The Durk Pearson & Sandy Shaw®
Life Extension NewsTM
Volume 5 No.
5 • October 2002
More Global Warming:
A Giant Coincidence or What?
There have now been three bodies in the solar system other
than Earth that have been reported to be warming: Mars, Triton, and Pluto. On
July 20 and then on August 21 of this year, Pluto passed directly between Earth
and certain stars in the constellation Ophiuchus, thus allowing scientists to
obtain information on Pluto's atmosphere. Researchers Marc W. Buie (Lowell
University) and James L. Elliott (MIT) found that, although Pluto is now 3%
farther from the sun than it was in 1988 (the last time Pluto occulted a star
seen from Earth), the planet's surface is now slightly warmer. Another team at
the Observatory of Paris also measured an increase in Pluto's surface
temperature. (See "Pluto and the Occult," Science News, Sept. 7, 2002.)
According to B. Buratti of the NASA Jet Propulsion
Laboratory, Triton's light curve has recently increased in amplitude, its
spectrum has reddened distinctly more than once, and even its atmospheric
pressure has been increasing. A light curve is the variation of a body's
apparent brightness with time. [Reported in "Out on the Edge," Nature
"Using [Mars Global] Surveyor's camera, Malin and his
colleagues found that during a full Martian year - about 2 years - the walls of
pits in the south polar ice cap receded by about 1 to 3 meters. The cap is
mostly frozen carbon dioxide, and the dramatic shrinkage suggests that large
amounts of the material have evaporated into the Martian atmosphere." (Quoted
from the Jan. 19, 2002 Science News.) Malin et al. (in the Dec. 7, 2001 Science)
called the rate and amount of erosion "phenomenal." "In Leighton and
Murray's model, a 1% change in the mass of the Martian atmosphere would only
require a 0.1% change in the long-term solar reflectance of a
residual carbon dioxide deposit." [Paige, "Global Change on Mars?"
294:2107-8 (2001).] A paper in that same issue of Science by Shindell et al.
presents evidence that "relatively small solar forcing may play a significant
role in century-scale NH [northern hemisphere] winter climate change. This
suggests that colder winter temperatures over the NH continents during portions
of the 15th through the 17th centuries (sometimes called the Little Ice Age) and
warmer temperatures during the 12th through 14th centuries . . . may have been
influenced by long-term solar variations."
Though we have read speculations (a different one for each
body) to account for the surface warming for Mars, Pluto, and Triton, a
mechanism that would apply to all three (and a warming Earth as well) would be
an increase in the sun's output. Despite the reports on Mars, Pluto, and
Triton, there hasn't been a peep from anyone in Science or Nature concerning a
possible connection between warming of these bodies and putative Earth warming.
Remember the case of the dog that didn't bark? This may
be another one. NASA is being given huge amounts of money to study global
warming, yet it hasn’t proposed the obvious project of designing a small,
inexpensive satellite to precisely measure solar output over time. Studies of
solar variability to date have relied upon data from old satellites not designed
for the purpose of reliable multigenerational solar output measurements, and
proxy data in, for example, deep-sea sediment cores. [See, for example, Haigh et
al., "Climate Variability and the Influence of the Sun," Science 294:2109-11
(2001).] The U.S. pays about $2 billion a year of our money for global warming
studies; that can buy a lot of silence.