Atmosphere And Weather

The causes of Global Climate Change

Jacob Coburn's image for:
"The causes of Global Climate Change"
Image by: 

Global climate shifts are the result of the almost fluid-like dynamics of the Earth system. The climate system is basically a set of feedback loops and reversing mechanisms within the Earth system that creates a loose set of weather patterns over distinct areas. Changes in the climate system occur when these forces mix and shift. That is to say positive feedback loops keep a climate going for a period of time, ranging from decades to multiple millenniums, until a reversing mechanism triggers a negative feedback loop that counters the first and changes the overall state of the weather. The hard part of predicting climate changes and their catalysts lies in the many Earth systems, the ways in which they affect each other, and the even more numerous anomalies that keep climatologists guessing.

One major difference that hasn't been a factor in the past is the human element. Due to our activities, the Earth's environment is warming at rates unwitnessed in all of our planet's history. This creates worse problems in climate forecasting because the other main Earth systems will have to react to our involvement, whether for better or worse. In turn, our activities will be affected by their responses. Thus, we have unintentionally made ourselves a part, albeit a small part, of the Earth system, and as we all know, with great power comes great responsibility.

A general outline of the Earth-climate system goes something like this; the atmosphere is the stage upon which all weather and climate plays out. The chemistry of the varying layers of the atmosphere conveys how much heat is trapped by the gases in our air and how much sunlight is reflected by floating aerosols. The oceans influence atmospheric chemistry as well, however their main function is to deliver heat to the poles and cold to the Equator by way of numerous currents powered by winds and gravity. Geological processes expel different chemicals into the air, and shifting landforms alter wind and water currents. The biological system alters the atmosphere's chemistry too by way of large-scale breathing, photosynthesis, and decomposition. All of that, and that of human intervention converges to create dazzling climate patterns even our most powerful computers have a hard time analyzing.

As if that weren't all enough, the climate system harbors another hindering factor known as anomalies. Put simply, climate doesn't mean that the weather stays exactly the same over their given areas. Instead, there are month to month and year to year variations that seem opposite or unfavorable to the climates they represent. That could mean rain in a desert, a heatwave near the poles, or a sudden shift from summer to winter in the temperate regions. Whatever they are, they create problems immediately in climate classification by making the true nature of a region's climate seem different, and hurt long term climate patterns by sometimes acting as effects or catalysts to changing climactic states.

The seemingly sporadically placed Earth systems, as well as the numerous anomalies, have made climate change as unpredictable as tomorrow's weather. Our activities threaten to warm the Earth beyond any point of safe return, as is shown by the increasing frequency and duration of weather-related hazards. Though we have tried hard to alter the way in which we are adversely affecting climate, our efforts have only nicked the surface of our dilemma. What must be recognized is that our activities may be warming the Earth faster, but the planet was warming anyway after the end of the last ice age without our help. The true problem lies in that our warming trend will probably still be countered by a cooling trend eventually, yet it will be a violent and dangerous shift which would put billions at the mercy of our atmosphere. Our hope in curbing this warming is to lessen the violence when that shift does occur.

The atmosphere continues to warm in this, the twenty-first century. Icecaps are melting, biomes are shifting and storms march like death angels over the human populous. We continue to pollute and waste, and the nations grow wary of each other as the weather deteriorates and resources thin. Whether tomorrow, next week, or in a thousand years, some unforeseen catalyst will rock our planet and send the climate in a downward spiral, perhaps even into another ice age. Due to the warmth of our overheated world, the change will bring storms so powerful that civilization struggles to hang on. The climate changes normally without provocation, yet our activities have put us at higher risk for unprecedented disaster. Our only hope is that we can curb our effect in time, and endure whatever hardships our atmosphere may throw at us.

More about this author: Jacob Coburn

From Around the Web