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Melting ice sparks global warming debate, but who’s right?
by Ryan Roff on January 20, 2011
The crux of proving global warming hinges directly on the ability of science to suggest a trend or hypothesis that can be true over an extended period of time. Although the recent scientific study done by the University of Michigan only spans 3 decades, researchers believe the data that shows the cryosphere’s melting trend may be a significant finding for the relevancy of global warming. But is it just a short glimpse in an otherwise sinusoidal pattern?
Mark Flanner of the University of Michigan conducted the study of the Northern Hemisphere that analyzed satellite data of the earth’s cryosphere — the area on the earth’s surface covered by water in a solid form such as ice, snow, or even frozen ground.
The study, a first of its kind, found that decreases in snow and ice have contributed to “albedo feedback,” which is a change to the reflective properties of the cryosphere. As the earth continues to warm up, the solid water continues to melt, exposing the ground and water to the suns rays which in turn absorb the suns heat instead of reflecting the rays back into the atmosphere.
The effect is that the cryoshere is reflecting .45 less watts into the atmosphere than when the first data was collected 3 decades ago and each square meter of the earth now absorbs 240 watts of solar radiation.
The conclusion, as stated by Flanner, is that “a feedback of this magnitude would translate into roughly 15 percent more warming, given current understanding of other feedback mechanisms.”
A change in climate by 15% would no doubt make global warming a very scary reality, but can a model like this be trusted?
Two potential flaws stand out in the study.
First, 30 years is not a sufficient amount of time to gauge global climate change. Even Karen Shell, a professor from Oregon State who participated in the study, admitted, “[it] isn’t a long enough time period to attribute this entirely to ‘forcing,’ or anthropogenic influence.”
A study that only last 30 years creates an array of variables that simply do not take into account the cyclical trends of the earth.
Second, as already proven in many global warming studies, models are often times overly sensitive and need to be taken with a grain of salt.
Certainly, changes are happening and a study like this that showcases a developing trend is something to watch, but it may be a while before there is much validity to its global warming data.