Global warming is universal

A resident of Chico for more than 30 years, John Callaway recently retired after working as a laboratory chemist at the city’s Water Pollution Control Plant.

The Northern California Natural History Museum’s astronomy series continues today (March 15), resumes March 22 and concludes March 29. Info: or 898-4121.

The Thursday seminars on astronomy sponsored by the Northern California Natural History Museum have provided a glorious, informative and sometimes contentious romp through the universe and how science works. The contention arises concerning the physical nature of stars, their planetary systems and their interaction to create planetary climates.

This is an important discussion for everyone, not just astronomers, because the study of global warming includes terrestrial and nonterrestrial factors.

Climatologists study the Earth’s climate by first creating a list of all the physical mechanisms involved in determining climate, such as absorption and reflection of solar energy. They then create mathematical formulas that describe the action and interaction of these mechanisms.

Climatologists have discovered that climate mechanisms interact in ways that defy common sense—they are “counterintuitive.” Predictions are limited to statistical probabilities or trends in future events.

Over the years, climatologists have used the latest, most accurate climate data and have detected broad, but definable, climate trends that are troubling. Unfortunately they have been unable to include reliable predictive data for solar irradiance, a very important nonterrestrial mechanism.

At a recent NCNHM seminar, visiting solar scientist Mark S. Gianpapa was vague regarding specific numerical data. Chico State scientist Jeff Price said variation in solar irradiance accounts for only about 7 percent of global warming—but this value is the least reliable of all data concerning climate.

A new generation of solar observatories (ground-based and satellite) may be needed to get the actual data needed for reliable, long-term predictive models, and this could take three solar cycles—33 years.

The media have contributed confusion to the subject of climate change because journalists are trained to give equal time to all opinions concerning a particular subject. This practice fails to recognize that a majority of scientists agree that human activities are now swamping all other physical processes determining climate.

The best way to handle any potential problem is to break it into its parts and deal with the more understandable components first while preparing for its more poorly understood consequences.

It is very risky to do nothing until all aspects of the problem are plainly understood. Valuable, irretrievable time can be lost. Consequently, most climatologists are recommending that terrestrial mechanisms (especially greenhouse gases) should be dealt with imminently because human actions can modify their direction. Delay risks losing any control over them.