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Earth Science

2011 Was the 9th Hottest Year On Record 877

The Bad Astronomer writes "Last year was the 9th hottest year out of the past 130, according to NASA and the NOAA. That's no coincidence: nine out of the ten hottest years on record have been since the year 2000. It's long past time to face facts: the Earth is getting hotter, and to deny it is an exercise in fantasy."
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2011 Was the 9th Hottest Year On Record

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  • The open question... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by symbolset ( 646467 ) * on Friday January 20, 2012 @07:12PM (#38768980) Journal
    Is it a bad thing? Or did we just dodge an ice age []?
    • I like in Canada, and I drive a convertible. Global warming... Bring it on!!!
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by artor3 ( 1344997 )

      We didn't "just dodge" an event over a millennium in the future. Wrecking our arable land over the next century by turning up the heat will kill actual people. Let the people of 3000 AD worry about an imminent ice age, if humanity manages to live that long.

      Funny that that's the one climatology study you trust...

      • by Troed ( 102527 ) on Friday January 20, 2012 @07:28PM (#38769196) Homepage Journal

        Why are you under the impression that global warming won't increase the amount of arable land? []

        • by DrVomact ( 726065 ) on Friday January 20, 2012 @07:37PM (#38769310) Journal

          Why are you under the impression that global warming won't increase the amount of arable land?


          Bingo. One of the things that has always bothered me about the global the warming/climate change thesis that its advocates predict nothing but negative consequences. That's extremely improbable. Even if we grant that these theories are correct, it's clear that their proponents stress the negative impact because they need to induce fear to motivate funding and to justify the additional bureaucratic power that they crave.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            Although some people might benefit by the changes, there will probably be more losers than winners.

            Our society has been optimized based on the way things were. People farm where crops grow well. Ports are built at sea level near the places where comodities come from.

            Rising sea levels are going to cause problems for people who live near old coast lines. I think this will outweigh any other gains.

          • Or it could be that the negatives outweigh the positives; for example, please explain how increasing ocean acidification is good.

          • by Geoffrey.landis ( 926948 ) on Friday January 20, 2012 @08:10PM (#38769754) Homepage

            One of the things that has always bothered me about the global the warming/climate change thesis that its advocates predict nothing but negative consequences.

            You are confusing two different groups of people.

            Climate scientists are pointing out that adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere increases the temperature, and that this is well known, although the amount still has large error bars-- about plus or minus fifty percent, actually. These aren't "advocates;" this is science: ordinary, messy, plodding, data-intensive, science.

            For saying this, however, climate scientists are being attacked relentlessly. It's a politically driven argument, not a scientific argument, which means that it can't be refuted by any amount of data.

            There is another question, which is, what will the effects of this warming be? Since the deniers won't even credit that carbon dioxide has a warming effect at all, the odd result is that the ONLY people discussing the effects of temperature increase are the ones looking at negative effects. It's a one-sided debate because the other side has abdicated. They find it easier to attack the scientists than actually look at what the effects will be.

            I do predict, however, that eventually the terms of the debate will change, and the deniers will start changing their argument to "well, we may be increasing the temperature, but that's a good thing. We want to increase the temperature."

            Actually, I'm looking forward to that shift. First, I really would like to see both sides looking at effects. But, mainly, iI\t's a lot better than the "scientists are frauds and scientific results are a hoax and global warming is a scam" that is currently the argument.

            • by the gnat ( 153162 ) on Friday January 20, 2012 @08:41PM (#38770138)

              I do predict, however, that eventually the terms of the debate will change, and the deniers will start changing their argument

              You got the tense wrong - I've been noticing a steady shift in online arguments over the last few years. The sequence goes approximately like this:

              • "The earth isn't warming, if anything it's getting colder."
              • "Maybe the earth is warming, but this is due to (natural climate flucations|sunspots|God)."
              • "Sure, CO2 emissions could be raising the global temperature, but we can't stop this without (totalitarian social engineering measures|China|reverting to a pre-industrial level of civilization)."
              • "Sure, CO2 emissions are raising the global temperature, but is this really such a bad thing?"
              • "Let's emit even more CO2 so we can make plants happy and grow bananas in Manitoba!"

              At this rate, in a few years I expect to see the "skeptics" claiming that we have a profound moral duty to avoid public transportation, run our SUV engines and AC in the parking lot, and convert all of our solar and wind facilities into coal-fired plants. (Think of all the Eskimo children who will be saved from hypothermia!)

          • by SecurityTheatre ( 2427858 ) on Saturday January 21, 2012 @03:51AM (#38772438)

            Fertile land doesn't just suddenly spring up under rainfall.

            Farmland is the result of thousands of years of river flows, lake beds, animal and plant decay and sediment.

            A location that is currently a pure desert like the Sahara will NOT be possible to farm. Certainly a few semi-arid or seasonally arid regions may be slightly less arid, but there are almost no global climate models that support an increase in farmland.

            Many of the places that will thaw (Siberia, Northern Canada) have soils that are very alkali and not suitable for farming. Many of the other places are at high altitude and wouldn't be suitable anyway.

            The places that are most likely to become farmland in a scenario of temperature increase are river deltas which may dry up to some extent, and those regions that are semi-arid or seasonally arid, but an equal (or greater) number of those will dry up. Places like Texas and Oklahoma are most likely predicted to become much drier, but much more subject to violent storms. Places like Iowa and Kansas will likely dry up to resemble central Texas or Oklahoma, where soil requires extensive irrigation to grow anything of value. Places like Wyoming and Montana may benefit from increased rainfall due to the low pressure that results from changing currents, but those places have very poor soil and probably won't suddenly be a replacement for Iowa. Maybe southern Alberta would have a huge increase in the output of farmland, but northern Alberta has terrible soil (tar sand?) and Saskatchewan is spotted with rocky places with poor soil (badlands) just like the Dakotas.

            The point is.... I have never heard an actual climate scientist claim that every single spot on earth will become less hospitable. This is a political/simplistic polemic. In fact, the South Ocean stands to benefit hugely with really nice weather in the models I've seen, but there's no farmland there.

        • by Daniel_Staal ( 609844 ) <> on Friday January 20, 2012 @08:21PM (#38769880)

          There are good effects of global warming, and there are bad effects. It's sometimes hard to predict which are which. What we do know is that it is change, and a major one, to the support system which keeps the human race alive. Unmoderated change is likely to be a bad thing, and we know that lots of the effects will be bad. Best not to run the experiment with our only life-support system.

          Take the article you linked to: Ok, so that's an increase in arable land. This will be offset by other lands becoming less useful. The total might be higher or lower: Hard to say for sure. However, the Sahara doesn't have great soil, so even if it's wet enough to grow crops, it's unlikely to be as productive as, say, the American mindwest. Also, many plants are fairly picky about the conditions they grow in. Temperatures, elevation, type of soil, total rainfall, rainfall pattern, length of growing season, ratios of daylight to darkness during the growing season, all of these are known to impact the productivity of many crops. Taking a crop that grows well in one place and moving it someplace else often cuts yield significantly. Even if the total amount of arable land goes up, that doesn't mean we'll be able to grow more useful crops.

          Global warming is a massive uncontrolled experiment, and if it goes badly humanity will suffer for it. We don't necessarily know it will go badly, but it appears at least as likely as it going well. (In fact, it appears more likely, overall.) I'd rather avoid that type of situation.

        • Green Sahara (Score:4, Informative)

          by Guppy ( 12314 ) on Friday January 20, 2012 @08:44PM (#38770172)

          It would indeed be wonderful if the ancient Saharan monsoons returned []. But from the last page of your link:

          Max Planck's Claussen said North Africa is the area of greatest disagreement among climate change modelers.
          Forecasting how global warming will affect the region is complicated by its vast size and the unpredictable influence of high-altitude winds that disperse monsoon rains, Claussen added.
          "Half the models follow a wetter trend, and half a drier trend."

        • by chrb ( 1083577 ) on Friday January 20, 2012 @10:22PM (#38771078)

          You link to an article that explains that in one particular region of the Sahara the localised effects of climate change may have caused more rain, and hence desert greening. This does not mean that the same thing will occur everywhere in the world. In fact, desertification is increasing []. Consider some other recent evidence:

          climate change is making desertification "the greatest environmental challenge of our times" []
          Australia suffers worst drought in 1,000 years []
          THE GREAT DROUGHT OF 2011 Is America's Worst Since The Dust Bowl []
          Africa drought pushes Kenya and Somalia into pre-famine conditions []

          Predicting the world's overall changes in food production in response to elevated CO2 is virtually impossible. Global production is expected to rise until the increase in local average temperatures exceeds 3C, but then start to fall. In tropical and dry regions increases of just 1 to 2C are expected to lead to falls in production. In marginal lands where water is the greatest constraint, which includes much of the developing world but also regions such as the western US, the losses may greatly exceed the gains. Climate myths: Higher CO2 levels will boost plant growth and food production []

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by icebike ( 68054 ) *

        3000 AD?

        Best estimates are a mini ice age within 10 years. []

      • by Courageous ( 228506 ) on Friday January 20, 2012 @08:22PM (#38769890)

        I don't trust any form of science when it's delivered in a political context.

        Your words "funny that's the one study you trust" is an example of confirmation bias. []

        The short story is that there isn't a single pundit who won't happily grab the one "study" that confirms all his beliefs and croon it to the world while simultaneously ignoring every other story.

        This problem is worse than it might first appear. It is practically intrinsic to the inferential statistics used in modern studies such that 1 in N studies will, with a degree of reliability, produce exactly the wrong conclusion. The statistics aren't perfect. Drawing random samples from a normally distributed population will sometimes indeed produce samples not representative of the distribution itself. It happens.

        So normal science, even when practiced well, will occasionally throw the confirmation-bias favoring pundit and other Joe Schmoe a bone, and we end up with a nation of smug ignoramuses who preen about their confirmed beliefs, but who in fact know very little at all.


    • Not exactly. Those researchers say 240ppm or more averts an ice age. Maybe so. We're well beyond that now, so their conclusion is academic, and not mutually exclusive with the conclusion of other climate researchers that even higher concentrations could produce an irreversible greenhouse tipping point.

      Knowing that a certain amount of emissions might have been beneficial doesn't even remotely lead to the conclusion that unchecked, unlimited emissions are therefore always going to be beneficial.

      Your logic is

  • "On record" (Score:5, Informative)

    by Troed ( 102527 ) on Friday January 20, 2012 @07:15PM (#38769014) Homepage Journal

    ... for very short values of record. []

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I love it when amateurs try to second-guess experts.

      "Mr. Einstein, are you sure it's not just an issue of measurement?"

      "Billions of people in the world? You expect me to believe that? Have you actually met them all? I thought not!"

      97% of scientists who are experts in this field are sufficiently convinced. They may end up being wrong, but they are in the best possible position to assess the evidence. You are not. Even if you *are* a climate scientist, you don't get to overrule the rest of your peers ju

  • by WillAffleckUW ( 858324 ) on Friday January 20, 2012 @07:39PM (#38769332) Homepage Journal

    That and some volcanoes.

    Without those, we're talking an ice free passage in the Arctic from Greenland to Alaska, the melting of enough of Antarctica to raise sea level 4-5 meters (that's 20 feet GW deniers), and hurricanes with enough energy input to make Florida look like a 24/7 disaster zone.

    That said, I will bet Mittens' $10,000 that GW deniers will try to mod this entire topic down, using some of the $50,000 I have invested in energy stocks to pay for the posters.

  • 4th coldest year? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Confusedent ( 1913038 ) on Friday January 20, 2012 @07:40PM (#38769350)
    If this is the 9th hottest year, and 8 of the past 12 have been hotter, then wouldn't that technically also make 2011 one of the four coldest years out of the past 12? Doesn't change the fact that the past decade has been hotter than the others, but the phrasing is considerably more alarmist than "2011 4th coldest year out of past 12!!"
  • by SEE ( 7681 ) on Friday January 20, 2012 @08:12PM (#38769784) Homepage

    There has been no statistically significant warming in the last 15 years. The Earth is not getting hotter, it got hotter and then, a decade and a half ago, it stopped. This may well be a blip; noted climatoligist Professor Phil Jones, Director of Research for the University of East Angliaâ(TM)s Climatic Research Unit certainly thinks so. But claims the Earth hasn't been getting warmer for the last 15 years are not fantasies; they are the actual consensus of real, respected climate scientists, based on the best data available.

  • by WaffleMonster ( 969671 ) on Friday January 20, 2012 @08:29PM (#38769976)

    This stupid temperature debate sucks up all the oxygen in the room while all of the really important environmental issues are summarily ignored.

  • The real deniers (Score:3, Insightful)

    by nicoleb_x ( 1571029 ) on Friday January 20, 2012 @08:38PM (#38770094)

    The real deniers are the ones who think the earth can be saved and that humans can and should inhabit it indefinitely.

  • ah, Denier idiots. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by geekoid ( 135745 ) <> on Friday January 20, 2012 @08:55PM (#38770322) Homepage Journal

    so many uneducated fools going on like there ignorance should hold the same value as an experts.

    For those people saying 'there will be a benefit because of more [whatever]. You might want to wonder why you think after there is more arable land, or warmer Canada, the temperature wont continue to rise?
    What the cap are gone, are only buffer will be gone. Right not, they are acting as a heat sink. SO all the new land continue to with :
    a) get get hotter and then drier, or
    b) so much cloud cover appears plant find it difficult to grow.

    Oh, and there is less sunshine hitting the ground, and it has started to impact plant growth. granted a tine amount, so far.

    read up on why you are wrong: []

  • by 0111 1110 ( 518466 ) on Friday January 20, 2012 @10:22PM (#38771076)

    All this talk about whether global warming is natural or is caused by burning things doesn't really matter. Why are we looking for a scapegoat? All that matters is whether or not the earth is getting warmer. If it is, whether it's natural or not, we had better start preparing. I have yet to hear a single credible plan about how anyone is going to stop the billions of humans on the planet from burning stuff to survive. Let's face it. It's just not going to happen.

    Maybe SUVs will get outlawed in the US. Hooray! I hate the things. Maybe a 70 mpg minimum will be required for any non-commerical vehicle sold in the US (if you tried that for commercial vehicles you'd have mass starvation which could be another 'solution' I suppose). Maybe we'll build a few more nuclear power plants although I think NIMBY will prevent most of that.

    Maybe England and Canada and Australia will follow along as they so often seem to do with whatever silly idea the US comes up with. Or maybe not. In any case the rest of the planet representing the majority of land area and population will just laugh and continue to burn things until they run out of things to burn. And yes this includes trees and coal. And those laughable drop-in-the-bucket schemes that the US will come up with wouldn't have delayed the end by much anyway. People are going to do what they must to survive and that usually involves burning things.

    So if AGW is true then our species is doomed and there is no way around it. I propose a possible solution. The end will take at least a millenium. That gives us (especially the US) the chance to start putting all the money that would have been spent catching, imprisoning, and executing millions of climate criminals and building hundreds of thousands of nuclear power plants everywhere and cleaning up the inevitable accidents into a new era for the space program.

    See how I did that? The greens have their agenda (although they are pretty vague about what exactly that is), and I have mine. Let's start devoting every dollar we now spend on the defense budget into building an interstellar generation ship big enough for a few thousand people to live on. That will be a start. Maybe by the time the end comes in 1000 - 100,000 years we will be fully prepared to live off world and will have colonized other star systems. It is funny that the very thing that allowed us to flourish as a technological species, heat engines which create electricity and do the work that we used to require things like horses or rivers to do, will have become our doom.

    While the US and maybe a few close allies could Francify their electricity production by going nearly 100% nuclear and introduce bumper car like transportation systems with electric cars that are powered by nuclear powered overhead wires once they reach the major highways, is the rest of the world going to be able to do that? Maybe eventually but not right now. I think much of AGW is based on the idea that we will essentially never run out of fossil fuels, but nuclear fuel will eventually run out. There is only a finite supply of uranium etc on this planet. So then it's either burn or face massive die offs of just leave the planet. So we should start preparing for that. We have no idea whether intelligent life in the galaxy is rare, but it may be. We should do everything we can to preserve our species regardless of what may happen to this particular planet.

The world is coming to an end--save your buffers!