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Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Partial book review

Obligatory disclaimer...

The Satanic Gases

Written by climatologists, Patrick J. Michaels and Robert C. Balling, Jr., who are also part of the climate blog, World Climate Report.

I actually just returned this book to the library half read, which is why this is only a partial review. I'm going to have to take it out again later and finish it.

This book is highly informative. In fact, that's part of the difficulty I had in reading it! Where my biggest complaint about AIT was the total lack of references, etc. to back up statements, this book was the complete opposite. There is so much detailed information, it becomes difficult to grasp it all! There are countless graphs and charts, all meticulously sourced, and even more references and discussions of studies on both sides of the climate change arguments.

The problem is that it makes for rather dry reading, and I really need to be in the right state of mind to be able to absorb it. With so many other distractions in a busy household and only being able to snatch moments of reading, it became difficult to keep track of what I was reading. I found myself re-reading the same passages over and over again, trying to make them stick. When I do borrow it again, I'm going to have to make sure to take the time to immerse myself in it with as few distractions as I can manage.

One thing for sure is, the authors know their stuff! Some of the subjects I found of particular interest included the pros and cons of computer models to predict climate change. Did you know that, with even the best models, a spring shower shows up as a huge, state-covering thunderstorm (Iowa sized, if I remember correctly)? That's because the computer models have a resolution of about 3 degrees x 5 degrees, or 2 degrees x 4 degrees for the newest versions, latitude/longitude. This, among other issues (like the sheer volume of data) make computer models useful tools for many things, but not for predicting future climate. They can't even accurately model known climate scenarios.

They also discuss other greenhouse and atmospheric gases that are typically ignored by the AGW proponents, who focus so tightly on CO2, and the roles of sulfates and aerosols. Methane and it's reactions with jet plane emissions in the upper atmosphere is particularly thought provoking - who knew that planes are actually contributing to the ozone layer?.

Temperature readings in the various levels of the atmosphere are also thoroughly discussed, including the conundrum of satellite temperature readings of the troposphere contradicting what "should" be happening with increasing surface temperatures. Again, everything is thoroughly explained, referenced and backed up.

It becomes clear in this book that global climate is far more complex than we currently have the ability to comprehend. We can make educated guesses based on the information we have, but that's about it!

All in all, it's an extremely balanced book. It most definitely isn't "anti-global warming," or even anti-AGW, yet challenges many of the claims made by the AGW crowd. This book is about the science of climate change, not the emotional moralizing of AGW proponents.

Whichever side of the issue you're on, I definitely recommend this book. My only problem with it was that I found it dry and difficult to read, but I blame that more on my frame of mind than on the book itself.


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