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Wetter atmosphere linked to warming

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  • Mike Neuman
    Friday, October 7, 2005 Wetter atmosphere linked to warming By Curtis Morgan Knight Ridder Newspapers MIAMI — Scientists analyzing 20 years of satellite data
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 10, 2005
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      Friday, October 7, 2005
      Wetter atmosphere linked to warming
      By Curtis Morgan
      Knight Ridder Newspapers

      MIAMI — Scientists analyzing 20 years of satellite data have
      confirmed an atmospheric spike in a prime fuel behind global warming,
      according to a study in the current issue of the journal Science.
      The finding is important because it used real-world readings to
      verify what computer simulations have predicted is happening in a key
      zone of Earth's atmosphere, said Brian Soden, a University of Miami
      scientist and lead author of the study.
      It's getting wetter up there, which means it's getting hotter down
      here.

      "This is one of the first studies to show it is increasing at the
      same rate as the models suggest," said Soden, an associate professor
      of meteorology at the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of
      Marine & Atmospheric Science.

      Researchers did not focus on pollutants typically blamed for global
      warming but on water vapor, which climatologists recognize as
      the "dominant greenhouse gas," Soden said.

      Water vapor occurs naturally, driving the rain cycle and keeping the
      planet from being too cold, he said. But as global temperatures rise —
      from carbon-dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuel, other
      industrial emissions and deforestation — moisture in the atmosphere
      builds up with it, forming a blanket that further raises
      temperatures, Soden said.

      "The CO2 [carbon dioxide] is the trigger," he said, "and water vapor
      acts as an amplifier."

      Models suggest the impact is profound. Current projections predict
      average global temperatures rising five degrees Fahrenheit by
      century's end, Soden said. Without the water-vapor increase, he said,
      models predict a 2-degree rise.

      Though the study is being published in one of the world's most-
      respected academic journals, Soden did not anticipate it would
      necessarily sway skeptics. The Bush administration, for one, has
      questioned global-warming theories, and critics, including some
      scientists, think the effect is cyclical and not linked to human
      activity.

      "I don't think there will ever be a single study that provides the
      smoking gun," he said. "It is all incremental evidence that
      accumulates. The consensus has developed toward global warming. What
      role this study will play in convincing people who are still
      skeptical, that's impossible for me to say."
      Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company
      http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/nationworld/2002545205_warm07.ht
      ml
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