Free Markets, Free People

cloud albedo

Study claims sulphur pollution responsible for decade long cooling trend

Check out this story from Reuters:

Smoke belching from Asia’s rapidly growing economies is largely responsible for a halt in global warming in the decade after 1998 because of sulphur’s cooling effect, even though greenhouse gas emissions soared, a U.S. study said on Monday.

The paper raised the prospect of more rapid, pent-up climate change when emerging economies eventually crack down on pollution.

World temperatures did not rise from 1998 to 2008, while manmade emissions of carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuel grew by nearly a third, various data show.

The researchers from Boston and Harvard Universities and Finland’s University of Turku said pollution, and specifically sulphur emissions, from coal-fueled growth in Asia was responsible for the cooling effect.

Sulphur allows water drops or aerosols to form, creating hazy clouds which reflect sunlight back into space.

"Anthropogenic activities that warm and cool the planet largely cancel after 1998, which allows natural variables to play a more significant role," the paper said.

Natural cooling effects included a declining solar cycle after 2002, meaning the sun’s output fell.

Oh, wait … "natural cooling effects included a declining solar cycle?" Yeah, much less significant that "smoke belching" from Asia.

What they’re attempting to say here is it is still man who is in command of the atmosphere and climate. Really? If in fact that’s true, and AGW is the most significant problem we face in our future, then it stands to reason that pollution from "coal-fueled growth" is in our best interest, no?

In fact, what they’re describing is the albedo effect which is much more wide-spread than just sulfur pollution. You know – clouds? As I’ve mentioned many times, most of the models don’t consider cloud albedo in their modeling.

Wikipedia has a fairly good description of cloud albedo:

Cloud albedo is an important factor in the global warming effect. Different types of clouds exhibit different reflectivity, theoretically ranging in albedo from a minimum of near 0 to a maximum approaching 0.8. "On any given day, about half of Earth is covered by clouds, which reflect more sunlight than land and water. Clouds keep Earth cool by reflecting sunlight, but they can also serve as blankets to trap warmth."

Albedo and climate in some areas are affected by artificial clouds, such as those created by the contrails of heavy commercial airliner traffic.  A study following the burning of the Kuwaiti oil fields during Iraqi occupation showed that temperatures under the burning oil fires were as much as 10oC colder than temperatures several miles away under clear skies.

Note the final paragraph’s citing of the Kuwaiti oil field fires.  Note where it claims this cooling took place.  Yes, that’s right – only locally.   What the study above is purporting is widely spread coal-fired plants in a few emerging countries are responsible for holding temperatures down globally for a decade.

Do you buy that?

Also note this from Wikipedia:

Aerosols (very fine particles/droplets in the atmosphere) have both direct and indirect effects on the Earth’s radiative balance.

The direct (albedo) effect is generally to cool the planet; the indirect effect (the particles act as cloud condensation nuclei and thereby change cloud properties) is less certain. As per [27] the effects are:

  • Aerosol direct effect. Aerosols directly scatter and absorb radiation. The scattering of radiation causes atmospheric cooling, whereas absorption can cause atmospheric warming.
  • Aerosol indirect effect. Aerosols modify the properties of clouds through a subset of the aerosol population called cloud condensation nuclei. Increased nuclei concentrations lead to increased cloud droplet number concentrations, which in turn leads to increased cloud albedo, increased light scattering and radiative cooling (first indirect effect), but also leads to reduced precipitation efficiency and increased lifetime of the cloud (second indirect effect).

Clouds, however they’re formed, are sort of like the window-shades of the world.  In general, increased cloud cover has a cooling effect (clouds can also trap heat, thereby keeping it warmer at night in an area than another area that doesn’t have cloud cover).  In general, decreased or no cloud cover means warming.   Increased evaporation of the oceans due to increased temperature has a tendency to see more clouds form as the percentage of water vapor rises.  Cooler temps mean less evaporation and thus less cloud formation.  It is a mechanism that is and has been studied for years, but science still doesn’t completely understand the process. 

But you don’t have to be an atmospheric scientist to know it is a critical part of any study of the earth’s climate, but one that has essentially been relegated to the sidelines in the AGW scare, at least till now. 

Finally, note the "oh, yeah, by the way" moment in the article – "declining solar cycle". Tell me – which do you suppose might have more effect – pollution from a couple of emerging countries or a huge burning solar mass that can heat your day up from 69 degrees at 7am to 94 degrees by noon and now showing declining activity?

Yeah, me too.

Oh and one other question – if the AGW crowd is terrified of the increase of global temps, and if they actually believe that we must find a way to allay that, doesn’t it seem that (stipulating this study is actually correct) they should be encouraging the increase in coal-fired plants to offset the effect of the rise in CO2 (again stipulating that CO2 has the effect they claim it has)?

[HT: looker]


Twitter: @McQandO