16/1/14: Of Air and Oceans and tennis matches

By Mike Johnson

The big news this week is the atmospheric temperatures experienced by Australia in 2013. And it looks like global warming has finally hit the headlines after raising questions about the health of the players at the Tennis Open (Seehttp://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/capital-weather-gang/wp/2014/01/14/boiling-over-extreme-heat-causes-stir-at-australia-open/ )  

Mess with our Sport and you mess with us! From ski-fields to the tennis courts, global warming is starting to impact a whole range of human activities. We are starting to notice.

See also:

http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2014/01/17/3181361/australian-tennis-tournament-extreme-heat/

The Australian Climate Council have come up with this amazing graphic for representing Australia’s record-breaking heat month by month. This is so good I had to paste it in, but here is the link anyway:http://www.climatecouncil.org.au/2014/01/08/offthecharts/

This focus on air temperatures however, should not blind us to the fact that the atmosphere is, remarkably, only absorbing some 2.3% of the excess heat we are producing by burning fossil fuels. It’s the ocean that is taking the serious hit. It’s worth having a look at the following graph. I found the graph here:http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2013/12/15/3065961/faux-pause-warmest-november-nasa/ but it is designed by the smartfolks at http://www.skepticalscience.com/

AIR AND OCEAN AS FICTIONAL CHARACTERS

If a mere 2.3% of the heat generated by excess C02 can cause dramatic effects such as the melting of arctic sea-ice and threatening a tennis match in Aussie, what effect is the enormous amount of heat being absorbed by the ocean having, and going to have? And it’s not just the surface. Ocean currents are conducting heat deep into the ocean, to the very bowels of the mother of all life on the planet.

If Air and Ocean were characters in a work of fiction, I would describe them in term of a contrast. Air is highly re-active, skittish, rash, quick to take offense, volatile, unpredictable. A mere 1% increased global temperature in the last 120 years is enough to throw Air into a tizzy, a hissy-fit: storms, droughts, cold blasts – air is all over the place.

Ocean however is the silent type, deep and dark and thoughtful – and easy to underestimate. Phlegmatic. Reserved, Slow to react, to build up, but all the more powerful once aroused.

To abandon the metaphor, the oceans, because of their depth and vastness compared to the thin envelop of air, have a tremendous stored inertia. Anyone who has tried to push a stalled car knows about inertia. At the beginning inertia will work to hide or disguise the energy the object is absorbing, but once it begins to react its processes will be unstoppable.

We think that we are fuelling the economy by burning fossil fuels when what are really fuelling is global warming.