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Determining the Local

Implications of Global Warming

Clifford Mass
University of Washington
Global Warming 101
The Earth With No Atmosphere


Earths surface would be 60F cooler than todayno life.

But the Earth has an
Includes gases
such as nitrogen
and oxygen
Also includes
What is a Greenhouse Gas?
Greenhouse gas is a gas that that is
relatively transparent to solar radiation, but
absorbs and emits in the infraredthe type
of radiation the earth emits.
Some examples:
Water vapor
Carbon dioxide
Nitrous oxide
Earth With An Atmosphere That
Includes Greenhouse Gases



Greenhouse Gases Make the Earth Warmer by Slowing the Loss of Infrared Radiation
Greenhouse Gases Warm the
Earth in a Similar Way That
Blankets Warm Us at Night
The Problem:
Rapidly Rising Greenhouse
Gases Due to Mankind
Gases Trapped in Ice Gives Us a History of the
Gases in the Atmosphere
But it is worse than that
There are a number of natural amplifiers
of mankinds emission of greenhouse
The warming due to increased carbon
dioxide, methane, and other greenhouse
gases will cause more water to be
evaporated from the earths oceans.
The amount of evaporation increases with
Water vapor is the most potent greenhouse
gas and thus causes even MORE warming.
This produces a positive feedback.
But it gets
even worse
Warming temperatures melt snow and ice.
Snow and ice help cool the planet because they
reflect much of the suns radiation.that is why
you need sun glasses while skiing.
As the snow melts less radiation is reflected to
space and more is absorbed.
Thus, the earth gets warmer, which melts more
Another positive feedback!
Is Global Warming Already
Finding the global warming signal is made more
difficult because the earths climate has a certain
amount of natural variability.
Also the warming due to man was relatively
small before the middle of last century before the
large increase in fossil fuel usage.
The consensus of most atmospheric scientists is
that some global warming signal due to man is
now evident.
Eleven of the twelve warmest years
in the past 150 years have
occurred in the past twelve years
These photographs, taken in 1928 and 2000, show how South
Cascade Glacier in the Washington Cascade Mountains has
retreated over time.
But what about the future?
The Technology of Prediction
Atmospheric scientists use complex climate
prediction modelscalled General Circulation
ModelsGCMSto predict the future climate.
These models are similar to weather forecast
models, but allow the gases in the atmosphere
to change.
They also simulate the evolution of the oceans.
Have to assume the future emission of
greenhouse gases by mankinda major
These models are not perfect and cannot exactly
replicate the current climate.but they are close
and getting better each year.
Details on Current Study: GCM
Which Scenario Will Mankind Follow?

IPCC Report, 2001

IPCC Report, 2001
Sample Climate Model Output for 2100
What about the Northwest?
Several of us are applying very high
resolution simulations forced by the global
climate model predictions
Gives a view of the local implications of
global warming.
Could our mountains and other local
features make it worse or better?
Northwest weather is
dominated by terrain
and land-water
contrasts of much
smaller scale.
In order to understand
the implications of
global changes on our
weather, we must
consider our local
terrain and land use.
Running High Resolution
135, 45, 15Regional Climate Models
km MM5 domains
Need 15 km grid spacing to model local weather features.
Snow and Ice Reflect Much of
The Incoming Solar Radiation
Solar Radiation

Global Warming Causes Snow level to Rise
Resulting In Absorption of Solar Energy on
Melted Slopes

Solar Radiation

Why Relative Cooling West of
Cascades in Spring?

Low clouds due to more onshore flow

from off the cool, cloud Pacific.
The Montereyization of the western
Large Drop in Snowpack in the Mountains
Key Facts
The overwhelming majority of atmospheric
scientists believe global warming forced by
mankinds changes to the atmosphere has
occurred and will became MUCH larger during
the next decade.
This is based on the best technology and
observations available.
There are substantial uncertainties, so we cant
give a specific number, but a range.
Even if increases in the emission of greenhouse
gases stop today, a certain amount of global
warming is inevitable.
Range of Global Warming
Global Warming Goes Political
and Reaches the Public Arena
Truth: Basically
Accurate But
Contains Some
Full of Major
The Day After Tomorrow: Global
Warming Causes Ice Age:
Complete Nonsense
Mayor Nickels and Global
Claims of a 50% reduction in Cascade
snowpack due to global warming are
simply not true.
Perhaps 10-15%
Bottom Line
Global warming and its local implications
are very serious.
There are significant uncertainties, but
they are NOT in whether global warming
will occur, but rather the magnitude and its
local effects.
The End
Why Such Strong Warming on
Mountain Slopes..Particularly in

Probable Answer: Snow melt

resulting in more solar heating.
Change in
Bottom Line: Annual trends relatively
small, but some seasonal shifts
Early fall sees the greatest enhancement