Friday, August 28, 2009

Bad NJ Allergy Season Due to Global Warming

You've heard it here first folks. The bad ragweed allergy season in New Jersey is the result of global warming (and wasn't that term dropped in favor of climate change).

Never mind that this summer has been much cooler than usual, with fewer 90 degree days than past years, or that June and July were much wetter than usual.

All this is proof of global warming according to the Star Ledger.
Blame it on ragweed, which -- along with cockroaches and poison ivy -- thrives on the combination of global warming, heavy rainfall and high carbon dioxide levels that have defined the Jersey Summer of '09.

Ragweed season is now in its full, malignant glory and "no outdoor place is ragwood-free," said Leonard Bielory, director of the Asthma and Allergy Research Center at the UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School in Newark.

Not only is there more ragweed pollen this year, but the season that used to peak around Labor Day now starts earlier and lasts until the first frost, added Bielory, who warned sufferers to expect a "bumper crop" of pollen.

Even frost is only of limited relief because it heralds the start of the mold allergy season.

Recent studies linked climate change to 60 to 90 percent increases in pollen production during the past 20 years. Add in double the amount of rainfall in New Jersey this summer, and ragweed plants are seven-feet tall and still growing.

A single ragweed plant can produce 1 billion pollen grains that can travel up to 400 miles, propelled by a single breeze. An estimated 36 million Americans suffer from ragweed allergy.
Is there anything that global warming can't do?

My wife and I both suffer from allergies, and hers is in overdrive right now since she's more affected by ragweed. I take it on the chin with mold, but in both cases it appears this season is worse than usual because of the high amounts of rain the area got in June and July, allowing the weeds to grow much more than usual.

Running the AC is a partial help as is taking various allergy medications, but there's little more than can be done to stop the seasonal allergies.

As far as high carbon dioxide levels are concerned, what exactly is the percentage of carbon dioxide in the air right now, and how much of an increase is it year over year? The article doesn't say, but wiki provides the following:
As of November 2007, the CO2 concentration in Earth's atmosphere was about 0.0384% by volume, or 384 parts per million by volume (ppmv). This is 100 ppmv (35%) above the 1832 ice core levels of 284 ppmv.[1][2] There is an annual fluctuation of about 3–9 ppmv which roughly follows the Northern Hemisphere's growing season.
So, we're talking a percentage point of concentration and carbon dioxide isn't even the largest greenhouse gas; that title belongs to water vapor, which is present in far higher concentrations.

Much as those who think CO2 is the cause of climate change, the causal relationship remains an open question, to say nothing of the fact that other studies seem to show that there are other influences on global climate that may play a far greater role; the sun, for example.
An international team of scientists led by the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) used more than a century of weather observations and three powerful computer models to tackle one of the more difficult questions in meteorology: if the total energy that reaches Earth from the Sun varies by only 0.1 percent across the approximately 11-year solar cycle, how can such a small variation drive major changes in weather patterns on Earth?

The answer, according to the new study, has to do with the Sun's impact on two seemingly unrelated regions. Chemicals in the stratosphere and sea surface temperatures in the Pacific Ocean respond during solar maximum in a way that amplifies the Sun's influence on some aspects of air movement. This can intensify winds and rainfall, change sea surface temperatures and cloud cover over certain tropical and subtropical regions, and ultimately influence global weather.

"The Sun, the stratosphere, and the oceans are connected in ways that can influence events such as winter rainfall in North America," says NCAR scientist Gerald Meehl, the lead author. "Understanding the role of the solar cycle can provide added insight as scientists work toward predicting regional weather patterns for the next couple of decades."

The study was funded by the National Science Foundation, NCAR's sponsor, and by the Department of Energy. It builds on several recent papers by Meehl and colleagues exploring the link between the peaks in the solar cycle and events on Earth that resemble some aspects of La Nina events, but are distinct from them. The larger amplitude La Nina and El Nino patterns are associated with changes in surface pressure that together are known as the Southern Oscillation.
We know that La Nina and El Nino are regularly repeating cycles that operate every 3-8 years on average, and the current solar sunspot cycle has been unusually low.

Scientists are still trying to figure out all the influences on global climate, and to suggest that CO2 is the end-all of climate change is absurd, particularly when the models used by these same scientists have consistently been shown not to correctly predict climate - particularly because if CO2 is the driving force, the temperatures should be increasing steadily as the percentage of CO2 increases despite any effort to contain CO2 emissions. That means that there are other factors that are not being taken into account for driving global climate, which may be far more significant (but far less amenable to taxation via schemes like cap and trade or carbon trading).

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