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Now Gaia Is Just Messing With Us


We just can’t win when it comes to environmental stewardship. After blithely polluting the skies for most of the 20th century, the US and Europe pushed through a number of laws in the 1970s-80s to clear the air. Now we’re finding out that in doing so, we’ve made more hurricanes. The FT reports:

Until now, it was thought that naturally occurring ocean circulation patterns were mostly responsible for whether there was more or less activity, said Nick Dunstone, lead author.

But Dr Dunstone and his colleagues found that tiny aerosol particles in air pollution make clouds brighter, which in turn causes more of the sun’s heat to be reflected back into space. That cools the ocean below and affects other weather patterns in a way that makes it less likely hurricanes will form.

This is yet another example of how scientists are still at an early stage of understanding earth’s incredibly complex climate system. There are so many variables, and so many relationships between said variables, that predicting what comes next becomes nearly impossible.

But while we’re far from being able to predict the future, we should pick the so-called “low-hanging fruit” of green policy—options that decrease emissions while improving quality of life, like improving energy efficiency, or promoting more widespread adoption of telework. Until we have a better grasp on our climate, the fruit hanging higher up on the tree should go unpicked.

[Hurricane image courtesy of Wikimedia.]

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  • JDogg Snook

    Curious- “That cools the ocean below and affects other weather patterns in a way that makes it less likely hurricanes will form.”

    Last time I checked, there was no theortical nor observations evidence to suggest that sea-surface temperature has any correlation to the number of hurricanes that form. He must mean the “other weather patterns” — e.g. El/La Nino(a) that affects shearing winds — that does influence hurricane formation.

  • Corlyss

    “Now we’re finding out that in doing so, we’ve made more hurricanes.”
    “We” don’t make hurricanes. We don’t have that much impact on massive planetary systems. It’s not Gaia messing with us; it’s the usual suspects trying another tack to convince us that science really can demonstrate negative human impacts on planetary scales, ergo humans really can positively affect the same forces on a massive scale if only we hold hands and chant the appropriate drivel.
    Don’t be so darn gullible when these stories pop up. We’re going to continue to see them while the “junk science” industry tries desperately to recover from the body blows their own arrogance, stupidity, and greed delivered to their cause.

  • ljgude

    Yeah, my junk science meter is way over in the red too.

  • Jim__L

    Child-rearing, education, nutrition — there are any number of multivariable systems humans have to deal with that, beyond a certain level, are so complex that most of our coherent attempts to deal with them boil down to fads that are effective in some cases and hardly applicable in others.

    It looks like “climate” falls into that category.

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