Why Atmospheric CO2 Should Be Part of the Weather Report

I don’t necessarily want to associate myself with every word in John’s Buell’s post at Informed Comment, The Politics of the Local Weather Broadcast: Call your Station and Demand News of Climate Crisis, but it inspired me to wonder why it is that the local and national weather news doesn’t include the latest figure on atmospheric carbon dioxide. I’m not a climate scientist, but the overwhelming scientific consensus seems to be that the more CO2 in the air, the more the earth traps heat. That should be of concern to everyone. And the data are not hard to find–such as at CO2.Earth, which reports a current number of 409.95 ppm, which is certainly the highest number in the past 1,000 years.

Mentioning the weekly CO2 number as a routine part of the weather report would not only make the point that weather forecaster think carbon matters, it would sensitize the public to the so-far inexorable rise in a key heat-trapping gas.

This is a international issue, but it’s one of particular salience to South Florida: There’s a pretty simple thermodynamic correlation between atmospheric heat and water temperature. And we know that hurricanes get stronger when they go over warmer water. Higher temperatures also contribute to ice-cap melt, raising sea level. Want to avoid more of this? Time to call or email your local weatherperson?

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4 Responses to Why Atmospheric CO2 Should Be Part of the Weather Report

  1. Vic says:

    You are perhaps unaware that we don’t have accurate CO2 level measurements for periods more than about the previous 80-90 years. We didn’t have devices that could do such measurements until the 1930’s. And you can’t measure CO2 from things like ice core air bubbles because you cannot presume that whatever atmosphere is in those air bubbles has not changed significantly over time from things like microscopic algae, or simply leaking around like a deflating helium balloon.

    This data, like much of it used to terrify 16 year olds, simply doesn’t exist as accurate data. Yet it is, presumably, the basis for your call for current accurate CO2 measurements having meaningful context. Something like, “look how much more CO2 there is since 1919!”

    I am really surprised that so many people who constantly claim a belief in science and evidence being necessary, so willingly ignore such needs; that somehow a belief in Climate Change doesn’t require it. It never occurs to people in Academia that others in the same or similar paid-for-research based environments might hedge their data to prove the need for their continued employment, rather than admit that they just don’t know.

    • Suppose it’s right that our data are best for the past 80 years (I’d be shocked if progress hadn’t applied to these measurements). What does that mean?

      Most of the growth in CO2 is in the last 80 years. Is there any reason to believe the the older numbers, mere estimates based on tree cores, ice samples and I-know-not-what, are substantially inaccurate? That CO2 in 1650 was anything like today? If not, there’s nothing wrong with long run comparisons.

      In any case, the last 80 show a huge growth. Climate models suggest a direct link between atmospheric CO2 and warming. Ice caps are indeed melting very fast. So it seems to me that attacking the focus on current CO2 is just spreading FUD.

      • Vic says:

        The reason for a lot of the assertions about climate change are BASED on the idea that we have a wealth of accurate data extending back hundreds (at least) of years. If that’s not true, does that matter to you?

        As I said, you CANNOT get CO2 readings from proxy sources. Ice core samples, as well as tree ring samples, are suspect because of various things like osmosis, bacteria, and microscopic life like algae, as well as being based on incomplete modeling. You simply cannot know CO2 data if it was not directly measured. And as you suggest, CO2 measurements in 1940 are vastly fewer than those from 2018, as there are more measuring stations.

        How do you know there is huge growth in the last 80 years? How do you also know (a necessary component) that the previous 1,000,000 years never Showed similar levels? The fact is, you can’t.

        I know you believe that scientists know what they are talking about on this, but it is simply impossible for them to know what they assert knowing. Impossible. Common sense should be telling you this, but you just don’t believe the logic of your own brain on this.

        Maybe the changes in the climate are harmful in some actual way, maybe they are not. But there is very little data to support any scientific analysis of it. We have NO accurate idea (and accuracy is important on this) of major atmospheric measurements over even a small part of the a Earth for more than a few years. Would you give up half your net worth to fight for this undetermined idea, based on vastly incomplete science? Because that’s what is being asked.

  2. I will link this to the observation of a couple of Welsh professors that the Hawkeye system used to call lines in tennis could have been designed to present a confidence interval that acknowledged that the system has an error range of about +/-3mm (IIRC). That sounds tiny, and for most things it is, but tennis is a binary sport: ball is IN or it’s OUT. Instead, the sport opted to present and treat Hawkeye as infallible, even though it has sometimes been egregiously and visibly wrong. The link is this: a persistent design blind spot against incorporating science and its fuzziness into everyday life.


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