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Global Climate Change Digest

A Guide to Information on Greenhouse Gases and Ozone Depletion
Published July 1988 through June 1999



Item #d96aug1

Two related items in Nature, 382(6586), July 4, 1996:

"An Incriminating Fingerprint," N. Nicholls (Meteor. Bureau Res. Ctr., POB 1289K, Melbourne, Vic. 3001, Australia), 27-28. Gives a scientific perspective on the following article, which, despite several caveats, provides the most convincing demonstration yet that human actions may have contributed to global air temperature changes in this century.

"A Search for Human Influences on the Thermal Structure of the Atmosphere," B.D. Santer (Clim. Model Diagnosis, Lawrence-Livermore Natl. Lab., POB 808, Livermore CA 94550), K.E. Taylor et al., 39-46. Uses climate model simulations to examine changes in the vertical structure of atmospheric temperature as a "fingerprint" of human influence on climate. The study differs from similar ones in four respects: (1) it includes the combined influence of CO2 and anthropogenic sulfate aerosols on the vertical pattern; (2) two different models are used, to examine model-dependent uncertainties; (3) the possible effects of changes in stratospheric ozone are examined; (4) control runs with coupled ocean-atmosphere models are used to estimate internally generated natural climate variability. Simulations of the spatial patterns of temperature change in the free atmosphere from 1963 to 1987 are similar to those observed, and the degree of similarity increases through the period. The observed trend is probably partly due to human activities, although many uncertainties remain, particularly relating to estimates of natural variability. The investigation shows a clear need for modeling experiments that combine simultaneous changes in CO2, O3 and anthropogenic sulfate aerosols.

Item #d96aug2

"El Niño-Like Climate Change in a Model with Increased Atmospheric CO2 Concentrations," G.A. Meehl (NCAR, POB 3000, Boulder CO 80307), W.M. Washington, ibid., 56-60.

Warming of the tropical Pacific Ocean surface was observed during the 1980s and early 1990s, and contributed to observed global warming. Uses a coupled ocean-atmosphere model, incorporating increasing concentrations of atmospheric CO2, to investigate possible causes of this warming. The model demonstrates anomalies of ocean temperature and the atmosphere that resemble some aspects of El Niño events. This resemblance complicates the problem of detection and attribution of climate change, and suggests that depletion of freshwater resources may be an additional hazard of greenhouse warming for populations in the western Pacific region.

Item #d96aug3

"Increased Activity of Northern Vegetation Inferred from Atmospheric CO2 Measurements," C.D. Keeling (Scripps Inst. Oceanog., La Jolla CA 92093), J.F.S. Chin, T.P. Whorf, ibid., 382(6587), 146-149, July 11, 1996.

Monitoring shows that the annual amplitude of the seasonal cycle of atmospheric CO2 has increased since the early 1960s by 20% in Hawaii and by 40% in the Arctic. In addition, there is evidence that the start of the growing season has lengthened by a week. The authors propose that the amplitude increases reflect increasing assimilation of CO2 by land plants in response to climate changes accompanying recent rapid increases in temperature.

Item #d96aug4

"Direct Radiative Forcing by Anthropogenic Airborne Mineral Aerosols," I.N. Sokolik (Earth Sci. Div., NASA-Ames, MS-245-4, Moffett Field CA 94035), O.B. Toon, ibid., 381(6584), June 20, 1996.

Estimates of anthropogenic inputs of mineral dust to the atmosphere, combined with observations of its optical properties, suggest that the forcing by anthropogenic mineral aerosols (from grazing, construction, mining and the like) may be comparable to the forcing by other anthropogenic aerosols (sulfate and smoke). On a regional scale, the forcing due to mineral aerosols can greatly exceed that due to sulfate aerosols and can be comparable to that of clouds. Specifies the key quantities that must be better characterized to reduce the large uncertainties in these estimates.

Item #d96aug5

"Television News Coverage of Global Warming," M. Nitz (Sch. Communications, Univ. Idaho, Moscow ID 83855), S. Jarvis, H. Kenski, World Resour. Rev., 8(2), 158-177, June 1996.

Evaluates nightly newscasts by the three major U.S. networks for their global warming coverage after the 1992 Earth Summit, and finds serious inadequacies. The majority of news stories simplify the issue by blaming one party or no party at all. The news media should present more thematic stories that provide background and context for understanding the problem. Stronger emphasis needs to be placed on the negative impacts of warming, and coverage of responsibility for treating the problem must be improved. Concludes that policy makers must find a better way of communicating the threat of global warming, and that scientists and government officials need to resist the allure of media coverage. Policy makers should force the media and others to realize that there are serious economic and even environmental costs associated with preventive measures against global warming.

Item #d96aug6

"Potential Environmental Impacts of Future Halocarbon Emissions," K.J. Holmes (Dept. Geog., Johns Hopkins Univ., Baltimore MD 21218), J.H. Ellis, Environ. Sci. & Technol., 30(8), 348A ff., Aug. 1996.

Reports an analysis which integrates all major components of the problem: demographic, economic, and regulatory processes; technological factors that translate production into emissions; and environmental processes that determine impacts. If even a small percentage of nations continues to expand halocarbon production at modest rates, the ozone hole will not be eliminated. Continued use of small amounts of ozone-depleting substances for essential uses and the failure to adequately replace all of them can eliminate the possibility of returning the atmosphere to pre-ozone hole conditions.

Item #d96aug7

"Ozone Layer: The Road Not Taken," S.O. Andersen (Stratospheric Protect. Div., US EPA, 401 M St. SW, Washington DC 20460), A. Miller, Nature, 382(6590), 390, Aug. 1, 1996.

A comment on the article with the same title by Prather et al., (Global Climate Change Digest, Prof. Pubs./General Interest, July 1996), which looks a little more deeply at some of the reasons why protection of the ozone layer was so successful. Concludes that the Montreal Protocol was none too early, and possibly a little too late.

Item #d96aug8

"Managing the Global Environmental Risks in Russia: Missing Links and External Influences," V. Sokolov (Inst. of USA & Canadian Studies, Russian Acad. Sci., 2/3 Khlebny pereulok, Moscow 121814, Russia), World Resour. Rev., 8(2), 198-214, June 1996.

Suggests some explanations for the failure to forge a national strategy to manage global risks, based on analysis of three global environmental issues in Russia and the former USSR: climate change, ozone depletion, and acid rain. Emphasizes internal factors such as the domination of global change issues by the state agency Hydromet; the interest of the Soviet military in atmospheric issues; the absence of any major input from the public or the media; and the manner in which the discussion of these issues was nested within the Soviet government's broader foreign policy agenda. Despite scientific evidence and pressure from national scientists, government attention to these issues was prompted mainly by external factors, and the implementation of national measures was successful only when environmental goals coincided with economic goals. The integration of the newly independent states into the world economy bodes well for national efforts to reduce global risks.

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