I watched a Nova special last night on global dimming. It was fascinating. Let me see if I can recap this.
There are two major kinds of pollutants: visible and invisible. Particulates and greenhouse gases, respectively. Particulates are responsible for global dimming. These visible particles, like the kinds that creates hazy smog over LA, get caught up in clouds, making the clouds more reflective (something to do with these polluting particles being smaller than natural cloud particles like dust and sea salt and thus resulting in more and smaller droplets of water forming a cloud and therefore providing more reflective surface). In other words, less light makes it to the earth because it’s being reflected back into space or otherwise dispersed.
So, wouldn’t that result in the planet becoming cooler? Mmmmm, yes. But….
Having less sunlight energy alters the jet streams. The jet stream that normally changes its flow and arches further northward failed to change. So the monsoon seasons failed in Africa for about twenty years. The severe drought resulted in the mass starvation in Ethiopia. One of the causes, anyway. One of the scientists interviewed has fears that if we don’t get rid of the particulate pollution, the Asian monsoons might fail and that would mean that half of the worlds population would be in danger of severe drought. That would be extremely not good.
Particulate pollution -> global dimming -> bad.
The greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide are the form of pollution that act as an atmospheric blanket, trapping heat like a greenhouse, and resulting in global temperatures rising by 1.5 degrees celsius over x number of years. Greenland melting, ice shelves breaking off into the oceans in the Arcticas, rising sea levels, blah blah blah.
Greenhouse gases -> global warming -> bad.
But wait. One is heating the planet and the other is cooling it? Exactly. Global dimming and global warming are in a state of equilibrium, keeping each other in check. We’ve been making strides and have reduced particulate pollution. And in doing so we’ve seen a dramatic jump in global warming.
What these scientists are saying — and the Nova episode goes into detail about their experiments so this isn’t just anecdotal — is that we’ve been dramatically underestimating the forecasted impact of global warming, possibly by a factor of two. Imagine in a hundred years sea levels being about 75 feet higher than they are now. All of Florida would be underwater. I’m assuming the Disney corporation will just build a dome over the entire state. Aqua World!
It’s my theory that meteorologists’ computer models are based on data that’s a few hundred years old, if that. That’s why their forecasts are unreliable. They don’t account for the change introduced by mankind’s industrial might. At least it seems that way to me. Some channels feature extended forecasts — ten day instead of five or seven. More days to be wrong and then pretend that weather men have control over the weather much less their bad educated guesses.
“Why don’t you see what you can do for us this weekend, Bob,” says the big-haired talking head teleprompt reader.
Speaking of breasts, you ever notice how the female news anchors tend to show a lot of chest but never show cleavage? Troubling.
The strange thing is, while I was watching this Nova episode, I got a sudden pang for Paris. I have no idea why, but all of a sudden I missed France. I’ve only been there once and only for three weeks or so. Was only in Paris for a week. Tried to order a burger at McDonald’s on the Champ d’Elysee and ended up with a container of potato wedges. I started pondering going there this summer. I seriously doubt it’ll happen but … I realized that it’s possible. There’s nothing stopping me and it’s only a six hour flight or so (when I remember that I live on the east coast now). I would like to be in the sculpture garden at the Louvre. I would like to be in the medieval streets of Crest. The wide boulevards of Paris. The quaint, Alps-abutted, downtown of Grenoble. The beautiful women everywhere. The frustrating debilitation of not speaking a lick of French. Then I started thinking that I’d rent French movies and watch them with the English subtitles on and vice versa.
Occasionally, I get the same pang for Yoshi’s Jazz Club in Oakland. But how my brain got to Paris from a show on climate change … don’t know. They must have showed a picture or something.
Alright, I’m going to do … something. Else.