Friday, August 3, 2007
Hot air cause of Kilimanjaro ‘crisis’
Figure 9. Sculpted finger-like features called “penitentes” are a striking feature on the Kibo ice cap, providing further evidence that warming is not at work there. Solar radiation and sublimation tend to create such features; infrared radiation and sensible-heat transfer smooth them. Nicolas Cullen of the University of Otago in New Zealand is silhouetted in this photograph taken by Georg Kaser during a recent field season. Photograph courtesy of Georg Kaser.
Hot air cause of Kilimanjaro ‘crisis’
New findings from glacier experts signal it’s time to remove another catastrophe from the list of alarmist global-warming predictions.
Scientists report in the July/-August issue of American Scientist that “warming fails spectacularly to explain the behavior of the glaciers and plateau ice on Africa’s [Mount] Kilimanjaro.”
Scientists from the University of Washington and Austria’s University of Innsbruck studied 20 years of field work and comprehensive data regarding Mount Kilimanjaro. They made numerous findings that individually and collectively refute any notion that global warming has any meaningful connection to the recent retreat of Kilimanjaro’s alpine glacier.
As noted at the beginning of the American Scientist article, “Viewers of the film An Inconvenient Truth are startled by paired before-and-after photos” of Kilimanjaro’s glacier. The scientists document, however, that the three data sets offering the most reliable readings of Kilimanjaro’s recent temperatures “do not suggest that any warming at Kilimanjaro’s summit has been large enough to explain the disappearance of most of its ice.”
Indeed, two of the three data sets indicate either no temperature change or a net cooling at Kilimanjaro during recent decades.
Moreover, regardless of temperature trends, “temperatures measured at the altitude of the glaciers and ice cap on Kilimanjaro are almost always substantially below freezing,” the scientists report. Only on rare occasions do temperatures reach as high as 26 degrees Fahrenheit, which is still six degrees below freezing, the scientists note.
So what, then, can be causing Kilimanjaro’s glacier to shrink? The scientists point out that declining precipitation atop Kilimanjaro is the real culprit.
With the exception of the past two years, when snowfall has been relatively abundant and has replenished some of Kilimanjaro’s alpine snow pack, conditions have been relatively dry in recent years around Kilimanjaro. Sublimation — a process by which snow evaporates in sub-freezing temperatures — is occurring faster than snowfall is able to replenish it.
Indeed, as far back as 2003, scientists have been aware that declining precipitation is likely responsible for Kilimanjaro’s retreating glacier. “Although it’s tempting to blame the ice loss on global warming, researchers think that deforestation of the mountain’s foothills is the more likely culprit,” reported the Nov. 23, 2003 issue of Nature magazine. “Without the forests’ humidity, previously moisture-laden winds blew dry.”
Is Kilimanjaro’s ice cap therefore doomed? Not necessarily, say the scientists in American Scientist. Global warming, the alleged culprit initially framed for the receding glacier, may be the glacier’s best hope for survival.
If temperatures occasionally rise above freezing atop Kilimanjaro, the scientists explain, the vertically sharp shape of the glacier would become more of a gentle slope. A gentler slope would allow for the more efficient capture and retention of the snows that occur. Kilimanjaro’s glacier would then thicken and expand its range.
Moreover, warmer temperatures might facilitate more precipitation, which would further reinforce mountaintop snows, the scientists report.
As far as the overall global warming picture, science is showing that Kilimanjaro is more the rule than the exception.
In the past month alone, Nature magazine has published the results of two new studies that have slammed the door on claims that global warming is causing unusually strong and frequent hurricanes. The studies document that the 1970s and 1980s were periods of “anomalously low” hurricane activity compared to historical norms, and that the higher frequency and intensity of Atlantic Ocean hurricanes since then is merely “a recovery to normal hurricane activity, rather than a direct response to increasing sea surface temperature.”
Similarly, claims that global warming is causing an alarming retreat in Himalayan glaciers are also being refuted by science. As reported in the September 2006 issue of the American Meteorological Society’s Journal of Climate, “Glaciers are growing in the Himalayan Mountains, confounding global warming alarmists who have recently claimed the glaciers were shrinking and that global warming was to blame.”
The lesson to be learned from such frequent backpedaling on global warming claims is that we cannot accept at face value the never-ending, scare-of-the-month global warming predictions. Let’s give sound science a chance to tell us the truth about global warming.
A team of workers from the the Indian Institute of Himalayan Geology of Dehra Dun walk over the Kedarnath glacier to study the melting process. (Tomas Munita for The New York Times)
Haze over Indian Ocean contributes to the melting of Himalayan glaciers
The Associated Press
Thursday, August 2, 2007
BANGKOK: Huge haze clouds over the Indian Ocean contribute as much to atmospheric warming as greenhouse gases and play a significant role in the melting of the Himalayan glaciers, according to a study published Thursday.
Scientist Veerabhadran Ramanathan and his colleagues sent unmanned measuring devices into the haze pollution, known as Atmospheric Brown Clouds, over the Indian Ocean in March 2006 near the island of Hanimadhoo.
Measuring aerosol concentrations, soot levels and solar radiation, the team concluded that the pollution — mostly caused by the burning of wood and plant matter for cooking in India and other South Asian countries — enhanced heating of the atmosphere by around 50 percent and contributed to about half of the temperature increases blamed in recent decades for the glacial retreat.
Ramanathan said his team's research shows that the brown clouds are therefore an additional factor in the melting of glaciers, along with overall global warming caused by greenhouse gas emissions.
Until this study, which is published in the journal Nature, scientists believed the brown clouds mostly deflected sunlight, cooled the atmosphere and did not contribute much to the effects of global warming. But Ramanthan said their observations show that particles also absorbed sunlight and warmed the atmosphere much more than previously believed.
"All we are saying is that there is one other thing contributing to atmospheric warming and that is the brown cloud," said Ramanathan, a chief scientist at the University of California San Diego's Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, Calif.
Prof. Syed Iqbal Hasnain, a senior fellow at the Center For Policy Research in New Delhi and a glacial expert, agreed that brown clouds could be a factor in the melting of the glaciers that supply water to most Asian rivers. But he said more research was needed to understand why the Himalayan glaciers in China are also melting at a dramatic rate.
"Glaciers across Himalaya are receding but their response is dependent on many factors like size, orientation and intensity of monsoonal moisture," he said in an e-mail message from New York. "There is a great urgency on the part of the international scientific community to establish high altitude research stations across Himalaya and monitor climate accurately to develop scientifically correct models."
Scientist have expressed concerns that the Himalayan glaciers will melt entirely and the rivers will run dry for months at a time, fed only by annual rains like the monsoon that sweeps across the subcontinent every summer. Exacerbated by India and China's fast-growing, coal-fed economies, scientists have predicted that the glaciers are melting at a rate up to 15 meters (49 feet) a year and could further decline with temperatures projected to rise as much as 6.4 degrees Celsius by 2100.
While much of the melting has been blamed on global warming, Ramanathan said the new findings offer another way to tackle the problem of the melting glaciers. He said he was hopeful the findings would spur regional governments to step up efforts to replace wood-burning stoves, for example, with solar powered cookers and biogas plants that capture methane and carbon dioxide emissions and convert them to fuel.
Achim Steiner, the executive director of the United Nations Environment Program, which helped fund the project, said the research showed that brown clouds are "complicating and in some cases aggravating" the effects of growing greenhouse gases.
"It is likely that in curbing greenhouse gases we can tackle the twin challenges of climate change and brown clouds and, in doing so, reap wider benefits — from reduced air pollution to improved agriculture yields," Steiner said in a statement.
Ramanathan is now in India working on a pilot project with the Energy Research Institute in New Delhi that would provide fuel alternatives to 1,000 families in Kumaon region in the foothills of the Himalayas. If the project proves successful, he said he is hoping that it can be expanded in other parts of India.
"If the pollution increases, the glacier retreat will be much worse than projected," he said. "It now depends on what energy path that Indian, China and Asia will take."
Posted by lmurx at 7:25 AM