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Study Finds World Warmth Edging to Ancient Levels 534

Posted by Zonk
from the is-it-warm-in-here-or-is-it-just-me dept.
Krishna Dagli writes to mention a decades-long study by NASA scientists. According to the research, global temperatures are reaching highs not seen in thousands of years. From the article: "One of the findings from this collaboration is that the Western Equatorial Pacific and Indian Oceans are now as warm as, or warmer than, at any prior time in the Holocene. The Holocene is the relatively warm period that has existed for almost 12,000 years, since the end of the last major ice age. The Western Pacific and Indian Oceans are important because, as these researchers show, temperature change there is indicative of global temperature change. Therefore, by inference, the world as a whole is now as warm as, or warmer than, at any time in the Holocene. According to Lea, 'The Western Pacific is important for another reason, too: it is a major source of heat for the world's oceans and for the global atmosphere.'"
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Study Finds World Warmth Edging to Ancient Levels

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  • by Chosen Reject (842143) on Tuesday September 26, 2006 @02:10PM (#16202357)
    Save the Universe! Just say NO to irreversible processes!
  • The Holocene is the relatively warm period that has existed for almost 12,000 years, since the end of the last major ice age.

    Holo-(s)cene? Ohhhh boy. Cue the Matrix jokes...
  • by suv4x4 (956391)
    World Warmth Wrath Wreaked!
  • by ackthpt (218170) * on Tuesday September 26, 2006 @02:13PM (#16202405) Homepage Journal

    If you haven't seen An Inconvenient Truth [imdb.com], yet, do try. Like Al Gore, it's a bit clunky, but there's a lot of truth in there and shouldn't be discounted just because you may not like the presenter.

    My belief is, we'll keep right on going in this direction until we feel sufficient pain* to stop. Famine and flooding will certainly increase the likelihood of conflict. Darfur as depicted in the film was an eye opener, the severe drought which may be caused by warming now appears more likely the root of conflict as people scrabble for remaining water and land.

    It may become the view that USA and Europe, have had it good long enough and they should cut down on emissions first. It will come to a head when cities like Shanghai are under water and each country is blaming the other for the fine mess things are in. Those who have dipped deepest and longest into the carbon fuels trough the will have an uncomfortable time of it.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Red Flayer (890720)

      Those who have dipped deepest and longest into the carbon fuels trough the will have an uncomfortable time of it.

      I've gotta disagree with you there. Those who have the stongest economies* will have the less uncomfortable time of it. People can point fingers and complain all they want, but in the end, the quality of life will remain highest for those who have the best economies.

      *This doesn't necessarily correlate directly with those countries who have had the longest dependence on fossil fuels. But it's

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by ackthpt (218170) *

        I've gotta disagree with you there. Those who have the stongest economies* will have the less uncomfortable time of it. People can point fingers and complain all they want, but in the end, the quality of life will remain highest for those who have the best economies

        I take it you weren't alive in 1973.

        Those with the furthest to fall, will fall and it will not be a pleasant experience for anyone. With the astounding energy dependence of the USA I can't see it going very comfortably. Perhaps this is why

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by slughead (592713)
      There was a study released a few years ago entitled "global warming could raise temperatures 10C!" (if CO2 levels double from current levels).

      The writers of the study entitled it this because that was the most 'interesting' scenario they modeled, the others (and there were many) weren't nearly as spectacular, some even showed a decrease in temperature.

      Regardless of what the study showed, the writers only believe that global temperatures will only rise 1-3C in the next 50 years (which is how long it should t
      • Interesting stuff. I've also heard that "the debtae" over global warming is not whether it's happening, but whether we should 1) focus on slowing/reversing it; or 2) focus on adapting to the warmer Earth.
    • The most inconvenient truth is that the earth temperature changes.
      It appears that it has been both much warmer and much colder at different times in the past.

      This time we're getting warmer, some people want to blame, some people want to do something.
      I'm still waiting for someone to explain how this expected behaviour is really a problem. Sure we might be causing it this time, but it was probaly gonna do this anyway.

      Lets look at what a 5C temperature change will bring. My limited understanding is it will shi
      • by hey! (33014) on Tuesday September 26, 2006 @02:47PM (#16203011) Homepage Journal
        You are correct -- climate change is a normal part of the Earth's history.

        The reason it is a problem is that we aren't really prepared for it.

        Sure we might be causing it this time, but it was probaly gonna do this anyway.


        Well, sure, but the rate matters. A ten meter sea level rise over a thousand years means cities gradually pull back from the coasts. A ten meter sea level rise over a hundred years means cities are abandoned, causing national and international distrubances due to displaced persons etc.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by miniver (1839)

        The most inconvenient truth is that the earth temperature changes.
        It appears that it has been both much warmer and much colder at different times in the past.

        This time we're getting warmer, some people want to blame, some people want to do something.
        I'm still waiting for someone to explain how this expected behaviour is really a problem. Sure we might be causing it this time, but it was probaly gonna do this anyway.

        Yea verily!

        I acknowledge that temperatures are changing. My question is harder: wh

    • by garcia (6573)
      Like Al Gore, it's a bit clunky

      You misspelled chunky.
    • by Lumpy (12016)
      My belief is, we'll keep right on going in this direction until we feel sufficient pain* to stop. Famine and flooding will certainly increase the likelihood of conflict.

      nice dreamy view of the world... too bad it's not realistic.

      WE will keep going in a direction that makes the rich more money. Plain and simple fact. IF thousands of people die each day because of an action that is still making some rich assholes richer, the direction will not change until those rish assholes are afraid for their own lives
    • by gstoddart (321705)
      My belief is, we'll keep right on going in this direction until we feel sufficient pain* to stop.

      Which, hopefully, won't occur 5 years after we're experiencing catastrophic changes and can no longer change what we're doing; or have it help.

      The Ostrich Algorithm can bite you in the ass.

      Cheers
  • Full Article Text (Score:3, Informative)

    by rgsmith (473418) on Tuesday September 26, 2006 @02:13PM (#16202415)
    NASA Study Finds World Warmth Edging Ancient Levels
    Sep. 25, 2006

    A new study by NASA scientists finds that the world's temperature is reaching a level that has not been seen in thousands of years.

    The study, led by James Hansen of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, N.Y., along with scientists from other organizations concludes that, because of a rapid warming trend over the past 30 years, the Earth is now reaching and passing through the warmest levels in the current interglacial period, which has lasted nearly 12,000 years. An "interglacial period" is a time in the Earth's history when the area of Earth covered by glaciers was similar or smaller than at the present time. Recent warming is forcing species of plants and animals to move toward the north and south poles.

    Image right: Because of a rapid warming trend over the past 30 years, the Earth is now reaching and passing through the warmest levels seen in the last 12,000 years. This color-coded map shows average temperatures from 2001-2005 compared to a base period of temperatures from 1951-1980. Dark red indicates the greatest warming and purple indicates the greatest cooling. Click image to enlarge. Credit: NASA

    The study used temperatures around the world taken during the last century. Scientists concluded that these data showed the Earth has been warming at the remarkably rapid rate of approximately 0.36 Fahrenheit (0.2 Celsius) per decade for the past 30 years.

    "This evidence implies that we are getting close to dangerous levels of human-made pollution," said Hansen. In recent decades, human-made greenhouse gases have become the largest climate change factor. Greenhouse gases trap heat in the Earth's atmosphere and warm the surface. Some greenhouse gases, which include water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and ozone, occur naturally, while others are due to human activities.

    Image left: Because of a rapid warming trend over the past 30 years, the Earth is now reaching and passing through the warmest levels seen in the last 12,000 years. This color-coded map shows a progression of changing global surface temperatures from 1880 to 2005, the warmest ranked year on record. Dark red indicates the greatest warming and dark blue indicates the greatest cooling. Click image to view animation. Credit: NASA

    The study notes that the world's warming is greatest at high latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere, and it is larger over land than over ocean areas. The enhanced warming at high latitudes is attributed to effects of ice and snow. As the Earth warms, snow and ice melt, uncovering darker surfaces that absorb more sunlight and increase warming, a process called a positive feedback. Warming is less over ocean than over land because of the great heat capacity of the deep-mixing ocean, which causes warming to occur more slowly there.

    Hansen and his colleagues in New York collaborated with David Lea and Martin Medina-Elizade of UCSB to obtain comparisons of recent temperatures with the history of the Earth over the past million years. The California researchers obtained a record of tropical ocean surface temperatures from the magnesium content in the shells of microscopic sea surface animals, as recorded in ocean sediments.

    Image left: Data from this study reveal that the Earth has been warming approximately 0.2 degrees Celsius (0.36 Fahrenheit) per decade for the past 30 years. This rapid warming has brought global temperature to within about one degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) of the maximum estimated temperature during the past million years. Credit: NASA

    One of the findings from this collaboration is that the Western Equatorial Pacific and Indian Oceans are now as warm as, or warmer than, at any prior time in the Holocene. The Holocene is the relatively warm period that has existed for almost 12,000 years, since the end of the last major ice age. The Western Pacific and Indian Oceans are important because, as these researchers show, temperature c
  • by Frumious Wombat (845680) on Tuesday September 26, 2006 @02:14PM (#16202429)
    we're already experiencing late falls, and slightly earlier springs. Two years running now the ground hasn't reliably frozen solid until well into november. Therefore, while I feel for those of you living 2 ft above sea level in Florida, I believe I speak on behalf of many residents of Upstate NY, Minnesota, Saskatchewan, etc., when I say, "Good".
    • by malsdavis (542216) *
      Accept that wild-fires seem to be happening all the time and storms which use to happen only once every 10 or so years now happen every few years.

      I have a mate who performs hydrological computer modelling for my local water company. Flooding in any one area is usually categorised as due to storms of a severity occuring either "once in few years", "once in 10 years", "once in 20 years" etc.

      He says that like all water companies, they've now had to move up each storm category because storms of a severity which
  • by SengirV (203400) on Tuesday September 26, 2006 @02:16PM (#16202461)
    ... were a real problem. I'm so glad Atlantis was destroyed, or else who knows where we'd be since we are only now jsut approaching those Atlantean high temps of 12K years ago.
  • that archeologists have found all sorts of Automobiles and factories that are thousands of years old
  • by Doc Ruby (173196) on Tuesday September 26, 2006 @02:20PM (#16202541) Homepage Journal
    We've pumped coal, oil and gas that used to lie buried all into the atmosphere as CO2 and other byproducts at industrial scales for over a century. All that stuff used to live on the Earth during hotter climates, converting CO2 etc into themselves, then dying to be buried. We shouldn't be surprised when returning the gas they cleaned from our atmosphere returns us to the climates that preceeded them. Which we did not adapt to live in ourselves. And which have never changed so quickly, far outpacing the rate of human evolution, even if we were still as subject to natural evolution.

    All that spells "extinction", or at best "civilization collapse".
    • by khallow (566160) on Tuesday September 26, 2006 @03:37PM (#16203987)
      I suppose the same could be said of human civilization. We haven't evolved to it. The thing that puzzles me here though is what condition haven't we evolved to before? Slightly higher CO2 concentration? Slightly warmer temperatures? More or less rain? These are all well within the range of what the human race has evolved with.
  • by crovira (10242) on Tuesday September 26, 2006 @02:21PM (#16202555) Homepage
    Serously though, with the coming rise in ocean levels you want to be at least above 30 to 40 feet(10 to 15 meters) above current ocean levels, preferably at a higher lattitude, like say Canada, if you want to have something to leave to the kids. :-)

    And if you want to make them wealthy, buy a lot of land that will still BE land.

    New Orleans is in a very BAD long term position, amortising over 30 years, you're likely to find your real-estate holdings underwater. (If you want to see how bad it can get, just look at the Champlain sea and the fact that the mid western praries are prime flat growing land because they were UNDERWATER.)
  • Well, if the earth cools off every few thousand years it all balances out right? Its not like the earth is going to go supernova or anything. If it gets hotter then I wouldn't mind anyway because I'm really cold natured. Of course, I also have central heating and AC. Science just doesn't suck. I remember when I used to watch the Mr. Wizard guy do all the science things. TV is cool too.
    • Its not like the earth is going to go supernova or anything.

      Yeah, but that won't stop someone from claiming it will and lobbying for legislation. Cripes, don't give them ideas.

  • "I am going to speak today about the most media-hyped environmental issue of all time, global warming. I have spoken more about global warming than any other politician in Washington today. My speech will be a bit different from the previous seven floor speeches, as I focus not only on the science, but on the media's coverage of climate change." --SENATOR JAMES INHOFE CHAIRMAN, SENATE ENVIRONMENT AND PUBLIC WORKS COMMITTEE, SENATE FLOOR SPEECH DELIVERED MONDAY SEPTEMBER 25, 2006

    He's right. This issue is be
    • by wanerious (712877)
      He's right.

      Man, that's the first time this phrase has *ever* been used to reference something that Inhofe has said. Usually we (Oklahomans) have to apologize for him when in learned company. And trying to imagine him "focusing on the science" is a strangely comical mental exercise.

      This issue is being played so much by the media it is hard to get honest science.

      Please. So the media is somehow controlling the puppet strings of the reviewers, authors, and reviewers of Nature, Science, and hundreds

  • Instead of everyone spending all afternoon typing out the same pro/anti Warming,US,Oil,Bush arguments, we all just go re-read the last global warming thread, and spend the time we've saved doing some kind of service job (washing dishes, etc) and donate that money to our favorite charity.

    We would earn millions.

  • Alright let's say tomorrow all mankind decides to:

    1)Stop burning all fossil fuels period. That means, we halt all energy generation and transportation not powered by wind, water or animals.
    2) Stop tearing down trees and pouring concrete. Trees convert CO2 to O2 and concrete reflects energy while killing trees.

    3) Halt any process, manufacturing or otherwise that produces greenhouse gases especially CO2, fluorocarbons & methane. After billions die and all economies are ruined we won't even be able t

  • by ptomblin (1378) <ptomblin@xcski.com> on Tuesday September 26, 2006 @02:45PM (#16202951) Homepage Journal
    I, for one, welcome our new gigantic dragonfly overlords.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meganeura [wikipedia.org]
  • by Kombat (93720) <kombat@kombat.org> on Tuesday September 26, 2006 @02:50PM (#16203049) Homepage
    If the last time it got this warm was thousands of years ago, then doesn't that mean that after that, it cooled off for a very long time? Wasn't there even an ice age in there somewhere? Doesn't this contradict the scientists claiming that this warming trend is irreversible? Doesn't this data show that in fact, this exact same trend did reverse, thousands of years ago, before it started warming up again to get us to where we are today?
  • by Anonymous Coward
    The last time they were able to grow crops in Greenland was during the time of the Vikings.
    http://www.spiegel.de/international/spiegel/0,1518 ,434356,00.html [spiegel.de]
  • by writerjosh (862522) on Tuesday September 26, 2006 @03:00PM (#16203269) Homepage
    We have more to worry about than just hot weather. The Department of Defense did this "thought" exercise to determine the consequences of global warming in respect to national security. They took it seriously, and so should we (it's a few years old, but I think most people still haven't heard about it):

    http://www.grist.org/pdf/AbruptClimateChange2003.p df [grist.org]

    "There is substantial evidence to indicate that significant global warming will occur during the 21st century. Because changes have been gradual so far, and are projected to be similarly gradual in the future, the effects of global warming have the potential to be manageable for most nations...

    ...The report explores how such an abrupt climate change scenario could potentially de-stabilize the geo-political environment, leading to skirmishes, battles, and even war due to resource constraints such as:

    1) Food shortages due to decreases in net global agricultural production
    2) Decreased availability and quality of fresh water in key regions due to shifted precipitation patters, causing more frequent floods and droughts
    3) Disrupted access to energy supplies due to extensive sea ice and storminess

    As global and local carrying capacities are reduced, tensions could mount around the world, leading to two fundamental strategies: defensive and offensive. Nations with the resources to do so may build virtual fortresses around their countries, preserving resources for themselves. Less fortunate nations especially those with ancient enmities with their neighbors, may initiate in struggles for access to food, clean water, or energy. Unlikely alliances could be formed as defense priorities shift and the goal is resources for survival rather than religion, ideology, or national honor.

    This scenario poses new challenges for the United States, and suggests several steps to be taken:
    • Improve predictive climate models to allow investigation of a wider range of scenarios and to anticipate how and where changes could occur
    • Assemble comprehensive predictive models of the potential impacts of abrupt climate change to improve projections of how climate could influence food, water, and energy
    • Create vulnerability metrics to anticipate which countries are most vulnerable to climate change and therefore, could contribute materially to an increasingly disorderly and potentially violent world.
    • Identify no-regrets strategies such as enhancing capabilities for water management
    • Rehearse adaptive responses
    • Explore local implications
    • Explore geo-engineering options that control the climate."
    • Darfur as an example (Score:3, Interesting)

      by kbahey (102895)
      The trouble in Darfur, Sudan is a classic example of this.

      The two groups here are settled African-speaking agriculturalists, and semi-nomadic Arabic speakers.

      As desertification takes its toll, the arable land is less and less, and hence the nomads start to encroach on the farmers. The defining event was the failing rains and ensuing famine in 1983 and 1984.

      Of course, as with most human conflicts, the reasons are complex, and there are other factors contributing to this, such as regional powers meddling with
  • by mestreBimba (449437) on Tuesday September 26, 2006 @03:07PM (#16203407) Homepage
    The worst part of global warming is the impact that climate change is having on sensitive species such as the Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus. http://zapatopi.net/treeoctopus/ [zapatopi.net] Get involved and help protect this rare species!
  • by peter303 (12292) on Tuesday September 26, 2006 @04:16PM (#16204745)
    Thousands of years in a 4.5 billion year history.
    I'm quaking in my boots.

I don't want to achieve immortality through my work. I want to achieve immortality through not dying. -- Woody Allen

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