A new study by British and Canadian researchers shows the global temperature rise of the past 16 years, estimated previously at 0.05 Celsius degrees per decade, has been underestimated by over a half. Incomplete temperature data, mainly from the polar regions and Africa, is to blame. (See Video)
When these gaps were filled in using satellite data, the researchers found global surface temperatures rose 2.5 times faster over the 1997 to 2012 period than was previously realized. The new estimate of 0.12 Celsius degrees per decade is in line with the long-term climate trend previously reported by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
The lack of data from the Arctic, which is warming faster than the rest of the planet, was the principal factor in the low balled figure.
A significant implication of this study is previous attempts at explaining the so called “global warming hiatus” in terms of heat uptake by the deep oceans, the cooling effect of smog over China and India, or natural fluctuations like El Nino are still likely valid and therefore the planet is probably warming faster than has been anticipated.
As is apparent from the following NOAA map of sea surface temperatures for the week of 2011/01/30 to 2011/02/05, the bulk of the heat attributed to climate change is accumulating in the tropical latitudes 30 degrees either side of the equator.
Thermodynamics dictate that heat always flows spontaneously from regions of higher temperature to regions of lower temperature and therefore considering the poles are colder than the tropics and also cover less area it is only natural that they would be warming rapidly as heat migrates there.
One of the main instruments of this poleward heat transport is tropical cyclones, which occur most frequently in the northern hemisphere.
At the poles the incoming heat melts ice at the rate of about 350 billion tons per year, resulting in sea level rise of 11.1 millimeters since 1992.
If all of the polar ice were to eventually melt, the USGS estimates the seas will rise by 80 meters or about 260 feet.
The following schematic demonstrates that the poles are not the only place where ocean surface heat can migrate to a region of lower temperature. Deep water is an even greater heat sink and therefore relocation opportunity.
The only thing we can do to try to influence the poleward migration of heat and thus the melting of icecaps is to sap the energy of tropical storms by converting surface ocean heat to work in a heat engine and moving more to deeper water through an OTEC system using a deep water condenser.
Some of this vertical transfer, which is the less damaging of the heat transfer alternatives, is occurring naturally but we can enhance this to the detriment of polar movement by producing all of the renewable energy we need with the right kind of ocean thermal energy conversion system.
On a number of occasions Ronald Reagan claimed the world would unite in the face of a worldwide threat from beyond our planet.
Apparently he was wrong. We are faced with the existential threat of climate change but instead of coming together to fight the danger on the basis of sound science we are for the most part each jockeying to try to be the last standing amongst the planetary ruins.
Could there be a more Pyrrhic, egotistical, or fruitless objective?