The world’s oceans haven’t been rising as quickly as climate models predicted. Like the anticipated rise in surface temperatures, the rate of change has slowed over the past decade, baffling climate scientists. Now, a new study offers a new explanation: more rainfall events occurring over land. Reuters reports:
[I]n a puzzle to climate scientists, the rate slowed to 2.4 millimeters (0.09 inch) a year from 2003 to 2011 from 3.4 mm from 1994-2002, heartening skeptics who doubt that deep cuts are needed in mankind’s rising greenhouse gas emissions.Writing in the journal Nature Climate Change on Sunday, experts said the rate from 2003-2011 would have been 3.3 mm a year when excluding natural shifts led by an unusually high number of La Nina weather events that cool the surface of the Pacific Ocean and cause more rain over land.
Unfortunately, this pause in sea level rising is only temporary:
“Eventually water that falls as rain on land comes back into the sea,” said Anders Levermann, a professor at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, who was not involved in the study. “Some of it goes into ground water but most of it will drain into rivers, or evaporate.”
It would be difficult to overstate the complexity of the earth’s climate. We know that we’re emitting greenhouse gases at historically significant rates, and we know that these gases trap the sun’s heat more than other kinds do. We know that this leads to rising surface temperatures, and in turn, melts ice. We know that water expands a bit as it warms, and that this, in addition to melting ice, produces rising sea levels.But knowing this set of facts doesn’t do much for our predictive powers, at least within a timeframe useful to policymakers. Natural variabilities in everything from seasonal winds to oceanic currents make the climate prognosticator’s job extraordinarily difficult. These fiddly bits confound climate models, and make fools of those who take their predictions as gospel. The green movement’s determination to stuff short-term climate predictions down the public’s throat has been the main driver of climate change skepticism.We’ve already seen studies like this one, and we’re sure to see plenty more. For now, our climate change Magic 8 Ball keeps telling us to “ask again later.” Rather than set growth-restrictive targets for ourselves in the pursuit of some specific temperature abeyance, we ought to implement strategies that increase our quality of life while reducing our environmental impact, such as energy efficiency measures or telework. We don’t need climate models to tell us that cutting out the commute is a good thing, or that getting more work out of less energy is a worthy goal.