Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Climate Change Models

Brandon Keim:
"Global climate models are missing a good chunk of plant information that could significantly alter long-term climate change predictions. A new technique for modeling phytoplankton -- microscopic plants in the upper layers of the Earth's waters -- could reveal a much more accurate picture."
Now this seems interesting, especially in view of the alleged scientific concensus with respect to global warming. (Perhaps this concensus should not be referred to as a scientific concensus, but instead it might be referred to as a political concensus of many scientists.)

I wonder why someone might think that microscopic plants should be part of climate change models?
"Phytoplankton perform two-thirds of all the Earth's photosynthesis -- the process by which plants turn light, nutrients and carbon dioxide into food. The amount of CO2 processed by phytoplankton during photosynthesis affects concentrations of CO2 in the water, which determines how much of the greenhouse gas the oceans can absorb."
Wow! The little microscopic plants perform 2/3 of all the earth's photosynthesis. Maybe it would be important to have a good model of phytoplankton when worrying about climate change. Apparently the model written about is "a major breakthrough." Why? It seems these little microscopic plants evolve and the new model offers a way of modeling that evolution.
Follows and his colleagues created a model ocean seeded with dozens of randomly generated types of phytoplankton. Like the real ocean, the model accounted for variations in light, temperature and food.

Having set the parameters, Follows' team turned the model on. Over 10 simulated years, the digital creatures competed to survive. Some died out, others flourished, and they gradually settled into their respective niches.

Current marine-modeling systems don't factor in the phytoplankton's ever-evolving nature.

"We know that if climate changes a lot, the oceanic ecosystem will change," says Raleigh Hood, a University of Maryland oceanographer. "This model has the power to change itself under changing conditions."

It sounds like the new model has great value because ocean biology will evolve and this should apparently have an impact on the earth's carbon cycle. The new model may offer a way of guessing about how significant aspects of the earth's climate may evolve in response to carbon emissions. It sounds like models upon which the alleged scientific concensus are grounded may not have enough of the "ever-evolving nature" of nature embodied in them.

In view of news like this, I wonder how much comfort we should find in the scientific concensus on global warming? And, I wonder, in view of news like this if the scientific concensus might also be due for some evolving?

[HT: Instapundit]

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