03 July 2007

Climate Science Grows Up

Global Circulation Models (GCMs) of climate are still at an early, primitive, infantile stage of development. As science gets better at filling the many large gaps in knowledge about the many factors influencing climate, the models will eventually become more trustworthy. NASA's Tropical Composition Cloud Coupling study is designed to fill one of the huge gaps in climate comprehension--understanding the chemical, dynamic, and physical processes occurring in the tropical upper troposphere and tropopause transitional layer.
the Tropical Composition Cloud Climate Coupling (TC4) field campaign will examine a somewhat mysterious layer of the atmosphere that could provide a crucial link to climate change. To better understand how ozone-depleting pollutants move from earth to the vulnerable, ozone-rich stratosphere, about 100 scientists will study the space between: the tropical tropopause transition layer (TTL), which can funnel air and its pollutants much faster than other atmospheric movements.

According to TC4 program scientist Dr. Brian Toon, air involved in a cloud convection column can take “only 10 or 20 minutes to move from the ground level to the top of the troposphere. An airplane can’t follow it up—I’ve tried.” During these violent updrafts, storm-type clouds nearer the earth’s surface containing very fine particles and pollutants transfer their cargo into tiny ice crystals—on the order of microns—that balloon into extremely long-lasting, expansive, often sub-visible clouds in the stratosphere.

To track the debris as it passes through the TTL, the high-tech research team in Costa Rica will be the first to extensively utilize and verify data collected by the so-called “A-train,” a recently completed group of five satellites launched to gather complementary data profiling the earth’s atmosphere. The newest of these satellites, launched last year, come equipped with radar and special “LIDAR” sensors, which measure laser light pulses and reflections to help draw conclusions about atmospheric chemistry.

In addition to these indirect measurements from above, several air-sampling balloons and three high-altitude planes will develop the first three-dimensional, contact-based understanding of the TTL. The airplanes, including a civilian-science version of the Air Force’s U-2 reconnaissance platform, are capable of flying at the edge of space—so high that pilots and scientists must begin breathing pure oxygen an hour before flight in order to acclimate, and must wear space-suit-style pressure suits to protect them in the otherwise fatal event of cabin depressurization.

The tropospheric temperature anomaly is one of the many things that GCM's cannot get right--and it strikes at the very heart of the reliability of the models (or lack thereof). But honestly, there are so many problems with the IPCC's well funded but unreliable models, that only someone without good scientific instincts would even hint at basing economic, industrial, and environmental policy on the failed models. Much better to allow the infant science of climatology to grow up and learn to walk.


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Blogger Chris Chatham said...

I suspect we would agree on lots of things, but climate science is not one of them. There are certainly problems with current climate models, but that is no reason to assume that they are completely inaccurate projections of the future.

Tuesday, 03 July, 2007  
Blogger al fin said...

That's alright, Chris. I do not know of anyone in the world who agrees with me on everything.

One should not assume that GCM's are completely inaccurate projections of the future. But if one looks deeply enough into the actual "proving" of current climate models, it is not unreasonable to conclude that today's generation of GCM's are extremely inaccurate projections.

As a conscientious scientist, Chris, you would not presume to take half to liberties with the data that climate modelers routinely take. That much is clear from the careful pains you take with your blog postings.

When a field of science ascends to the "fashionably trendy" stage, as has climate modeling, there is simply too much money at stake for everyone involved to maintain his scruples.

Tuesday, 03 July, 2007  

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“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act” _George Orwell

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