Saturday, October 08, 2005

Comparison of London and Godthab wrt Climate Change

Now this little discussion is not rooted in months of scientific research and I don't intend to submit it to Nature but it makes for interesting reading when placed into the Kyoto Protocol paradigm.

During the geologically recent ice ages (there were four of them) a huge ice sheet extended over much of northern Europe. The southern edge of the maximum extent of this ice sheet has been deduced to lie not far north of London. This ice sheet has receded back to a couple of remnants in Norway during the past 10,000 years. Now, let's go back to around 25,000 years. Imagine the present location of London on a windswept alluvial plain devoid of trees - a tundra like topography. A few miles to the north there was a huge wall of ice - the terminal face of the great ice sheet.

Now fast forward to today. We'll travel north and west to Greenland, capped by a huge ice sheet. The capital of Greenland is Godthab, a small town on the eastern coast of Greenland. Not far inland is the terminal wall of the Greenland Ice Cap. In this respect, we can imagine that Godthab today might look a lot like the London area 25,000 years ago, during the Ice Age. OK, I suggest you imagine something and that isn't science, is it? Oh but yes it is if the mind sees things that can be backed up, verified and tested. And geologists have done all that.

So, what is the temperature in Godthab these days?. Let's take just two values - July Maximum 10ºC and January Minimum -10ºC.

Next, let's look at the same data for London. The same two values are July Maximum 23ºC and January Minimum 3ºC.

Both values have exactly 13 celsius degrees difference!

So what does this mean? Not a lot in strict empirical terms. But in relative terms remember that the Kyoto Protocol aimed (I use the past tense on purpose) to reduced global warming by precisely 0.2ºC. That's one fiftieth the size of the probable temperature change between 25,000 years ago and today. And the Ice Ages were natural events with no anthropogenic input. Which means that climate change scientists may not be capable of comprehending the problem of global warming at all. Unless they consider a lot more time than the past 1,000 years!

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