Overtone writes: Machine Predicts Rising Temperatures as Escaping Gas Bubbles Up Through the Sea
By BILL BLAKEMORE, ABCNews.com
Leading climate scientists now generally agree that earth in the coming decades will warm another 2 degrees Fahrenheit no matter what we do.
(Aug. 5) - Whatever climate scientists may currently disagree about (and good scientists are always disagreeing about something) virtually all of them have long since agreed that human activity -- burning fossil fuels -- has been making the global temperature go up. And now they have two very sobering, visual ways to explain how.
The first is in the basement of a futuristic building in the foothills of the Colorado Rockies and requires a special pass, the other is down on the sea floor off the coast of California, requiring SCUBA gear and a waterproof map.
The gigantic super-computer in the basement of the
National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., is so big you can
walk down the aisles inside it, the walls of the sleek black servers at either
elbow, wrapped in the constant hum of air coolers and countless trillions of
silicon chip operations working day and night to calculate the climate future
over the next several decades of the only home we've got: Earth.
"These super computers are getting more and more
powerful every year," scientist Jerry Meehl told us as he gave us the
tour. "It makes the computers we were using for global warming predictions
back in the 1980s look primitive."
And even those computers, we now know from events such as
the double heat wave just past, were predicting accurately.
Scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration in Boulder have now figured out how to project the computer
predictions -- which used to be just rows of numbers -- in the form of changing
colors on a 5-foot sphere with the continents outlined on it.
A number of these spheres are now being installed in
museums around the United States and the world, so the world can see what it's
With green and blue for cooler temperatures, scientists
and regular folks can watch the digitized projectors paint the globe, starting
in 1870. Along about 1990, the globe grows yellower -- warmer -- and is entirely
yellow by 2001.
Then comes the sobering part. Red, for much warmer, starts
to appear in North America -- and other continents -- and by 2051 the United
States is almost entirely red.
That's only 45 years from now, when today's toddlers will
barely be in middle age.
The leading climate scientists now generally agree that
earth in the coming decades will warm another 2 degrees Fahrenheit no matter
what we do -- partly because carbon dioxide, the major manmade greenhouse gas,
stays in the atmosphere about a hundred years.
That's in addition to the average of 1.4 degrees
Fahrenheit the Earth has already warmed from manmade causes -- which though it
doesn't sound like much (remember, it's a single-number average for the entire
planet) has already, say most scientists, given us disappearing glaciers
worldwide, drought and famine, increasingly frequent and more intense heat
waves and millions of species in ecosystems everywhere scrambling for cooler
ground but often running into uncrossable highways and ever-expanding human
Even scarier is the other sight, about 20 meters down off
the coast of Santa Barbara, Calif.: bubbles, millions of bubbles of methane --
20 times more powerful as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.
The methane is bubbling up naturally from some of the
enormous natural undersea reservoirs of the gas mostly locked into the frozen
mud under the sea floor.
Scientists have just released video showing how, for the
first time, they have been able to measure these natural up-wellings to tell
whether, if large amounts of this methane ever thawed out from its deep sea
beds, it would reach the atmosphere, rather than being absorbed in the water,
and thus make the earth even hotter.
The findings of oceanographer Ira Leifer et al, published
in a strictly peer-reviewed scientific journal, are that it would do just that.
In other words, all that undersea methane is a potential
"positive feedback" of catastrophic proportions.
If warming currents, such as those already detected by
scientists at depth, begin to thaw these methane beds, it will make the
atmosphere, and consequently the sea currents, even warmer, and melt out more
A number of scientists tell me that would take the Earth
up into temperatures humankind has never experienced -- and probably could not
They believe it's happened for natural reasons before --
before, for example, the Jurassic age, when dinosaurs, but no humans, roamed
That's why they insist we must stop the unnatural burning
of fossil fuels -- oil, coal and gas -- which risks giving such a methane
mega-burp an artificial kick that could -- hard as this is to take in -- end
Small doses are the best way to take in such news.
Psychologists tell us that a little denial when facing truly
frightening news can, at first, be a good thing. It helps us hold ourselves
together in face of the threat, helps keep our "meaning systems"
As long as we keep working back towards reality.
No child wants to think it can harm the basic wellbeing of
a protective parent who provides its only world.
They can't even believe they could do such a thing.
Climate scientists are telling us we are doing just that
to our own Mother Earth, and we should believe it.
08-05-06 01:17 EDT