WEB TEXT: Forecasting a Warming Trend

Science  06 Feb 2004:
Vol. 303, Issue 5659, pp. 739d
DOI: 10.1126/science.303.5659.739d

Almost everyone scoffed when Swedish chemist Svante Arrhenius first suggested in 1896 that carbon dioxide from industrial emissions might warm the globe by 5° to 6°C. Even Arrhenius didn't fret about the predicted increase, because he calculated that temperatures wouldn't reach that level for about 3000 years. To find out how human-caused climate change evolved from half-baked hypothesis to scientific consensus and pressing environmental problem, check out The Discovery of Global Warming, a Web text from the American Institute of Physics based on a 2003 book by science historian Spencer Weart.

The site traces more than a century of findings in atmospheric chemistry and climatology, such as geochemist Charles Keeling's discovery, starting in the late 1950s, that atmospheric carbon dioxide levels were soaring. Other chapters plumb how the U.S. government, the international community, and the public have responded to the accumulating evidence that human activities are contributing to rising temperatures. Above, temperature deviations over the last 140 years.

www.aip.org/history/climate

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