Putting into Perspective: Climate Change and Global Warming


I shared my thoughts on the exceptionally cold month of February in the eastern half of the U.S. titled “Bitterly Cold Weather Here; Unseasonably Warm Weather There. Initially, I posted the explanation on Facebook upon being asked by a friend why there was “horribly cold weather in Northeastern and Southern states”.  My brother, who likes to play the role of devil’s advocate, posted this question regarding a quote in the article “Frigid Northeast linked to warming Arctic, Rutgers climate scientist asserts”: Jeff, what do you say to Global Warming deniers who would point to the final paragraph in the article:”…during that ancient period the Earth was several degrees warmer than now and sea levels were several meters higher “? Here was my response:

 


Not sure what “that ancient period” the climate scientist refers to in the article. With respect to Earth’s geologic timeline, it was considerably warmer about 500 million years ago (by a few degrees Centigrade compared to global temperatures today): the Cambrian period stretched millions of years, as did all distinct geological subdivisions coinciding with the Paleozoic era (~ 542 – 251 m.y.a. ) and Mesozoic era (~251 – 66 m.y.a.).  Human descendants did not evolve until late in the Cenozoic era during the most recent Quaternary period (3 m.y.a. to present day)—a small chunk of change for an orbiting rock over four billion years old.

 

For hundreds of millions of years our planet has undergone slow geological tectonic shifts. During that time temperatures have steadily vacillated in response to natural climate variability.  Industrialization, modernity and technological advances brought about a change in climate variability connected to human consumption and output, known as the anthropogenic effect.

 

Weather instrumentation was becoming more widespread in the dawn of the 19th century, mainly in eastern North America, Europe and northern Africa (covering about 10% of Earth’s land mass).  Global temperatures leveled off somewhat by the tail end of the Little Ice Age (mid to late 1800’s) then it slowly rose, on average, from the start of the 20th century until the end of the 1970’s—most recent anomolously cool years occurred in 1976 and 1979. While there continues to be global variability year-to-year , there was a noticeably warmer trend taking place from the 1980’s onward—anomolously warm years were becoming the norm .  Oceanographers have been measuring relatively similar rises in sea temperatures. And earth scientists have been monitoring progressive declines in sea ice coverage and shrinking glacial masses.  The data coincides with a considerable increase in fossil fuel production—taking into account an expected lag effect as the Earth responds to rising rates of anthropogenic-induced CO2 emissions.  Put another way, the rate at which our land mass and sea surface temperatures are rising is unprecedented and not sustainable given the substantial deviation from our planet’s natural climate variability.

 

I am not suggesting anthropogenic effect is the sole catalyst of climate change.  Gravitational tension from nearby planets influences Earth’s elliptical orbit—similar to the way our moon sways tidal currents.  Solar radiation varies in magnitude: as our sun slowly dies, it emits more massive gamma-ray bursts impacting satellite communications, subterranean plates and long-term weather patterns. Our planet is a living organism, affected by natural and human made forces. The Earth wobbles ever so slightly (24-hour days oscillate by infinitesimal fraction of seconds).  Our planet’s outer shell, its gaseous composition, and global temperatures organically fluctuate—these changes are geologically and climatically gradual over several millennia.  This is in stark contrast to the relatively steep rise in temperatures and extreme weather events that have been observed and empirically recorded over the past few decades. Tossing a snowball in the Senate, during an unseasonably cold February (for much of the Eastern U.S. continent) does not change this fact: the combined global temperature over land and ocean surfaces for February 2015 was the second highest of any February worldwide dating back to 1880.

 


References:

https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/global/2015/2 (February 2015)

http://www.lehighvalleylive.com/breaking-news/index.ssf/2015/02/frigid_northeast_linked_to_war.html (February 19, 2015)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gHZzACcYJRo&feature=player_embedded (October 21, 2011)

http://www.ucmp.berkeley.edu/help/timeform.php

http://www.eh-resources.org/timeline/timeline_lia.html

 

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