New Findings Closing Gaps in Global Warming Research

The Register Guard (Eugene, OR), July 7, 2008 | Go to article overview

New Findings Closing Gaps in Global Warming Research


Byline: Bob Doppelt For The Register-Guard

A buddy recently asked if the effects of global warming could be seen today. Yes, I told him. Scientific studies showing the consequences and trajectory of global warming cross my desk almost weekly. Each tends to eliminate gaps in the science. They also reaffirm the proper course of action.

Research published in May, for example, showed that since 1970 the temperature of the upper troposphere - the region 7.5 to 10 miles above Earth's surface - has been rising by about 0.65 degrees Centigrade per decade. This is consistent with most climate change models.

Skeptics had previously challenged the validity of these computer models because data gathered by satellites and high-flying weather balloons showed little or no tropospheric temperature increases. This problem is now resolved.

Then, scientists working aboard an Oregon State University research vessel published findings showing that greenhouse gases are turning the waters off the West Coast, including Oregon, acidic enough to dissolve the shells of sea creatures decades earlier than scientists had expected. These findings have potentially catastrophic consequences for marine life, including fisheries, from Canada to Mexico.

Worse, the team said that future ocean acidification, along with the loss of key links in the marine food chain, will likely increase as atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases rise. The researchers also said there is a strong correlation between the recent ocean dead zones off the Northwest coast and increasing acidification.

Another June study found that the world's oceans have warmed 50 percent faster than previously thought due to increased carbon dioxide levels. Higher ocean temperatures have expanded the volume of water, contributing to a 0.53 millimeter-per-year rise in sea levels that is submerging small island nations and threatening to wreak havoc in low-lying heavily populated regions around the globe.

Until now, according to researchers, there has been a gap between the sea level rise projections of computer-based climate models and the observations of scientists gathering data from the oceans. As with tropospheric warming, skeptics have used this gap to discount global warming. The new study is the first to reconcile these factors. Another gap has been filled.

To top that off, also in June, the U.S. government's Climate Change Science Program released the first comprehensive analysis of observed and projected changes in weather and climate extremes in North America. The report said, "global warming of the past 50 years is due primarily to human-induced increases in heat-trapping gases" and that "many types of extreme weather and climate event changes have been observed during this time period."

Droughts, heavy downpours, excessive heat and intense hurricanes are likely to become more commonplace as global warming unfolds, according to the study. …

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