Saturday, February 22, 2014

A Changing World with the Changing Climate: Part I

            Climate change has become a popular discussion topic in the news over the past ten years. While it was initially a controversial topic, there is very little controversy today that climate change is indeed happening. This is the first of three parts that will explain how the changing climate is affecting life on Earth. Each section will focus on a different “sphere” of the Earth, and this first section will focus mainly on atmosphere.

                                             (Emily Gertz, NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center)

            Scientists have observed that the temperatures have been rising which is now being linked to the changes in weather through a pretty simple process. Richard Houghton states that as “the climate gets warmer, you put more moisture into the atmosphere, and it just gets a little more violent...There’s a lot more energy around… that comes out in unexpected ways, generally not to the betterment of gardens and forests and so on.” The rise in energy in the atmosphere not only causes more extreme weather but also influences other climate changes such as El Niño. El Niño is an irregular climate pattern that brings warm waters to a normally cold Pacific current. The pattern only happens once every few years, but the rising temperatures could cause El Niño occurrences to double over the next 100 years. This pattern typically causes intense rains in the Pacific, which is not healthy for an area that has been experiencing drought. When an area has been experiencing drought and receives very heavy rainfall, the area can experience runoff and floods much quicker due to lack of saturation in the ground. In 2013, California’s rains were not only intense but also brief. California had its driest year and its 12th warmest year on record. 
              Many scientists do not believe that these record breaking years will stop anytime soon. The California drought has been occurring due to the melting Arctic Circle. Michael Mann states that “’given the very large reductions of Arctic sea ice, and the heat escaping from the Arctic ocean into the overlying atmosphere, it would be surprising if the retreat in Arctic sea ice did *not* modify the large-scale circulation of the atmosphere in some way.’” Therefore, the loss in Arctic sea ice is a cause in a weather pattern shift that is now causing droughts in California. If the doubling of El Niño events is added to this equation then the west coast may have some future flooding disasters in its future. This list of cause and effects keeps tracing back to the rising temperatures, the cause of the melting Arctic sea ice. The big problem is the rising air temperatures are not scheduled to slow down anytime soon. Climate models predict temperatures in the 22nd century show that the global temperature may be 10°C higher in 2100! Therefore, if rising temperatures are indeed the main cause for climate change then people around the world need to come together to try to reverse this trend; otherwise, by the year 2100, the landscape of the world may look a little different than how it looks today.
            The topic that is still in high debate is what or who is causing the rising temperatures, and although the question remains unanswered, there is more proof that the climate is changing as the temperatures rise. The main source of the debate is the human influence. There is very little doubt that humans are indeed influencing the climate change, and the only way to find out the degree of the human influence is to start changing our habits, but I will dig into that more in my second section of this three-part blog!
            As the climate changes, it alters the weather patterns, and the rising temperatures provide more energy that causes stronger weather to occur. This is how the atmosphere has been changing due to climate change. The next two sections of this three-part blog will observe two other “spheres:” the biosphere (humans and animals) and the lithosphere/hydrosphere (land and oceans).

1 comment:

  1. Here is a recent description of "wacky weather" in Brazil:
    We hear so much more about northern hemisphere changes, but countries like Australia are also debating how to adapt: