Welcome to Weather Compass' Global Warming facts and information page. Weather Compass is committed to educating our guests about the dangers of global warming and the impact that it has on Earth and the people that live throughout the world. The information on this page comes from a variety of sources such as NOAA and National Geographic. Everything on this page has been completely updated so that facts are now provided versus theories.
1. Greenhouse Effect/ Gasses
2. Global Warming
3. Climate Change
What is the Greenhouse Effect?
The greenhouse effect occurs when the atmosphere of a planet acts much like the glass in a greenhouse. Like the greenhouse glass, the atmosphere allows visible solar energy to pass through, but it also prevents some energy from radiating back out into space. The greenhouse effect insures that the surface of a planet is much warmer than interplanetary space because the atmosphere traps heat in the same way a greenhouse traps heat. Certain gases in our atmosphere, called greenhouse gases, tend to reflect radiant energy from the Earth's atmosphere back to the Earth's surface, improving the atmosphere's ability to trap heat.
All greenhouse gases are trace gases existing in small amounts in our atmosphere. Greenhouse gases include:
* carbon dioxide;
* nitrous oxide;
* some chlorofluorocarbons; and
* water vapor.
We know that the greenhouse effect is necessary for survival. Without it, the Earth would be cold, so cold that life as we know it could not exist. However, scientists still have questions that must be answered. What kinds and amounts of greenhouse gases are necessary for survival? Are the amounts of greenhouse gases increasing, decreasing, or remaining the same? To answer these questions, scientists monitor the amounts of greenhouse gases in the Earth's atmosphere.
The atmospheric gas most responsible for the warming effect on Earth is carbon dioxide (CO2). Primary sources of CO2 are volcanic eruptions.
In the natural cycle of carbon, plants take in CO2 and give off oxygen, whereas animals take in oxygen and emit CO2. Further, CO2 dissolved in seawater is used by plants during photosynthesis and by other seawater organisms such as clams and coral to produce calcium carbonate (CaCO3) shells. These processes help control the amount of CO2 in our atmosphere.
Human beings complicate the natural carbon cycle because they increase the amount of CO2 in the Earth's atmosphere by burning fossil fuels. Driving automobiles, heating buildings, and producing consumer goods all add to the concentration of CO2 in the Earth's atmosphere.
Methane (CH4) is another greenhouse gas. It is produced in swamps, bogs, and rice paddies, as well as in the intestinal tracts of most animals, including cattle, sheep, and humans. Coal, oil, and gas exploration also contribute to the accumulation of methane in the atmosphere. However, methane concentrations are much less than CO2 concentrations.
Nitrous oxide (N2O), or"laughing gas," is another greenhouse gas accumulating in the atmosphere, although not as fast as CH4. Fertilizer decomposition, industrial processes that use nitric acid, and small amounts from automobile emissions all contribute to increasing atmospheric N2O.
(Source: About.com featuring a NOAA web activity)
Global warming, or climate change, is a subject that shows no sign of cooling down. Here's the lowdown on why it's happening, what's causing it, and how it might change the planet.
Is It Happening?
Yes. Earth is already showing many signs of worldwide climate change.
• Average temperatures have climbed 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit (0.8 degree Celsius) around the world since 1880, much of this in recent decades, according to NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies.
• The rate of warming is increasing. The 20th century's last two decades were the hottest in 400 years and possibly the warmest for several millennia, according to a number of climate studies. And the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports that 11 of the past 12 years are among the dozen warmest since 1850.
• The Arctic is feeling the effects the most. Average temperatures in Alaska, western Canada, and eastern Russia have risen at twice the global average, according to the multinational Arctic Climate Impact Assessment report compiled between 2000 and 2004.
• Arctic ice is rapidly disappearing, and the region may have its first completely ice-free summer by 2040 or earlier. Polar bears and indigenous cultures are already suffering from the sea-ice loss.
• Glaciers and mountain snows are rapidly melting—for example, Montana's Glacier National Park now has only 27 glaciers, versus 150 in 1910. In the Northern Hemisphere, thaws also come a week earlier in spring and freezes begin a week later.
• Coral reefs, which are highly sensitive to small changes in water temperature, suffered the worst bleaching—or die-off in response to stress—ever recorded in 1998, with some areas seeing bleach rates of 70 percent. Experts expect these sorts of events to increase in frequency and intensity in the next 50 years as sea temperatures rise.
• An upsurge in the amount of extreme weather events, such as wildfires, heat waves, and strong tropical storms, is also attributed in part to climate change by some experts.
Are Humans Causing It?
• "Very likely," the IPCC said in a February 2007 report.
The report, based on the work of some 2,500 scientists in more than 130 countries, concluded that humans have caused all or most of the current planetary warming. Human-caused global warming is often called anthropogenic climate change.
• Industrialization, deforestation, and pollution have greatly increased atmospheric concentrations of water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide, all greenhouse gases that help trap heat near Earth's surface.
• Humans are pouring carbon dioxide into the atmosphere much faster than plants and oceans can absorb it.
• These gases persist in the atmosphere for years, meaning that even if such emissions were eliminated today, it would not immediately stop global warming.
• Some experts point out that natural cycles in Earth's orbit can alter the planet's exposure to sunlight, which may explain the current trend. Earth has indeed experienced warming and cooling cycles roughly every hundred thousand years due to these orbital shifts, but such changes have occurred over the span of several centuries. Today's changes have taken place over the past hundred years or less.
• Other recent research has suggested that the effects of variations in the sun's output are "negligible" as a factor in warming, but other, more complicated solar mechanisms could possibly play a role.
What's Going to Happen?
A follow-up report by the IPCC released in April 2007 warned that global warming could lead to large-scale food and water shortages and have catastrophic effects on wildlife.
• Sea level could rise between 7 and 23 inches (18 to 59 centimeters) by century's end, the IPCC's February 2007 report projects. Rises of just 4 inches (10 centimeters) could flood many South Seas islands and swamp large parts of Southeast Asia.
• Some hundred million people live within 3 feet (1 meter) of mean sea level, and much of the world's population is concentrated in vulnerable coastal cities. In the U.S., Louisiana and Florida are especially at risk.
• Glaciers around the world could melt, causing sea levels to rise while creating water shortages in regions dependent on runoff for fresh water.
• Strong hurricanes, droughts, heat waves, wildfires, and other natural disasters may become commonplace in many parts of the world. The growth of deserts may also cause food shortages in many places.
• More than a million species face extinction from disappearing habitat, changing ecosystems, and acidifying oceans.
• The ocean's circulation system, known as the ocean conveyor belt, could be permanently altered, causing a mini-ice age in Western Europe and other rapid changes.
• At some point in the future, warming could become uncontrollable by creating a so-called positive feedback effect. Rising temperatures could release additional greenhouse gases by unlocking methane in permafrost and undersea deposits, freeing carbon trapped in sea ice, and causing increased evaporation of water.
What is Climategate?
In late November 2009, hackers unearthed hundreds of emails at the U.K.'s University of East Anglia that exposed private conversations among top-level British and U.S. climate scientists discussing whether certain data should be released to the public.
The email exchanges also refer to statistical tricks used to illustrate climate change? trends, and call climate skeptics idiots, according to the New York Times.
One such trick was used to create the well-known hockey-stick graph, which shows a sharp uptick in temperature increases during the 20th century. Former U.S vice president Al Gore relied heavily on the graph as evidence of human-caused climate change in the documentary An Inconvenient Truth.
The data used for this graph come from two sources: thermostat readings and tree-ring samples.
While thermostat readings have consistently shown a temperature rise over the past hundred years, tree-ring samples show temperature increases stalling around 1960.
On the hockey-stick graph, thermostat-only data is grafted onto data that incorporates both thermostat and tree-ring readings, essentially presenting a seamless picture of two different data sets, the hacked emails revealed.
But scientists argue that dropping the tree-ring data was no secret and has been written about in the scientific literature for years.
Climate change skeptics have heralded the emails as an attempt to fool the public, according to the Times.
Yet climate scientists maintain that these controversial points are small blips that are inevitable in scientific research, and that the evidence for human-induced climate change is much broader and still widely accepted.(Source: National Geographic News)
The video below is only a 10 minute preview to the original documentary. Here is a short synopsis to the overall movie: Director Davis Guggenheim eloquently weaves the science of global warming with Mr. Gore's personal history and lifelong commitment to reversing the effects of global climate change. A longtime advocate for the environment, Gore presents a wide array of facts and information in a thoughtful and compelling way. "Al Gore strips his presentations of politics, laying out the facts for the audience to draw their own conclusions in a charming, funny and engaging style, and by the end has everyone on the edge of their seats, gripped by his haunting message," said Guggenheim. An Inconvenient Truth is not a story of despair but rather a rallying cry to protect the one earth we all share. "It is now clear that we face a deepening global climate crisis that requires us to act boldly, quickly, and wisely," said Gore. (Source:imdb.com)
Former President Bill Clinton is also trying to educate the world about the dangers and effects of global warming. The William J. Clinton Foundation launched the Clinton Climate Initiative (CCI) to create and advance solutions to the core issues driving climate change. CCI takes a holistic approach, addressing the major sources of greenhouse gas emissions and the people, policies, and practices that impact them. Working with governments and businesses around the world, CCI focuses on three strategic program areas: reducing emissions in cities, catalyzing the large-scale supply of clean energy, and working to stop deforestation. (Source:clintonfoundation.org).
Weather Compass believes that Global Warming is an extremely important issue that can be solved on a day to day basis- starting with you! It is imperative that you research even more information about Climate Change, purchase fuel efficient vehicles where applicable, conserve our resources (water, electricity, etc.) and educate others about this issue. Global Warming is no longer a debate! Important links can be found below:
Lets come together as a nation and GO GREEN! Its our planet- lets save it, not destroy it. No need to become a "tree huger" but the future of Earth depends upon this generation of teenagers, young adults, and older adults. Weather Compass will do all that we can to continue to keep educating our guests about Climate Change. If you have any questions, comments, or concerns about any of the material that you have read above, please do not hesitate to contact us as soon as possible!