Matt McIrvin (mmcirvin) wrote,
Matt McIrvin

Warming on other planets

On the Paul Harvey show, presidential candidate Fred Thompson just gave new publicity to an argument that's been bouncing around for a while:
Some people think that our planet is suffering from a fever. Now scientists are telling us that Mars is experiencing its own planetary warming: Martian warming. It seems scientists have noticed recently that quite a few planets in our solar system seem to be heating up a bit, including Pluto.[...]

Silly, I know, but I wonder what all those planets, dwarf planets and moons in our SOLAR system have in common. Hmmmm. SOLAR system. Hmmmm. Solar? I wonder. Nah, I guess we shouldn’t even be talking about this. The science is absolutely decided. There’s a consensus.

Ask Galileo.
I can't ask Galileo, but the Bad Astronomer covered the question of warming on other planets pretty well back at the end of April:
[...]what I am seeing in these arguments is a very dangerous practice called "cherry picking"; selectively picking out data that support your argument and ignoring contrary evidence. It certainly looks interesting that Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Triton, and Pluto are warming, and if that’s all you heard then it seems logical to think maybe the Sun is the cause. But they aren’t the only objects in the solar system. What about Mercury, Venus, Saturn, Uranus… and if you include Triton to support your case, you’d better also take a good look at the nearly 100 other sizable moons in the solar system. Are they warming too?

I have heard nothing about them in these arguments, and I suspect it’s because there’s not much to say. [...] However, I can’t say that with conviction, because the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.[...]

Third, if you actually read the articles about the specific cases of planetary warming to which I linked above, you see that they all have separate explanations:
which turn out to be Milankovitch cycles in the case of Mars, and probable seasonal effects on Pluto and Triton (where the history of good astronomical observations covers less than a local year); and as for Jupiter, the warming there may not even be global.

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