February 23, 2004 | Graham

It’s not the Greenhouse effect, it’s just hot wind

According to Dad, in 1925 my grandmother sat on the back stairs of the workers cottage in East Brisbane where he still lives and said to my great grandmother – “Maybe they should just leave this land to the blacks.”
Somewhat predictably Saturday morning the Courier Mail devoted around a whole page to suggestions that the unseasonable February weather that Brisbane is experiencing may be a result of the Greenhouse effect. I’ve been a believer in the Greenhouse effect since before most people had heard of it. The term was coined in the ’50s and I remember as a primary school student who avidly devoured popular science reading about the effects for the earth of light diffracting off an increased layer of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
I’ve also been alive long enough to know that at another stage in the last 40 years scientists were worried that we would go through a period of global cooling and that the world has been through a number of cycles going from a periods of ice age to tropical idylls.
I can understand why scientists being interviewed on our current high temperatures (we hit over 41.7° yesterday) and would attribute it to Greenhouse. It means increased publicity, which leads to increased funding, leading to more publications. A greater publication record equals an increased reputation which equals in turn more publicity and increased funding. For the scientist this is a virtuous cycle – it is also a process similar to the one that drives cyclones.
The weekend’s high temperatures have very little to do with Greenhouse gas emissions, if at all. They have been caused by a north-westerly wind blowing across the hot desert interior of the continent and reaching the coast. It is not increased global temperature that is causing this but an unusual weather pattern.
My grandmother was saying something to these scientists. Her comments weren’t the signs of an emerging consciousness of aboriginal land rights, they were an expression of disgust at the high temperatures that Brisbane was experiencing at the time.
Before claiming that the weekends high temperatures are an effect of global warming, scientists ought to ask themselves this question – “How is it that while these temperatures are nudging current records, the records that they are nudging were set in the 1920s, a period well before the major increase in greenhouse gas emissions?”
The fact that these temperatures were possible that long ago indicates that there is most likely something other than global temperatures at play. To ignore this issue, while it may generate headlines, doesn’t generate credibility.

Posted by Graham at 10:36 pm | Comments Off on It’s not the Greenhouse effect, it’s just hot wind |
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