Tuesday, October 09, 2007

First detection of global warming in water vapor goes underreported

A significant paper was published online on September 19th in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences titled "Identification of human-induced changes in atmospheric moisture content."

Why is this a big deal? Lets let the lead author, Ben Santer, explain the key findings (from new media Science Daily):
Our key findings were as follows:

1. Despite the relatively short length (19 years) of the observed water vapor data, we were able to identify a "fingerprint" of human activities in this observational record.
2. Unlike most previous "fingerprint" work, our study used results from virtually all of the world's major climate models. We showed that our identification of a human "fingerprint" in satellite-based water vapor records was robust to current uncertainties in climate models.
3. The model results enabled us to "disentangle" the contributions of different factors to the overall increase in water vapor. We found that in climate models, this increase in water vapor was primarily due to human-caused increases in greenhouse gases.
4. Bottom line: our results suggest that there is an emerging signal of human activities in the moisture content of Earth's atmosphere. The climate system is telling us a consistent story. The observed changes in temperature, moisture, and atmospheric circulation fit together in an internally- and physically consistent way.
And the reason this is important from Dr. Santer:
One persistent criticism of the "discernible human influence" findings of previous IPCC assessments is that such conclusions were largely based on "fingerprint" studies which relied heavily on surface temperature changes.

The thrust of the criticism was this:

"If there really is a signal of human activities lurking in the climate system, it should be manifest in many different climate variables, and not in surface temperature alone."

Our study helps to refute this criticism, and shows that we have now moved well beyond "temperature only" fingerprint studies.

Here's the press release from Lawrence Livermore National Lab.

About all I can find is coverage in the San Jose Mercury News and brief mention in United Press International. This would have been great to mention during the Bush and U.N. meeting's coverage the following week.

1 comment:

vinbeazel said...

I am new to this site discussion, but not to the question...

Could undersea volcanoes be causing all of this in the Atmozphere; and what if the melting is being done internally, by an electrical/chemical reaction that can be measured? I spent three years on drilling rigs for oil/gas development, watching the company men and the geologist debate about where the oil had gone at elk hills, as we redrilled oil into gas wells. I also studied and observed the horizontal drilling companies and the acidizing crews...

The most important things I learned from the horrible experience was the abundance of natural gas and how much water it takes to develop it...ten barrels of oil/gas brings up 100 barrels of production water. The water is saturated with methanes and the trapped sea water is broken down by acids in the salt and organic waste. Sea water converts into natural gas under extreme pressure.

The companies cannot dispose of this methane fast enough and they are forced to burn it or hide it from the public. If this is a topic that you are interested in, please send me a message to my email at:


I use videos from the energy industry to show to students who want to learn about clean energy development.