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Climate In The Spotlight

by | Feb 7, 2022 | Climate Change

Introduction

Climate refers to a region’s long-term weather pattern, which is generally averaged over 30 years. In general, the condition of the earth’s climate system, which includes land, ice, and ocean, is known as Climate. Determined by many relatively constant characteristics over long periods, including latitude, height, land-to-water ratio, and proximity to seas and mountains.

“Climate is what you predict, the weather is what you get” appropriately illustrates the difference between climate and weather.

Weather is the short span of variations in various meteorological factors. Temperature, clouds, precipitation, humidity, and wind are all examples of short-term variations in weather in an area or city. The weather may change abruptly from one day to the next, or even within a single day. The weather may be cloudy and chilly in the morning. Meanwhile, it may be bright and pleasant by the afternoon.

The weather of an area or city is averaged over several years to determine its climate. For different seasons, this is frequently varied. During the summer, for example, an area or city may be hot and humid. During the winter, though, it may be chilly and snowy.

The Earth’s climate has been warming up recently. According to observations, during the last 100 years, the average temperature has climbed a bit more than one degree Fahrenheit. This figure may appear insignificant for now but it can have significant consequences in near future.

The Earth’s Natural Greenhouse Effect

The greenhouse effect occurs when a planet’s atmosphere enables unrestricted radiant energy from its sun to heat its surface. It also prevents radiant heat from the surface from traveling to space, causing the surface to warm more than it would have without the atmosphere.

Without the greenhouse effect, the earth would have been cold, making it unable to support life. The greenhouse effect describes how greenhouse gases trap heat at the Earth’s surface. These heat-trapping gases are like a blanket wrapped over the earth, keeping it warmer than it would be otherwise. Carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxides, and water vapor are examples of greenhouse gases.

The sun’s energy permeates our globe, warming the land, sea, and air. The sun is the primary source of energy. The globe heats during the day and cools at night. To maintain the same average temperature, the same amount of energy entering the Earth must depart. This is referred to as the Earth’s energy balance.

Earth’s Energy Balance

During the day, the amount of energy reaching the top of Earth’s atmosphere on a surface area of one square meter facing the Sun is around 1,370 Watts per second. While the amount of energy per square meter per second averaged over the entire globe is one-quarter of that: 343 Watts per meter square.

The Earth’s surface and atmosphere absorb solar energy that is not reflected back to space. The quantity is approximately 240 Watts per square meter. The Earth must emit the equivalent amount of energy back to space in the form of outgoing longwave, infrared radiation to balance the incoming energy.

Longwave radiation is constantly emitted by everything on Earth. But to produce a 240-Watt meters square, the Earth’s surface temperature would have to be rough -19°C. Now, this is substantially colder than the current levels. Currently, the average worldwide surface temperature is around +14°C.

Because greenhouse gases function as a “blanket” for longwave radiation coming from the surface, the Earth’s surface is this warm. The natural greenhouse effect is what causes this blanketing. As a result, the natural greenhouse effect produces a temperature differential of about 33°C. The increasing greenhouse effect has added about one degree Celsius to the current 33 degrees Celsius of natural centigrade.

Earth's energy balance.

 

Greenhouse Gases and Global Warming

Water vapor, carbon dioxide (CO2), methane, nitrous oxides, and chlorofluorocarbons are some of the gases that contribute to the greenhouse effect (CFCs), collectively known as greenhouse gases.

Human actions on Earth are altering the natural greenhouse. The combustion of fossil fuels(coal and oil) has raised the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere during the last century. This occurs because the combustion of coal or oil produces CO2 by combining carbon (C) and oxygen (O2) in the air.

Clearing land for agriculture, industry, and other human activities has raised the concentrations of other greenhouse gases like methane (CH4) to a lesser extent and has further increased the concentrations of other greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide (CO2).

Carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases are increasing in the atmosphere in high concentrations. They absorb sunlight and solar energy that has bounced off the earth’s surface, causing global warming. Normally, this radiation would escape into space, but these contaminants, which may persist in the atmosphere for years to centuries, trap the heat and cause the earth to warm much more than needed.

Evidence suggests that the decade from 2000 to 2010 was the hottest in at least the last 1,300 years. This is significantly increasing every year. The earth’s climatic system, including its land, atmosphere, seas, and ice, is changing in profound ways as a result of this warming.

This little increase will have significant ramifications for every ecosystem, and living thing—including us—in the globe in which we live, which climate experts predict will be at least eight degrees warmer by 2100 if global emissions continue at their current pace.

Carbon cycle

The backbone of life on Earth is carbon. We are formed of carbon, we consume carbon, and our civilizations are based on carbon. The economy, our houses, and our modes of transportation everything require Carbon. Carbon is necessary, but it is also linked to one of the most important concerns we face today: global climate change.

Carbon is the fourth most prevalent element in the Universe, formed in the cores of old stars. The majority of the carbon on Earth is contained in rocks (about 65,500 billion metric tons). The remaining components are found in the ocean, atmosphere, plants, soil, and fossil fuels.

Carbon is exchanged between reservoirs in a process known as the carbon cycle, which includes both slow and rapid components. Any alteration in the cycle that causes carbon to be shifted from one reservoir to another causes more carbon to be deposited in the other reservoirs. Warmer temperatures on Earth arise from changes that release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

The carbon cycle appears to maintain a long-term equilibrium that prevents all of Earth’s carbon from entering the atmosphere (like on Venus) or being stored totally in rocks. Like a thermostat, this equilibrium helps maintain Earth’s temperature roughly steady.

Carbon cycle

Ozone Hole

The ozone hole, which occurs at the start of the Southern Hemisphere, is an area of unusually depleted ozone in the stratosphere above the Antarctic.

The layer in the stratosphere that safeguards life on Earth by absorbing ultraviolet radiation, which destroys DNA in plants and animals (including humans) and causes sunburns and skin cancer is the ozone layer.

The ozone hole is typically defined as a decrease in total column ozone above a place on Earth’s surface. Dobson units, abbreviated as “DU,” are commonly used to indicate this.

Instruments like the Total Ozone Mapping Spectrometer have detected significant declines in column ozone in the Antarctic spring and early summer compared to the early 1970s and prior (TOMS).

Catalyzed ozone loss from chlorine and bromine compounds results in a total column ozone level of less than 220 Dobson Units.

The concentration of ozone dipped below 100 DU for the first time, marking a new low point. Concentrations below 100 have been more prevalent since then. On September 30, 1994, the deepest ozone hole occurred, with concentrations falling to only 73 DU.

Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and other halogenated ozone-depleting substances (ODS) cause man-made ozone depletion. Equivalent Effective Stratospheric Chlorine (EESC) is the entire quantity of effective halogens (chlorine and bromine) in the stratosphere.

The Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer is a major multinational environmental agreement that limits the manufacture and use of approximately 100 ODS compounds.

Montreal protocol – https://ozone.unep.org/treaties/montreal-protocol

Glaciers & Sea levels

Glacial ice covers around 10% of the surface area on Earth today, spanning about 15 million square kilometers (5.8 million square miles). Nearly 90% of it is in Antarctica, with the remaining 10% in the Greenland ice cap.

Glaciers protect the Earth and its seas by acting as a shield. Excess heat is reflected back into space by these dazzling white patches, keeping the Earth cold. Because more heat from the sun is bounced off the ice and back into space, the Arctic remains cooler than the equator.

Melting glaciers contribute to increasing sea levels, which increases coastal erosion and storm surge when air and ocean temperatures rise, resulting in more frequent and stronger coastal storms such as hurricanes and typhoons.

The Arctic is warming twice as quickly as the rest of the world, and sea ice there is vanishing at a rate of more than 10% every ten years. As the ice melts, darker regions of the ocean emerge, removing the influence that previously chilled the poles, resulting in greater air temperatures and changing regular ocean circulation patterns.

Since 1880, the global mean sea level has increased 8–9 inches (21–24 cm), with over a third of it occurring in the previous two and a half decades.

Between 2006 and 2015, the global mean water level in the ocean rose at a pace of 0.14 inches (3.6 millimeters) per year. This was 2.5 times the average rate of 0.06 inches (1.4 millimeters) per year for much of the twentieth century. Anticipations are that the global mean sea level will rise at least one foot (0.3 meters) over 2000 levels by the end of the century. Even if greenhouse gas emissions remain relatively low in the following decades.

Biodiversity loss

Rising temperatures are harming biodiversity while altering rainfall patterns, extreme weather events, and ocean acidification are placing pressure on species that are already threatened by other human activities.

Increased severity and frequency of fires, storms, and droughts are all-important effects of climate change on biodiversity. In Australia, significant fires devastated 97,000km2 of forest and ecosystems between the end of 2019 and the beginning of 2020. All of this is a consequence of climate change.

Climate change is one of the primary causes of biodiversity loss, but these two phenomena are interlinked. The devastation of the ecosystem hinders nature’s ability to control greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and guard against extreme weather, thereby speeding up climate change and increasing susceptibility to it.

According to many experts, human effects on the evolution of life are to blame for the sixth mass extinction. Approximately one million species out of an estimated 8 million animal and plant species are already endangered.

As sea ice melts in the Arctic, species such as walruses lose their habitats. Polar bears also spend more time on land, resulting in increased human-bear conflict.

Climate change in North America reduces plankton populations, which are the North Atlantic right whale’s primary food source. Only approximately 300 whales are remaining, and food scarcity caused by climate change is becoming a growing cause of death.

Warmer Pacific temperatures may limit the number of male sea turtle progeny, posing a danger to turtle populations. Temperature affects the sex of sea turtle hatchlings, with higher temperatures increasing the number of female sea turtles.

Author

  • The author has done a master's in Environmental science and is currently working as chief Environmental Advisor with New Delhi State Government.

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