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The Sheep Albedo Hypothesis -- April Fool's Day, 2007
RealClimate.org detailed the work of Dr. Ewe Noh-Watt of the New Zealand Institute of Veterinary Climatology, who had discovered that global warming was caused not by a buildup of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, but rather by the decline of New Zealand's sheep population. The reasoning was that sheep are white, and therefore large numbers of sheep increased the planet's albedo (the amount of sunlight reflected back into space). As the sheep population declined, the ground absorbed more solar radiation, thus warming the planet: "It can be seen that the recent warming can be explained entirely by the decline in the New Zealand sheep population, without any need to bring in any mysterious so-called 'radiative forcing' from carbon dioxide, which doesn't affect the sunlight (hardly) anyway — unlike Sheep Albedo."
Noh-Watt also warmed of a potentially destabilizing feedback mechanism: "As climate gets warmer, there is less demand for wool sweaters and wooly underwear. Hence the sheep population tends to drop, leading to even more warming. In an extreme form, this can lead to a 'runaway sheep-albedo feedback,' which is believed to have led to the present torrid climate of Venus."
However, skeptics disputed the Sheep Albedo Hypothesis. Steve Ramsturf, spokesman for the New Zealand Sheep Farmers Guild, was quoted as saying, "Baaah, Humbug. No matter what goes wrong with the world, they're always trying to blame the poor New Zealand Sheep Farmer."
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