January 1st, 2012 12:00 EST
The Mechanics of Global Warming and Future Effects on Our Climate and Environment
I don`t know if you are like me but lately within the past year or so since the concerns about Global Warming have taken a front seat in the news and media. I have been really thinking about how serious this subject is and the impact it will have on our kids and our grandchildren and generations to come.
The concern about Global Warming has been on the minds of scientist since the middle of the 20th century when the overall temperature of the Earth became about one-degree higher than the normal temperature. A one-degree rise in temperature doesn`t seem like very much bit when you are dealing with our planet and overall average temperatures, one-degree might as-well be one-hundred degree because the effects from just a one-degree rise in the Earth`s average temperature can have drastic effects on the environment.
The main culprit of why Global Warming is now starting to increase is the effect greenhouse gases are having on our environment. The two main greenhouse gases are carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4) which prevents heat from escaping our planet thus is one of the reasons for Global Warming. This example is the same as the warming inside a greenhouse. To go a little further for the definition of greenhouse which to understand how the greenhouse effects goes hand in hand with the effects of global warming; there are two definitions,
1). The phenomenon whereby the earth`s atmosphere traps solar radiation, caused by the presence in the atmosphere of gases such as carbon dioxide, water vapor, and methane that allow incoming sunlight to pass through but absorb heat radiated back from the earth`s surface.(The free dictionary, 2011)
2. A similar retention of solar radiation, as by another planet or in a solar panel (the free dictionary, 2011)
So, imagine on a warm and sunny spring day to be standing in a greenhouse under one of the many solar panels that make-up the roof of the green house. You would feel the warm or even hot rays of sun as the slide into the solar panels glass and into the open room. The heat is then trapped in the greenhouse. It is a radiation effect. This is the same scenario that global warming is having on our planet. This is also the trend of increasing temperatures that is happening and fueling the fire for global warming.
When there are out of the normal trend of increasing temperatures across the globe one of the devastating effects it can have is to cause certain plant and animal life to perish. It also stirs the normal ecosystem of life into frenzy. I mentioned in one of my last articles on this that a truck driver in his fifty-two foot rig and trailer was East Bound ad Down on one of the main highways in the Northern United States and reported he saw a herd of what looked like Armadillos strutting down the side of the highway. If anyone knows about where Armadillos normally migrate then you would know that they do not go where the temperature gets below sixty-five degrees which means they normally are found in Texas or the Deep South not the Northern United States. Like I also said in my last article, either these Armadillos were seriously sniffing crack and became really, really lost or the effects of Global Warming on our environment played a major role in this out of the ordinary phenomenon.
We have seen more and more weather patterns lately that are not of the normal weather patterns that have been taking shape the past one-hundred or so years. We saw more Tsunamis last year (the one that devastated Japan) last year than we have heard of in the past. I know on the news I saw the dust storms that hit Phoenix so hard it was like standing in the middle of a snow bank. You couldn`t see but maybe less than an inch in front of you. Yes, Dust storms in the Southwest are normal but I never heard of any hitting or as many that hit lately in my lifetime. In the Southern United States, I have been in and seen more tornadoes hit here than ever before. This is tornado alley and we always have the threat here in the South every spring and summer of tornadoes but it`s not the number of tornadoes it`s the power and force of the past ones we have lived through here. The main one that hit in April of 2011 that just about demolished Tuscaloosa, Alabama and turned Birmingham into a one-track race course. It also demolished the little suburb towns in and around Birmingham which has not happened before or at least not happen in the past hundred or so years.
Some of the past statistical data that has changed when it comes to why Global Warming is now happening at a faster rate is the increase in certain chemicals and gasses in our atmosphere. Carbon Monoxide is the main gas that makes up our atmosphere and in the past 600,000 years or so the average parts per million of carbon monoxides averages around about 300 parts per million within that timeframe. Today the average parts per million has increased to over 450 parts per million which you can see is a significant increase.
A lot of the polar caps of ice that normally do not change shape and melt have melted to an extent that the sea level in Antarctica is on the rise and is spilling over to other parts of the globe. The ice thickness at the North Pole has decreased 40% in the last 40 years. The polar ice reflects 90% of sunlight. Without the ice only 10% will be reflected. 90% will be absorbed by the ocean. With the effect of the rising ocean if this trend were to keep up the effect would be with the ice melting in that region of the world the ice that is melting just in Greenland alone would increase the sea level to around twenty-feet above the normal sea level and the effect of just that alone would displace over 100,000 people. It would be like a flood from a torrential rain storm.
If Global Warming were to keep increasing and the Earth`s temperature were to continually rise, the effect in about one-hundred years just on the Antarctic region of the world would cause all the ice to melt in Antarctica which would raise the sea level to over one-hundred and fifty feet about the normal sea level. The effects of that would probably be similar to a category five hurricane and the same effects the hurricane has on the coast when it hits in a direct path and at full force. I am sure the map of the world would change drastically. There would be a lot less land and more water.
Let`s take a look at a couple of the pieces of the puzzle that make up the essence of how our internal environment works and how global warming is disrupting these normal environmental cycles. One of the larger pieces of the puzzle is the Carbon Cycle on our planet. The Earth maintains a natural carbon balance. When concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2) are upset, the system gradually returns to its natural state. This natural readjustment works slowly, compared to the rapid rate at which humans are moving carbon into the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels. Natural carbon removal can`t keep pace, so the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere increases. (Global Warming Facts, 2011)
A good example of the Earth`s Carbon Cycle can be found at the Marion Koshland Science Museum. The museum`s eco-sphere is sealed. No air, water, nutrients, or any other matter enters or escapes the system. The Earth`s carbon cycle is also very nearly sealed. In both cases, plants and animals flourish.
Within the Earths Carbon Cycle consists the Natural Carbon balance. To understand the natural Carbon Balance is to understand it in a mechanical way. Within the natural cycle there are two types of cycles at work, the short-term cycle and the long-term cycle.
In the short-term cycle the carbon is exchanged between plants and animals through photosynthesis and respiration and through the gas exchanges between the oceans and our atmosphere. So, the carbon cycle links plants, animals, our oceans and our complete atmosphere together like links on a chain.
In the long-term cycle takes place over millions of years where natural carbon in the air is mixed with water to form very weak acids that normally dissolve rocks. Other parts of this carbon get carried to our oceans where it forms coral reefs and various shells. Most of these drifting sediments as a result of these weak acids formed by carbon in the air and water mixed get dissolved deep into the Earth`s crust and then may reemerge and released back into our atmosphere by volcanic activity.
We humans are the problem when it comes to disrupting the natural Carbon Cycle on Earth. When we Like all other animals, humans participate in the natural carbon cycle, but there are also important differences. By burning coal, oil, and natural gas, humans are adding carbon dioxide (CO2) to the atmosphere much faster than the carbon in rocks is released through natural processes. And clearing and burning forests to create agricultural land converts organic carbon to carbon dioxide gas. The oceans and land plants are absorbing a portion, but not nearly all of the CO2 added to the atmosphere by human activities.(Global Warming Facts, 2011) Thus adding to the effects of Global Warming.
Another piece of the puzzle that makes up how our climate and environment works that is being affected by the causes of Global Warming is what is known as The Natural Climate Cycle. Climate changes can and may result from two important factors, natural causes and human causes. Some of the major causes of climate change are as follows.
Ã˜ CO2 and other Greenhouse Gas Variations: There are lots of human made gases that are culprits to the greenhouse effect that warms the Earth. Water Vapor or (H2O, Hydrogen with 2 parts Oxygen) is the main important gas, Carbon Dioxide or (CO2) is the next important followed by Methane (CH4), Nitrous Oxide (N2O), and Chlorofluorocarbons or (CFC`s) which are used in air conditioners and extensive industrial processes. With the increase in these gasses in our atmosphere is one of the main ingredients to Global Warming.
Ã˜ Human Activity and Greenhouse Gasses: We see it every day when driving down the highway or on some back country road, some large factory is spewing some type of gas into our atmosphere. One of the main fuels the world lives on is carbon. Carbon is basically the fuel in fossil fuels. If you eliminated any carbon fuel the affect would literally stop the entire industrial world. Carbon or CO2 contributes the most to the increase of greenhouse warming than any other fuel.
Ã˜ Other causes of climate changes are methane gas which is the second highest reason for greenhouse warming. For those of you who don`t know what methane gas is, just go out and eat about three bowls of Texas style chili. You will then get a great idea of what methane gas is and you will also get a good feel for it. Since we have lots and lots of herds of farm animals in every part of this country and the world that eat lots and lots of grass and have a grassy diet there is lots and lots of methane gas being released into the atmosphere daily.
Ã˜ Ocean Circulation: If you have ever been underway on any type of ocean bearing vessel then you have experience the strong wind currents out in the open ocean. These wind currents carry heat from the tropics to the poles. Many various processes can alter the normal circulation patterns which results in changing the regional climate or even on a broader scale over the entire world. A good example of this is the pattern known as El Nino. We have seen this weather pattern which normally occurs every two to six years occurring more frequently in various parts of the world.
Ã˜ Volcanic Eruptions: A volcanic eruption may send ash and sulfuric acid (SO2) into the atmosphere, which increases planetary reflectivity causing atmospheric cooling. Over time precipitation will remove these aerosols from the atmosphere. Volcanic eruptions can have a worldwide impact. (Global Warming Facts, 2011)
Ã˜ Orbital Variations: Slow changes in the Earth`s orbit lead to small but climatically important changes in the strength of the seasons over tens of thousands of years. Climate feedbacks amplify these small changes, thereby producing ice ages.(Global Warming Facts, 2011)
Ã˜ Land Use Changes: When humans transform land from forests to seasonal crops or from natural to urban environments, the regional climate system is altered. For example, clear-cut hillsides are significantly warmer than forests. Urban environments are also islands of heat produced by industry, homes, automobiles, and by asphalt`s absorption of solar energy. Land use changes are not likely to have a large, direct effect on global average temperature. Changing uses of the land are also associated with changes in the usage and availability of water, as well as the production of greenhouse gases. Deforestation can significantly increase the amount of atmospheric CO2, which warms the planet.(Global Warming Facts, 2011)
So, you can see that there are some natural factors that occur on their own that disrupt the natural routine of our atmosphere and environment but most of the causes are from us humans.
Scientists are now trying to predict the future of climate changes by using computer-based climate models. The predictions take into account many of the factors that were illustrated previously about causes " in the climate system, such as greenhouse gases, ocean circulation, and clouds.
The future is inherently uncertain, but far from unknown. In this activity you will be able to explore the trends in atmospheric CO2 concentration and temperature over the coming century, both through line graphs and time-varying temperature maps of the world. (Global Warming Facts, 2011)
21st Century CO2 and Temperature Projections:
Different computer models project somewhat different climate trends; the two maps show two of these models, one from GFDL (The Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory), and the other from NCAR (The National Center for Atmospheric Research). (Global Warming Facts, 2011)
Globally averaged temperature projections from two state-of-the-art climate models driven by the same scenario of the future CO2 concentrations give similar results. (Global Warming Facts, 2011)
-Both show that warming will increase in the next century as greenhouse gas levels rise. (Global Warming Facts, 2011)
-Both show that warming will be greatest in the northern regions close to the pole. (Global Warming Facts, 2011)
-Both show that warming will tend to be greater over land than over the ocean. (Global Warming Facts, 2011)
The effects of global warming are catastrophic. The main concern is not only the future of our planet but the future of our family and their future generations and so on. For more on the Future of Global Warming go to (www.koshland-science-museum-org).
Koshland Science Museum, Global Warming Facts and Our Future, (www.koshland-science-museum-org) Retrieved 2011.
The Free Dictionary, (www.thefreedictionary.com) greenhouse effect. Retrieved 2011.