Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Dirty snow warming the planet

The story that 'dirty snow' (snow with soor particles) may be responsible for a sizeable part of Arctic warming seems not to have generated massive amounts of coverage compared to some of the more alarmist climate change stories. For those who missed it, the science is straightforward enough - snow that contains soot and other dark particles absorbs sunlight for more than cleaner snow does. This promotes warming as less light is reflected back into space. The research suggests that up to 20% of the warming attributed to man-made CO2 emissions may be down to this dirty snow.

Now, what does this mean? Firstly, this is a factor that seems to have sprung up from nowhere. It's not accounted for in those models that are driving the most apocalyptic visions. It should prompt the question what other unknown effects are there? How can we be taking action to cut CO2 when something like this can come out of nowhere?

Secondly, it also offers a relatively cheap and fast means to ameliorate the situation. Reducing man-made particulates is easier and cheaper than cutting down on CO2.

Will this finding cause any change in the current climate change discourse? Don't hold your breath...

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