Is the Glass Half Full or Half Empty?

Your answer to that question is supposed to have some deep meaning on how you view the world. Half empty is supposed to be a pessimistic view of the world, where as half full is supposed to show you are optimistic.

Bunch of garbage.

If the glass was filled half way the glass is half full. If half of a full glass was emptied then the glass is half empty. If you come across a glass and don’t know either of the previous all you can say is the class contains half of what it is capable of containing, nothing more.

What does that have to do with temperature changes? Lots.

I often post in the Globe and Mail when they run some story about AGW. In the latest round I pointed someone who was a supporter of AGW to this site to show them that summer temps have been cooling while winter temps have not gotten as cold. He accused me of misrepresenting what is happening.

“More heat is being added in the winter” was his claim, as if adding more heat is bad, which is the mantra of AGW. My reply to him was that it depended on how you looked at it. I asked him if the glass is half full or half emptied.

The analogy goes like this. The world is supposed to be summer all year long. That’s what it was for almost all of geological time in the past 500 million years at least, punctuated by a few rare ice ages. Thus in the temperate zones there was no winters, no seasons. And a new paper just published showed those times were great for the biota. If anything, having winter seasons was bad for the biota in those areas. See paper here. So one can argue that going into winters means the planet is losing vital heat.

So the premise is this, since going into winter LOSES heat that should have been retained (emptying the glass) then for it to not get as cold in the winter means not as much of that vital heat is lost (not emptying the glass as much).

Of course he not only refused to see temperature in that way, but he also refused to answer how a milder winter can be bad. Only in the world of dogma does one not see alternative possible ways of viewing the same phenomenon. In this person’s mind the glass is supposed to be empty, and adding to it, adding ANY heat to the atmosphere, including heat that was lost, is a priori bad.

About J. Richard Wakefield

J. Richard Wakefield has published three fiction novels, Blinding White Flash, Blinding White Flash Invasion and The Barn. The sequel to The Barn, The Cunningham Arrests, is going to the publisher in 2015. He was a firefighter for 22 years in Toronto, and a professional computer programmer for 25 years. He lives with his wife, Dorothy, in Southwestern Ontario.
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2 Responses to Is the Glass Half Full or Half Empty?

  1. SoundOff says:


    The natural temperature of this planet is -18ºC from the Sun alone – which means 255ºC is being added from absolute zero by the Sun (this is black body radiation). GHGs raise Earth’s temperature from -18ºC to +15ºC – which is a further 33ºC increase, small compared to the Sun but important to us (this is the Greenhouse Effect, about ¾ is due to H2O and ¼ is due to CO2 and other GHGs). If anything, one could argue that the world is supposed to be snowball, not “summer all year long”. It is not meaningful to speak in terms of heating and cooling except as a comparison to some previous state. All temperature change is a function of the difference between incoming and outgoing radiation and changes in either or both.

    Incoming – The Sun’s contribution has a cyclical (or seasonal) feature. At times more heat is delivered to the Northern Hemisphere or the Southern Hemisphere. Overall, the Sun’s incoming contribution is essentially a fixed quantity from the planet’s point of view, at least for periods longer than 11 years.

    Outgoing – The planet is always radiating away its heat in the form of LW radiation in an attempt to maintain temperature equilibrium. Adding more GHG temporarily reduces the outgoing radiation until the planet warms up bit. A warmer planet radiates away more heat putting the planet back in equilibrium (if no more GHG is added). The CO2 component of GHG is also cyclical – up in winter and down in summer – up during the night and down during the day, but any additional CO2 adds to all seasons and to all times of day. Dry regions (deserts & poles) are more affected too, as these areas have more outgoing radiation.

    Two factors are acting simultaneously. The Sun is seasonally delivering its heat to different hemispheres. GHGs are slowly pushing up the overall equilibrium temperature but more effectively at night and in the winter. Therefore, the combined effect one should see is slightly warmer summer days and significantly warmer winter nights, but nothing should be cooler. Day/night and summer/winter Tmax and Tmin should converge and shift upwards overall, especially near the poles. Observations agree with these expectations (expect perhaps yours – try looking at averages rather than counting days above and below). Stations close to large bodies of water will experience a similar effect so look at ones further away to see the effect more clearly.

  2. Prior to 55myo the planet's average temperature was 24C or so. Now it's 15. So for 400 million years it was much higher than now (no winters, tropical everywhere). Now it's abnormally low because we are still in an ice age, an interglacial period within an ice age. CO2 levels have been as much as 5 times in the last 55my. So our puny addition of more CO2 is just returning the planet to a higher level of CO2 it had previous to this ice age.

    If you want to argue a counter point, one could claim that life and geological processes are sequestering CO2 to a level so low that plants are near suffocation. Left to continue the trend and life could be wiped out for lack of CO2! We are saving the planet by liberating CO2 for plants to grow.

    The whole point about this site is not to look at averages, because averages obscure what is going on. And what is going on is summer TMax is falling. That is a fact. The number of days above 30C for southern Ontario is decreasing (AGW claim there will be more heat waves, which would be more days above 30C).

    The fact that summer temps are falling, winter temps are rising means they are converging, which they cannot do forever, eventually, regardless of the level of CO2, the must start to diverge again. Hence a cycle.

    I did compare locations near water in one of these, Belleville is right on Lake Ontario. Ottawa is not. Belleville shows more moderated temperature changes over the year, as expected, but still shows the same basic increase in winter, and decrease in summer as the rest of the country.

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