Friday, September 28, 2018


Those of us living in temperate climates have winters and summers that clearly tell us weather can be cyclical, even dependably so when orbits around the sun bring recurring variations.  Less certain variations can add to or reduce the annual weather patterns.  A book that helped me understand more of how those variations impact our climate was published in 2009.  The author is perhaps the best informed climate scientist and deserves getting his message spread.

Storms of My Grandchildren by James Hansen (2009, Bloomberg USA, New York, 303 pages) notes on page xv of the preface that "Global warming does increase the intensity of droughts and heat waves, and thus the area of forest fires.  However, because a warmer atmosphere holds more water vapor, global warming must increase the other extreme of the hydrologic cycle--meaning heavier rains, more extreme floods, and more intense storms driven by latent heat, including thunderstorms, tornadoes, and tropical storms."

He had given related testimony to a Senate committee in 1988.  His earlier 1981 paper in Science "described likely climate effects of fossil fuel use".  And apparently was why "the Department of Energy reversed a decision to fund my research, specifically citing criticism of that paper as being alarmist."

The book makes one realize that money and politics inordinately influenced policy decisions beyond rational levels in the past as they do today.  Pages 124-139 added to my understanding of that.

I have had a few recent posts telling some of how the oceans have influenced evolution by their layered structure.  Hansen, on page 101, says "If we can measure how much the oceans are warming, we will know not only how much additional global warming is in the pipeline but also how much we must reduce the human-made forcing if we want to stabilize climate."

If you want to know more he has some good suggestions and explanations.  The most significant new one to me was the safety and efficiency of fourth generation nuclear energy which could operate safely using up the nuclear waste our first generation nuclear plants have generated (about 6 pages beginning on page 194 of chapter nine).

The solution isn't simple, the causes of global warming interact in sometimes uncertain ways.  But knowing about greenhouse gases, volcanic eruptions, fossil fuels, alternative energy sources, the sensitivity of glaciers, coral reefs, low-lying coastal regions, and the oceans might help us come to some partial solutions for saving ourselves and the biological world we depend upon.

Joseph Engemann,   Kalamazoo, Michigan   September 28, 2018

My thanks to Dr. Charles Heller for the loan of Hansen's book.

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