May 02, 2004
All Warming In United States Since 1975 May Be Due To Aircraft Contrails

Be sure to click through and look at the image of contrails over California from space seen with two infrared wavelengths. The jet engine contrails have have caused most or all the warming observed in the United States for nearly 20 years.

NASA scientists have found that cirrus clouds, formed by contrails from aircraft engine exhaust, are capable of increasing average surface temperatures enough to account for a warming trend in the United States that occurred between 1975 and 1994. "This result shows the increased cirrus coverage, attributable to air traffic, could account for nearly all of the warming observed over the United States for nearly 20 years starting in 1975, but it is important to acknowledge contrails would add to and not replace any greenhouse gas effect," said Patrick Minnis, senior research scientist at NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va. The study was published April 15 in the Journal of Climate. "During the same period, warming occurred in many other areas where cirrus coverage decreased or remained steady," he added.

It can all be blamed on the airplanes. I picture an Airplane sequel where they fly around in an airplane that unleashes heat waves wherever they go. Elaine could tell Ted Stryker she doesn't know how to surf while right below them a huge wave crashes into Miami while the Miami Vice soundtrack plays. Perhaps Don Johnson could put in a cameo appearance.

Minnis determined the observed one percent per decade increase in cirrus cloud cover over the United States is likely due to air traffic-induced contrails. Using published results from NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies (New York) general circulation model, Minnis and his colleagues estimated contrails and their resulting cirrus clouds would increase surface and lower atmospheric temperatures by 0.36 to 0.54 degrees Fahrenheit per decade. Weather service data reveal surface and lower atmospheric temperatures across North America rose by almost 0.5 degree Fahrenheit per decade between 1975 and 1994.

Will the Kyoto Accord enthusiasts now all swear off flying to international conferences on global warming? Will they swear off flying in general? Let me go out on a limb here and predict they won't.

The development of agriculture thousands of years ago may already have prevented an ice age. So when a certain songwriter "dreamed of 747s over geometric farms" she was simultaneously dreaming of two causes of global warming.

Update: Over on the Crumb Trail blog back40 makes the great point that as we discover different causes of climate change this serves as a lesson that the various solutions proposed by the fear-mongers are naive and premature.

Climate management is much more complex than politicians and journalists realize. It isn't a simple matter of being more frugal in some activity such as burning fuels. The worst thing we could do is to squander our wealth and energy on a large and ineffective program.

A better argument can be made for publicly denouncing the Moonbats of the world than for denouncing skeptics. By whipping up populist authoritarian fervor about the wrong problems and the wrong solutions, wealth, energy and attention has been squandered that could have been more productively applied to useful research into causes and possible management techniques.

I keep arguing forr effort to do research on alternative energy sources because the results would provide many other benefits aside from effects on climate change. By contrast, a worldwide system of regulation and taxes to reduce fossil fuel usage would exact a huge cost in reduced economic growth, would centralize power, and lead to squabbles between nations over fairness of allocations for carbon dioxide emissions. It would also not even do all that much to reduce climate climate change. By contrast Nobel Laureate Richard Smalley's proposal a $10 billion per year for development of alternative energy sources would eventually lead to the development of technologies which would be spread by market forces. Make a cheaper source of energy that just happens to be cleaner and the markets will see to it that it displaces more costly and polluting energy forms. A precedent for this is the way market forces caused the displacement of coal by oil and then natural gas for many uses.

The succession of discoveries about the importance of jet contrails, farming, solar radiation changes, and other factors also argues for a larger effort in climate research to develop a much greater understanding of climate.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2004 May 02 05:46 PM  Climate Trends

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