Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Global Warming

No, I'm not putting that title on this entry just to garner some hits. I'm writing this because of a fine interview article that appeared today in a local online news source, MinnPost. The interview was with Paul Douglas, a nationally known entrepreneur, weather expert, broadcast meteorologist--and conservative.

For years I taught an intro meteorology class at a local college, and my message to the students was always much the same as Douglas's: AGW is real and represents both challenges and rewards to those savvy enough to help society cope with the coming changes. Both sides of the political debate have stepped away from reality; some conservatives continue to deny and denigrate the science, while some liberals refuse to accept possible solutions.

Both sides strut their ignorance (feigned or real) by using weather events to deny or confirm their beliefs. For some trolls every cold snap is an opportunity to scoff at the reality of AGW, while for others every heat wave or drought is an excuse to trumpet what they see as the impending "heat death" of the planet.

The reality is both simpler and more complex at the same time.

In the no-brainer category: Significant atmospheric warming, sea level rise, and oceanic PH change are all happening now. Very likely on the way are shifts in local climate causing changes in rainfall, growing seasons, and availability of water. Things that are not so clear: Stronger storms, hurricanes, droughts, floods, heat waves. A great deal of work remains to be done to understand some of the side effects of AGW.

Back in the mid 1990's I told my classes that AGW wouldn't be accepted by the American public until around 2030. The current dysfunctional political climate leads me to think that statement remains about right.

I have no ax to grind on this issue. I no longer teach, so I'm not under any pressure to promote the company line. (I never was, actually.) I have no children or grandchildren who may be impacted by AGW. My days of chasing atmospheric science research funding from the National Science Foundation and NASA are far in the past. I don't sell educational, weather-related software any more, so I have no customers to keep happy.

Back to the usual stuff: Astronomy! Tonight looks like it might be the last below-zero night of the winter. After this the forecast is for a run of days warming to almost 50 next week! What little snow we have on the ground (and it's not much) will disappear in the next 10 days, well in advance of the Messier Marathon. With a little luck (and I've used that phrase too many times lately) I may be able to pick up some straggler winter Bright Nebulae images. If that happens I have a real chance of completing the 100 this year (I'm currently at 79). Last time I mentioned a good night was about to happen. It did, and I got #79:
Sh 2-264
This is the big Sharpless object at the head of Orion. I only got two hours of Ha under red zone + first quarter moon skies, so it's kind of ratty. I love the big field of the 135mm Tamron lens, almost 5.7 by 7.6 degrees in this image!

I'm now working on a gradient removal program that makes use of some of the meteorological code I created for some of the educational software mentioned above. (In some ways vignetting and light pollution gradients resemble atmospheric pressure fields.) This program is still in its infancy, so there's nothing to show at this point.

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