Temperature Changes - Sample Essay

Another global warming effect is ice-albedo. When global temperatures increase, ice near the poles melts at an increasing rate. As the ice melts, land or open water takes its place. Both land and open water are on average less reflective than ice, and thus absorb more solar radiation. This causes more warming, which in turn causes more melting, and this cycle continues. Warming is also the triggering variable for the release of methane from sources both on land and on the deep ocean floor, making both of these possible effects.

Thawing permafrost, such as the frozen peat bogs in Siberia, creates a positive effect due to release of CO2 and CH4. Methane discharge from permafrost is presently under intensive study. Warmer deep ocean temperatures, likewise, could release the greenhouse gas methane from the ‘frozen’ state of the vast deep ocean deposits of methane clathrate/methane hydrate, according to the Clathrate Gun Hypothesis, Ocean ecosystems’ ability to sequester carbon are expected to decline as it warms.

This is because the resulting low nutrient levels of the mesopelagic zone (about 200 to 1000 m depth) limits the growth of diatoms in favor of smaller phytoplankton that are poorer biological pumps of carbon (McKibben, B,2007). Global temperatures have increased by 0. 75 °C (1. 35 °F) relative to the period 1860–1900, according to the instrumental temperature record. This measured temperature increase is not significantly affected by the urban heat island effect. Since 1979, land temperatures have increased about twice as fast as ocean temperatures (0. 25 °C per decade against 0. 13 °C per decade). Temperatures in the lower troposphere have increased between 0. 12 and 0. 22 °C (0. 22 and 0. 4 °F) per decade since 1979, according to satellite temperature measurements.

Temperature is believed to have been relatively stable over the one or two thousand years before 1850, with possibly regional fluctuations such as the Medieval Warm Period or the Little Ice Age. Sea temperatures increase more slowly than those on land both because of the larger effective heat capacity of the oceans and because the ocean can lose heat by evaporation more readily than the land. The Northern Hemisphere has more land than the Southern Hemisphere, so it warms faster. The Northern Hemisphere also has extensive areas of seasonal snow and sea-ice over subject to the ice-albedo feedback.

More greenhouse gases are emitted in the Northern than Southern Hemisphere, but this does not contribute to the difference in warming because the major greenhouse gases persist long enough to mix between hemispheres (Houghton, J. T. 2004). Based on estimates by NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, 2005 was the warmest year since reliable, widespread instrumental measurements became available in the late 1800s, exceeding the previous record set in 1998 by a few hundredths of a degree.

Estimates prepared by the World Meteorological Organization and the Climatic Research Unit concluded that 2005 was the second warmest year, behind 1998. Temperatures in 1998 were unusually warm because the strongest El Nino-Southern Oscillation in the past century occurred during that year. Anthropogenic emissions of other pollutants—notably sulfate aerosols—can exert a cooling effect by increasing the reflection of incoming sunlight. This partially accounts for the cooling seen in the temperature record in the middle of the twentieth century, though the cooling may also be due in part to natural variability.

James Hansen and colleagues have proposed that the effects of the products of fossil fuel combustion—CO2 and aerosols—have largely offset one another, so that warming in recent decades has been driven mainly by non-CO2 greenhouse gases(Langholz . A. J and Turner. K. 2003). Pre-human Climate Variations Earth has experienced warming and cooling many times in the past. The recent Antarctic EPICA ice core spans 800,000 years, including eight glacial cycles timed by orbital variations with interglacial warm periods comparable to present temperatures. A rapid buildup of greenhouse gases amplified warming in the early Jurassic period (about 180 million years ago), with average temperatures rising by 5 °C (9 °F).

Research by the Open University indicates that the warming caused the rate of rock weathering to increase by 400%. As such weathering locks away carbon in calcite and dolomite, CO2 levels dropped back to normal over roughly the next 150,000 years (Gore, A. 2007). Sudden releases of methane from clathrate compounds (the clathrate gun hypothesis) have been hypothesized as both a cause for and an effect of other warming events in the distant past, including the Permian–Triassic extinction event (about 251 million years ago) and the Paleocene– Eocene Thermal Maximum (about 55 million years ago).

Attributed and expected effects Environmental Sparse records indicate that glaciers have been retreating since the early 1800s. In the 1950s measurements began that allow the monitoring of glacial mass balance, reported to the WGMS and the NSIDC (Weart, R. S. 2003). Although it is difficult to connect specific weather events to global warming, an increase in global temperatures may in turn cause broader changes, including glacial retreat, Arctic shrinkage, and worldwide sea level rise.

Changes in the amount and pattern of precipitation may result in flooding and drought. There may also be changes in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events. Other effects may include changes in agricultural yields, addition of new trade routes, reduced summer stream flows, species extinctions, and increases in the range of disease vectors (Weart, R. S. 2003). Some effects on both the natural environment and human life are, at least in part, already being attributed to global warming.

A 2001 report by the IPCC suggests that lacier retreat, ice shelf disruption such as that of the Larsen Ice Shelf, sea level rise, changes in rainfall patterns, and increased intensity and frequency of extreme weather events are attributable in part to global warming. Other expected effects include water scarcity in some regions and increased precipitation in others, changes in mountain snow pack, and adverse health effects from warmer temperatures. Social and economic effects of global warming may be exacerbated by growing population densities in affected areas. Temperate regions are projected to experience some benefits, such as fewer deaths due to cold exposure. A summary of probable effects and recent understanding can be found in the report made for the IPCC Third Assessment Report by Working Group II.

The newer IPCC Fourth Assessment Report summary reports that there is observational evidence for an increase in intense tropical cyclone activity in the North Atlantic Ocean since about 1970, in correlation with the increase in sea surface temperature (see Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation), but that the detection of long-term trends is complicated by the quality of records prior to routine satellite observations. The summary also states that there is no clear trend in the annual worldwide number of tropical cyclones.

Additional anticipated effects include sea level rise of 180 to 590 millimeters (0. 59 to 1. 9 ft) in 2090-2100 relative to 1980-1999, repercussions to agriculture, possible slowing of the thermohaline circulation, reductions in the ozone layer, increasingly intense (but less frequent) hurricanes and extreme weather events, lowering of ocean pH, and the spread of diseases such as malaria and dengue fever. One study predicts 18% to 35% of a sample of 1,103 animal and plant species would be extinct by 2050, based on future climate projections. However, few mechanistic studies have documented extinctions due to recent climate change and one study suggests that projected rates of extinction are uncertain(Lafreniere, F. G. 2008).