2009 – Hottest Year in Recorded History for Southern Hemisphere

As is so often the case with public debates about science, many people will prefer a hunch over evidence.  Recently, the overwhelming irrationality of the anti-vaccination community demonstrated how poor many humans are at parsing evidence and evaluating risk.  We’ve just now begun to move past the ridiculous, yet to some highly compelling, assertion that CERN’s Large Hadron Collider would create stable black holes through which the Earth and everything on it would be squeezed to nonexistence.  How is it that the lack of evidence seems to encourage more specious and hysterical claims?  I’m guessing there is some good science out there to answer this question (I too have my unverified hunches), but we’ll have to come back to it another time.  Today, I want to address another topic so misconstrued and politically charged by some such that their criticism neatly fits into the realm of absurdity:  global warming.

I’m no climate scientist, so I too must take my lead here from the most respectable sources available to  me.  In my case, that happens to be published, peer-reviewed journals, meteorologists, and global climate specialists.  Apparently for some, however, the relevant authorities on the matter consist of anyone with an opposition voice (confirmation bias?).  I have grown painfully weary of politicians and news pundits claiming that global warming is clearly a fraudulent attempt by the liberal establishment to force them to forfeit some perceived right or treasured set of values.  So, when Sean Hannity of Fox News stated that “Global warming is the biggest scientific fraud in our lifetimes”, and that snow in Houston was clear proof of said claim, I had to strangle a stuffed kitten effigy of him to reduce my blood pressure.  Regardless that changing the minds of most of this sort seems more a matter of miraculous intervention than evidential conclusion, I’m still holding out hope for the large swath of the world that isn’t highly irrational.

A new article from Science shines some reason on the seemingly contradictory cold winter plaguing the Northern Hemisphere.  While it has been frigid for us northerners, NASA data shows that the Southern Hemisphere has suffered the hottest year in recorded history.  The Southern Hemisphere, being mostly water, is slower to warm than the northern hemisphere, and as such the bottom half of the Earth serves as a “trailing indicator” of global climate change.  What makes this even more interesting, is that the second warmest year for the Southern Hemisphere, 1998, was exascerbated by the most severe El Niño event in the last century (reminder: El Niño events refer to temporary large-scale climate changes resulting from ocean temperatures redistributing as such to bring warmer water to the surface in the Pacific).  The El Niño event of 2009, by contrast, was only of moderate strength, giving additional credence to a consistently increasing long-term warming trend. This reinforces data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that shows temperatures increasing by a global average of between .3 and .5° C decade over decade since the early 80’s.

So Hannity, edify yourself on the facts.  I’m not surprised at your entire lack of intellectual curiosity (you attended seminary schools throughout your secondary education and dropped out of college twice).  I am surprised, however, at the lemming-like quality of half of the country to follow you on all matters scientific.  Then again, over 40% of America thinks the Earth is less than 10,000 years old and that fossils were put here by the devil to deceive us, so maybe my shock is just leftover rage from strangling all of those stuffed kittens.

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~ by Wil Finley on January 14, 2010.

3 Responses to “2009 – Hottest Year in Recorded History for Southern Hemisphere”

  1. Oy! Good stuff here Wil…. I’ve been reading and discussing this particular subject a bit lately, and I came across an idea that I like a lot. Take “Global Warming” out of the picture all together. I’m not saying its not true or whatnot, I think it is, but I’m too damn lazy to research the science behind it so I’m making my decision based on hearsay, as do most people in my opinion. Making a claim like “Global Warming” needs evidence behind it for people to believe. Unfortunately people are too damn stupid and lazy to do the research (like me). So instead I think we should be talking about clean water, safe food, and clean air. These are real tangible things the nobody can say is a hoax… can you imagine someone trying to say “Clean Water is just a liberal hoax made up to convince us to (add stupidity here)”. So if people went around trying to make the planet cleaner and healthier instead of “trying to battle global warming” there would be alot less ground for the opposition to stand on.

  2. You make a good point Max. The lack of clean drinking water kills millions of people every year, whereas global warming seems much less tangible. I think “global warming” as a phrase has definitely become branded as part of the great liberal conspiracy. I think “climate change” is more agreeable in some situations, and is equally as accurate. Also, a huge part of the debate is centered around whether or not global warming is anthropogenic (i.e. caused by humans). It’s hard to deny that global temperatures have been increasing slowly for over a century. In my mind, though, will it ultimately matter whether climate change is a natural cycle or caused by humans when the world is dealing with the same results anyway?

  3. Yeah, it all comes down quality of life. If it goes down does it really matter why? Or should we instead focus our energies on making it better…

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