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Outdated claims mislead

Dear Editor:Global warming is challenging enough without having to continually reargue the most basic facts with those who have not bothered to educate themselves on the issue but insist on writing uninformed letters to editor that mislead other readers. Mike Mason (letter of March 3) quotes a 9-year-old article to suggest that satellite data show cooling in the atmosphere in recent decades. This is based on outdated claims that have since been proven to be false. One early satellite data set showed no tropospheric warming because of mistakes made (by Spencer and Christy) in the methods used to convert Microwave Sounding Unit data to temperatures. A series of corrections to that data set (see e.g., references 1-4) have been made over the past decade, and the results clearly show warming in the troposphere (the layer above the surface) similar to that observed at the surface, and consistent with the results of climate models. There is no controversy about this.Mason further contends, with no scientific support whatsoever, that global warming is not human-caused. A study published in the journal Science (reference 5) concluded that there was not a single article published in the peer-reviewed scientific literature since 1993 that disagreed with the consensus that global warming is underway and is caused primarily by human activities, particularly the burning of fossil fuels. All major scientific organizations, including the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the American Meteorological Society and the national academies of sciences of all major countries have affirmed this consensus (references 6-8). There is no controversy about this, either. Mason further speculates that changes in the sun’s output might be causing the warming. Wrong again. Scientists have long been measuring solar variations as well as other natural factors such as volcanoes and have very good data on the effects of each of these factors on climate. Solar changes have had at most a very minor effect on the temperature trend in the past century. Major volcanic eruptions have had significant but very short-term (one- to three-year) effects on the temperature. (Volcanic eruptions actually cause short-term cooling at the surface and in the troposphere, so it is quite silly to try to blame them for the observed long-term warming.)It is sad that some people are still in denial about climate disruption and its impacts, because the first step in solving a problem is admitting that we have one. We will see more global warming. The debate is now only about how much. The future lies largely in our hands. Will we have another degree or two Fahrenheit of warming that we can adapt to (albeit at some cost) or will we get 5 to 10 degrees more warming and face a global catastrophe? The choice is ours.References: 1) Mears et al., 2003, Journal of Climate, 16, 3650-3664. 2) Fu et al., 2004, Nature, 429, 55-58. 3) Mears and Wentz, 2005, Science, 309, 1548-1551. 4) Spencer et al., 2006, Journal of Atmospheric and Oceanic Technology, in press. 5) Oreskes, 2004, Science, 306, 1686. 6) http://www.ipcc.ch 7) http://www.ametsoc.org/policy/jointacademies.html 8) nationalacademies.org/onpi/06072005.pdfSusan Joy HassolBasalt


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