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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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  • 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 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.
  • 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 hopemafia ( 155867 ) on Friday April 23, 2004 @03:50PM (#8953370)
    "is it nature or is it humans"

    Everybody tries to make this distinction, but they all fail to remember that humans are a natural part of the earth's ecosystem. So what if we're capable of altering the climate on a global scale?...that doen't make us alien to nature.
    Any significantly large population will alter it's environment, and we owe our existance to that fact, since it was early populations of photosynthetic organisms that were responsible for our Oxygen rich atmosphere.
    People need to remember that the earth is constantly changing. All the organisms living here either must adapt or become extinct, just like they have for all of time.
    Humans have done more damage trying to stop "natural" changes than the "natural" changes do themselves....just look at all the coastal and riverine engineering we do that ends up backfiring with massive flooding and coastal erosion gone wild.
    Now, before I get flamed by econuts, that doesn't mean we should just trash the place...since we'd basically be killing ourselves. But we can't expect to stop natural processes that have been going on for eons, to "preserve" the earth as it was when we started keeping track of it.
  • by raygundan ( 16760 ) on Friday April 23, 2004 @03:59PM (#8953488) Homepage
    Perhaps your slightly misguided antagonistic take on the Christian religion might benefit from some time spent reading. []

    Be careful, or Jesus might run you over with his Prius. Assuming he's not just a fictional thing some really old authors made up. In which case, this is all there is and screwing it up by polluting will end your afterlifeless life that much quicker. Either way, you're screwed. So be nice.

  • 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...
  • by phorm ( 591458 ) on Friday April 23, 2004 @04:12PM (#8953679) Journal
    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 Intraloper ( 705415 ) on Friday April 23, 2004 @04:19PM (#8953776)
    we are already as warm as we've ever seen for the last 420,000 years. See the Vostok Ice Core data, which is is good agreement with otehr ice core data for as far back as the otehr cores go. We know: 1. CO2 (and other greenhouse gasses) trap heat. 2. CO2 (and other greenhouse gasses) have increased rapidly and dramatically in concentration, from anthropogenic inputs. 3. That would be expected to trap heat. 4. WE are already at a local AND GLOBAL temp max for the last 400,000 years or so. 5. We are warming very, very rapidly from that local and global maximum. Given JUST that, even without the good agreement of the models with obeerved data, it seems almost perverse to argue that humans arent creating a pretty solid upward pressure on temps.
  • Re:Come on already (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ChannelX ( 89676 ) on Friday April 23, 2004 @04:32PM (#8953948) Homepage
    So many assumptions in your posting but then again it's on slashdot so that isn't suprising.

    I'll avoid the moronic statement that emissions reduction goals would have no meaningful impact on the environment. There are so many different ways to impact the environment that its just a plain-old-stupid comment to make.

    Now, would you please give evidence, as I'm sure you've thoroughly researched the situation, to provide support for the statement "To really "stop polluting" you would drive the economy to a screeching halt."? I'm curious to see your evidence.

    How about this statement?

    In either case that means lost jobs.

    You mean like the current loss of jobs we've already seen? I suspect that research/development/production of new technologies to help reduce emissions would actually create new jobs. I still don't get why it would cost jobs when there are new opportunities available. This is always the argument I hear against doing anything about our impact on the environment and its a bogus argument.

    So please understand there is no we might as well argument to be made here, its more of a we should'nt unless type of situation.

    Actually its not. There is absolutely no good reason not to start doing something now.

    Unless we are reasonbly sure we are damaging ocean currents and screwing up the climate it makes no sense to certainly RUIN many people well being over it.

    . Many scientists are sure we are screwing up the climate and I'd bet their credentials to say so are far more extensive than yours.

    What is called for is some money and time to conduct real unbiased studies and learn what we can, and to get all the people spewing forth the "bad science" on both sides of this issue to sit down shutup and move over for legitimate study.

    So in your infinite wisdom and knowledge you know that all such studies up to this point are biased and illegitimate. You've read them all?

  • by erik_norgaard ( 692400 ) on Friday April 23, 2004 @04:38PM (#8954017) Homepage
    Many people here claim that 20 years is too small a time scale for any maesure that should be compared against a geological time scale.

    It is interesting then that the last ice age enged with a temperature increase of 7 degrees world average over just 20-30 years!

    Certainly the changes observed are small and the time scale is short. But these data are giving us detailed information of this very short period. And that data is added with the less detailed data collected over the last centuries and milleniums.
    This collected set of data is what form the basis of predictions and models about the climate.

    There is evidence that the average temperature has been rising since the industrialization, and that the increase in temperature has been faster in the later years.

    The measurements only serve to reduce the band of errors and inacuracies. Never the less, slashdotters seem to try twist the evidence around in order to arive at a no evidence at all conclusion.
  • by microbox ( 704317 ) on Friday April 23, 2004 @04:40PM (#8954041)
    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 Newfoundland - accounting for the warm winters, excessive amounts of wind and general crapy weather.

    Now, most of the worlds Icebergs also flow past Newfoundland, since they originate in Greenland. As the iceberg flow increases, there has been measurable decreases in the ocean temperature in a part of the said North Atlantic Current.

    Iceberg flow is increasing... perhaps because of global warming. If the iceberg flow increases to a certain amount, at a particular time of year, then the North Atlantic Current will be reset somehow, and Northern Europe will become as cold as parts of Northern Canada.

    That means permanent snow down to North Germany. Mmmm... just a theory I saw on the discovery channel.

    I think the potential for climate change is only a small reason for reducing car emissions. Environmentalists have done their campaign a disservice by relying on such an easily disputable theory.

    We are affecting the atmosphere at an unprecedented rate. If the world was the size of a basketball, then the atmosphere would be about as thin as a layer of plastic shrink wrap... and it is elementary to life on earth.

    So here's an anecdote about how we're affecting the weather (remember that the plural of anecdote isn't data). When my parent were growing up they hadn't heard of asthma. Today, in some places of the world almost every child suffers from asthma. I think about 20% of children suffer to various degrees in Toronto.

    There was a bad smog day in Toronto, and the emergency rooms at hospitals were filled with children needing treatment. A lot of those children were driven to hospital in SUVs. Screw the environment... do you think that smog might have an impact on human health?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 23, 2004 @04:48PM (#8954131)
    "Kyoto so we can actually lower the rate of global warming by 1% which is likely a natural occurance that we are speeding up in an insignifigant way. Most resonobly attainable emmisons reduction goals would have NO MEANINGFUL impact on the enviornment, over just keeping current standards." how about some citations there, jeb. or are we to take it to be gospel becasue you preech it in strong terms? how about this: you come up with some EVIDENCE to support your bizarre claims that go against the clear consensus in the scientific community. then we can talk. "They will be a huge economic burdon. To really "stop polluting" you would drive the economy to a screeching halt." time to go back and study some economics. developing whole new industries based around new methods of generating, distibuting and using power will be a gigantic boon to the economy.
  • 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...


  • Re:So? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mrfunnypants ( 107364 ) on Friday April 23, 2004 @05:27PM (#8954555)
    Very Nice as well, but arbitrary facts with no correlation are irrelevant.

    True the average temperature of the earth is rising, but your argument is not logical in the sense that fact a does not support argument b.

    CO2 emissions cannot be correlated to the increase in the earth's temperature. CO2 emissions and the people who sprout its affect have in no way proven that emissions equal an increase in the Earth's temperature. In fact go to and type in Carbon Dioxide Emissions, the scientific community has not proven anything that you blatantly state as being connected to fact a.

    Here is a brief Abstract from a very recent journal publication:

    "Only recently, within a few decades, have we realized that humanity significantly influences the global environment. In the early 1980s, atmospheric measurements confirmed basic concepts developed a decade earlier. These basic concepts showed that human activities were affecting the ozone layer. Later measurements and theoretical analyses have clearly connected observed changes in ozone to human-related increases of chlorine and bromine in the stratosphere. As a result of prompt international policy agreements, the combined abundances of ozone-depleting compounds peaked in 1994 and ozone is already beginning a slow path to recovery. A much more difficult problem confronting humanity is the impact of increasing levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases on global climate. The processes that connect greenhouse gas emissions to climate are very complex. This complexity has limited our ability to make a definitive projection of future climate change. Nevertheless, the range of projected climate change shows that global warming has the potential to severely impact human welfare and our planet as a whole. This paper evaluates the state of the scientific understanding of the global change issues, their potential impacts, and the relationships of scientific understanding to policy considerations."

    As has been pointed out countless times before,
    correlation does not imply causality, wash and repeat with your argument and others.
  • Re:So? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by BlindRobin ( 768267 ) on Friday April 23, 2004 @05:27PM (#8954561)
    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 ) on Friday April 23, 2004 @05:31PM (#8954595)
    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" to do damn well whatever we please for whatever reason we want, and it's all part of the natural cycle, or we are _not_ part of the natural system and therefore should limit the effect we have on said natural system, so we have every right to try and correct changes we made, because those changes weren't right in the first place. You can't have it both ways.

    The (rational) pro-enviroment side of the argument claims that the changes we're potentially making are taking place far faster than ecosystems can adapt to them. I believe some measurements show that species are daying off at a rate close to that of some of the big extinction events in history. As such it's a bit more than a "kick in the pants" to evolution.

    Will life survive? Probably. There is a amall chance we could screw up things beyond the ability of the ecosystem to recover, but most likely things will pull through in some form or another. However if all that survives are microbes and it takes another billion years for our level of development to emerge again, well, most people would conisder that a bad thing.

    Certainly there's a certain level of practicality in that, there's also a certain level of selfishness in it, but that's fine too. Every species judges that they are better than any species that could possibly replace them. They'll fight to maintain their position in the world, even if they don't realize what they're doing or why they're doing it, because natural selection has seen to it that all species that don't are extinct. Likewise, our ecosystem, as represented by us, is judging ourself better than all possible replacements. Arrogant, perhaps, "natural," definitly.

  • Re:Come on already (Score:2, Interesting)

    by John Starks ( 763249 ) on Friday April 23, 2004 @06:01PM (#8954837)
    I find it interesting that you insult the parent as having unsubstantiated views and then proceed to express your own unbstantiated views.

    First of all, it is NOT clear that a reduction in emissions would have a significant positive effect on global warming. YOU are the one that must prove that, not the parent. Writing it off as "plain-old-stupid" does nothing to help your case. You are making an assumption that humans have caused the recent global warming, an assumption you must prove or at least support with evidence. Scientists are not "sure we are screwing up the climate," they're merely sure that we have experienced global warming over the past 18 years.

    And we can't just experiment by reducing emissions, etc. like other posters advocate. We WILL lose jobs if we do this. The reasons for this? Reductions in emissions are costly. This increase in cost will result in reduced output, since supply decreases while demand stays the same. The reduced output will force some firms to shut down rather than keep up with the high costs. As a result -- massive layoffs. Yes, there will be some new job openings for new equipment for factories, etc., but the huge increases in cost to all firms will dwarf this.

    Sorry, but your argument does not hold water, polluted or no.
  • 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?...

  • Re:So? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Obfuscant ( 592200 ) on Friday April 23, 2004 @06:29PM (#8955102)
    The earth's average temperature is rising. Fact.

    Not fact.

    We have pitifully little data about the long-term temperature on this planet. We've only been ON the planet for a relatively short time (in geological terms). We've only been collecting temperature data for a pitifully short fraction of that time. For almost all of the time we've been collecting data, we've collected very sparse samples, and almost always near or in population centers (since people are usually only interested in what temperature is it outside their door, and most people live in population centers.) At best, two hundred years of data is actual temperature data.

    Scientists have been guessing at prior temperatures using all sorts of proxies for real temperature measures. Width of tree rings, concentrations of microscopic animals in ice, etc. Not true temperature measures, only things that might be caused by certain temperatures. (Other things can cause tree ring changes, etc.)

    Now the satellites are telling us we are in deep trouble. Unfortunately, we've only twenty years of this data, and during that 20 years, there have been half a dozen different ways of measuring the temperature -- they don't actually have a thousand mile tall thermometer, after all. Infrared emission, etc, are all used to determine temperature, and the methods used don't give the same answers. So, change the method, change the answer.

    And, as has been pointed out, we are actually in the recovery period from an ice age, so it is natural for the temperature to go up.

    It is ridiculous to think that we can stop the planet from going through its natural cycles, even though human nature wants to make us think we can. We think that the way it is now is the way it has always been and must always be, and that just isn't true.

    If you need an example, look at the Oregon coast. About 40 years ago, a river changed its course and created a hugh sand spit where the outlet of the river used to be (and a river outlet where sand used to be!) People started building their expensive, private resort houses on that spit, and now they are afraid that their spit might be eroded and dissappear. Well, it wasn't there 40 years ago, so it is a good bet that it won't be there in another 40 -- but don't tell them they were idiots for building on a sand spit.

    It's the same thing with "protected species". Some people think "species X was here when I was born, it is a good thing to keep it around forever." Not true. Species come and go. It is a natural result of evolution. Trying to maintain the status quo when Momma Nature doesn't want it that way is like spitting into the wind.

    What matters is the fact that dumping CO2 into the atmosphere is greasing the slide into hell. It doesn't matter if the warming is a "natural", normal turn of events.

    Yeah, the hell with the facts, it's more fun to panic and run in circles being afraid of the world. Yes, it does matter if the way things are happening are natural or not. Well, it doesn't matter to those involved in trying to stop nature, since they are the ones who get the grant money to study the "problem". Profit from pandering fear -- it's a great way to make money!

    We're melting. No semantics.

    Take your fearmongering elsewhere, witch of the west, or you'll get another bucket of water tossed on you.

  • by admiralh ( 21771 ) on Friday April 23, 2004 @07:10PM (#8955423) Homepage
    I am in the crowd who does not support most global warming theories. Why? Because they are just that, theories. We try to explain how something works, have the audacity to think we can model it, then go along the lines of where the most money is.

    How about that controversial Theory Of Gravity? I mean, why should we support it, because after all it's "just a theory?"

    This rant sounds like something straight out of the mouth of Rush Limbaugh and the other right-wing "there is no problem here" people. Most of these "facts" have been debunked time and time again, but your side always cynically believes that the scientists are looking for a meal ticket rather that solving real problems.

    One side effect of clean energy is more energy consumption and production. This leads to a new pollution which may account for some of what we see, heat. Heat is a standard byproduct of all energy use. As we get more efficient in producing it we consume more... so how long before we stop worrying about what chemicals go into the air and start worrying about the excess heat we push there.

    Most of your post was right-wing claptrap, but this isn't. It is a real problem, and is one of the big concerns about some clean energy technologies such as solar, especially space-based solar. And I'll also agree about the problem with Eastern countries and their pollution. Many in the West would like to have trade based on trade between equals (i.e. don't trade with China until they bring their environmental regulations up to a reasonable level), but the free-trade zealots won't here of it. Buy those cheap Chinese products, and don't worry about the Chinese environment or Chinese greenhouse gases.
  • by djeca ( 670911 ) on Friday April 23, 2004 @07:57PM (#8955758)
    The Medieval Warm Period occurred as Europe was recovering from the collapse of the Roman Empire, resulting in deforestation across Europe as farming communities expanded. The Little Ice Age began around the time the Black Death caused a 40% fall in the population of Europe, and continued as the genocide of the native North American peoples caused massive reforestation over New England.

    Correlation is not causation, of course, but holding up the MWP and LIA as examples of non-anthropogenic climate change events is making an unwarranted assumption.

    Our species has been altering ecosystems on a massive scale for tens of millenia; It'd be pretty amazing if the destruction of Europe's broadleaved forests over the last 10 millenia turned out to have left no trace on the climate record. The same goes for the fire management of the Australian forests, or the turning of China into one vast paddy field. I just don't understand how it is possible to believe that taking things one step further - pumping vast quantities of carbon from under the ground, massively changing the composition of the atmosphere - will magically have no effect at all on the climate.
  • by Watts Martin ( 3616 ) <layotl@[ ] ['gma' in gap]> on Friday April 23, 2004 @08:25PM (#8955931) Homepage

    I haven't seen anyone credible suggest that we turn back the clock. What I've seen, primarily, is suggestions that we find ways to reduce our impact on our environment. The "global warming skeptics" tend to use language similar to yours, about simple black-vs.-white worldviews... and then go on to paint everyone arguing for restrictions, changes or even just more careful planning as anti-technology neanderthals. This is just as much of an excluded middle fallacy as what the skeptics are accusing the scientists of. (And please notice how frequently we're asked to accept that reports produced by environmental NGOs are tainted because they have an "agenda," but reports produced by industry groups with an unquestionable interest in the specific outcome they always find are good science.)

    According to the EPA [] (which you'll recall is routinely attacked by the "alarmist environmentalists" for being far too conservative), "There is certainty that human activities are rapidly adding greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, and that these gases tend to warm our planet"; the IGCC concluded in 2001 that the observed warming trend is "unlikely to be natural in origin." Slashdottians keep fighting a battle which is already over. There are many legitimate questions as to how much we are contributing to the warming trend, but the question of whether human activity is contributing is a done deal. You're right -- there's no point in "wasting energy trying to decide who's to blame," but it does not follow that there is no point in moderating our contributions to that warming trend whether or not we are a primary cause (or even a major contributor).

    The other point that tends to get lost on Slashdot discussions of this topic is that technologists and scientists are providing solutions to these problems, not merely bemoaning them. It is sadly ironic that those promoting new developments in renewable energy, low-impact building techniques and resource conservation practices are, apparently, being so successfully painted as the luddites. This is not about "the evils of technology," this is about keeping up with it.

    If you want us to "prepare for the worst and try our best to ride out the storm," then you should be in agreement with most of those tree-huggin' Nobel Prize winners and "green capitalists" like Amory Lovins. What's blocking us from those preparations aren't the environmentalists and climatologists -- it's the people who have a vested interest in current, higher-pollution methods and products.

    And it doesn't have to be that way. BP Energy's power plants have actually been lower than what the supposedly industry-destroying Kyoto Protocol would have required for over two years now, and they did at no net cost [] to the company.

    [BP CEO] Browne calls the net economic benefit "a positive surprise -- because it begins to answer the fears expressed by those who believed that the costs of taking precautionary action would be huge and unsustainable." In the United States, these false fears have been fed to the public by the coal industry lobby and by many electric power and oil companies. They back their claims by using the work of economists whose climate policy models assume that only a large energy tax -- the "magic bullet" that Browne decries -- will cut emissions. Not surprisingly, these abstract models project high costs, but they are diametrically opposed to BP's empirical evidence of what works and how much it will cost.

    Look. Could human-affected global warming be a repeat of the Y2K Bug scare, in which, after nothing happened, people derided all the Chicken Littles for believing in impending doom? I certainly hope so! The thing is, we'll never be able to "prove" whether the reason nothing serious happened is because people listened to those Chicken Littles and scrambled like hell to fix problems that could be identified and addressed.

The first rule of intelligent tinkering is to save all the parts. -- Paul Erlich