Please Explain: Measuring Climate Change

Friday, April 24, 2009

There’s substantial evidence that the earth is undergoing major adjustments as a result of human-made carbon emissions in the atmosphere, but what does climate change really mean? NASA climate scientist Gavin Schmidt and photographer Joshua Wolfe, editors of Climate Change: Picturing the Science, explain how scientists gather evidence and information about how the earth’s climate is changing—measuring air and ocean temperatures, water levels, glaciers and polar ice caps, and tracking storms—and how that data is interpreted.


Gavin Schmidt and Joshua Wolfe

Comments [15]

Jaber Aberburg

James B,
Your analogy is misleading. First of all, you're wrong about the lack of knowledge on the causes of cancer, we actually know quite a bit. But more importantly, you state that we know how to treat cancer and that it's analogous to the situation with regard to climate change. Well, if that's the case, we need to reduce greenhouse gases then! You thought you were making a smart "skeptical" point, but you were in fact just reinforcing the need to do what we know works in terms of reducing global warming. The reason we know how to reduce global warming is of course that we know what is causing it to happen now in a period where, if there were no human influence - only natural cycles, we would normally be experiencing global cooling.

Dec. 09 2009 03:24 AM
Paul from Rockland

Thank you Tim of New York for the comment on overpopulation! We are solving separately all these various manifestation of the one phenomena, but it is really coming together and the mainstream science is not brave enough to start pointing this to us. No, apparently the planet can handle any quantity of humans. But population statistics preicts that the growth will stop somewhere around 12 billion people, either because everyone will get their own TV or because of famine and diseases. So I guess we can just quietly wait for that.
Thank you, we don't want that! We doubt there are partial solutions to all these symptoms and we would not want to lose our original freedoms anyway, just to feed the GDP.

Apr. 27 2009 04:20 PM

James B,

Aside from me, the oil industry itself, or the UN disagreeing with your last comment, the point of our previous discussion, which you deviated from, was regarding the import of having intelligent programming regarding Global Warming and so that citizens can decide what policy changes to make, regardless of what opinion you or I hold.

Apr. 24 2009 08:43 PM
James B from NYC

Analogies are often misleading. However, the comparison to Cancer is useful. While we know a little about how to reduce the chances of getting some cancers (avoid smoking to avoid lung cancer), we still don't know very much about the causes of most cancers. So doctors can offer little advice or prescription as to how to avoid Cancer generally. It may be that our current understanding of the complex nature of our planet's atmospherics, climate etc. may be yet inadequate to point with any clarity or real certainty to the way to reduce planetary climate change. And considering the expense & economic impact of the measures which some prescribe/advocate for reducing greenhouse gases (which they theorize are the primary cause or determinant for the earth's current climate changes), it does not seem rash to require more confidence that the causes are indeed known, rather than theorized.

Apr. 24 2009 06:49 PM

James B,

Believe it or not our survival does in fact depend on such programs, not because of any scientific insights, but because we can determine our governmental policy -- you don't need to have complete understanding of Cancer to know enough to follow your doctor's prescription.

How likely is anyone going to email/twitter/blog the url of this program?
I'm not.
And that's the point of this program: to prevent any significant cultural action.

Apr. 24 2009 05:07 PM
James B from NYC

# 9 above: If we have to keep asking the WNYC management why such topics are handled so inanely we'd be too busy to do much else. In this Age of A.D.D. it's a wonder such an extraordinaryily complex topic gets even the 20-40 mins it does here. We can only hope that our survival doesn't really depend on the insights gleaned from such modest efforts to understand our planet's complex workings.

Apr. 24 2009 03:30 PM


Excellent question, which of course was not raised.

I urge you, and others to ask WNYC management why such an important topic was handled inanely.

Apr. 24 2009 01:59 PM
Amy from Manhattan

A few years ago, I read about a report from the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) that said the oceans were absorbing about 1/2 the CO2 released...& that they were approaching the saturation point. This implies that when that point is reached, the amount absorbed into the atmosphere would double. Has that point been reached, & is the acceleration of the effects beginning to be measurable?

BTW, I prefer the term "global climate upset"--"climate change" just doesn't convey any sense of urgency.

Apr. 24 2009 01:55 PM

Is human infrastructure the cause of Climate Change?

Apr. 24 2009 01:44 PM

Did Gavin Schmidt have to clear with NASA what he was going to speak about in this interview?

Apr. 24 2009 01:42 PM
Karen from Westchester

I still can't wrap my mind around the conservative argument (as in FOX news) against global warming theory. An amazing number of Americans, including science professionals maintain their stance. Do you engage in argument with them?

Apr. 24 2009 01:32 PM

What is causing Climate Change?

Apr. 24 2009 01:31 PM

Under the Obama administration, are NASA scientists now free to discuss Global Warming -- they were censored under the Bush administration.

Has NASA gotten rid of the industry operatives on its staff that suppressed Global Warming scientific evidence produced by NASA scientists, as well as oppressing them, like the opression of Dr. James Hanson, the world's top Global Warming scientist?

Apr. 24 2009 01:15 PM

Is the correct term Climate Change?

Is Global Warming term used in the scietific literature for the phenomenon that causes Climate Change?

Apr. 24 2009 12:35 PM
Mike from Manhattan

New York City is growing! You can see it—and feel it—in every neighborhood in every borough. It's exciting, and it's what makes New York the greatest city in the world. But, like in any thriving metropolis, it's important to make sure the Big Apple and its residents—meaning you!—are healthy and happy while adjusting to the growth and the many changes it will bring with it.

Planting trees is one of the most beneficial and cost-effective ways to help ease these growing pains. Trees help clean our air, and reduce the pollutants that trigger asthma attacks and exacerbate other respiratory diseases. They cool our streets, sidewalks, and homes on hot summer days. Trees increase property value, and encourage neighborhood revitalization. And trees make our City an even more beautiful and comfortable place to live, work, and visit.

Apr. 24 2009 10:43 AM

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