Hot Old Forests

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/11/12/global_warming_good_for_rainforests/

The Register reports that way back, way back, when the rainforests were good and hot, they prospered and life proliferated.

“Global warming is actually good for rainforests, say boffins” reads the headline from Lewis Page, “plus 3 degrees C, 1000 parts per million Carbon Dioxide did jungles a world of good last time”.

Not quite, Lewis old chap. Not quite.

1. The change in global temperatures at the Paleocene-Eocene border was only “rapid” in geological time – at around 20,000 years for the whole event. Plenty of time for rainforests to adapt. Not like now.

2. “There is no evidence for enhanced aridity in the northern Neotropics”, says the Abstract of the research paper “Effects of Rapid Global Warming at the Paleocene-Eocene Boundary on Neotropical Vegetation” by Jaramillo C. et al., in Science, 12 November 2010, Volume 330. Number 6006, Pages 957 – 961, DOI: 10.1126/science.1193833

Yet evidence of severe droughts in the Amazonian rainforest area today makes the analogy with the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum rather thin. With the current incredibly fast rate of warming in South America, it’s unlikely that regular, intense, droughts are going to reduce in the rainforest area.

Added to the current data, there is every reason to believe that the climate in the tropics was very different at the time of the PETM – the Americas had not yet met, and no Gulf Stream northwards existed.

3. “”It is remarkable that there is so much concern about the effects of greenhouse conditions on tropical forests,” says Jaramillo’s Smithsonian colleague Klaus Winter”, write Lewis Page. Klaus, who ? He’s not even listed on the research paper author listing. Does Mr or Dr Winter have anything to do with this research ? Why does Lewis Page quote hiim ?

4. Have you seen the organisations that contributed to this research ? They include “Colombian Petroleum Institute”, “Petróleos de Venezuela S.A.” and “Agencia Nacional de Hidrocarburos, Bogotá, Colombia” and a number of mining companies. What do they want out of research into rainforest productivity 55 million years ago ?

5. Have we talked about the massive extinction of animal life that took place at the PETM ? Well, perhaps we should…

I wonder what Dr Simon Lewis, rainforest expert, will make of this latest “atrocity” from The Register ?
[ UPDATE : The Daily Mail reported Dr Simon Lewis’ views some way down in an article on the subject here. By e-mail, Dr Simon Lewis wrote to me, “[One] obvious point is they are happy to extrapolate 56 million years to now from three points in a tiny corner of South America, which is a bit different from their usual views about historical proxy data…” ]

When I get the access to this report, I will need to delve deeper into the reasons why Lewis Page has proved, once again, that he doesn’t understand current Climate Change science, and doesn’t understand why the climates of yesteryear often have very little to say about the climate of today and tomorrow.

The Register : Can’t Read, Won’t Read ?

Is something ailing The Register’s Lewis Page ? Despite having access to the text of a recent research paper about the Sun’s recent output, and its short-term impact on surface temperatures on Earth, and having had plenty of time to read plain English reviews of the paper’s findings in everyday language, he still writes it up poorly (in my humble opinion). Could this be due to internal bias, I ask myself ? Or is Lewis Page being wilfully contrarian ? Who can say ?

Continue reading The Register : Can’t Read, Won’t Read ?