One of the larger criticisms of the media presented story on Global Warming is that it underestimates the ability of humans to affect the environment. While that criticism does nothing to change the current facts as presented by actual research, that isn’t an entirely wrong-headed though. There are other factors that go into the climate than simply the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. In the case of a new paper published in Science points out that the cooling in the last decade or so used by AGW critics may actually be the result of volcanic activity.
WIRED Science interviewed Ryan Neely III from the University of Colorado, Boulder. He states that the amount of light scattering particles in the atmosphere may have reduced the potential temperature increase by 1/4 of the projected 0.2°C increase. These particles, called aerosols, increased in the atmosphere by 4% to 7% between the years of 2000 and 2010. Originally there was some disagreement about the source of these aerosols, one theory was volcanic activity and another was increased industrial emissions in Asia.
A computer simulation of atmospheric chemistry actually kept track of the various volcanic eruptions and the way that the particulates were distributed in the atmosphere over time, and combining that with the data on industrial particulate output. In fact to show the same effect as the volcanic effects, the industrial output would need to be 10X the actual output.
This of course doesn’t change anything about Global Warming, but it does show that the model is complex, and being studied thoroughly. This doesn’t please either the deniers or the alarmists, neither of which is a friend to the actual science at work here. It is a complicated picture.