Print 78 comment(s) - last by mindless1.. on Jan 25 at 4:23 PM

For all we know, Al Bundy's socks may be the cure for the global climate crisis.

Will the war for global warming ever be won? That depends on the amount of information we can harvest, analyze and extrapolate from. In all likelihood, the only way we will know for certain if the Earth is heading for a global warming disaster is by waiting another few thousand years and looking at history books.

But, for those not comfortable with the wait and see approach, scientists continue to plunge into one of the crucial factors thought to govern global (I’m trying not to snicker) climate change, the global carbon sink system. Roughly composed of just about every living and even more dead things, these parts of local, regional and whole-Earth ecosystems are under high scrutiny as researchers try to understand how present day climate change will further affect future climate change. The popular idea seems to be that global warming is like a snowball rolling downhill – as it rolls it picks up more snow and eventually hits something and explodes. Exploding is bad for the Earth, honest.

From the University of Colorado at Boulder comes a study supporting the theory that extended growing seasons may not be the boon for the carbon sink that many have previously thought. At least not for subalpine conifers such as the lodgepole pine, subalpine fir and Englemann spruce. It turns out these trees depend much more upon snowmelt for their summer water fix than rainfall, and in years where spring comes early due to mild winters and low snowfall, the trees actually take in less carbon dioxide over the year than when spring arrives late with heavy snow still on the ground. Up to 60% of their internal water supply from stems and needles was identified to be from spring snowmelt rather than rainfall in the fall months. We can thank our friends the hydrogen and oxygen atoms for this precise identification work.

Since around 70% of the western USA’s carbon sink is found in these subalpine forest ranges, watching the snow caps shrink yearly would definitely affect their ability to operate to capacity, should this study be accurate. Facts don’t lie; snow good, carbon dioxide bad.

On a somewhat brighter note, according to researchers at the National Oceanographic Center, Southampton, another very large and poorly understood carbon sink may be completely underestimated in present carbon cycle models. Echinoderms, which comprise a vast portion of the ocean’s calcium carbonate dump, may sequester much more carbon yearly than previously thought.

Echinoderms suck in carbon from seawater to form their skeletal systems and include such happy marine animals as star fish, sea urchins and sea cucumbers. When these animals find the end of their lifecycle, they typically sink to the ocean floor with their captured carbon and become indefinitely buried in the sediments. Some of the calcium carbonate finds its way back up the “biological carbon pump,” but probably much less than is taken down to the depths.

This could mean that the ocean is once again showing itself to be far more excellent at helping regulate global carbon levels, or it could just mean scientists still don’t really understand what’s going on in there.

If these studies only prove one thing it is that we, as a global community, race, organism and observer still have very little understanding in the way all of our ecosystems work together to regulate the Earth’s climate. It’s far too early for any sane person to jump on the “we’re melting, melting” or “Minnesota never left the ice age, what’s your problem” camps. There simply aren’t enough data to concretely support any given theory with certainty and these kinds of discoveries are shining examples of why.

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RE: The World is Too Big
By TheEinstein on 1/13/2010 1:19:30 PM , Rating: 2
Well one has to wonder how the initial carbon we had when the Earth was formed ever turned from a molten and/or gassified state when it started, to current, if it traps heat so well ;)

Of course I am being a little sarcastic, but then again am I?

The points you make however stand. This planets history of sequestering in of itself and our minute 'modification' does not sway me to alarmist thinkings.

RE: The World is Too Big
By Smilin on 1/13/2010 5:17:32 PM , Rating: 2
Yes you're sarcastic but there's still a decent point buried in there :)

The answer is easy: A planet-dominating organism capable of surviving in the existing climate came along and altered the composition of the atmosphere to have far more oxygen than CO2. That also resulted in a climate change that obliterated said organism. I'm not making this up.

History will repeat and the lession we need to learn is: An organism that comes to dominate the planet can change the climate. That's a FACT. Humans being such an organism right now is just a theory.

RE: The World is Too Big
By TheEinstein on 1/13/2010 8:54:09 PM , Rating: 2
Actually the thing that I think heated and cooled earth was water. We have a lot of it to do this with also. It is such a higher level of heat trap when in the atmosphere, as molecules, but when bound as clouds it reflects heat extraordinarily well.

RE: The World is Too Big
By JediJeb on 1/13/2010 5:21:14 PM , Rating: 2
This is something I have been wondering also. If the Earth has sequestered so much CO2 in the form of limestone and fossil fuels, the what was it like when those things were free carbon in the atmosphere? The amount of carbon on Earth today is relatively the same as it was 100 million years ago, because it is not created or destroyed in any of the chemical processes that trap or release it. If we put all of that carbon back into the atmosphere where it once was, shouldn't the Earth have been orders of magnitude hotter in the past? Not just a few degrees up and down as most of the climate history seems to show.

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