Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Heat is On Soot !

Hold on to your thermometers folks, NASA just found out that it's SOOT causing the melting of glaciers not poor old Carbon Dioxide. It's good to see CO2 get a reprieve at last, especially since it only makes up 0.038% of the Earth's atmosphere and that it's been proven that global warming doesn't follow an increase in CO2 but the other way around! IMAGE THAT!

Yes, new research from NASA and Columbia University climate scientists shows that more than 25 percent of the increase in global temperature between 1880 and 2002 is due to soot contamination of snow and ice worldwide. Pure snow and ice can be blindingly bright, reflecting large amounts of solar incoming radiation back into space, whereas snow and ice that is contaminated with soot -also known as black carbon -absorbs incoming sunlight. The scientists estimate that a soot content of only a few parts per billion (ppb) can reduce snow's ability to reflect incoming radiation by 3 percent. This is particularly more noticeable in the Himalayan Mountain region.

New modeling confirms that tiny sooty air pollution particles are on the move throughout our planet's atmosphere. They travel along wind currents from densely populated south Asian cities and accumulate over a climate hotspot called the Indo-Gangetic Plain, one of the most fertile and densely populated areas on Earth. These winds push thick clouds of black carbon and dust, which absorb heat from sunlight, toward the foothills of the Himalayas where they accumulate, rise and drive an "elevated heat pump" that affects the regions climate. This creates a layer of warm air that rises to higher altitudes, amplifying the melting of glaciers and snow.

"Over areas of the Himalayas, the rate of warming is more than five times faster than warming globally", said William Lau, head of atmospheric sciences at NASA's Flight Center in Maryland. "It reinforces with detailed numerical analysis that soot and dust contribute as much (or more) to atmospheric warming as greenhouse gases. This warming fuels the melting of glaciers and could threaten fresh water resources in the region that is home to a billion people."

Nicknamed the Third Pole, the region in fact holds the third largest amount of stored water on the planet beyond the North and South Poles. But since the early 1960's, the area covered by Himalayan glaciers has declined by over 20 %. Climatologists have been very eager to blame the build-up of greenhouse gases for the retreat, Lau's work now suggests this is not the complete story and might prove to be only a small influencing factor.

The Way I See It....this new evidence is anything but inconsequential. Soot now has become a major catalyst of melting polar icecaps and glaciers around the world from New Zealand to Greenland. Soot in the atmosphere causes regional haze that depresses plant (including crop) productivity and is a significant health hazard. Perhaps the Greenies and Doom Mongers can take a more realistic approach to global warming by getting strict with the developing countries to adopt the already long-standing anti-pollution laws of the industrial, modern countries. This way us westerners don't have to be made feel guilty enjoying the fruits of our ingenuity.

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