What Is Global Warming?

What is the term global warming? It refers to the effects on the earth that are predicted to occur because of human-related activities.

It is possible that humans are altering the environment by causing changes to the climate. While climate and weather patterns naturally change and fluctuate, there have been noticeable differences within the last 150 years that could be the result of human-caused activities. There are gases that are found in the atmosphere called Greenhouse Gases. These gases include such things as Carbon Dioxide (CO2), water vapor, ozone, Methane (CH4), and Nitrous Oxide (N2O). These gases are capable of staying in the atmosphere and creating a type of blanket that traps the radiant heat of the sun and keeps the earth warm. Theses gases are a natural part of the atmosphere and are beneficial when they are in balance, but when human-caused emissions cause larger than normal concentrations, problems begin.

Humans create harmful emissions from agriculture, automobiles, aerosols and air conditioning. The chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) from aerosols and air conditioning has proven destructive to the protective ozone layer, which helps block out the harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun. Carbon dioxide has the greatest effect on the climate and is being pumped into the atmosphere at ever increasing rates. The earth does not have time to naturally disperse the CO2 and so it continues to build up in the atmosphere. CO2 and other greenhouse gases can stay in the atmosphere for many years or even centuries in some cases. So reductions won't have any significant impacts immediately, but will in the long term.

Scientific evidence of global warming has been obtained from various methods, including ice core sampling. Core samples have shown a correlation or link between CO2 in the atmosphere and surface temperature. Since the last ice age, about 10,000 years ago, temperatures have been increasing. This is attributed to a natural, post-ice age phenomenon, but very dramatic increases have been occurring over the last 150 years, and have been directly associated with human events and activities. This more rapid rise in temperature has been the primary cause for the increase in the severity of storms due to a change in weather patterns from higher temperatures.

The hydrologic cycle is most likely being altered by increased warming and is possibly the reason for more droughts and floods. When the cycle becomes accelerated, warmer landmasses, warmer air currents, then the storms build quicker and become more severe. The dry periods also become more pronounced and cause more frequent and intense droughts. This effect can already be seen around the world with more incidences of floods and droughts.

Along with increased warming comes better breeding ground for harmful molds, bacteria and insects, and researchers will have a hard time keeping up with a sudden influx of disease. Forests, lakes, rivers and oceans will be affected and the resulting changes in ecosystems could cause die-offs and loss of habitat to plants and animals. Farms and ranches might produce fewer crops due to floods and droughts and food supplies could suffer.

Studies on past climates, paleoclimatology, have shown that ocean currents and circulation patterns can change with the addition of fresh water from melting ice. Any significant changes to ocean patterns can also affect nutrient growth, or the location of nutrients, which could hurt the fishing industry and the lifecycles of the marine animals and plants.

Even with the evidence presented so far, studies and research must continue and pollutants need to be reduced. The effects of global warming need to be recognized and solutions must be implemented as soon as possible to avoid possible catastrophic problems in the future.

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