Yesterday’s post about the Spirit of Mawson Expedition caused more of a furore than I had anticipated. Rachel’s had her work cut out trying to moderate and I’m away on a research trip, so was hoping to avoid these rather contentious posts. I’m clearly failing dismally. In the interests of trying to get away from that, I thought I might write something a little more light-hearted (hope it works out that way).
I was in London with the family for a fews days before leaving them at Kings Cross to make their own way home while I headed to Gatwick to catch a plane to wherever I am now. On Friday we tried to go to the Natural History Museum, but the queue was so long that we decided to go around the corner to the Science Museum as I had heard it was also very good. Well, it didn’t disappoint and I discovered that there was an entire section on climate change which, again, was extremely good. There was a very good interactive display explaining how the Sun heats the Earth, why we have seasons, and why we have different climate zones.
It also had an original Keeling air sampling flask, which reminded me that there are problems with funding the continuation of the programme that collects the data for the Keeling curve (started by Charles Keeling and now run by Ralph Keeling). Eli Rabett has a post about Shaking the cup for science.
There was also an ARGO float, everyone’s favourite. In case you don’t know, there are something like 3000 of those in the world’s oceans, some of which were recently deployed by the Spirit of Mawson expedition. They drop down to a depth of 2000m and take various measurements (temperature, salinity, …) on the way back up – or, maybe, down. They then transmit their data when they return to the surface – every 10 days, I think. It’s these ARGO floats that have helped to confirm that our climate continues to warm despite the slowdown in surface warming.
There was also an excellent interactive display in which you could turn pages on a table and the screen would then explain how various thing could influence our climate and what might be responsible for global warming. It considered the Sun (no, can’t be the Sun). It considered ENSO cycles (no, these can’t explain the overall warming, they just introduce short-term variability). It considered volcanoes which, again, produce short-term variations but can’t explain the long-term warming trend. The final page was about human activities and the conclusion is below (it’s us, in case you did’t know that already).
Anyway, I thought the display was excellent. I think some would be disappointed that it didn’t (as far as I could see anyway) present any alternative views. Given that most (if not all) of these cannot explain how we’re warming, that would seem like the right thing for a world-class science museum to do. I tried to convince the family that they should write a guest post on my blog about what they learned – so far, they’ve declined (my family – collectively and individually – are typically wiser than I am). From the Science Museum we went to the Victoria and Albert, which was also excellent. I then forced them to traipse around more of London before any shopping was allowed.