Saturday, November 27, 2010

Bad news from GISS

By combining the newer fire model with an existing climate model developed at GISS, Pechony and Shindell ran their model back to 844 to check how well they could capture past conditions, and forward to 2100 to simulate future wildfire trends under different climate regimes. When projecting forward, they modeled three different greenhouse-gas emissions scenarios, including one that curtailed greenhouse gas emissions significantly, one that assumes they continue unabated, and one in the middle. All three produced rapidly rising temperatures, regional drying, and increases in fire abundance.

This is kind of a tall drink of bad news. It reminds us that a large amount of warming is in the pipeline regardless of what we do . . . a fact which makes it all the more crucial that we put the brakes on this runaway train as soon as possible. And it draws our attention to another tipping point, in this case the point at which rising global temperatures overcome the firefighting infrastructure, and forest fires rage out of control. This will release significant amounts of CO2, and spread black soot which decreases the Earth's albedo -- both of which will cause more warming.

Other important feedbacks include the loss of Arctic sea ice, decreasing the albedo, decreased absorption of CO2 by warming seas, destabilization of methyl hydrates, and the melting of permafrost. Throw in some landslides and tsunamis, and it'll be an interesting century ahead.

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