When I first heard about Charlie Zender’s theory that dirty snow contributes significantly to global warming, I got worried. Not, however, about the environment, but about the ways in which the know-nothings might be able to use this to make fun of the facts and confuse the issue. Can’t you just hear Rush Limbaugh, or one of the other foghorns of the far right, having a great time ridiculing this study?
“Now get this. A team of so-called atmospheric physicists from the University of California thinks the main threat to the planet is dirty snow. “You heard that. Dirty snow. I suppose they think we need President Hillary to launch a massive program to wash the nation’s snow. Or maybe the liberals would like to pay unemployed polar bears to work on it. Give a subsidy to Canada.”
You get the drift. But when you look at the results of this study, the clear indication is that the effects of blackened snow are now something well beyond a theory. The study, by the way, was not paid for by a liberal think tank, but by the Bush Administration, through NASA.
Scientists don’t like to call anything established fact. But to a layman, the data presented here leave essentially no doubt that contaminated snow does, in fact, help warm up the globe. How can that be?
Well, you know why you don’t want to wear a black suit to a summer garden party, right? Dirty snow works much the same way. As the scientists put it, “Snow becomes dirty when soot from tailpipes, smokestacks and forest fires enters the atmosphere and falls to the ground.” Soot-infused snow is darker. Dark surfaces absorb sunlight and cause warming, while bright surfaces reflect heat back into space, and cause cooling. What happens after the snow melts? The effect continues, because the ground surface is darker and retains more heat.
This is clearly happening, as is global warming itself. We have enough recorded temperature data over the last few hundred years to confirm that. Even the Bush Administration doesn’t seriously contest the reality of what they prefer to call “climate change.” The only real question is what to do about it.
As of now, we don’t have any way of rolling back global warming, any more than we do fixing the damage to a person’s lungs done by years of cigarettes. What we do know is that no matter how badly you have abused your body, it is better to quit smoking, right now. Ditto, global warming.
Charlie Zender also noted that “any increase in shipping through the Arctic Ocean is likely to exacerbate these effects by putting soot emissions right in the middle of the remaining snow and sea-ice.” He suggests we might want to think very carefully about this. If you have children, I suggest you take his advice.
For me, there’s no choice. I have to be against melting the polar ice caps. After all, I have a basement.