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Geological Perspectives of Global Climate Change


Lee Gerhard

Kansas Geological Survey, Lawrence, KS


Carbon dioxide-driven climate change is a hypothesis that has gained momentum in the global political arena before the science underlying the assumption was tested. The hypothesis is driven by strong physical theory, supported by detailed computer models, but lacks data support, especially time/effect series data. Science that is model-driven rather than data-driven must be rigorously data tested. For climate change, that data must be rooted in climatic geologic history.


Fortunately, the hypothesis has been undergoing testing in the recent refereed literature. Carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere have a delayed correlation with earth temperature changes, computer models assuming carbon dioxide as the major climate driver are unable to back model documented past climate changes, and these models have not forecast current climate variability. Essential elements of greenhouse climate driving require early temperature rises in the lower troposphere that have not occurred, and early temperature rises at the poles, where a negative correlation exists.


At the same time, the literature has documented a high degree of correlation of solar variability with earth temperature variability, much more than predicted. Physicists argue that such changes in solar output cannot drive climate, but the correlation is remarkable. At this time there appears to be no conflicting data. Geologists might remember the early 20th Century physics arguments against continental drift, ultimately supplanted by an elegant dynamic plate tectonics model.


Natural dynamic processes are immense energy systems. To suggest that human emissions are supplanting natural systems requires that data be advanced supporting the hypothesis and that all data be satisfactorily explained by the hypothesis. Anthropogenic climate change through carbon dioxide emissions does not satisfy all data sets and is close to being falsified by current research, while solar variability is proposed as the new ruling paradigm for driving past and present climate change.


AAPG Search and Discovery Article #90004©2002 AAPG Rocky Mountain Section, Laramie, Wyoming