Saturday, July 19, 2014

The relationship between global warming and climate change.

Or, If we have had an 18-year long hiatus in warming, why is the climate still changing?

Imagine you have a vast, old house in the English manner (pun intended) that has had some modernizations, especially to the heating systems.

Some rooms have modern forced hot air heating, some older steam radiators. The sun room has an in-floor, induction heating system that takes 3 days to warm up. The vast foyer, with its stairs leading to the hallways upstairs, has only a large fireplace. Some rooms have a Franklin stove. The bathrooms have baseboard electric heating, only turned on at need. The kitchen has a classic flagstone floor that NEVER is warm.

You have fled to Florida for January to miss the worst of the winter. The thermostats in the house have been turned down low. The place is warm enough to keep the pipes from freezing and the books in the library from molding.

It is February 1st and you have returned. You go around the house turning up the heat to a reasonable 65 degrees, except for the sun room which you set at 75 for Grandmama's sake.

Within a few hours, the thermostats hit the desired temperature (except for that pesky sun room) and the furnaces shut off. They only come on again to maintain the 65 degree setting. The rooms with fireplaces never really warm up and the ones with Franklin-style stoves will be too hot.

This part of the analogy represents the warming that has been experienced since the end of the "Little Ice Age" (about 1815) to about 1998. Since then, no "warming" has occurred. And the temperatures have bounced around a narrow range below that high point.

Now for the last 16-18 years. The house is still not warm everywhere. While the air temperatures are measuring 65, as per the thermostats, some rooms are still cool (or even cold). Floors, walls, and furniture are still cold. Cold drafts still move from unheated or under heated rooms to warming ones. Heat is still flowing into the house itself from the furnaces, wood stoves, fireplaces, etc., but the temperatures are not increasing. The systems are only maintaining the 65 degrees the thermostats are set at.

This is why we can have a hiatus, and still have climate change.

After a while, if there is no additional heating, the earth will re-equilibrate at the current higher temperature and what climate change is occurring will slow down.

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