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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 1:29:01 PM , Rating: 2
Yes there is the question of impact. What impact does a forest fire have? What impact does a volcano eruption in winter, versus summer have?

Do we need to spend trillions solving this? No we do not.

This sort of thing would be best left in college studies, not in scientific studies, where students can correlate easily gathered data and present it, rather than the expensive means of employment we have now.

RE: The World is Too Big
By Smilin on 1/13/2010 4:41:41 PM , Rating: 2
This sort of thing would be best left in college studies, not in scientific studies, where students can correlate easily gathered data and present it, rather than the expensive means of employment we have now.

If it's easily gathered data then it's done. The low hanging fruit is gone. Our scientists are trying to figure out what is going to happen to the climate of the entire planet decades or centuries from now. This is HARD to do.

Some professor's class ain't gonna pull it off during their semester project. No, you're going to need some team hiking off to who knows where taking ice cores, vegetation samples, programming a supercomputer etc. It's expensive but the issue is "impact all of humanity" serious.

I think you exagerate on "trillions" (with regard to _research_ costs) but *IF* GW turns out to be the real deal then trillions will be a drop in the bucket. It would cost more than a trillion dollars just to relocate New York city or 1/4 of Florida.

RE: The World is Too Big
By TheEinstein on 1/13/2010 8:40:23 PM , Rating: 2
Yes trillions have been spent or lost due to the efforts here. I am not exaggerating.

I find it funny that some scientists being paid $140,000 a year (a goodly number of them) use a satelite put up in the 70's, and say 'the ice cap is shrinking' when a bunch of do-gooder kids (If it were not but for those meddling kids!) using a more up to date satelite proved the old satelite is a BAD ONE TO USE because it completely showed the cap is not being reduced year by year since Google Earth clearly showed it to be much larger than the scientists earning the huge salaries said it was.

College and University students who did not get the memo have found all sorts of things wrong with the science of these extremely over-paid scientists. So much it makes me laugh. Not only that, but I believe the leading edge of science in rockets, solar energy, lasers, carbon nanotubes, other new materials is coming from the University more often than the paid scientists.

This says something to me, says a lot actually. I would trust, right now, a Student at MIT with 4 years under his belt, than most scientists with 20+ years of experience.

"We shipped it on Saturday. Then on Sunday, we rested." -- Steve Jobs on the iPad launch

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