Wyoming study finds state's record warming in 6,000 years tracks carbon emissions

2013-02-17T10:00:00Z 2013-02-17T12:21:04Z Wyoming study finds state's record warming in 6,000 years tracks carbon emissionsBy CHRISTINE PETERSON Star-Tribune staff writer Casper Star-Tribune Online

The last time it was this warm in Wyoming was more than 6,000 years ago. It was a time when active sand dunes moved across the state and the North Platte River disappeared at its headwaters, said Bryan Shuman, an associate professor of geology and geophysics at the University of Wyoming.

Shuman spent one year studying fossil pollen buried in mud and published his long-term look at climate change in a paper in the May 2012 issue of “Climatic Change,” a journal that analyzes causes and implications of climate change.

He will present his findings at a Geologists of Jackson Hole public talk Tuesday.

Shuman’s paper involves a look at the past as well as the broader world around us, which are both topics the geologists group likes to present, said John Hebberger Jr., co-vice president of the Geologists of Jackson Hole.

“He is going to try and relate what is happening in the past to what we are seeing today,” he said. “And talk about the extent of man-made change and non-man-made change.”

Shuman has spent more than 10 years looking at natural climate changes and has published more than 50 papers on the topic.

In his paper he analyzes not only how he came to his conclusion on long-term warming, but also the possible causes. The only definitive cause that fits all possibilities is carbon emissions, he said.

He looked at three major alternatives to human-caused warming.

The first is simply warming by the sun. More than 6,000 years ago, when temperatures were similar to what they are now, the earth was actually slightly closer to the sun in the summer.

“We got more radiation from the sun and things heated up as a result,” he said. “That has not happened in the last 30 years.”

Temperatures are also warmer at night, which would not be the case if the sun caused the additional warming.

Another argument is that urban areas worsen global warming. Buildings and pavement absorb heat more than natural earth, thus warming the planet, Shuman said.

This doesn’t prove true in Wyoming, where most of the state is undeveloped.

The third and final option was natural variability in ocean and weather cycles. Shuman analyzed all data he could find from ocean changes and weather patterns such as El Nino and La Nina. No cycle pattern fit the same kind of warming Wyoming has seen in the past 30 years.

When he looked at the long-term trend data in relation to carbon dioxide emissions, the correlation fit exactly with temperature increases, he said.

While the increases in temperatures have been small — only a matter of degrees — Shuman said the outcome can be as dramatic as more forest fires and severe pine beetle outbreaks.

Reach Open Spaces reporter Christine Peterson at 307-746-3121 or christine.peterson@trib.com. Follow her on Twitter @PetersonOutside.

Copyright 2015 Casper Star-Tribune Online. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(6) Comments

  1. ButterCream
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    ButterCream - February 18, 2013 1:43 am
    Cody Coyote... You are a Wyoming gem... the Oasis Voice of Reason in the Wyoming Desert. Please keep it up!
  2. rocl
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    rocl - February 17, 2013 8:57 pm
    Science is all about observation. My observation in my lifetime is that the climate has without a doubt changed in my 60 years of living in this region. The biggest tell to me is the trees in southeast Wyoming. There aren't too many to begin with and if things continue soon there won't be any. The fires of this past summer took a big toll on the Laramie Range. I had a lot of mountain birds in my bird feeders in town this past fall that I haven't seen before down on the prairie. How you can be a cowboy in Wyoming without any cows to chase around because there is no grass for them to eat is another story.
  3. Cody Coyote
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    Cody Coyote - February 17, 2013 7:38 pm
    My log on the fire says thus and so : "Just wait till the Methane busts loose..."

    Earlier this week on PBS was an amazing 2-hour science special called " Earth From Space" , a profile of the earth resources science being done from data collected in orbit the past 40 years since the first LANDSAT was launched in 1972. The producers of this special took solid science and displayed it using state of the art animation using real geospatial mapping and both overlays and underlays. Simply put, it made geophysics very visible, as all art should try to do : Make Visible. "Earth From Space" brought the dynamics of the Earth's vast intricate interlocked physical and planetwide biological systems into focus, at least so far as we understand the processes today , ( Like any good science, a question answered should ask at least one more ).

    I highly recommend this program be seen by one and all, and would suggest it be inserted into middle school or high school curricula. I would especially hope that Cimate Change Deniers, Republican science skeptics, all Tea Partiers, hydrocarbon industry flacks and anyone who doubts anything that Al Gore was trying to tell us ten years ago based on what he learned from the previous 25 years ---sit dfown and absorb the show. " Earth from Space" does not delve into climate change much at all. It doesn't have to. Instead it demonstrates how interconnected the forces that drive the world are interconnected in ways not apparent before we had the " God's Eye View" from satellites, and developed the science to understand what the sensors were beaming back. Everyday is an epiphany in Earth Resources Imaging it seems. " Earth From Space" can be viewed online at pbs.org.

    The best scene in the show , for me, actually came during the closing credits. One of the Red Cardinals of orthodox CLimate Change Denial is David Koch , the billionaire Tea Party Texan who muddles and [pddles in politics from his über-wealthy pulpit , driving right wing extremiosm and conservative dogma with tons of money made from oil and gas. But David H. Koch is not the Anti-Christ. He has some good qualities as well. His foundation is generous to public television.

    There it was in the credits: NOVA is underwritten by the David H. Koch Foundation.

    Yea, verily .
  4. formerlib
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    formerlib - February 17, 2013 6:53 pm
    More hocus pocus .... global warming is a result of CO2 being produced by our use of fossil fuels and fossil pollens tell the story of the past 6000 years??? And I have some ocean front property in WY to sell you. . Just because this guy believes it, doesn't mean diddly. Who paid for his study?? Why don't we hear about the parts of the world that were colder than normal or had much more rain than normal last year?? Because it doesn't fit the agenda. Why has Al Gore refused to debate anyone for years on man made global warming??
  5. Wyomingite
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    Wyomingite - February 17, 2013 6:36 pm
    It kind of bothers me when even now scientists (or at least those attempting to practice the scientific field) use correlation as causation and their supporters do not get their facts straight before writing them down for all to see.
    Water not under the influence of other forces other than gravity does tend to settle in the lowest possible point. We call this flowing down hill. But the simplicity and "common sense" of this is not so simple and not so common.
    Trees, grass, grains, and most plant life live because water and nutrients dissolved in water can travel up their trunks to the leaves to assist in photosynthesis. Because of this ability of water to go up; animals, including us, have food to eat and can live.
    This process is known as capillary action. It allows water to travel up thin tubes, up in plants etc. And since the ground under your feet is mostly not solid stone but rather compressed aggregates it also allows water to travel up in aquifers.
    This overall simplification of the global climate is just as unfounded as the overall simplification of water flow. It's not that simple folks.
    Take for instance the fact that it wasn't until 2008 that it was proposed that the Co2 in the atmosphere displaces some of the water, also a greenhouse gas, causing the atmosphere to hold a relatively constant greenhouse effect all based on the research of Hungarian Physicist Ferenc Miskolczi.
    Basically what he found was that the model the IPCC uses is based on a solid sphere for a planet with the oceans just a heat sink. What the IPCC did not take into consideration were two physical facts, the effective radiative kinetic energy (heat) of the atmosphere is 1/2 the potential (gravitational) energy. Very simple conservation of energy concept. In other words, the temperature of the atmosphere can be no higher than the weight holding it in place or the atmosphere will expand and eventually escape into space.
    And secondly that the the amount of energy emitted back to the surface is equal to that absorbed by the atmosphere. Another simple physical fact. You can't send back any more than you have!
    Using the existing data, equations describing the atmospheres of planets was derived and it shows that the presently taught green house effect is equivalent to the atmosphere of Mars, a simple solid (water flowing downhill) but does not work for the Earth with 70%+ water (water flowing up hill).
    And NO - the science even with this is not settled. It isn't even known enough yet to set policy!
    You see, even now the model for Mars is used for Earth because simple is easier!

    Bruce Williams
    Gillette, Wyoming
  6. wyo-us
    Report Abuse
    wyo-us - February 17, 2013 11:28 am
    Water costs more:

    Thank you Professor Shuman for adding your expertise and your analytic assessment of Wyoming’s deeping drought. Thank you for adding another voice in the wilderness. If there are enough voices speaking in Wyoming, not even our wind can keep it a secret. In 1960 there were 24 glaciers in Glacier National Park Montana, today there are 4, and in 2015 there will be none. We will have to call it Rock Mountains National Park, Montana.

    In your local Wyoming community:
    How much does your fire department cost, all together, in buildings & equipment?
    How much does your police department cost, all together, in buildings & equipment?
    How much does your hospital/health clinics cost, all together, in buildings & equipment?
    How much does your city hall/court house/public buildings cost, all together, in buildings & equipment?

    In your local Wyoming community:
    Your public waters system, buildings & equipment, your source water (wells or intakes), your water treatment facilities, your waste water treatment facilities, your distribution and collection system all added up, cost more to replace than all of the other publicly owned facilities in the community put together.

    Yup, your water system costs more than everything else put together to replace.
    Without water there is no fire department, no policing, no medical services, no homes or business.

    How much is your home worth without public water & sewer?
    How much is your business worth without public water & sewer?
    How much is your agribusiness worth without irrigation & pounds & streams or rain?

    The question is:
    Do us as Wyomingites chose to rationally, with analytic insights, assess the world around us and respond with practical, pragmatic solutions to the realities of now?

    It has been said that Wyoming Whiskey (if your luck enough to get some) is for drinking but Wyoming water is for fighting.

    Wyoming Whiskey is made in Kirby, Wyoming from aquifer well water more than 8,000 years old and thousands of feet deep. Water does only one thing, it comes from up to down. No up, no down.

    M. Edwards
    Casper, Wyoming
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