Who turned out the lights?
A couple weeks ago, we reported about how NASA put a ban on all interviews about the upcoming environmental disaster flick "The Day After Tomorrow." Which is, you know, a fictional movie from the makers of Godzilla and Independence Day, so obviously they're dangerous truth-tellers. Well, if today's New York Times is to be believed, maybe the reason NASA doesn't want to talk about it is they don't know what the hell's going on:
Globe Grows Darker as Sunshine Diminishes 10% to 37%
In the second half of the 20th century, the world became, quite literally, a darker place.
Defying expectation and easy explanation, hundreds of instruments around the world recorded a drop in sunshine reaching the surface of Earth, as much as 10 percent from the late 1950's to the early 90's, or 2 percent to 3 percent a decade. In some regions like Asia, the United States and Europe, the drop was even steeper. In Hong Kong, sunlight decreased 37 percent.
Here's the fun part:
Yet the dimming trend — noticed by a handful of scientists 20 years ago but dismissed then as unbelievable — is attracting wide attention...
"There could be a big gorilla sitting on the dining table, and we didn't know about it," said Dr. Veerabhadran Ramanathan, a professor of climate and atmospheric sciences at the University of California, San Diego. "There are many, many issues that it raises."
The dynamics of global dimming are not completely understood. Antarctica, which would be expected to have clean air, has also dimmed.
"In general, we don't really understand this thing that's going on," said Dr. Shabtai Cohen, a scientist in the Israeli Agriculture Ministry who has studied dimming for a decade. "And we don't have the whole story."
Dr. Gerald Stanhill of the Israeli Agriculture Ministry noticed similar darkening in Israel. "I really didn't believe it," Dr. Stanhill said. "I thought there was some error in the apparatus."
So basically, if you boil that down, "We're fucking up the planet so much, we don't even know how." We've heard so much about global warming over the years, never global dimming. But clearly, there are effects to polluting the Earth since the Industrial Revolution. Which is to be expected. Which makes the current government's dismissal of the situation all the more disturbing.
And then there's this:
"I have a very strong feeling that probably solar radiation is increasing during the last 14 years," [Dr. Atsumu Ohmura of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich] said. He based his hunch, he said, on a reduction in cloud cover and faster melting rates in glaciers.
But clearer, sunnier days could mean bad news for global warming. Instead of cloudiness slowing rising temperatures, sunshine would be expected to accelerate the warming.
So maybe the Bush administration policies are a blessing in disguise. If they continue to allow polluters to cover the atmosphere with soot and noxious gases, it'll actually cover the ozone layer like a gaseous Band-Aid! Maybe that's the plan. I'll check the latest EPA report.
Incidentally, MoveOn.Org is going on a campaign to hand out flyers at the aforementioned "The Day After Tomorrow" to educate moviegoers about the real effects of climate change. If you want to volunteer and help out, click here.