Water vapour research validates climate models

by frog

For those who wish to deny the climate science outright, you have just lost another straw man. For those who wish to engage with the science, acknowledging its limitations, this latest research is for you.

The sceptics love to bash on about how water vapour is the real greenhouse culprit, how climate scientists ignore it and waste their time on CO2. This is a typical straw man for the sceptics who won’t engage with the real science. The facts are that the climate scientists have always been aware of the importance of water vapour in global energy retention and have sought to model how our rapid increases in CO2 and other greenhouse gases effect it. Well, a new paper has been published that answers many of these questions.

An article at scienceblog describes the findings:

With new observations, the scientists confirmed experimentally what existing climate models had anticipated theoretically. The research team used novel data from the Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite to measure precisely the humidity throughout the lowest 10 miles of the atmosphere. That information was combined with global observations of shifts in temperature, allowing researchers to build a comprehensive picture of the interplay between water vapor, carbon dioxide, and other atmosphere-warming gases. The NASA-funded research was published recently in the American Geophysical Union’s Geophysical Research Letters.

“Everyone agrees that if you add carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, then warming will result,” Dessler said. “So the real question is, how much warming?”

The answer can be found by estimating the magnitude of water vapor feedback. Increasing water vapor leads to warmer temperatures, which causes more water vapor to be absorbed into the air. Warming and water absorption increase in a spiraling cycle.

Because the new precise observations agree with existing assessments of water vapor’s impact, researchers are more confident than ever in model predictions that Earth’s leading greenhouse gas will contribute to a temperature rise of a few degrees by the end of the century.

“This study confirms that what was predicted by the models is really happening in the atmosphere,” said Eric Fetzer, an atmospheric scientist who works with AIRS data at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. “Water vapor is the big player in the atmosphere as far as climate is concerned.”

No one ever asserted that the climate models used by the IPCC were anything more than crude approximations of a complex system. But they are amongst the best that human science can muster. Increasing support for the validity of key aspects of the models means that the next generation of model will be even more robust. This means the risks associated with rapid, human induced climate change can be better assessed and our responses refined. Those still demanding irrefutable proof of man’s fingerprint on climactic change will be waiting a long, long time. I for one will continue to monitor and take the advice of the best that modern science has to offer. Bjchip – did you say that you worked on the AIRS project? Perhaps you have a deeper insight.

frog says

Published in Environment & Resource Management by frog on Thu, November 20th, 2008   

Tags: , , , , , ,

More posts by | more about frog