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Global Climate Change. Past, Present and Future. Review: Part I- Weather and Climate. Weather vs. Climate Atmosphere / Geosphere / Hydrosphere / Biosphere Solar Radiation Uneven Heating of Earth’s Surface and Specific Heat Rotation of Earth on its Axis Angle of Insolation

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global climate change

Global Climate Change

Past, Present and Future

review part i weather and climate
Review: Part I- Weather and Climate
  • Weather vs. Climate
  • Atmosphere / Geosphere / Hydrosphere / Biosphere
  • Solar Radiation
  • Uneven Heating of Earth’s Surface and Specific Heat
  • Rotation of Earth on its Axis
  • Angle of Insolation
  • Proximity to Large Bodies of Water
  • Coriolis Effect
  • Thermohaline Conveyor
  • Southern Oscillation (ENSO/LNSO)
  • Greenhouse Effect / Greenhouse Gases
  • Albedo Effect
  • Volcanic Activity
  • Waste products of Animals / Decomposition
  • Vegetation – Carbon Sinks and Evaporation Rate
global climate change1

Global Climate Change

“The Past”

ice house or hot house

During the last 2 billion years, the Earth's climate has alternated between a frigid "Ice House", like today's world, and a steaming "Hot House", like the world of the dinosaurs.

This chart shows how global climate has changed through time.

did you ever hear the story of goldilocks and the three bears

Did you ever hear the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears?

Papa’s Porridge was too hot

Mama’s was too cold

but baby bear’s was

juuust right…

our climate works a lot like goldilocks very specific preferences
Our Climate Works A Lot Like Goldilocks Very Specific Preferences….

Goldilocks Principle

  • Too many greenhouse gases, the Earth gets too hot.
  • The Earth gets too hot, we die
  • Too few greenhouse gases, the Earth gets too cold
  • The Earth’s too cold, we die
  • In other words, the earth’s climate has to be “juuuuustriiight” in order for life (as we know it) to continue to exist
snowball earth theory
Snowball Earth Theory
  • controversial hypothesis that the Earth underwent a worldwide glaciations, when even tropical regions became ice covered
  • Temps dropped to -50 °C
  • All the oceans froze, and glacial conditions persisted for 10 million years or more perhaps as many as four times
  • Occurred between approx 750 and 580 million years ago
      • Large concentration of equatorial land masses
      • Albedo Effect - Ice reflects heat, oceans absorb heat
      • Lack of rain disrupted carbon cycle, greenhouse gases dropped dramatically


snowball earth
    • Reversed by volcanic activity CO2 Increase
    • Sea ice shrinks, increasing temperature
    • Earth began warming and life “exploded” in diversity
  • 250 MYA – suddenly earth’s temp dramatically increases and 95% of all species on earth are wiped out. Greatest mass extinction ever.
    • Dino flatulence VIDEO
earth s primitive atmosphere
Earth’s Primitive Atmosphere
  • Earth’s Primitive Volcanoes expelled vast amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere
  • The atmosphere began to heat up tremendously as the gases trapped the sun’s radiation
  • Simple living organisms (bacteria, algae) evolved and incorporated CO2 into their life molecules (basis for organic chemistry- carbs, nucleic acids, amino acids, lipids all require carbon and oxygen)
  • Organisms die and are buried deep beneath the earth, “sinking” CO2 beneath the ground for millions of years
  • Cooler climate evolves without all of the CO2
  • Complex life evolves
  • Complex life digs up dead organisms, burns them and releases CO2 back into the atmosphere, thus creating freaky hot conditions and global temperatures like that of Primitive Earth. VOILA!!
turning back time mimicking earth s early inhospitable environments
Turning Back Time- Mimicking Earth’s Early Inhospitable Environments
  • Earth’s levels of CO2 have not been this high since roughly 250,000,000 years ago!
  • Levels are rapidly increasing as we spew the CO2 that has been stored underground (in dead organisms) back into the atmosphere
  • At the present rates, temperatures could climb to what they were during the most severe mass extinctions
global climate change2

Global Climate Change

“The Present”

rising global average temperatures
Rising Global Average Temperatures
  • Global average surface temperature increased over the last 100 years by about 1.1 degrees Fahrenheit. (0.6 Celsius)
  • There is at least a 90 percent chance that the 1990s was the warmest decade for the planet, since 1861 and the beginning of instrumental records
  • There is strong evidence that most of the warming observed over the last 50 years is attributable to human activities.
  • 2006 had an annual average temperature of 55°F in the United States, which is 2.2°F (1.2°C) above the 20th Century mean.
  • Each of the last ten years (1998-2008) has earned a spot in the rankings of the 25 warmest years on record.
  • 2007 tied with 1998 as the second warmest year in a century, behind 2006, the warmest year in the century.
rising concentrations of greenhouse gases
Rising Concentrations Of Greenhouse Gases
  • Up until the last two hundred years,

atmospheric CO2 concentrations had

stayed between 265parts per million (ppm) and 280 ppm

    • according to analyses of gases obtained from ice cores that reflect the past 10,000 years.
  • Atmospheric CO2 concentration at the beginning of the 21st Century is approximately 365 ppm.
  • Atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide have increased since 1750:
    • CO2 - 31 %
    • CH4 – 151 %
    • N2O – 17%
  • Humans added more than 270 billion metric tons of carbon to the atmosphere since the 1800’s.
  • About three-quartersof human emissions of CO2 to the global atmosphere during the past 20 years is due to fossil fuel burning.
sea level is rising
Sea level is rising.
  • During the 20th century, it is estimated that sea level rose about 15 cm (6 inches)
  • due to melting glaciers and expansion of warmer seawater.
  • It could rise much more than that in the next 100 years.
arctic sea ice is melting
Arctic sea ice is melting.
  • The summer thickness of sea ice is about half of what it was in 1950. This is causing the Arctic to warm up faster. (positive feedback).
  • Fresh cold water floods into the thermohaline conveyor, traps warmest water in tropics, leading to drought in other regions

Glaciers and permafrost are melting

  • Over the past 100 years, mountain glaciers in all areas of the world have shrunk and so has the amount of permafrost in the Arctic. Greenland's ice sheet is melting faster too.
  • These reserves of fresh water Damages our water supply in times of drought!!
  • Changing Glaciers VIDEO
the ocean is warming
The ocean is warming.
  • Warmer waters in the shallow oceans make coral reefs less healthy.
  • Loss of 60 percent of tropical corals is threatening barrier reefs.
  • Coral Bleaching: About a quarter of the world's coral reefs have been “bleached” in the last few decades.
  • Reefs lose their healthy green color and die because the symbiotic algae cant survive the heat.


more rain causes flooding
More rain causes flooding.

Warmer temperatures have caused more intense rainfall in some places.

This can cause rivers, storm drains, streams and reservoirs to overflow in rainiest seasons

Washes away soil and carries ground contaminants into major watersupplies

Flooding is a problem, especially in the higher latitudes.

extreme drought is increasing
Extreme drought is increasing
  • While some areas experience more rain and flooding, Higher temperatures cause a higher rate of evaporationand more droughts in other areas of the world
  • Most effected: inland regions at lower-middle latitudes
  • Inability to provide fresh drinking water or water for irrigation
  • Strict rationing
    • Reservoir, Georgia (2008)
ecosystems are changing1
Ecosystems are changing.
  • As temperatures warm, animals and plants may either look for a cooler place to live or die.
  • Vulnerable species include many endangered species, coral and animals of the reefs, and polar animals.
  • Warming has also caused changes in the timing of spring rain events and the alter the length of the growing season of naturally occurring plants.
    • Plants that have grown in one region for a long time are no longer suitable and are replaced by other species of plants and animals that feed on them.
  • If animals cannot migrate, they are left to starve
  • For humans, this drives the price of food crops up as supply drops.
hurricanes have changed in frequency and strength1
Hurricanes have changed in frequency and strength.

Picture of Hurricane Elana over the Gulf of Mexico taken from orbit. (Image courtesy of NASA)

hurricanes have changed in frequency and strength2
Hurricanes have changed in frequency and strength.
  • There is evidence that the number of intense hurricanes has increased in the Atlantic since 1970.
  • Category 5 storms were only theoretical until the past 30 years
  • Will there be a category 6?
  • Scientists continue to study whether climate is the cause.

Picture of Hurricane Elana over the Gulf of Mexico taken from orbit. (Image courtesy of NASA)

heat waves more frequent
Heat waves more frequent.
  • Heat waves have become increasingly more frequent and are lasting longer
  • It is likely that heat waves will become more common in more areas of the world.
  • In 2003, 35,000 people died in Europe due to a series of severe heatwaves.
  • In 2005, 14000 people died in France in a single heatwave
    • Outdated architecture was designed for climate from LIA Period
  • Elderly, young, sick and poor are most endangered


seawater is becoming more acidic
Seawater is becoming more acidic.
  • When carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, gets into the oceans, it makes the water more acidic.
    • Carbonic Acid
  • Acidity disturbs balance of entire marine ecosystems.
    • impact coral reefs, such as all reef species
    • collapsing our fishing industries
    • decimating marine food web from the bottom-up
      • (so long, Nemo and Dory), dolphins, manatees, sharks, tuna, salmon, whales…
how do we know that temperatures are rising
How Do We Know that Temperatures are Rising?
  • 1.Temperature/Climate datameasurements Compare data recorded in recent centuries
    • Farmers almanacs, Royal scribes
    • World metrological data from the past century
    • Very limited timeline
  • 2.Arctic Ice Cores Compare the ratio of CO2 to O2 and greenhouse gases back tens of thousands of years
  • 3. Ocean Sediment Cores: Compare the ratio of the tiny warm-water vs. cold-water marine microorganisms buried beneath the ocean sediment (forams, coccoliths)
  • 4. Tree Ring Analysis: Compare the size of rings to determine particularly dry or cold seasons. Older trees carry more information
monitoring sea level change
Monitoring Sea level Change
  • Oceans can store up to 80% of solar radiation in the form of heat (heat “sink”)
  • Ice sheets are melting rapidly
  • Changing density of ocean by adding more fresh water
  • Measuring sea levels yields disturbing data
monitoring climate change
Monitoring Climate Change
  • Tools to montior Climate ChangeVideo
ice cores
Ice cores
global climate change3

Global Climate Change

“The Future”

six degrees could change the world
One Degree Celsius

Arctic is ice free most of year

Coastal flooding

More hurricanes

Food shortages from drought

Two Degrees Celsius

Polar bear habitat loss/starvation

Insect Migration

Crop Migration

Loss of Marine Life – Coral Reefs Extinct (canary in the coal mine)

Three Degrees Celsius

No arctic ice

Disappearing snow caps

More el nino patterns

Amazon withers

Heat wave fatalities

Four Degrees Celsius

Oceans rise

Glaciers gone

Disappearing water supply

Major cities/countries washed away

Five Degrees Celsius

Aquifers dry up / snow pack disappears

Cities collapse

Climate refugees

Poorest suffer most

Six Degrees Celsius

Mass extinctions

Algae dies off

Severe desertification

“Doomsday Scenario”

Six Degrees Could Change the World

… it is projected that if we continue on the same trend of CO2 production and consumption, global temperatures could increase by 5 t010degreesCelsiusby the year 2100.

1 warming can be further accelerated by the release of methane hydrates
1. Warming can be further accelerated by the release of Methane Hydrates
  • Methane molecule trapped or “frozen” in a net of water molecules
  • One molecule of methane is 8x as potent as a molecule of CO2, but considering how much methane there is, it is actually 23x more potent than CO2)
  • Stored in huge pockets beneath ocean or beneath permafrost regions (Alaska, Siberia)
    • Formed when buried organic matter decayed
  • The flammable GHG methane is released into the atmosphere by:
    • Mining for fuel (intentional and accidental)
    • Increase in Water Temperature releasing “frozen” methane hydrates buried beneath shallow seas
    • Carbonic acid eroding stability of sediments that cover the methane hydrates
there s a lot of hydrocarbon molecules frozen in methane hydrates
There’s a lot of hydrocarbon molecules frozen in methane hydrates
  • if all of that if all of it were to thaw out and enter the atmosphere we could be facing a greenhouse effect that could be hundreds of times worse than what scientists currently predict
  • if we destabilize large amounts of frozen methane and that enters the atmosphere, we’re literally cooked.
  • The question is can we safely and economically extract methane from these deposits, and that’s a question that nobody has a good answer for right now.
  • Release may lead to an intense positive feedback loop

More Methane

Hydrates Escape

into Atmosphere



from Global Warming






2 a big climate mystery
  • The temperatures on Earth are increasing, so what should be happening to the rates of evaporation?
  • Evaporation should beincreasing as well
  • the levels of evaporation of water

(pan evaporation) areactually


  • Doesn’t seem to make sense…

so why is it happening?


is there something hiding the real effects of global warming
Is there something hiding the “real” effects of global warming???
  • As more ice melts, the earth becomes darker, absorbing more heat
  • As it absorbs more heat, more evaporation occurs, leading to more water vapor in the air (can’t become clouds, but acts as insulating greenhouse gas)
  • Additional particulate pollution helps form more clouds
    • Aerosols
    • Jet contrails
  • Clouds block incoming solar radiation
    • How?
    • High albedo- reflect sunlight back into space
  • Makes effects of global warming appear less
  • Called “Global Dimming”
can you see how this may present a problem
Can you see how this may present a PROBLEM?
  • If we don’t clean up air, it means:
    • more asthma and respiratory illnesses
  • Cleaning up air means:
    • reducing the cloud cover and increasing the rate of heating of earth’s surface and all that comes along with it.
  • So what do we do???
  • (Sadly, nobody has an answer for that… )
  • Somehow, we must address BOTH problems
Cut back on Fossil Fuel Use
    • Industry must “scrub” to remove air pollutants
    • Promote public transportation
    • Improve gas mileage and emissions standards on personal vehicles
    • Highly Rated Energy star appliances
  • Develop a non-fossil fuel-based, renewable energy system
    • Develop alternative energy economy
      • Windmills, hydroelectric, solar
    • Revamp grid
    • Hybrids/Alternative fuels
  • Get Creative about Greening up!


fighting increasing global temperatures

Improving the Future...

Fighting Increasing Global Temperatures

GOAL: Decrese the Amount of Solar Radiation Being Absorbed by the EARTH

  • Once we clean up air pollution in our atmosphere, more solar radiation will hit the earth and be trapped by the greenhouse gases
  • Block incoming solar radiation with a battalion of Mirrors in Space
  • Same benefits as Global Dimming without all the asthma!
melting glaciers ice caps

Improving the Future...

Melting Glaciers & Ice Caps
  • GOAL- Reflect the sunlight back to space to prevent melting of sensitive ice shelves and glaciers
  • Wrapping Greenland Video
extreme drought

Improving the Future...

Extreme Drought

GOAL: Combating drought in dry areas By MAKING IT RAIN!!!

  • “Cloud Seeding”
  • Salts and silver iodide create condensation nuclei for cloud formation

Two Uses:

  • Preserving agriculture
    • Currently used in Texas
  • Also to mimic the effects of the high albedo clouds of global dimming
  • Creating/Seeding Clouds Video
too many greenhouse gases and too little time

Improving the Future...

GOAL: Remove Greenhouse Gases from the Atmosphere

  • Burning fossil fuels cleanly

The Earth’s Major Carbon sinks are in danger:

  • Ocean Algae
  • Methane Hydrates
  • Rainforests
    • Etc…
too much co 2

Improving the Future...


  • Capture CO2 as it escapes factories using “scrubbers”
  • Bury Carbon back deep under the earth
  • CCS applied to a modern conventional power plant could reduce CO2 emissions to the atmosphere by approximately 80-90% compared to a plant without CCS.
  • Downside – requires a lot of energy to transport and bury the sequestered CO2


aaack beware the terrifying methane hydrate feedback loops
Aaack!!! Beware the Terrifying Methane Hydrate Feedback Loops!

Improving the Future...


  • Capture escaping Methane Hydrates using complex tents
  • Capture seeping methane from decomposition in Garbage Dumps
  • Put plastic bags over Cow’s Rumps! (jk)
  • Video – Super Soil
  • Video – Trash to treasure
goal grow more algae to make fuel and absorb co 2
GOAL: Grow more ALGAE to make FUEL and ABSORB CO2!

Improving the Future...

  • Algae are among the fastest growing plants in the world
  • Biofuels - about 50 percent of algae weight is lipid oilthat can be used to make biodiesel and ethanol for cars, trucks, and airplanes.
  • By using “vertical ponds”, 100,000 gallons of algae oil can be produced per year per acre, compared to about 30 gallons per acre from corn; 50 gallons from soybeans.
  • Video – Algae as a Biofuel
goal save the rainforest
GOAL: Save the Rainforest!

Improving the Future...

  • Reduce paper waste (cancel extra magazines, buy products with less packaging,etc.)
  • RECYCLE RECYCLERECYCLE- especially aluminum and electronics (mined from bauxite beneath fertile rainforest floor)
    • Remediating Deforestation Video
  • Carbon Credits – Polluters can buy acreage of rainforests to save them from being cut down (major step from the Kyoto Protocol).
    • Incentive- The US agrees to offer tax cuts, and its becoming very popular with consumers
goal green up with green roofs
GOAL:GREEN UP withGreen Roofs!!

Improving the Future...

Reduces Urban ‘Heat Island’ Effect

  • Increase the moisture retention (stabilizes temps)
  • Raises albedo of concrete urban landscapes
  • Captures excess rain water, preventing flooding and storm drain overflow

Conserves natural resources

  • Increased insulation reduces need for fossil fuel heating/cooling
  • Reduces outside noise pollution


    • Old fashioned sod-houses
    • Newfoundland
    • A shed with a garden on top
super high tech green roofs

Improving the Future...

Super High-Tech Green Roofs
  • Green Roofs Video
  • Fukuoka, Japan
  • Monaco
goal green up with wildlife corridors

Improving the Future...

GOAL:GREEN UP withWildlife Corridors
  • Densely vegetated pathways that cross roads or simply link undeveloped areas
  • Created to allow wildlife to safely cross roads or fields and to prevent genetic isolation of species
  • Lessens Habitat Fragmentation
  • Prevents auto accidents
  • Climate bonus - Increases Albedo of asphalt environments
  • NJ was the first state to use one over a major highway (Rt. 78)


climate change can lead to a very different world than we are accustomed to
Climate Change can lead to a very different world than we are accustomed to.
  • Extinction of species
  • Powerful Hurricanes Increase
  • Redistribution of Agriculture
  • Desertification
  • Increase in Forest and Brush Fires
  • Loss of Fresh Drinking Water
  • Floods due to rising sea levels
  • Environmental Refugees
  • A New “Little Ice Age” or even another “Snowball Earth”?
    • VIDEO
  • MONEY TALKS.Reduce what you use/buy/toss and think twice about who you buy from
    • Don’t buy products from across the globe – buying local decreases your carbon footprint
    • Support companies that buy carbon credits
    • Buy biofuels (even E-85)
      • Its better to recycle Carbon from the atmosphere than to dig it up
  • Cut back on your energy use
    • smart strips to reduce phantom loads (ex your phone charger or sleeping cable box)
    • Go energy efficient when you can (high energy star rating)
    • Take public transportation (esp Trains or the fancy new Hybrid and Hydrogen buses in NY/NJ)
    • recycle AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE!


do your part to green up
  • Support legislation for Carbon sequestering, Green Roof projects, Wildlife Corridors in our community/ state
  • Small Acts count! Plant more trees/gardens
  • TALK ABOUT IT- Think about how much you’ve learned. Discuss it and help other people understand the real deal about climate change…. An informed citizen is a powerful tool for change.
and in case you re not freaked out enough
….and in case you’re not freaked out enough
  • Milankovich Cycle
  • Every 100,000 or so years, the earth’s tilt on its axis and path around the sun change, causing periods of extreme climate change
  • VIDEO – Periodic Ice Ages