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July 23, 2006

Global Warming: No shit, it's Real!

Global Warming: No shit, it’s Real

I don’t need to see the Al Gore documentary. I am here to tell you that Global Warming is real. Trust me on this - it’s the only explanation.


Why am I so sure? Well, I’ll tell you - otherwise, there would be no point, now would there? I am sure because last weekend, I got a sunburn. North of the Mason-Dixon line in July, when I already have a decent base.

I don’t get sunburned. OK, there was that one unfortunate incident when I feel asleep at Myrtle Beach, but that really doesn’t count, since it was the first day of Spring Break, and I had no base tan and so forth - other than that aberration, I’ve been tanning since I was thirteen and I do not burn.

I have Mediterranean skin - my people don’t burn, we tan. We tan to a lovely shade of brown and stay that way as long as we are out in the sun. Yes, as I matured, I started using real sunscreen, as opposed to the teenage favorites of Hawaiian Tropic Royal Oil (it magnifies the sun!), or straight up baby oil and iodine or tea. How weird was that crap? These days, my daily moisturizer has sunscreen in it, and I use additional sunscreen when I’m outside, which is a pain in the ass, but I don’t want to die from skin cancer, so I do it anyway.


This year, I was in Florida twice over the winter, and at the Jersey shore in June, so having a solid base, I felt no fear in spending the day at the pool, which was the only comfortable place to be in 100 degree weather.

So naturally, I was shocked when I got out of the shower that evening and noticed that my face was red. Not a nice coppery color, but red. Other parts were red too. What the hell is going on? To make matters worse, both kids were gone for the night, and my planned activities had to be cancelled because of the sunburn. My husband’s beard, normally a very attractive feature, became the source of potential pain. Pain just doesn’t do it for me, but if you’re into it, I’ll bet a sunburn would be just the ticket. Knowing what I know now, if I had fair skin, I’d be nocturnal.

You can conduct all the studies you want - but I’m sold. There is something majorly screwed up with the atmosphere. Something that used to protect us from the sun and other dangerous shit is no longer there. There is something less between us and the great beyond than there used to be.

Thus, a message to Mr. Gore and others trying to get people to pay attention: know your audience. Most people are too shallow and self-absorbed to take it to heart when you warn them about ozone levels and the long-term impact on our environment. You need to hit them where it hurts - where it actually hurts. Sunburn hurts, man. Plus, you get Vanity Points if people realize they may not be able to get a suntan unless we figure out how to control Global Warming. Movie stars alone would jump on any bandwagon that might impact their fun in the sun and the subsequent golden glow. In no time, we’d have another version of those rubber bracelets and everything.  Yes, I know they're so yesterday, but I like them and I want them to come back.

Global Warming: It's not just for tree-huggers anymore.  This shit is real.


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I once had a Earth Science Professor state in class that Global Warming is actually cyclical. That the hydrogen cycle is the process of self correcting the Earth's temperature. This simple statement has always given me comfort when I hear the words "Global Warming."

This cyclical (not cynNical) theory also applies to our common enemy in South Florida;
The previous two years has been the worst that I have faced in 33 years. Yet if one studies the history of Hurricanes and Florida, these major events seem to occur every 30 to 40 years with the same fury.

I once had a high school biology teacher ask the question for a report; What are the biological benefit of hurricanes?
The benefit turned out that hurricanes eliminated blew away items that are not indigeonous to our local environment;
like weakly constructed billboards, roofs, ficus treees...

Rebecca, I feel your pain. I grew up a California Girl, although I never was the sun-worshipper my mother and sisters were, and did a lot of field work in various deserts. So I figured I knew how to handle sun (avoidance when possible, lots of SPF 30 when not), right up until last summer when I spent a lot of time at the farm where I was riding. Instead of sunburn, though, I developed a wowzer of a case of photodermatitis (aka sun rash, aka "sun allergy") that had me broken out in hives all up and down my arms. Two courses of prednizone later I vowed to spend the rest of the summer in long sleeves.

This year I'm developing the variegated look -- more color on the face and arms than on the legs. Unintentionally, of course. Thank heavens for capris and crop pants; they make the difference a lot less obvious than do shorts.

(Just as an fyi, and just because I'm a science geek, ozone depletion is a different phenomenon from global warming . . .)

Anyway, today at least seems to be overcast here, so I have to remember that, just because it's cloudy doesn't mean I can't get hurt :) Keep that sunblock on, everyone!

I carry an umbrella for the sun. My grown children are embarrassed to be seen with me. On the other hand, in the mob of post-graduation festivities, I stood out as the only parent carrying a brilliant yellow umbrella in a sea of black academic regalia. So they could find me in the crowd. And I use SPF 45. I once bought a tube of SPF 60, but that was in the Caribbean, and I haven't found it since. If anyone knows where I can find it, please let me know.

The end of the world is here.

My kid had her skin virtually broiled off her and has freckles on her face. My nose peeled too and we are both brown. Real brown.

I bought sunblock, SPF 50, for the first time in my life.

Nancy - you can find SPF 60 at Drugstore.com, which is now one of the few places I can find the Shade sunscreen the allergist recommended for the kids.

I used to be a sun worshipper - now I don't have the time or patience to sit and sizzle.

Both of my kids wear bathing suits with swim shirts - kind of like surfers wear, only really light weight. No complaints yet, and no sunburns either.

Heard from a friend yesterday that Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth" is more hopeful than expected, which is good.

Cinema Dave is a RW apologist. Are we supposed to be ignoring him? I live close to the Gulf Coast and after last year there ain't no denial here anymore. That said...

We spent last weekend at the beach and I got fried. Man, I miss the baby oil years. I'm actually peeling! I haven't done that in 20 years. And I live in a place with 9 months of summer. My kids were a little pink for a day or two. I'm not sure if I'm more upset that I burned or they didn't, ya know?

"Never apologize, it is a sign of weakness!"
Colonel Nathan Brittles :)

Actually Loribelle,
I like to bring forth an alternative perspective with some facts to back up my point of view. I am not an advocate of the "Chicken Little" philosophy that
"The Sky is Falling." Sorry, i've never been about to follow the crowd without questioning their motives.

You must admit, this summer in Florida has been milder than the previous two summers. Does that mean Global Warming is over?

Lookit, I don't want this blog to devolve into a liberal vs. right wing bash, but even conservatives like you, Dave, are acknowledging that proof of global warming is irrefutable. The Earth is one degree warmer than it was in 1900 and one degree means a lot. Glaciers are melting. The north pole is no longer the frozen mass it once was and the oceans are showing dramatic change in sea life.

This is not a political issue - or, rather, it shouldn't be. This is a biological one. I have no idea why conservatives feels as if they have to drive SUVs, in fact driving fossile-fuel-wasting vehicles seems decidedly anti conservative. So why don't they just realize "conservation" is "conservative."

If we could push the politics aside and see that only Rush Limbaugh is trying to make weather political, perhaps we could accomplish real change - though I fear it may already be too late.

At the very least, I cannot countenance someone calmly ticking off the benefits of hurricanes when so many lost their homes, their loved ones and their own lives. Who may be next? You in Florida, Dave?

I wasn't going to comment, but I would feel like a coward if I don't. Re: global warming. It has nothing to do with sunburn. That would be the ozone layer, being near/in the water, what part of the country you are in, etc. --- all things which affect how the sun's rays get to you, and the way the sun's rays interact with your skin. Global Warming--even scientists, with scads of education, research, and scientific information (as opposed to "popular belief") aren't united on it all. I have a degree in Geology, my husband has 3 in Meteorology, and works with weather models. There are always inaccuracies in weather models, as there are too many factors involved. Cinema Dave is correct --I can show you plenty of text books, Geology books, climatology books, etc---which confirm that the temperature of the earth goes through cycles. The earth hasn't always had ice caps. There is no magic law that says it has to. We are still coming out of the last ice age, and the ice caps are a remnant of that ice age. Granted, we really don't want to totally lose them. But, it wouldn't be the first time. There is not a whole lot we can do about it, if the earth continues to warm into a "non-ice age" mode. Yes, we contribute to the warming, although I would love to see any scientist come up with true, reproduceable calculations to show just how much we are contributing, and how much is the natural process of warming. Yes, we should do what we can to reduce our affect on the planet. However, do not put your heads in the sand and say it is all our fault, or declare that someone is an "apologist" for a certain political party, just because they state something you don't agree with.

I would love to read more blogs about fun things, like books!!!!!

Yay!! Sally for president !!

Sally - just to clarify, the 'RW apologist' remark did not spring from this line of posts alone.

Before you admonish someone, you might want to check the full context - clearly you have the research skills to do so.

When I used the term Global Warming, I did not mean to start a scientific controversy. Of course, ozone depletion plays a significant role in the materiality of the sun's impact on human skin.

However, the phenomenon commonly referred to as Global Warming has come to encompass more than simply the change in the earth's temperature.

This blog was written to be more entertaining than informative. In the future, I'll be sure to include a disclaimer, and I do appreciate the clarifications by the scientists. It's always good to have more accurate information.

With respect to scientists of all stripes, understanding global climate change is not exactly the same thing as predicting weather. And the folks who study global climate change have always acknowledged that the earth's climate is affected by many different cycles acting at many different time scales. According to some, in fact, we should be heading into another ice age, not out of it.

The scientific community as a whole has long since reached consensus that the earth is warming. It took longer to reach consensus that current changes are not due to the many natural processes that drive climate cycles alone, but have at least some anthropogenic component. Nonetheless, that consensus has been reached, and it's a pretty strong one (in fact, if we were talking about a less politically-laden phenomenon, I'm pretty confident that fewer folks would be questioning it -- but that's just a guess on my part). For more information, see the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's most recent set of reports -- lots of them are on-line at http://www.ipcc.ch/

Even if we can't predict precisely the consequences a given change in behavior (like reducing fossil fuel consumption) might make on the current global climate trajectory, those changes can still be beneficial in many ways. And if we can't stop the current trajectory, it's arguably even more important that we study it seriously and try to predict its consequences so we can figure out ways to mitigate them as best we can.

In other words, pretending that global warming is real and that we can do something about it should be a win-win for everyone.

My $0.02.

Rebecca, I'm sorry your Global Warming piece got off on a tangent. I was looking forward to fun comments about lovely brown flesh.

The character Magda in "There's Something About Mary" presents a cautionary tale to those who pursue the Beau Derek aesthetic in an age when the sun has a dial that goes to 11.

Weather is cyclical; ozone depletion is exacerbated by CFCs; ozone depletion science with respect to fossil fuels is not conclusive. So far so good.

But it's just political gainsaying to deny the evidence of global warming caused, in large part, by combustion of fossil fuels. Even in the best case, where CO2 is said, by some, to filter harmful vertical rays, Rebecca is still hotter (Yes Rebecca, you are hot)because of depleted ozone from CFCs and the greenhouse effects of carbon emissions.

Cinema Dude and Sally the geologist miss the forest for the treehuggers. (Imagine, a geologist-apologist for mining and drilling industries!) Given our knowledge that weather, hurricanes, stock markets, and just about anything one can chart, can be shown to be cyclical, we should assume them to be more complex, not less, requiring more acute precautions that we don't interfere with those cycles to our detriment. (You know, the Stocktonian, "oops supply-side economics does create mammoth deficits" or "oops I used a number 60 and still look like Magda").

I wonder whether those who doubt this science also denied the CFC-ozone depletion science back in the 70's when Magda wished we all could be California girls.
I'll bet they did. Let me see hands.

Fossil fuel consumption is not sustainable for many, many reasons which, mercifully, aren't listed here. (The "Peak Oil" article in last week's Harpers will curl your hair).

As Kerry the Martial Tart says, going green is the only possible win win. It's an inconvenient and ineluctable truth, even if some weather forecasters and shut-ins cling to their doubts.

All that said, who doesn't love a well- defined bikini line?

Thank you Sally for presenting some facts to this wide ranging issue. Since this is a science discussion and not rhetoric, I appreciate that you are not taking political sides on this issue.

It seems interesting that when I offer a different perspective to an issue that goes against mainstream,
people with an opposing point of view - prefer to stereotype me into some sort of inconvenient niche.

Sarah asked;
Who may be next? You in Florida, Dave?

In the last two years, I have lived through the worst Florida hurricane seasons in the last 33 years, while caring for my octogenerian parents and handicapped friends/family.

Sarah, I think that my actions speak louder than words with regards to the subject of facing Florida hurricanes. From life experience, I have learned not to live my life dictated by fear.

OK, Dave, I have to say it. And I'm going to try to say it in the nicest way possible.

You can't have it both ways, bud.

You can say whatever you want - I checked this morning's newspapers, and the First Amendment is still somewhat intact.

But don't act surprised when you get called on your statements. And don't ask for sympathy when your politically-charged remarks are met with the same.

Otherwise, people really might, you know, ignore you even more.

I believe wholeheartedly in global warming. I'll be so happy to be proven wrong, but meanwhile, I reduce, reuse, and recycle. And meditate more than I used to.

Oh, yeah -- forgot: plant more trees

Now that's a concept I believe in Harley!

Global warming's effect on hurricane strength disputed in new report

The Associated Press
Posted July 28 2006, 4:09 PM EDT

MIAMI -- Scientists linking the increased strength of hurricanes over recent years to global warming have not accounted for outdated technology that may have underestimated storms' power decades ago, researchers said in a report published Friday.

The research by Chris Landsea of the National Hurricane Center challenges two studies published last year by other respected climatologists.

One of the studies, by Kerry Emanuel of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was considered the first major research to challenge the belief that global warming's affect on hurricanes was too slight to accurately measure and that climate change likely won't substantially change tropical storms for decades.

And, if Landsea and his three co-authors are correct, it was fundamentally flawed.

``The methodology is fine. There's no problem with the way they analyzed the data,'' said Landsea, who is science and operations officer at the hurricane center. ``The problem is with the data itself.''

The study claims historical storm data has been rendered out-of-date by new technology that better estimates the strength of hurricanes. He pointed to advancements in the quality of satellite imagery that is used to estimate a storm's strength when it can't be directly measured by aircraft or on land.

In short, Landsea said, there were far more Category 4 and 5 storms in decades past than previously thought, because satellite imagery has improved so greatly.

The article was published in the journal Science. It is co-authored by Bruce Harper, an Australian engineer who is an expert on Pacific cyclones; Karl Hoarau, a professor at Cergy-Pontoise University in France; and John Knaff, a researcher at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. It looks at only a small sampling of historical storm data, though the authors plan to examine further hurricane information they believe will further prove their thesis.

Emanuel discounted the Science piece and said he put considerable effort into accounting for changes in estimating storm strength.

``They ignore the most significant finding from my Nature paper _ that Atlantic hurricane activity is highly correlated with sea surface temperature, which is comparatively well-measured,'' Emanuel said by e-mail from the Queen Mary 2, where he is lecturing on storms. ``This cannot be explained away by invoking rather qualitative arguments about data quality.''

Emanuel analyzed records of storm measurements made by aircraft and satellites since the 1950s. He found the amount of energy released in these storms in both the North Atlantic and the North Pacific oceans increased, especially since the mid-1970s.

His study was published last year, along with another Science piece that linked a double in Category 4 and 5 hurricanes since 1970 to the rise of ocean surface temperatures.

Landsea said he did not dispute global warming was occurring or that it could influence hurricanes; he said it simply was not proven by the storm information available.

The studies did not address fluctuation in the number of hurricanes, only in their intensity. But researchers agree that the Atlantic basin is in a period of higher hurricane activity that could last decades.

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