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The authors rightly point out that the exceptionally cold North American winter of 2013/2014 cannot be attributed to climate change. However, their association between cold air temperatures and harsh winters is too simplistic. Not only do warm winters disrupt human activities that rely on cold temperatures (e.g. the ski industry, and construction of ice roads in the Arctic), but there has been a convergence of ideas among a diverse group of biologists, ranging from insect physiologists to biogeochemists, mammalian biologists and plant ecologists, that warmer winters will have unanticipated and often adverse effects on organisms and therefore ecosystems (Williams, Henry and Sinclair [in press] Cold truths: How winter drives responses of terrestrial organisms to climate change. Biological Reviews).
Many of these effects are driven by changes in duration and depth of snow cover: snow buffers soil from thermal extremes, and thus reduced snow resulting from milder winters will lead to more intense soil freezing events. Late onset of persistent snow cover and early snow melt will expose soil or ground dwelling organisms to increased thermal variability in spring and fall, increasing frost stress and mortality. Even where cold is mitigated, milder winters increase energetic costs for ectotherms and hibernating endotherms, and inhibit vernalization, leading to negative impacts on survival and fitness of overwintering organisms.
Not only will these changes in winter conditions alter over-winter mortality, they will also affect performance the subsequent summer. These effects on individuals will resonate through populations and communities, and will have significant impacts on biodiversity and ecosystem functioning. Thus, although it is inappropriate to use the current winter (or the unusually warm 2011/2012 winter in North America) as evidence for climate change, these conspicuous events provide a springboard for a broader public discussion of the role of winter in ecosystem processes, and the impacts of climate change in winter months.
Brent J. Sinclair & Hugh A. L. Henry (Dept of Biology, U Western Ontario, London ON)
Caroline M. Williams (Dept Entomology and Nematology, U Florida, Gainesville)
The authors correctly point out that harsher winters in coming decades are not the most likely nor the most serious consequences of global warming. But what those most serious consequences are is left open except for a pro forma declaration of allegiance to global warming: "As climate scientists, we share the prevailing view in our community that human-induced global warming is happening and that, without mitigating measures, the earth will continue to warm over the next century..." Unfortunately there is no scientific support for such human-caused greenhouse warming. First and foremost, there is no greenhouse warming now and there has not been any for the last seventeen years. Seventeen years is two-thirds of the 25 years that IPCC has existed. Now they are looking for imaginary "lost heat" in weird places like the ocean bottom. Fact is, the greenhouse theory of Arrhenius is dead and must be replaced by the Miskolczi theory of greenhouse gases. According to him, if several gases simultaneously absorb IR there exists an optimum absorption window that they mutually support. For earth atmosphere, the gases that count are carbon dioxide and water vapor. Their joint optimum absorption window has an optical thickness of 1.87 in the IR. If you now add some CO2 to the atmosphere it will start to absorb just as the Arrhenius theory says. But that will increase the optical thickness and as soon as that happens water vapor will start to diminish, rain out, and the optimum optical thickness is restored. That takes care of the twenty-first century but the twentieth century has two warming spurts to explain. The first one started in 1910 and raised global temperature by half a degree Celsius. The second one started in 1999 and in only three years raised global temperature by a third of a degree. Their sum for the entire century is 0.8 degrees Celsius, just what Hansen has been using. To determine their nature we use radiation laws of physics according to which you must add more greenhouse gas to the atmosphere if you want to start any greenhouse warming. Checking the Keeling curve and its extension from Law Dome in Antarctica we find that there was no sudden increase of atmospheric carbon dioxide either in 1910 or in 1999 when these warming spurts started. Clearly all twentieth century warming was natural warming. To summarize: there was no greenhouse warming in the twentieth or the twenty-first centuries. This means that greenhouse warming simply does not exist.
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