How Earth Temperature Is Changing for Global Warming and its Effect

How Earth Temperature Is Changing for Global Warming and its Effect

Global surface temperatures have increased about 0.6°C (plus or minus 0.2°C) since the late-19th century, and about 0.4°F (0.2 to 0.3°C) over the past 25 years (the period with the most credible data). The warming has not been globally uniform. Some areas (including parts of the southeastern U.S.) have, in fact, cooled over the last century. The recent warmth has been greatest over North America and Eurasia between 40 and 70°N. Warming, assisted by the record El Niño of 1997-1998, has continued right up to the present, with 2001 being the second warmest year on record after 1998.

The world is getting hotter.Industry, vehicles and homes burn fossil fuels, releasing gases that trap the sun’s energy. These gases also change the weather: storms, floods and droughts are becoming more common. With the oceans warming and expanding, the sea level will rise,threatening coasts and small islands with flooding.Higher temperatures will speed up the development of the malaria parasite, leading to higher malaria transmission rates. As rains fail, crops wither and livestock die.Children will face starvation and diminishing water supplies for drinking and hygiene.

Greenhouse gases retain the radiant energy (heat) provided to Earth by the Sun in a process known as the greenhouse effect. Greenhouse gases occur naturally, and without them the planet would be too cold to sustain life as we know it. Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution in the mid-1700s, however, human activities have added more and more of these gases into the atmosphere. For example, levels of carbon dioxide, a powerful greenhouse gas, have risen dramatically.

An important ongoing avenue of investigation in the climate and meteorology research communities is to determine the relative roles of anthropogenic forcing (i.e., global warming) and natural variability in producing the observed recent increases in hurricane frequency in the Atlantic, as well as the reported increases of tropical cyclone activity measures in several other ocean basins.

Carbon dioxide is a natural part of our atmosphere, but too much CO2 could make the Earth warmer through an increased greenhouse effect. Why is automobile exhaust a concern? What ways could you reduce the amount of CO2 you create? How could a city reduce the amount of CO2 they emit? What's more important, to develop and adapt cars with a new fuel that's safe for the environment or to improve public transportation systems? What alternative power sources could be used with cars? (Solar, electric, methanol.) Why might it be difficult for the public to start using an alternative source? (Car industry not mass-producing new cars, expense of buying new car, less power/speed than gas- powered car.)

Climate change may result from:

In 2004, when the average new car in the 15 countries that belonged to the European Union at the time spewed out 163 grams of carbon dioxide a kilometer, the equivalent number in Sweden was 196. According to a study by the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency, the biggest cars in all of Sweden are found here in Danderyd, a wealthy municipality with average emissions of 211 grams a kilometer."As global warming becomes more evident," said Mr. Maberg, the retired Volvo owner, "it will get more and more embarrassing to drive around in a big and heavy car like this."

When many of us think of Antarctica, it is with visions of waddling, tuxedoed penguins. Today, however, these iconic creatures may be in peril as a result of changes to their climate. Rising temperatures are causing the amount of sea ice to diminish, which in turn causes the amount of algae in the water to decrease. Many tiny organisms, including the krill shrimp which forms the foundation of the Adelie penguin’s diet, cannot survive without this important food source.

Global average surface temperatures pushed 2005 into a virtual tie with 1998 as the hottest year on record worldwide.Studies show that air temperatures have increased in the past 20 years or so, consistent with the fundamental understanding that increases in surface temperatures are accompanied by increases in air temperatures above the surface. The new results are also consistent with recent increases in tropospheric water vapor, which would be expected when rising temperatures accelerate ocean evaporation.

Sizzling temperatures brought on by global warming will kill more people in the summer months, a new study suggests, and that toll won't be offset by fewer deaths during milder winters.

"The results suggest that mortality [from hot temperatures] won't be compensated by a reduction in mortality in winter," said study author Mercedes Medina-Ramon, a research fellow at the Harvard School of Public Health's department of environmental health.

According to the study, global warming is expected to increase the average temperature of Earth between 1.7 and 4.9 degrees Celsius by the year 2100. It is also expected to result in more scorching summer days and fewer freezing winter ones.

It's no secret that extreme temperatures can kill -- 35,000 people died in the European heat wave of 2003, for example. But scientists don't yet know what the effect of global warming will be on death rates.

"It seems that global warming will increase deaths due to extreme hot temperatures. That we already know," Medina-Ramon said. "What we didn't know was if that would be compensated by a reduction in mortality during the winter because it's less cold."

Medina-Ramon and study co-author Joel Schwartz, also of Harvard, looked at daily death and weather data for more than 6.5 million deaths occurring from 1989 to 2000 in 50 U.S. cities.

During two-day cold snaps, deaths went up 1.59 percent. Many of the deaths were due to heart attacks and cardiac arrest.

But during scorchers, death rates went up by much more: 5.74 percent.

The effect of extreme cold was similar between cities, suggesting that the use of central heating may have prevented some deaths. But the effects of heat were wildly different, with the largest effects seen in cities with milder summers, less air conditioning and denser populations.

The findings were published in the June 28 online issue of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

"In the U.S., most people have heating in their homes so a change in cold temperature won't make as much of a difference," said Medina-Ramon. "It won't make as much of a difference as hot temperatures because there are more people who don't have an air conditioner at home."

But the answer isn't to install air conditioners in every home, because that just adds to global warming.

"We don't want to say air conditioning is a solution because it's going to have an impact on global warming," Medina-Ramon said. "We should increase the use of air conditioning but stop the abuse. Some places have air conditioning that is so strong it's completely unnecessary. If we had air conditioning everywhere but people didn't abuse it, that would be the best solution, along with investing in technology that is more efficient."

But individual actions, while important, are only part of the picture.

"When you look at global warming as a phenomenon, it clearly has public health, individual health and ecosystem implications, and there is a growing body of evidence that seems to imply that we are a ways from exactly determining how the human-environment interaction will play a role in the ultimate impact of global warming," said Dr. Maureen Lichtveld, chairwoman of the department of environmental health sciences at Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine.

"In order for us to deal with the public health implications, it's very critical that we will only have an impact on global warming as a public health issue if we address the policy issue. These are policy issues related to air pollution standards, adhering to them, enforcing them or creating them."

We have solutions in hand right now to drastically cut global warming pollution. Act now -- put clean, innovative energy technologies to use, and enact policies to encourage their rapid, widespread adoption -- and we can stop global warming in its tracks. Instead of nearly doubling U.S. global warming pollution by 2050, we can cut it by more than half using today's technology. And with the proper incentives in place, even more innovative solutions will emerge along the way, leading to even bigger reductions.

Over the past 10 years, the specific problem of urban heat waves has been viewed in the broader context of possible global climatic change.4 Models show that during the next century, both global warming and increased climatic instability may greatly increase heat-related mortality in the United States and other industrialized countries. Physicians and public health officials need to be aware that heat waves, typically seen as local and unavoidable, may actually be part of a preventable global process.

Cornell a biogeochemist describes an economical and efficient way to help offset global warming: Pull carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere by charring, or partially burning, trees, grasses or crop residues without the use of oxygen.When bioenergy is produced by pyrolysis (low-temperature burning without oxygen), it produces biochar, which has twice as much carbon in its residue than that from other sources. This makes bioenergy carbon-negative and improves soil health.

Remaining scientific uncertainties include the exact degree of climate change expected in the future, and how changes will vary from region to region around the globe. There is ongoing political and public debate regarding what, if any, action should be taken to reduce or reverse future warming or to adapt to its expected consequences.


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