Friday, October 30, 2009

SNRAS professor publishes views on climate change

SNRAS Professor Glenn Juday (pictured at right) was the featured author in the latest issue of Witness the Arctic online newsletter. Witness has an audience of over 14,000 arctic scientists, educators, agency personnel, and policymakers. Published by Arctic Research Consortium of the United States, the newsletter requested scientists to submit articles on how their personal thinking about their research has changed over time. In Juday’s article, titled, “Coincidence and Contradiction in the Warming Boreal Forest,” he details the forestry research he has been conducting since the 1970s, highlighting the warm seasons Alaska has experienced.

About the beginning of his work Juday wrote, “...I considered global warming from human-caused increases in greenhouse gas as an explanation, something as dramatic as global-scale climate and ecosystem change seemed like a distant prospect, not something likely actually to be important in my career.”

As the years passed and national interest in climate change waxed and waned, Juday decided to focus on the potential effects of warming on boreal tree growth and forest health. In the late 1980s he learned tree ring analysis. He plotted ring-width sample data against Fairbanks climate data, expecting to see no relationship, but found out his assumption was wrong.

Following is a short excerpt from the article.

As I analyzed the Alaska temperature data, the pile of squiggly lined graphs grew higher and higher, and nearly all displayed a sharp upswing at the far right of the page, representing the high temperatures of the most recent years. Again, this sounds elementary today, but at the time it was a noteworthy trend—seeing the hard data at so many stations going up to such high levels was compelling.
My results also showed a strong cyclic feature in the record, which was partly related to the solar cycle and to El NiƱo, as a few others had suggested earlier. In addition to giving a summary perspective on about 80 years of climate data, I was looking for a reasonable and specific test that would address the question of greenhouse gas warming. I concluded that "if, as expected, CO2 begins to overwhelm the natural range of climate variability between now [1982] and the end of the century, Alaska would experience a stairstep increase in temperatures, the peaks of which would reach unprecedented highs." That basically describes what happened, but, of course, I wasn't certain at the time.

Related posts:

"Forestry professor included in new climate change book," SNRAS Science & News, Dec. 19, 2008

"The Case of the Missing Budworms," SNRAS Science & News, Oct. 16, 2008, by Glenn Juday

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