One Natural Cause Of Climate Change

Tuesday, November 2, 2021 1:46:45 PM

One Natural Cause Of Climate Change

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Natural Causes of Climate Change

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Friday, January 10, Climate is the long-term pattern of weather in a particular area. Weather can change from hour to hour, day to day, month to month or even from year to year. For periods of 30 years or more, however, distinct weather patterns occur. A desert might experience a rainy week, but over the long term, the region receives very little rainfall. It has a dry climate. Because climates are mostly constant, living things can adapt to them. Polar bears have adapted to stay warm in polar climates, while cacti have evolved to hold onto water in dry climates. The enormous variety of life on Earth results in large part from the variety of climates that exist.

Climates do change, however—they just change very slowly, over hundreds or even thousands of years. As climates change, organisms that live in the area must adapt, relocate , or risk going extinct. For example, fossils from the Cretaceous period to 65 million years ago show that Earth was much warmer than it is today. Fossilized plants and animals that normally live in warm environments have been found at much higher latitudes than they could survive at today.

For instance, breadfruit trees, now found on tropical islands, grew as far north as Greenland. Earth has also experienced several major ice ages—at least four in the past , years. The most recent Ice Age began about 2 million years ago and peaked about 20, years ago. The ice caps began retreating 18, years ago. They have not disappeared completely, however. Their presence in Antarctica and Greenland suggests the Earth is still in a sort of ice age. Many scientists believe we are in an interglacial period , when warmer temperatures have caused the ice caps to recede.

Many centuries from now, the glaciers may advance again. Climatologists look for evidence of past climate change in many different places. Like clumsy criminals, glaciers leave many clues behind them. They scratch and scour rocks as they move. They deposit sediment known as glacial till. This sediment sometimes forms mounds or ridges called moraines. Glaciers also form elongated oval hills known as drumlins. All of these geographic features on land that currently has no glaciers suggest that glaciers were once there.

Scientists also have chemical evidence of ice ages from sediments and sedimentary rocks. Some rocks only form from glacial material. Their presence under the ocean or on land also tells scientists that glaciers were once present in these areas. Scientists also have paleontological evidence—fossils. Fossils show what kinds of animals and plants lived in certain areas. During ice ages, organisms that are adapted to cold weather can increase their range , moving closer to the Equator. Organisms that are adapted to warm weather may lose part of their habitat , or even go extinct. Climate changes occur over shorter periods, as well.

For example, the so-called Little Ice Age lasted only a few hundred years, peaking during the 16th and 17th centuries. During this time, average global temperatures were 1 to 1. A change of one or two degrees might not seem like a lot, but it was enough to cause some pretty massive effects. For instance, glaciers grew larger and sometimes engulfed whole mountain villages. Winters were longer than usual, limiting the growing seasons of crops.

In northern Europe, people deserted farms and villages to avoid starvation. One way scientists have learned about the Little Ice Age is by studying the rings of trees that are more than years old. This in turn is related to climate changes. During times of drought or cold, trees could not grow as much. The rings would be closer together. Some climate changes are almost predictable. One example of regular climate change results from the warming of the surface waters of the tropical eastern Pacific Ocean. In normal years, trade winds blow steadily across the ocean from east to west, dragging warm surface water along in the same direction.

This produces a shallow layer of warm water in the eastern Pacific and a buildup of warm water in the west. Every few years, normal winds falter and ocean currents reverse. Warm water deepens in the eastern Pacific. This, in turn, produces dramatic climate changes. Rain decreases in Australia and southern Asia, and freak storms may pound Pacific islands and the west coast of the Americas. Climate changes happen for a variety of reasons. The impact of large meteorites on Earth could also cause climate change. The impact of a meteor would send millions of tons of debris into the atmosphere. This climate change would severely limit what organisms could survive. Many paleontologists believe the impact of a meteor or comet contributed to the extinction of the dinosaurs.

Dinosaurs simply could not survive in a cool, dark climate. Their bodies could not adjust to the cold, and the dark limited the growth of plants on which they fed. Plate tectonics also play a role in climate changes. More than million years ago, the continents were merged together as one giant landmass called Pangaea. As the continents broke apart and moved, their positions on Earth changed, and so did the movements of ocean currents.

Both of these changes had effects on climate. Changes in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere also have an impact on climate change. Volcanoes—both on land and under the ocean—release greenhouse gases, so if the eruption only reaches the troposphere the additional gases contribute to warming. However, if the eruption is powerful enough to reach the stratosphere particles reflect sunlight back into space causing periods of cooling regionally.

Trees absorb carbon dioxide, so cutting down forests for timber or development contributes to the greenhouse effect. So do factories that emit pollutants into the atmosphere. Average temperatures around the world have risen since about , when scientists began tracking them. The seven warmest years of the 20th century occurred in the s. This warming trend may be a sign that the greenhouse effect is increasing because of human activity. Global warming is often linked to the burning of fossil fuels— coal , oil , and natural gas —by industries and cars. Warming is also linked to the destruction of tropical forests. The University of California Riverside and NASA estimate human activity has increased the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by about 30 percent in the past years.

The amount of methane , a potent greehouse gas produced by decomposing plant and animal matter, is also increasing. As economies grow, populations consume more goods and throw away more materials. Large landfills, filled with decomposing waste, release tons of methane into the atmosphere. These chemicals are also greenhouse gases. Many countries are working to phase out their use, and some have laws to prevent companies from manufacturing them. As the proportion of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere rises, so does the temperature of Earth. But some of that energy, he reasoned, must be held within the atmosphere and not return to space, keeping Earth warm. Energy enters through the glass walls, but is then trapped inside, much like a warm greenhouse. But the so-called greenhouse effect analogy stuck and some 40 years later, Irish scientist John Tyndall would start to explore exactly what kinds of gases were most likely to play a role in absorbing sunlight.

He eventually demonstrated that CO2 alone acted like sponge in the way it could absorb multiple wavelengths of sunlight. By , Swedish chemist Svante Arrhenius became curious about how decreasing levels of CO2 in the atmosphere might cool Earth. In order to explain past ice ages, he wondered if a decrease in volcanic activity might lower global CO2 levels.

His calculations showed that if CO2 levels were halved, global temperatures could decrease by about 5 degrees Celsius 9 degrees Fahrenheit. Next, Arrhenius wondered if the reverse were true. Arrhenius returned to his calculations, this time investigating what would happen if CO2 levels were doubled. The possibility seemed remote at the time, but his results suggested that global temperatures would increase by the same amount—5 degrees C or 9 degrees F. By the s, at least one scientist would start to claim that carbon emissions might already be having a warming effect.

He would continue to argue into the s that a greenhouse-effect warming of the planet was underway. That attention played a part in garnering some of the first government-funded projects to more closely monitor climate and CO2 levels. Scripps geochemist Charles Keeling was instrumental in outlining a way to record CO2 levels and in securing funding for the observatory, which was positioned in the center of the Pacific Ocean. The dawn of advanced computer modeling in the s began to predict possible outcomes of the rise in CO2 levels made evident by the Keeling Curve. Computer models consistently showed that a doubling of CO2 could produce a warming of 2 degrees C or 3. In the early s, a different kind of climate worry took hold: global cooling.

As more people became concerned about pollutants people were emitting into the atmosphere, some scientists theorized the pollution could block sunlight and cool Earth. In fact, Earth did cool somewhat between due to a postwar boom in aerosol pollutants which reflected sunlight away from the planet. But as the brief cooling period ended and temperatures resumed their upward climb, warnings by a minority of scientists that Earth was cooling were dropped. Part of the reasoning was that while smog could remain suspended in the air for weeks, CO2 could persist in the atmosphere for centuries.

The early s would mark a sharp increase in global temperatures. Many experts point to as a critical turning point when watershed events placed global warming in the spotlight. The summer of was the hottest on record although many since then have been hotter. Scientists sounding the alarm about climate change began to see media and the public paying closer attention. One year later, in , the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change IPCC was established under the United Nations to provide a scientific view of climate change and its political and economic impacts.

As global warming gained currency as a real phenomenon, researchers dug into possible ramifications of a warming climate. Among the predictions were warnings of severe heat waves, droughts and more powerful hurricanes fueled by rising sea surface temperatures. Other studies predicted that as massive glaciers at the poles melt, sea levels could rise between 11 and 38 inches 28 to 98 centimeters by , enough to swamp many of the cities along the east coast of the United States. Government leaders began discussions to try and stem the outflow of greenhouse gas emissions to prevent the most dire predicted outcomes.

The first global agreement to reduce greenhouse gases, the Kyoto Protocol, was adopted in The protocol, which was signed by President Bill Clinton , called for reducing the emission of six greenhouse gases in 41 countries plus the European Union to 5. In March , shortly after taking office, President George W. Five years later, in , former Vice President and presidential candidate Al Gore weighed in on the dangers of global warming with the debut of his film An Inconvenient Truth. Gore won the Nobel Peace Prize for his work on behalf of climate change. Among those expressing skepticism over global warming was future U.

In that agreement, countries pledged to set targets for their own greenhouse gas cuts and to report their progress. The backbone of the Paris Climate Agreement was a declaration to prevent a global temperature rise of 2 degrees C 3. Many experts considered 2 degrees C of warming to be a critical limit, which, if surpassed will lead to increasing risk of more deadly heat waves, droughts, storms and rising global sea levels. The election of Donald Trump in led to the United States declaring it would withdraw from the Paris treaty.

And in October , the U.

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