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Space Science

Satellites Show That Earth Has a Fever 596

Roland Piquepaille writes "A recent study from NASA says that satellites are acting as thermometers in space. Contrary to meteorological ground stations which measure the air temperature around two meters above the ground, satellites can accurately measure the temperature of the Earth's skin. And this new study, which covers the 18-year period going from 1981 to 1998, shows that the Earth's temperature is rising 0.43C per decade instead of the O.34C found by previous methods. Unfortunately for us, if satellites can more precisely measure this rise of the Earth's temperature, they cannot cure this fever. This overview contains more details and a spectacular image showing the European heat wave of the summer of 2003."
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Satellites Show That Earth Has a Fever

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  • So? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by hackstraw (262471) *
    Here we go again with the whole "Global Warming" theory. Lets just drop it. Hasn't everyone heard of ice ages? If not take a look here [state.il.us]. The last sentence says:

    If "ice age" is used to refer to long, generally cool, intervals during which glaciers advance and retreat, we are still in one today. Our modern climate represents a very short, warm period between glacial advances.

    And all of these ice ages and thaws (global warming if you will) happened without cars, humans, or anything. It just happened, and l

    • Re:So? (Score:2, Insightful)

      by U.I.D 754625 (754625)
      I agree, and 18 year study proves nothing for a world and solar system that is 4.55 billion years (plus or minus about 1%).
      • Re:So? (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Unnngh! (731758)
        True, it proves nothing. That doesn't mean that all the current changes, however, are natural. We definitely have the means to cause large-scale climate changes, means which have not been present on earth in all but the last few of those billions of years.

        So, are we inadvertently changing the climate for the worst? I personally don't think we are (at least not on a large scale), but there's no good way of telling right now. We probably won't know that we are until it's too late enforce negative gains

        • Re:So? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by U.I.D 754625 (754625) on Friday April 23, 2004 @03:33PM (#8953203) Homepage Journal
          The study is important and needs to continue, but you can't assume a rise in temperature over 2 decades means something bad is happening. I don't think we'll ever have enough data to prove whether we are right or wrong until the damage has been done (or apparently not done).
        • Re:So? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by ThosLives (686517) on Friday April 23, 2004 @03:58PM (#8953475) Journal
          That doesn't mean that all the current changes, however, are natural.
          Interesting philosophical debate: If humans are a product of nature, and humans do something, shouldn't that still be considered "natural"? If the evolution of a species such as humans is then natural, and that evolution "naturally" results in technology which stresses an ecosystem in strange ways, is that bad? Is it good?

          I think this whole debate is moot until people can decide on how to determine such fundamental things. Saying stuff like "because it will cause certain species to die off" doesn't mean anything in an amoral, evolutionistic world view: is it bad for species to die off?

          I also like to point out for all you who like their statistics: correlation does not imply causality. (For instance: the fact that trees always move when there is wind does not mean that the movement of trees causes wind.) I do not yet think it is possible to set up an experiment to test the relationship between millions of variables and some average global temperature reading. The inertia and chaotic nature of the terrestrial atmospheric system also makes it quite difficult to put into a control system - do you use a PID controller? H-infinity? What *should* the setpoint be? The answer to most of these is "nobody knows".


          • Re:So? (Score:5, Insightful)

            by pclminion (145572) on Friday April 23, 2004 @04:25PM (#8953851)
            Interesting philosophical debate: If humans are a product of nature, and humans do something, shouldn't that still be considered "natural"? If the evolution of a species such as humans is then natural, and that evolution "naturally" results in technology which stresses an ecosystem in strange ways, is that bad? Is it good?

            This is what really gets to me in these debates. Most people are unwilling to view humans as merely a part of the complex biological system that exists on the surface of the planet. I see no logical reason why the human species should be set apart specially from everything else, and no reason to arbitrarily define human actions as "unnatural."

            I think the reason people are unwilling to consider this idea, is that they assume the reason it was brought up in the first place was to justify the trashing of the environment, under the guise that we are simply behaving "naturally." But seriously, that isn't the point. The point is, the Earth must be viewed holistically, as a system of many interacting and not always distinct parts. To think that we, as one small part, can somehow direct our actions in such a way as to favorably control its evolution, is arrogant and mistaken.

            Life and climate are dynamic, chaotic systems. We've all heard of the Butterfly Effect. Even the smallest, insignificant action has profound effects on everything, given enough time. Are these effects good or bad? What causes them to be good or bad? Suppose that we are causing global warming, and in 100 years the world will be a tropical rainforest. All sorts of new species will evolve in the hot jungles of northern Canada. What "right" do we have to alter the Earth's climate, cooling it down, and preventing those species from emerging?

            The fact is, global warming is a problem because it is a problem for humans. I don't think the Earth cares if species die off, and new ones emerge. It is a continual process of trying to come into equilibrium -- except the equilibrium is always shifting because of the billions of outside influences. Except this term "outside influences" is also a misnomer, because there are no truly "outside" influences -- the universe is one big system of cause and effect, and the closer you look at it, the harder it is to make distinctions between any of the parts.

            Does any of this mean that we shouldn't do our best to curb our production of CO2? It depends, first of all, on what the immediate consequences to human civilization would be. Are we going to flood all our coastal cities? If so, it hardly makes sense to argue about whether the decision is "right" or "wrong" -- it's a matter of practicality. But if not... Suppose species are wiped out, migration patterns shift, ecosystems turn to deserts, deserts to to jungles, evolution gets a kick in the pants in general... Can somebody give me a fundamental, justifiable reason why that is "wrong?" Are natural changes only "right" if they are not guided by conscious awareness? Can you provide a justification for such an arbitrary viewpoint?

            • Re:So? (Score:3, Interesting)

              by BlindRobin (768267)
              see pond... see algae bloom see algae bloom kill everything in the pond see algae die out too... all natural people are natural too and with about as much ability to curb their own grwoth as the algae...
            • Re:So? (Score:3, Interesting)

              by Daetrin (576516)
              Most people are unwilling to view humans as merely a part of the complex biological system that exists on the surface of the planet. I see no logical reason why the human species should be set apart specially from everything else, and no reason to arbitrarily define human actions as "unnatural."

              What "right" do we have to alter the Earth's climate, cooling it down, and preventing those species from emerging?

              Either we're a part of the natural system as you posit in the first paragraph, and have the "right

          • Re:So? (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Suidae (162977)
            I think 'unnatural' things and events are usually those things and events that are caused by human activity, particularly as related to technology.

            Hydroelectric dams are unatural, the Great Wall is unnatural, huge areas of land cultivated with plants of highly uniform genetics are unnatural.

            The fact that a thing is unnatural is not bad by most measures, but good and bad tend to be highly subjective. In the context of the environment good and bad relate mostly to the long-term impact of humanities activit
            • Re:So? (Score:3, Insightful)

              by Uggy (99326)
              I think it all boils down to agenda. Nature seems to have an agenda, and that agenda is balance. Stuff eats other stuff. If there is too much prey, more predators are bred. If there is not enough, they die off. The animal and plant kingdom has no ability to look ahead, adapt to coming changes. They only respond and they have no agenda save survival.

              We humans, on the other hand, have our own agenda. For better or worse, our agenda does not at all times mesh well with nature's. We don't just die when
      • by phorm (591458)
        Indeed, while certain "global warming" factors can be traced to pollution, more concerning is the effect on wildlife of both pollution and over-harvesting

        With respect to changes in the Earth itself, this may be part of a natural pattern, or some core activity which is causing a general increase in the outer skin. I wonder if anyone has done a "deep probe" to see how far these changes are penetrating.
      • by Chris Burke (6130) on Friday April 23, 2004 @04:27PM (#8953879) Homepage
        We simply can't wait to collect a geologically significant body of data.

        If pollution is causing unnatural global warming, then we can't wait until said warming is undeniable fact before we act.

        I suggest an experiment: let's attempt to drastically reduce our emissions, as if we were addressing a real global warming problem. Then we can study temperature changes. If the rise in temprature decelerates or reverses, we could reasonably conclude that our pollution was the cause. If not, then we've made our air and water cleaner for no good reason, but at least we'd know!

    • Oops, typoed the cosmic rays [cgfi.org] link.
    • Re:So? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Tango42 (662363) on Friday April 23, 2004 @03:23PM (#8953083)
      I'm inclined to agree with most of your points, but I think the point the environmentalists are trying to make is that the temperature change is much faster now than it has been in the past, rather than it changing more. Things can adapt to slow changes, but fast changes can be more drastic.

      I still don't think we have anything to worry about, personally.
      • Re:So? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by mobiux (118006) on Friday April 23, 2004 @03:26PM (#8953113)
        And what the non-environmentalists are saying is that there is probably nothing we can do to stop it. It's a natual cycle on the planet.

        We have to look beyond what our personally kept records are and look into history to see what may be coming our way.
      • I still don't think we have anything to worry about, personally...

        I'm not an expert on the North Atlantic Current, but I think it works like this:

        There's a world wide system of ocean currents, the most famous of which is called the North Atlantic Current. They're all inter-related, and the said current brings millions of power stations worth of heat to Europe (each day I think).

        Now the current is driven by a delicate balance of ocean temperature differentials (I think), and flows straight past Newfou
    • Re:So? (Score:4, Informative)

      by AtariDatacenter (31657) on Friday April 23, 2004 @03:24PM (#8953102)
      Worst case scenerio?

      Global warming not only increases, but accelerates in a self-feeding reaction that extinguishes all life* on the planet Earth.

      Don't you love worst case scenerios?

      * - Well, any life worth talking about, anyhow. Do we really have to count those microscopic volcanic organisms?
      • Re:So? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by arivanov (12034) on Friday April 23, 2004 @04:09PM (#8953631) Homepage
        Nope, that is not the worst case scenario.

        The worst case scenario is that most of tropical Asia and Southern China becomes a desert. As a result you get 2 billion of hungry people on the move which are part of at least three nuclear armed nations (China, India, Pakistan) and are bordering a fourth one (Russia).

        And that is scary...
      • Re:So? (Score:5, Funny)

        by Jonboy X (319895) <jonathan.oexner@alum. w p i . edu> on Friday April 23, 2004 @04:16PM (#8953735) Journal
        You call that a worst-case scenario?!?

        No, the *real* worst is that the Earth heats up just enough to be considered a warm, sunny vacation destination by aliens who will spend their recreation time anally probing us with tools devices that are something like a cross between an industrial drill press, a belt sender and a soldering iron.

        Now that's a worst-case scenario...
    • Re:So? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by LostCluster (625375) * on Friday April 23, 2004 @03:26PM (#8953121)
      Global warming most definitely exists as a short-term trend over the last 30 years, as so many different measurements can't all be wrong.

      The next question, however, is whether us humans are really the cause of it... would the Earth still be getting warmer even if we weren't creating manmade polution? It may just be that even if were we able to eliminate all of the anti-ozone polution in the world, the global average temerature might still go up anyway simply because the Sun keeps throwing more energy our way.

      It may be possible that the environmentalists are identifying a real problem, but not proposing a strong enough solution... that we'll actually have to somehow reflect-away a good chunk of sunlight in order to keep the Earth's temperature stable.
      • Re:So? (Score:3, Informative)

        by 2marcus (704338)
        Um. Anti-ozone pollution is _not_ the cause of global warming. Actually, ironically enough, it is the opposite - the ozone hole over the antarctic is one of the reasons that the antarctic has _not_ warmed much over the last 30 years.

        Anyway, yes, there is natural variability. But humans have dumped enough GHGs into the atmosphere that our contribution is an order of magnitude larger than the sun's variation over the last 250 years. http://www.ipcc.ch/pub/spm22-01.pdf page 8, for a reference.

        Finally, s
      • would the Earth still be getting warmer even if we weren't creating manmade polution? It may just be that even if were we able to eliminate all of the anti-ozone polution in the world, the global average temerature might still go up anyway

        Sigh, the ozone issue and greenhouse gasses that cause global warming are 2 different environmenal issues. They are both atmospheric pollutant issues, but they are not the same.

        Ozone stops ultraviolet rays from reaching the surface, greenhouse gasses stop infrared heat
      • Re:So? (Score:3, Insightful)

        by schon (31600)
        would the Earth still be getting warmer even if we weren't creating manmade polution

        It's not just that - even if the earth were still getting warmer without manmade pollution, would it be getting warmer as fast?

        This is what the environmentalists are trying to say - but it keeps getting drowned out by people who don't want to hear it.
    • Re:So? (Score:3, Insightful)

      War. Plague. Famine.

      The mass migration you describe is certainly possible, and if temperatures rise enough to melt enough ice tochange coastlines, it's what will happen. Even if the coastlines don't change, there will still be disruptions, and we'll deal with them. Humanity will survive. Life will go on. That's a good thing.

      But millions, perhaps tens or hundreds of millions, maybe even billions, of people will die in the ensuing chaos. You may be sanguine about that; I'm not. I've seen mass moveme
      • Riiiight... (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Andorion (526481)
        Because, you know, one day Los Angeles will be ok, and five, ten years later it'll be submerged.

        What kind of timescale do you think we're talking?

      • Re:So? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Dun Malg (230075) on Friday April 23, 2004 @03:50PM (#8953374) Homepage
        Humanity will survive. Life will go on. That's a good thing. But millions, perhaps tens or hundreds of millions, maybe even billions, of people will die in the ensuing chaos.

        At a rise of .024 deg C a year, I seriously doubt the flooding and and mass migration will happen in a short enough span to cause "chaos", much less the kind that kills billions..

        • Re:So? (Score:4, Informative)

          by schon (31600) on Friday April 23, 2004 @04:41PM (#8954047)
          At a rise of .024 deg C a year, I seriously doubt the flooding and and mass migration will happen in a short enough span to cause "chaos"

          Really? Do you know the difference in global temperature between the last ice age, and now?

          Approximately 3 degrees celsius.

          How long ago was that?

          10,000 years.

          If the temperature is now changing .042 degrees per year (re-read the article - .42 per decade is .042 per year), that means that it's progessing a couple of orders of magnitude faster than it did in the past.
    • so this... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Pi_0's don't shower (741216) <ethan&isp,northwestern,edu> on Friday April 23, 2004 @03:29PM (#8953162) Homepage Journal
      The fact that the parent wasn't modded as "sarcastic" is an affront to /.'s moderation options. In seriousness, there are the 4 million brits who stand to lose their homes, http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,3604,120 0272,00.html (Sorry I don't know how to highlight links), and that's just the impact in one place. But I think the importance is that, although we are coming out of an iceage, there is a definite climate change being caused by human impact on the Earth. No, it won't wipe out all life on Earth or even cause us to go extinct, but (in the spirit that Earth day was yesterday) at least consider that we may be messing with things that we cannot control, and may be damaging things that we certainly cannot undo.
    • Re:So? (Score:2, Informative)

      by mrdogi (82975)
      To add a bit to this, I have been told (sorry, don't have any info on details, I'll see if I can find some) that during this period of Earth's rise in global tempratures, Mars is also warming by a similar amount (given that it is farther from the sun, and all that). So, this global warming seems to have very little, if anything, to do with "green house" gases.
    • Re:So? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by LS (57954) on Friday April 23, 2004 @03:37PM (#8953238) Homepage
      I smell a troll.

      I see that you admit at least there is a global warming phenomena. Most scientists finally agree with that. But you question two things:

      1. Whether humans are causing global warming
      2. Whether global warming is a bad thing

      Let's address these two issues:

      1. Do humans cause global warming?

      1600 scientists, include over 100 NOBEL LAUREATES, agree that human activity is causing global warming. I trust them FAR MORE than you:


      It's obvious that climate has changed on Earth with or without humans, but it's also a known fact that human activity is accelerating climate change in a way different from natural causes

      2. Is global warming a bad thing?

      Here's where the troll part comes in. Do you actually believe the only consequence of global warming is rolling up our pants and walking inland a couple feet? The economy falls apart when the prices go up on oil. What do you think will happen when we are asked to MOVE LOS ANGELES AND NEW YORK INLAND??? What happens when the phytoplankton are no longer able to survive in the ocean water with low salinity? Well, let me tell you that phytoplankton produce most of the oxygen you breath...


      • 100 Laureates (Score:3, Insightful)

        100 Nobel Laureates means very little. How many climatologists are in this number? My guess is few or none. Mostly they will be biologists, physicists, chemists, possibily even economists.

        Now someone with a Nobel prize in physics is going to be a very smart person, but he or she will be no more able to assess claims in climatology than myself.

        • Re:100 Laureates (Score:3, Insightful)

          by RedWizzard (192002)
          Now someone with a Nobel prize in physics is going to be a very smart person, but he or she will be no more able to assess claims in climatology than myself.
          You have an extremely high opinion of yourself.
    • Well, actually, (Score:5, Informative)

      by Space cowboy (13680) * on Friday April 23, 2004 @03:44PM (#8953313) Journal
      Quite apart from the fact that sometimes life didn't go on (which ought to be enough to concern anyone), if you look at how these phenomena manifest, you'll see that it's typically not a linear process. There's normally a critical point over which X happens and below which Y happens. If X is lethal to human life (snowball earth, greenhouse earth) then we'd damn well better hope we stick with Y.

      A case in point is the atlantic conveyer (the 'Gulf Stream' to us Brits). If the conveyer stops, an absolutely massive amount of energy will cease to be delivered to where it currently is. The knock-on effects aren't really model-able, we just don't have the knowledge, but since staggeringly enormous amounts of warmth would cease to be delivered to the UK coastline, you could assume it will get colder, even if you don't know quite how much. To give some perspective, it generates a difference of approximately 20 degrees celcius between points at the same latitude. 20 degrees of delta-T over several hundred billion tons of water is a lot of energy to be dependent on far-easier-to-change salinity level.

      The atlantic conveyer depends on salinity in different parts of the world. If it rains more (in places that it currently rains little) and rains less (in places where it currently rains significantly) the saline levels will change, and the conveyer will be affected - at the critical point, it will simply stop. There's no obvious way we could restart it either. Shifting several hundred billion tons of water is way beyond our capabilities, and restoring the initial conditions may not be sufficient.

      I guess I'm sufficiently worried about the consequences (which we will not be able to counter) to pay some heed to people who try to assess risk under next-to-impossible scientific conditions. I guess, given the potential consequences, that I'm willing to listen more to those who get off their backsides and put some effort into the analysis than people who sit around saying, 'hell we've had ice ages before and we will again'.

      Actually humankind hasn't had ice-ages before, and to suggest we'd just cope is hubris of the highest order. We live in a highly technological society, and yes, given an immense struggle I think we would probably cope, as in 'Western civilisation' would cope. Countless millions would die in poorer, less developed, and simply unluckily-positioned countries as weather systems went out of control. One other thought is that a highly-structured, lean-and-mean (due to commercial pressures, mainly) society is a vulnerable society. If central America were reduced to a desert (unlikely, but possible) then the food chain would break within the US, and other countries would have a hard-enough time to feed their own. 280 million people is a lot of mouths...

  • ....and the only PRESCRIPTION...is more COWBELL [geekspeakweekly.com].

    What? I'm the only one that thought that?
  • Unfortunately for us, if satellites can more precisely measure this rise of the Earth's temperature, they cannot cure this fever. ...unless you outfit a large number of satellites with solar shades in order to reduce the amount of light reaching the earth.

    Never use the word 'cannot' in the body of a story submission. Or was it 'never' that we're not supposed to use? Oh well. SOMEONE will prove me wrong!
  • "A recent study from NASA says that satellites are acting as thermometers in space.

    Q) Do you know how to tell the difference between an oral and a rectal thermometer?

    A) By the taste.
  • by Space cowboy (13680) * on Friday April 23, 2004 @03:20PM (#8953045) Journal

    If the ground measurements are 0.34 degrees/decade, and the external measurements are 0.43 degrees/decade, then presumably the extra energy is contained within the circulating atmosphere. Certainly this ought to make the global dissipation happen faster (air tends to move more than water and earth (!) and has a fairly good heat-sink at the space boundary, not to mention the poles). I wonder if they've taken that into account.

    On a slightly different note, I've always felt a sense of wonder when thousands of billions of air molecules synchronise their motion and hit you full in the face. I've always thought it ought to have a more poetic name than 'wind', considering the breathtaking nature of the phenomenon. Just a thought :-)

  • by FroMan (111520) on Friday April 23, 2004 @03:21PM (#8953058) Homepage Journal
    Perhaps we need a sample size of more than 20 years?
  • is a rather complex process. However, not as complex as one might think as the cure is readily available. The complexity comes in the delivery process.
    • Gather 17.5678 million tons of C8-H9-NO2
    • The hard part is distributing it on a global scale at the same instant, maybe coordinating a release in the upper atmosphere by rocket or something?
  • Gaia, here's some chicken soup for the planet's soul...
  • Earth cycles (Score:2, Insightful)

    by marika (572224)
    We don't even know the earth enough to really be sure we are the ones causing these events. What if the planet is just due to warm up. Yes we mess a lot with the planet, humans are very good with messing with unlown stuff. There is so much we don't understand yet.
    • Re:Earth cycles (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Billly Gates (198444)
      During the middle ages and during another time a few thousand years ago, the earth was warmer then today.

      Grapes were grown in winneries in southern Scottland by the 1200's and 1300's. I believe its still too cool today to grow them there but I dont know. Also the Vikings described greenland as a warm place like their native homeland. They wore jackets of course but not heavy ones like the eskimo's.

      If we study history or read the b ible, we know that grains and large grasslands and farms as well as animals
  • I for one (Score:2, Funny)

    by scotch (102596)
    As a resident of Seattle, I welcome moderate and immediate global warming. Thanks go out to all you CO2 spewing consumers out there.
  • When in doubt... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by phaetonic (621542)
    use the butterfly theory [fortunecity.com] to explain it.
  • define what is causing it.

    is it nature or is it humans.

    we do not know, all we have is correlational data which is far from proof of anything at all.
  • Come on already (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 23, 2004 @03:24PM (#8953094)
    The one thing I've noticed about Slashdot is that a huge number of users seem dead set against the idea of global warming. Am I the only one who thinks that regardless of the exact status of global warming its reasonable to take steps to reduce emissions and so on?
    Assume global warming is real, and then enviromentally friendly policies are needed.
    Then assume it isn't. Its not like enviromentally friendly policies require you to sacrifice your first born son. We enact them, maybe have fewer SUV's, and live in a slightly cleaner world.
    You don't stand to lose anything by assuming global warming is real and going from there. You stand to lose a lot by ignoring it and having it turn out to be real.
    • Re:Come on already (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 23, 2004 @03:29PM (#8953158)
      You don't stand to lose anything by assuming global warming is real and going from there.

      Wrong. People stand to lose their lifestyle.

      But isn't it easy to order others to make sacrifices?
      • Re:Come on already (Score:3, Insightful)

        by dachshund (300733)
        Wrong. People stand to lose their lifestyle.

        Most of our "lifestyle" is still possible with more energy-efficient technology. Inefficient engines don't really add much to my lifestyle.

        And in the process of moving to more efficient tech, we get an economic dividend, as well... Not to mention the defense/political benefits of moving away from a fuel primarily obtained from politically unstable parts of the world.

      • Re:Come on already (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Epistax (544591) <epistax.gmail@com> on Friday April 23, 2004 @06:00PM (#8954835) Journal
        A) Do things for the good of everything, possibly at your own expense.
        B) Do things for the good of yourself, possibly at the expense of everything.

        It's perfectly alright to chastise, and excommunicate for (B). It's not alright to do it for any other reason. Most people hit a balancing point in their own life. If being environmentally friendly is beyond your balance, you're an asshole. Not believing there is any problem despite any amount of evidence is B, and pretending to have an argument about it is B and lying about it.
      • Re:Come on already (Score:3, Insightful)

        by lavaface (685630)
        I can't help but think that humans have the ingenuity to provide current standards of lifestyle and still reduce emissions.
    • Re:Come on already (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Baki (72515) on Friday April 23, 2004 @05:26PM (#8954549)
      People don't want to hear bad news, they don't want to change their comfortable way of life and give up their SUV toys.
      Therefore people keep rationalizing that measurements could be false, or warming is happening but it is not due to human causes etc. etc.

      While I am not yet convinced that the warming has a human cause and am annoyed by those that bluntly claim so while the statistical and scientific evidence cannot proof it yet, I think it is extremely stupid and shortsighted to not act as if it might be true. Yes it is not certain, but there is a good chance that we are seeing an extreme speed of temperature rise which is caused by humans. Just to be sure we should take measures to stop it. It also has some other beneficial side effects such as leaving some oil and wealth for future generations, i.e. just being decent and responsible also for the future of mankind.

      How egoistic and selfish many are. I don't know if this is a typical slashdot thing, or because it is because slashdot is mainly populated by americans and if the general opinion/mentality in the US is such. If I talk about it with people here (in Switzerland or elsewhere in europe) I can hardly find anyone who doubts a human caused greenhouse effect. Some, like me, think it goes too far to claim it as an abolute truth, but almost anyone thinks it might be and thus it is a good idea to behave a bit more responsible and try to reduce CO2 emissions and save some oil for future generations.
  • by mobiux (118006) on Friday April 23, 2004 @03:24PM (#8953096)
    I am assuming that since the red showed warmer areas, the blue areas would show cooler areas.
    And it looks like most of the rest of Eastern Europe was cooler.

    It seems to me that most people think that it's getting hotter, well, it probably is.
    But I don't think that people realize that they have to take into count mroe than the most recent 200 years of history, that's a pretty small time table for something as old as the earth.
    • Actually they can tell the temperature of the past 2000-5000 years depending on which scientist you talk too. Tree's have rings which grow with age, and can tell you a lot about the climate of that year, that's one method, another are rocks/lava, the cooling and formation can tell you a lot about the environment and with carbon testing you can tell when the lava formed. There are many other methods as well.
  • by millahtime (710421) on Friday April 23, 2004 @03:24PM (#8953101) Homepage Journal
    So, the Earth is getting warmer. Who says change is a bad thing??? Is it bad for the earth to be warmer than it is today??? I would guess not since it has been there before.

    I would assume it's because we humans are resistant to change and like what we know. But we are highly adaptive so, I'm sure we will be fine.
  • Climate change (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Doug Coulter (754128) on Friday April 23, 2004 @03:26PM (#8953118) Homepage
    The problem isn't global warming, per se -- some like it hot. The problem could be better described as climate change. Sure the Earth's been through many cycles, but none where we were trying to have a technology-based civilization at the time, with food production concentrated in small areas, and the rest as cities/suburbs. All it would take to create major problems would be a major change in the pattern of rainfall. No one's going to want to tear down, say, New York, just because the climate there is suddenly good for growing crops, while California's went too dry and hot for that. And oak trees take a long time to migrate. Sure, the race will survive, but it might not be with as much fun as it could have been.
  • Not really correct (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Tenebrious1 (530949) on Friday April 23, 2004 @03:28PM (#8953136) Homepage
    And this new study, which covers the 18-year period going from 1981 to 1998, shows that the Earth's temperature is rising 0.43C per decade instead of the O.34C found by previous methods.

    For those who just skimmed the linked article; the article links to another, which says the satellites can only detect temperature on land, but not over snow covered land. Hmm... seems like a skewed data set to me.

    How do they know that the colder, snow-covered regions aren't getting colder, to balance out the average temperature? Or maybe the oceans are getting cooler which might also brings down the average temperature to what the ground stations recorded.

    Maybe the scientists do know, and this is just a case of bad reporting...

    • by maxpublic (450413) on Friday April 23, 2004 @03:41PM (#8953289) Homepage
      Maybe the scientists do know, and this is just a case of bad reporting...

      It's a case of bad reporting. The loss of ice in both the poles and Greenland is well-documented and goes back more than two decades, with some pretty spectacular and sudden melts or glacier break-aways occuring within the last half-dozen years.

      However, as a number of people have pointed out, there's absolutely zero evidence that this is due to human activity. It could very well be natural, as was the case in human history for both the 'little ice age' and period of abnormal warming during the previous millennium which allowed the Norse to colonize the southern tip of Greenland. Both of these changes were more extreme than the changes we're currently seeing.

      Hell, it could just be due to a tiny increase in our sun's thermal output. Most people don't know that our sun is a VARIABLE star, which means that it's energy output changes on an irregular, unpredictable basis. If the solar output were to increase by less than 1/10th of 1 percent over a sustained period of time, you'd get much the same thing we're seeing today - and since the alteration itself would've happened a couple of centuries back (it takes awhile for minute changes to broad impacts) we wouldn't know about it today, since two centuries ago there was no reliable way to accurately measure solar energy output.

      • by 2marcus (704338)

        Given that we receive about 340 W/m2 of solar radiation, and given that the forcing due to human induced greenhouse gas emissions is _already_ 2.4 W/m2 and even if we stabilize CO2 concentrations at 550 ppm it will rise _another_ 3 W/m2, we are going to be effectively adding 1.5% or more to solar luminosity. (Yes, there is some cooling effect due to aerosol emissions, but aerosols are a flow pollutants, GHGs are a stock, which means that the aerosol influence won't grow the same way).

        So if you are stickin
    • by danharan (714822) on Friday April 23, 2004 @03:57PM (#8953453) Journal
      How do we know that snow-covered regions aren't getting colder, you ask.

      Simple- glaciers are retreating everywhere [bbc.co.uk] and polar ice [bbc.co.uk] is melting too. This of course changes albedo...

      As for the oceans? They are getting warmer too:
      http://www.giss.nasa.gov/research/observe/su rftemp /1996.html

      It is incredible that we are still asking whether warming is actually real.

      [freak-out]IT'S REAL DAMN IT, IT's REAL![/freak-out]

      I can understand people questionning what causes warming, but for chriss' sakes people- it's getting warm down here, and weather patterns have become rather erratic:

      Insurance companies have paid out $91.8 billion in losses from weather-related natural disasters in the 1990s so far, close to four times the weather-related claims handed out during the entire decade of the 1980s. (
      worldwatch.org link [worldwatch.org]

      Even without the satelite data, we should know by now that things are changing, and likely not for the better.

      Since I'm commenting... the next stage of uncertainty and doubt is what portion of climate change is caused by humans, with the implication that we shouldn't do anything about it. And the F of FUD, being we'll run the economy.

      Well, none of this is true or relevant. Moving beyond fossil fuels can be good for the economy.
  • by GillBates0 (664202) on Friday April 23, 2004 @03:31PM (#8953169) Homepage Journal
    According to this medical site [stlouischildrens.org]:
    The temperature increases for a number of reasons:
    * Chemicals, called cytokines and mediators, are produced in the body in response to an invasion from a microorganism, malignancy, or other intruder.
    * The body is making more macrophages, which are cells that go to combat when intruders are present in the body. These cells actually "eat-up" the invading organism.
    * The body is busily trying to produce natural antibodies, which fight infection. These antibodies will recognize the infection next time it tries to invade.

    Taken together with Agent Smith's insightful words [hackvan.com]:
    "Human beings are a disease, a cancer of this planet. You are a plague. And we are... the cure."

    I think the message is clear - Mother Earth is trying to get rid of us.

  • Just more data (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Nurf (11774) *
    The problem with this is that it really means nothing. It's useful data to have, but with our current state of knowledge, we can't infer anything from it.

    The Earth's weather is a chaotic system. About the only thing you can be sure of is that things will be different tomorrow, compared to today. With a lot more research, we may be able to find strange attractors for some places at certain times, and use them to predict what is going to happen.

    The human concept of "climate" is entirely that: a human concep
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Take 2 asprins and call me in the morning.
  • by cyber_rigger (527103) on Friday April 23, 2004 @03:36PM (#8953223) Homepage Journal

    Reflect the sun's energy back into space.
    • Paint everthing white

      I know you're joking, but parking lots and roads are responsible for altering weather patterns and causing local climate changes. Birds have even adapted to following highways because of the thermals they generate...

  • by panurge (573432) on Friday April 23, 2004 @04:03PM (#8953539)
    Well, that seems to be the general approach here...it's not happening, or it's natural, perhaps the poles are getting colder...nyaah,nyaah, I can't hear you.

    The point is surely not that the Earth gets hotter and colder. I accept that (where I live I can look out the window and see some leftovers from the last glaciation or so.)
    Rather, it is that the heating up is very, very rapid in geological terms. During the 19th Century when the age of the Earth was realised, it was understood that natural processes were very slow. Now they are happening really rather fast, and the satellite data suggests it is faster than previously believed. There has been, in geological terms, a step change in atmospheric carbon dioxide, and a lagging step change in temperature. (as an aside why can't a geek site manage subscript and superscript? Step changes are usually bad news. I have just become a grandfather and I can't help contrasting when I was born into a post-WW2 world rather full of optimism despite McCarthy et al, and my granddaughter being born into a world where accelerating climate change, population migration, hydraulic, food and energy wars may be the norm. A load of /.ers announcing that everything is just fine does nothing for my peace of mind. You are the intelligent people, for the most part. If you aren't taking it seriously, what are the morons doing?

  • by Van Halen (31671) on Friday April 23, 2004 @04:09PM (#8953622) Homepage Journal
    I happen to work for a company that manufactures and sells some of these satellite-based temperature sensors to the government. I actually work on the ground processing software for one of them, which has all kinds of neat algorithms for turning raw microwave spectrum measurements into meaningful science data, including surface temperature and air temperature at several different levels of the atmosphere. If anyone is interested in the technology behind them, here are just a few of the sensors used by the US government for these purposes:

    MSU - 1970s era air temperature

    AMSU - next generation of MSU, several are flying on US and European satellites ATMS - next generation AMSU, scheduled for first flight in a few years SSM/T-1 - old 1970s/80s era air temperature sensor, the last one launched in 1999 SSMIS - next generation SSM/T-1 that also combines functions of 2 other older sensors (atmospheric water vapor and a ton of surface data like ice concentration, sea surface wind speed, soil moisture, etc), the first of 5 launched in October of last year CMIS - next generation SSMIS scheduled to fly by the end of the decade

    All of the above are what are known as microwave sounders or radiometers. They look at radiation in specific bands in the microwave region of the spectrum (based on oxygen absorption lines) to infer air temperatures.

    It looks like the study in the article was using MODIS [nasa.gov] and TOVS [noaa.gov] data. TOVS consists of some of the above instruments - MSU and AMSU in particular for this application. MODIS is another sensor that doesn't look at the microwave region of the spectrum, so it's out of my area of expertise. Look at the website for more info on that if you're interested. :)

  • More satallite data (Score:3, Informative)

    by bm_luethke (253362) <luethkeb@com c a s t.net> on Friday April 23, 2004 @04:36PM (#8954000)
    Here [nasa.gov] shows some stallite atmospheric data that shows a cooling trend.

    So, which one to believe is the "true" measure of our global climate?
  • by jdifool (678774) on Friday April 23, 2004 @04:55PM (#8954201) Homepage Journal
    If only the average /.er could get out of his/her (yes ! her !) parents' basement, then he/she could notice that it's getting hotter and hotter year after year.

    More seriously though, have any of you heard about Blaise Pascal ? He didn't invented French Fries, but come from the same country. This guy just had a revelation once, during a late night studying. The revelation of God.

    To persuade other people to actually give faith into his idea of christianity, he gave us a cunning scientific principle : bet (based on both probabilities and cost of opportunity). If you bet on the existence of God, and if indeed it exists, you are ready for a happy millenar fucking angel chicks. If he doesn't exist, it's all the same. If you refuse to believe, and he does exist, just bring a cooler with you. If he doesn't exist, you're dead the same way.

    The analogy is relevant in the sense that global warming does exist, but the causality with human activities is not proven. Hence the bet. Of course there are a lot of people saying that it would cost us our life standards. Answer : bip ! bullshit. Go on civil nuclear (just catch up your late, Sam !), spend less oil, learn to walk, get out of your fucking basement and take the streetcar.

    Gosh ! Think, before you brain freezes...


  • by geomon (78680) on Friday April 23, 2004 @05:06PM (#8954319) Homepage Journal
    How thick is the crust where these measurements are made? Crustal thicknesses, thus the depth to which solar energy or other radiant source can penetrate, vary considerably throughout a continent - and between different continents.

    How much geologic activity is occurring in the region sampled? Is it active, like the Pacific Rim areas, or is it relatively inactive, like the cratonic regions of the continenets?

    I consider this pretty important information if one is evaluating this kind of data.

    The first-blush inference drawn from the article summary is that mechanisms contributing to global warming (i.e., anthropogenic sources) are driving surface temperatures on the Earth in the same way as air temperatures. No mechanism is described in either the long article from Goddard or from the summary on exactly how surface temperatures could be affected by human activities.

    The Earth's crust varies from one or two kilometers to several kilometers in depth and there is a great deal of geologic activity that is going on all over the planet irrespective of man's presence. While the evidence of global warming continues to point to a strong antropogenic contribution, both article and summary fail to explain how this paticular information is realted to anything .

  • Heat Wave! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by nanojath (265940) on Friday April 23, 2004 @06:05PM (#8954861) Homepage Journal
    Awright!!! Let's have a crazy flame war about really complicated science that none of us really understand!

    Oh, sorry, did I get here late?...

  • by Fortress (763470) on Saturday April 24, 2004 @12:34AM (#8957124) Homepage
    I seem to remember global warming described as a self correcting phenomenon. The argument wnet as follows:

    1. Earth warms. Could be due to pollution, increased solar activity or increased volcanic activity.

    2. Ocean evaporation increases. Warmer air and water means easier evaporation.

    3. Increased levels of water vapor in the air leads to increased global cloud cover.

    4. Increased cloud cover raises the Earth's albedo (measure of reflectivity) causing less solar gain.

    5. Less solar gain leads to global cooling trend.

    So the atmosphere seems to be a feedback system, like a thermostat or buffer solution. Note that the reverse happens when the Earth is too cool. Also, the increased ocean evaporation mitigates somewhat the rising sea level due to melting ice caps.

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