Global Warming – An Overview of Causes and Effects

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Global Warming as most people know it is the rising of global temperatures caused by human pollution of Carbon Gasses. However, the effects of global warming are much more complex than the Earth just getting warmer. To understand the effects of global warming we must first understand what creates global warming and how the earth's natural greenhouse effect operates. So, lets look at how global warming is happening?

The Earth has a natural way of warming itself, so that it does not freeze when it turns away from the sun at night. The way the Earth Naturally warms itself is called the Greenhouse effect. The carbon gasses in the air act as a greenhouse, trapping in heat energy, but letting light energy through. These gasses are known as greenhouse gasses. When light rays from the sun strike earth's surface or atmosphere (really, any matter) the light energy is absorbed and turned into thermal energy, aka heat. As heat radiates off of Earth's surface much of it is trapped by the Greenhouse gases. Some heat escapes but much of it is trapped. This phenomenon is known as the greenhouse effect. We are very lucky that we have the greenhouse effect. It allows there to be life on Earth. Without it, Earth would be subject to temperatures of hundreds of degree differences between night and day. This would lead to freezing at night, which most species cannot survive during.

The greenhouse gasses only cause global warming when they are added to the atmosphere in excess; when we have an enhanced greenhouse effect. The greenhouse effect is enhanced when excess carbon from the burning of fossil fuels. When carbon gasses are more concentrated in our atmosphere, they act as a thicker blanket, which traps more heat, and even less of the heat energy radiating off of Earth's surface can escape into space.

However, Global Warming does not necessarily mean that that all climate areas on Earth will experience an increase in temperature. Because the temperatures on earth are caused by both differences in latitude and nearness to ocean currents that circulate heat around the earth, not all places will experience an increase in temperature. For example, we expect areas of low latitude, near the equator, to be warmer and areas near the poles to be colder. This is because at different latitudes the angle that the sun strikes earth affects the amount of light energy that can be absorbed. However, because the ocean currents also affect temperatures, not all places will experience an increase in temperatures.

Currents are controlled by 2 factors: Wind and the salinity of the ocean. As Global Warming starts to play out and ice adds fresh water to the ocean water, this will affect the salinity of the ocean currents and will actually change the currents. For instance, it is thought that when the glacial ice now residing on Greenland melts, it will halt the Gulf Stream current that brings the warm temperatures to Western Europe. This will send Europe into a mini ice age. When currents change levels of precipitation also change to the areas affected by the currents. So, we see that global warming is far more complex than just the earth growing warmer. Currents and weather patterns will change as well.

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Source by Tom A Sullivan

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