Global Warming Stops Itself?

Hurricanes reduce carbon emissions.

As we head into winter, the much-anticipated warnings of global warming fall strangely quiet.  Instead of getting hotter as expected, the earth has been getting generally cooler - so noticeably so, that weather alarmism had to be rebranded as the vaguer "climate change."

More and more research is demonstrating that the weather patterns we see today fall well within the range of what has happened in the past.  The political pressure for onerous government "solutions" continues unabated, of course, but the actual science and observable reality are falling further and further behind the environmentalists' desire for power.

It's not really enough to see that the earth is not warming as expected, particularly when other reports predict that things will be worse than expected.  We really need to at least attempt to understand the various elements that contribute to our climate.

You see, Earth is not a static system; there are any number of feedback loops at work.  If you make a change in one place, it won't just have an immediate effect; it will have knock-on effects all down the line.  As the famous explanation of chaos theory puts it, when a butterfly flaps its wings in Mexico, it can cause snow in New York.

Researchers in Taiwan and elsewhere are giving us new insight into how some of these mechanisms work.  According to the New Scientist:

In just a few days a single typhoon can dump the same amount of carbon to the bottom of the ocean as an entire year of rain. The storms do this by ripping mud and decaying vegetation off the land, and flushing it down rivers in huge floods and out to sea.  Two studies have recently measured just how much carbon gets moved from land to sea in this way and come to similar conclusions.

This research illustrates an important truth about world climate: There are any number of effects that are not immediately obvious, but which are truly enormous when you take the time to understand and calculate them.

Everybody knows that hurricanes and typhoons wash stuff into the ocean; we've seen it on TV all too often recently.  And with a moment's thought, it's fairly clear that some portion of that stuff is carbon-based material which, if it's washed all the way into the deep ocean, isn't going to be releasing its carbon into the atmosphere anytime soon.  In fact, other researchers have proposed that we do carbon sequestration in the ocean on purpose; this is just an example of nature doing it for free.

Now, there are at least two possible ways this newly understood phenomenon could serve as an automatic balance for increased carbon in the atmosphere.  The first is that, as Al Gore famously tells us, global warming supposedly will lead to more frequent and powerful hurricanes like Katrina.  Obviously, the more hurricanes, and the more powerful they are, the more carbon will get dumped to the bottom of the ocean, thus pushing our climate back towards equilibrium.

However, it's far from clear that storms actually work that way.  A British court found that Al Gore's use of Katrina as an example of this process in his movie An Inconvenient Truth was wholly unsupported by science.  What's more, recent climate research using historical records of the British Navy showed more frequent strong storms way, way back when the weather was coldest.

But there's another well-documented potential feedback loop.  CO2 is not just a gas we breathe out, it's the gas that plants breath in.

The higher the proportion of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, the happier plants are, and the more of them we get, as NASA found out recently. Contrary to what you may have heard, there is more vegetation on earth today than there was twenty years ago.

The thicker the vegetation gets, the more of it there is available to be washed into the ocean by hurricanes.  A hurricane that hits a desert isn't going to sequester much carbon.  A hurricane that hits a forest, though, is going to sequester quite a lot.  The thicker, lusher, and more widespread the forest, the greater the sequestering effect when the hurricane blows it out to sea.

This discovery is important not just because of the specific action of hurricanes the researchers investigated, though that's relevant enough.  It's much more interesting to consider what it illustrates: the earth has feedback mechanisms to put things back into balance when they are shoved out of balance by something else.

There's an underlying philosophical issue at the heart of the global-warming debate: is our planet more like a bowl right-side up, or upside down?

Imagine a smooth bowl upside-down on your table (smooth, in that it doesn't have the rim round the bottom that most soup bowls have.)  If our climate is like a marble perfectly balanced on the top of the bowl, it's very unstable.  The slightest poke, and it'll be off balance; it will shortly roll down the side of the bowl, across the table, and onto the floor.  This is how alarmist climatologists view the earth's climate: we have knocked it out of kilter through pollution and it will take heroic, expensive, and sacrificial efforts to hoist the marble back up on top of the bowl where it belongs, or else we are all doomed.

This action of hurricanes, though, argues that our climate is more like a bowl that's right side up.  The marble is in the bottom of the bowl.  If it is knocked around a little, it'll roll around in the bowl, but eventually wind up right back where it belongs in the middle without ever getting too far afield.  This is because the further from center it goes, the further up the side of the bowl it is, and the stronger the forces pushing it back.

Now, would it be possible to knock the marble out of the bowl entirely? Yes, with a hard enough push, perhaps; for example, nobody denies that a full-scale nuclear war or major asteroid strike would do horrible things to the livability of earth that would take centuries to recover from, if at all.  But that would be a truly horrific disaster at a single point of time, much too fast for natural processes to respond to.

Our carbon emissions, in contrast, have taken place over decades, slowly building up, and triggering slow but sure natural responses to them.

There's a reason our climate goes in cycles.  Things happen; other physical processes respond.  It's not instantaneous, and there are obvious changes.

But over time, our climate revolves around the average.  Sometimes warmer, sometimes colder; sometimes wetter, sometimes drier.  But it never strays too far from the center point, certainly never so far that life itself can't exist.

Alas, these researchers need to preserve their funding; they can't allow the obvious conclusion of their research to be stated.  In fact, they're forced into making an erroneous statement to avoid looking like a threat to the political consensus of climate change:

However, Hilton warns that typhoons will do little to counter anthropogenic climate change.  "The typhoons store away carbon about 500 to 1000 times more slowly than we emit it by burning fossil fuels," he says.  Hilton says, though, that the figures roughly equate to the amount of carbon released from volcanoes and the weathering of rocks every year.

This is a factual contradiction.  It's been calculated that human activities release perhaps 130 times the carbon of volcanoes, and yet Hilton is comparing the carbon sequestered by storms to the amount released by volcanoes and rock weathering.

There's a big difference between 130 and "500-1000," especially when you consider that this hurricane mechanism is only one of innumerable natural processes which also contribute to the overall mix.  By minimizing the relevance of their own research, these scientists avoid the possibility of stepping on the tail of the monster of political correctness at the cost of their integrity.

Are hurricanes the salvation of the climate?  Of course not, though they can be helpful in alleviating droughts.  But they do illustrate an important truth about the stability of earth's climate over the long term that is often forgotten amid the pressure to "act now!"

Ask yourself this question: considering the millions of years that these same climate researchers say our earth has been habitable to life, is human activity greater in its chemical effects than anything that has happened in all that time?  Or would it be more probable that, to keep the climate stable, earth has developed various adjustment mechanisms?

Let's be more careful about the research before we sacrifice our economy on the altar of environmentalism.

Kermit Frosch is a guest writer for  Read other articles by Kermit Frosch or other articles on Environment.
Add Your Comment...
4000 characters remaining
Loading question...