Global Warming Natural Causes
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Milankovitch cycles: Natural causes of climate change
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Any interactives on this page can only be played while you are visiting our website. You cannot download interactives. Global temperatures and sea levels are rising, and possibly contributing to larger more devastating storms. This can all be contributed to climate change. Climate change is defined as gradual changes in all the interconnected weather elements on our planet over approximately 30 years. The data shows the Earth is warming and it's up to us to make the changes necessary for a healthier planet.
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Both land and oceans are warmer now than they were when record keeping began, in , and temperatures are still ticking upward. This rise in heat is global warming, in a nutshell. Here are the bare numbers, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration NOAA : Between and , the global annual temperature increased at a rate of 0. Since , the rate of increase has sped up, to 0. This has led to an overall 3. In , the average global temperature over land and ocean was 1.
That made the second hottest year on record, trailing only This rise in heat is caused by humans. The burning of fossil fuels has released greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, which trap warmth from the sun and drive up surface and air temperatures. The main driver of today's warming is the combustion of fossil fuels. These hydrocarbons heat up the planet via the greenhouse effect , which is caused by the interaction between Earth's atmosphere and incoming radiation from the sun. Simply put, solar radiation hits Earth's surface and then bounces back toward the atmosphere as heat. Gases in the atmosphere trap this heat, preventing it from escaping into the void of space good news for life on the planet.
In a paper presented in , Arrhenius figured out that greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide could trap heat close to the Earth 's surface, and that small changes in the amount of those gases could make a big difference in how much heat was trapped. Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, humans have been rapidly changing the balance of gases in the atmosphere. Burning fossil fuels like coal and oil releases water vapor, carbon dioxide CO2 , methane CH4 , ozone and nitrous oxide N2O , the primary greenhouse gases. Carbon dioxide is the most common greenhouse gas. Between about , years ago and the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, CO2's presence in the atmosphere amounted to about parts per million ppm, meaning there were about molecules of CO2 in the air per every million air molecules.
As of the last year when full data are available , the average CO2 in the atmosphere was That may not sound like much, but according to the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, levels of CO2 haven't been that high since the Pliocene epoch, which occurred between 3 million and 5 million years ago. At that time, the Arctic was ice-free at least part of the year and significantly warmer than it is today, according to research published in the journal Science.
In , CO2 accounted for We know that CO2 absorbs infrared radiation [heat] and the global mean temperature is increasing," Keith Peterman, a professor of chemistry at York College of Pennsylvania, and his research partner, Gregory Foy, an associate professor of chemistry at York College of Pennsylvania, told Live Science in a joint email message. CO2 makes its way into the atmosphere through a variety of routes. Burning fossil fuels releases CO2 and is, by far, the biggest U.
According to the EPA report, U. Other processes — such as nonenergy use of fuels, iron and steel production, cement production, and waste incineration — boost the total annual CO2 release in the U. Deforestation is also a large contributor to excess CO2 in the atmosphere. In fact, deforestation is the second largest anthropogenic human-made source of carbon dioxide, according to research published by Duke University. After trees die, they release the carbon they have stored during photosynthesis. According to the Global Forest Resources Assessment , deforestation releases nearly a billion tons of carbon into the atmosphere per year. Globally, methane is the second most common greenhouse gas, but it is the most efficient at trapping heat.
The EPA reports that methane is 25 times more efficient at trapping heat than carbon dioxide. Methane can come from many natural sources, but humans cause a large portion of methane emissions through mining, the use of natural gas, the mass raising of livestock and the use of landfills. Cattle constitute the largest single source of methane in the U. There are some hopeful trends in the numbers for U. According to the EPA report, these emissions rose 2. Part of that decline was driven by a warm winter in , which required less heating fuel than usual. But another significant reason for this recent decline is the replacement of coal with natural gas, according to the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions.
The U. Fuel-efficient vehicles and energy-efficiency standards for buildings have also improved emissions, according to the EPA. Global warming doesn't just mean warming, which is why "climate change" has become the favored term among researchers and policymakers. While the globe is becoming hotter on average, this temperature increase can have paradoxical effects, such as more frequent and severe snowstorms. Climate change can and will affect the globe in several big ways: by melting ice, by drying out already-arid areas, by causing weather extremes and by disrupting the delicate balance of the oceans.
Perhaps the most visible effect of climate change so far is the melting of glaciers and sea ice. The ice sheets have been retreating since the end of the last ice age, about 11, years ago, but the last century's warming has hastened their demise. Glacier National Park in Montana had glaciers in the late s. Today, it has The loss of glaciers can cause the loss of human life, when icy dams holding back glacier lakes destabilize and burst or when avalanches caused by unstable ice bury villages. At the North Pole, warming is proceeding twice as quickly as it is at middle latitudes, and the sea ice is showing the strain.
Fall and winter ice in the Arctic hit record lows in both and , meaning the ice expanse did not cover as much of the open sea as previously observed. According to NASA, the 13 smallest values for maximum winter extent of sea ice in the Arctic were all measured in the last 13 years. The ice also forms later in the season and melts more readily in spring. Some scientists think the Arctic Ocean will see ice-free summers within 20 or 30 years. In the Antarctic, the picture has been a little less clear. The Western Antarctic Peninsula is warming faster than anywhere else besides some parts of the Arctic, according to the Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition.
The peninsula is where the Larsen C ice shelf just broke in July , spawning an iceberg the size of Delaware. Now, scientists say that a quarter of West Antarctica's ice is in danger of collapse and the enormous Thwaites and Pine Island glaciers are flowing five times faster than they did in The sea ice off Antarctica is extremely variable, though, and some areas have actually hit record highs in recent years. However, those records could bear the fingerprints of climate change, as they may result from land-based ice moving out to sea as the glaciers melt or from warming-related changes to wind.
In , though, this pattern of record-high ice abruptly reversed, with the occurrence of a record low.