|2011-02-16 22:07:32||Walks like a duck - a proposed article for Huffington Post|
I haven't managed to get an article into Huffington Post yet so this is going to be my second try (my first attempt was Monckton Myths). This is a bit more general, I wrote it for a broad audience. It's still a bit dry, I tried channeling my inner-Rob-Honeycutt but well, it's hard to break from the dispassionate science guy voice. Anyway, feedback welcome before I send it off to Huff Post. Note - I will add many many links to this article but will do this down the track in the Huff Post admin system:
If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck...
In 1859, physicist John Tyndall ran an experiment showing carbon dioxide traps heat. How does this happen? Imagine you're wearing infrared goggles, looking at a warm object. Through the goggles, the object appears as a bright, glowing shape. But look through a tube of carbon dioxide and the brightness goes dark. This is because the infrared radiation from the object is blocked by carbon dioxide. Tyndall also anticipated what should happen if greenhouse gases were causing warming of our atmosphere. It took nearly 130 years for measurements to confirm Tyndall's predictions.Tyndall predicted that greenhouse warming should cause nights to warm faster than days. This is because at night, the Earth's surface cools by radiating heat out to space. Greenhouse gases trap this outgoing heat, slowing down the nighttime cooling. It wasn't until the 21st century that Tyndall's prediction was confirmed. Surface measurements found nights warming faster than days. A greenhouse signature had been found in global warming.
Tyndall made another prediction of what greenhouse warming should look like. Just as greenhouse gases slow down nighttime cooling, they also slow down winter cooling. So Tyndall anticipated winters warming faster than summers. Again, 21st century analysis of temperature trends over the last few decades bear this out. Both thermometers and satellites find winters warming faster than summers.
In fact, our understanding of greenhouse warming presents a number of verifiable predictions. If carbon dioxide is trapping more heat, we should see less heat escaping to space. Imagine floating at the top of the atmosphere looking down at Earth with infrared goggles. If greenhouse gases are causing global warming, the bright glowing object that is our Earth should steadily darken. This is exactly what is observed by satellites that measure infrared radiation coming from Earth. Less heat has been escaping to space over the last few decades, at those exact wavelengths that carbon dioxide absorb energy. The researchers who analysed this data described this as "direct experimental evidence for a significant increase in the Earth's greenhouse effect".
Of course, in the world of science, there's only one thing better than direct measurements made out in the real world. And that's independent, direct measurements made out in the real world, all pointing to a consistent answer. If less heat is escaping to space, there's only one place it can go - back to the Earth's surface. Scientists checked this by measuring infrared heat coming down from the atmosphere. These measurements confirmed the satellite data - more heat is returning to the Earth's surface. This extra piece of evidence upon the existing body of evidence led the scientists to conclude that "this experimental data should effectively end the argument by skeptics that no experimental evidence exists for the connection between greenhouse gas increases in the atmosphere and global warming." Unfortunately the scientists underestimated the human capacity to ignore the evidence staring us in the face.
And the evidence continued to build. Another distinctive greenhouse pattern can be found in the atmosphere itself. With heat being trapped, we expect to see the lower atmosphere to warm. But with less heat escaping to space and more carbon dioxide in the stratosphere, we also expect to see the upper atmosphere cool. Satellites and weather balloons both observe this curious contrast between upper cooling and lower warming.
What's really fascinating about all these greenhouse signatures is they also rule out a number of other potential causes of global warming. If the sun was causing global warming, you'd expect so see summers warm faster than winter, days warm faster than nights and the upper atmosphere to warm. Observations rule out the sun.
So current global warming shows all the distinctive signatures of greenhouse warming. To be skeptical that humans are causing global warming, you must believe two things. Something unknown is causing warming that happens to mirror the greenhouse effect. And something unknown is somehow suppressing the well understood (and well observed) greenhouse effect. So we can accept what we know to be true (AGW) or we accept two unknowns.
The saying goes if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it must be a duck. But climate skeptics are trying to convince us it's some other, undefined animal impersonating a duck that's also mysteriously hiding the real duck.
I suppose they might take it amiss if you linked to this (but perhaps you could use it for inspiration?):
It's good - I like the end. My only concern would be that HuffPost is a news site, and this isn't a news piece. It's a good general public article though.
A couple suggested changes:
"Of course, in the world of science, there's only one thing better than direct measurements made out in the real world. And that's independent, direct measurements made out in the real world, all pointing to a consistent answer."
I'd change this to "Of course, in the real world of science, there's only one thing better than a direct measurement made out in the real world: multiple independent, direct measurements made out in the real world, all pointing to the same answer."
"Satellites and weather balloons both observe this curious contrast between upper atmosphere layers cooling and lower layers warming."
|I don't know John, I like the message, but the language is very square for a mainstream media piece. Except for the title and the last paragraph. In fact those two, look out of place with the rest of the article.|
I like the piece but I think I'd stick with one metaphor. Duck or goggles. Or, if you're going to mix them make light of it. Find or create a picture of a duck wearing infrared goggles.
HuffPost is a news site, like Dana says, but they have a lot of opinion pieces as well. I'd leave it up to their staff to figure out if and how to place it. Nothing ventured nothing gained.