the Great Unwashed Mass’s comments to newspaper articles, but this comment to an article in the Anchorage Daily News on paralytic shellfish poisoning illustrates both the failure of the American education system and the difficulties in having an intelligent, informed debate on climate change:
Mankind needs to learn we can’t just look at 45 years of Data and say we know it all or it has never happened before. There is a much bigger picture. The Midevil Halocene lasted for hundreds of years and there was not billions of people and a Industrial Revolution. Something is little as 1 Volcanoe caused the year without a summer in 1815-1817. There are bigger pictures to look at in history much farther back than 45 years.
- Early computer games franchises?
- Not completely nasty halogens?
- Criticism of Bubblegum music wannabes?
“Medieval Holocene“? It isn’t a scientific term. In geology, the Holocene is the geological epoch beginning about 11,000-12,000 years ago at the end of the Wisconsin glaciation, the last major continental advance of the big ice sheets. The Holocene gets divided into a lot of different subparts, depending on what science is doing to the dividing. But no publications WC knows speaks of a “Medieval Holocene.” There was a “Little Ice Age” during the historical medieval period in Western Europe, more or less from 1550 AD to 1850 AD. That’s hardly “medieval.” To paraphrase a professional friend of WC’s, “Willful ignorance trumps intelligent skepticism every time.”
The fundamental problem in lay understanding of climatology is that we want to insist our mayfly existence is relevant to the longer cycles of weather. Climate change deniers seize on a cold summer morning as “proof” that climate change is a lie. Part of us wants to insist that our brief lives are more important, when in geological time they are dust motes in a sunbeam. Even the “Little Ice Age” was a mostly regional phenomenon, and involved temperature changes smaller than those documented since the start of the Industrial Revolution.
The slightly better informed climate change deniers insist that even a very long base line of temperature increases can’t be relied upon as evidence of climate change.
(This image is a comparison of 10 different published reconstructions of mean temperature changes during the last 2000 years. More recent reconstructions are plotted towards the front and in redder colors, older reconstructions appear towards the back and in bluer colors. An instrumental history of temperature is also shown in black. The medieval warm period and little ice age are labeled at roughly the times when they are historically believed to occur, though it is still disputed whether these were truly global or only regional events.)
If we focus in on the most recent 130 years, the period for which we have directly measured temperatures and not reconstructed temperatures, you get
We’re now well above the Medieval Warming temperatures with the greater parts of the world temperature increases occurring in the periods of highest CO2 concentrations. The Decadal Oscillation is evident in the five year average, but the periods of decadal decline are no longer a significant fraction of the increase over the period.
It’s very tempting to scorn the climate change deniers. That denial is usually not their only anti-science belief. But those votes count as much as WC’s. WC thinks we all need to continue to try, however futile and frustrating it may be. Even the ones who talk about “Midevil Halocene.”