Climate Change

Lots of people are concerned about global warming. From what I can tell, it's like they think that humans are to blame and that the planet wouldn't change if we would just go back to living in caves or something like that.

Here's where I work, courtesy of Google Maps. Just in case you were curious.

Back to the main program:
But that's not how it works. The climate is always changing. Before humans evolved, the climate changed, after we're gone it'll still be changing. Admittedly we humans are making things a lot more interesting with all the CO2 and methane we're cranking out. But in the long run no species lasts forever. Humans (as in Homo sapian) have only been around for 200,000 years and the future for us looks dim. If you're really worried about the planet, take comfort in that thought. Soon humans will have passed by the wayside and the Earth will go on it's merry way undisturbed--and the climate will still be changing.

Now if you prefer to worry about things, here's a good one. Back when I was growing up the theory was that the climate changed very slowly with gradual warmings and coolings. Now that scientists are able to get actual data on how the planet changes temperature it's apparent that gradual isn't the way these things change.

You see, for a while things will change gradually--like they are with our current warming cycle--but at some point a destabilizing point will be hit and then the proverbial shit hits the fan. For example, back 11,000 years ago when the planet was emerging from an ice age, the climate briefly reversed direction and experienced a 25 degree drop in temperature in just 20 years. Hundreds of species bit the bullet in North America during those years (such as saber-toothed cats, mammoths, and mastodons).

Much of the USA is temperate and has an average year round temperature of around 60f. Imagine if that was reduced to 35f. That would mean Summers with peak temps around 65f and Winter lows 20, 30, even 40 below zero. Brrrr. And if that dramatic 25 degree shift was upwards instead? Farming would collapse in all but the upper latitudes. Scary stuff--and very unpredictable.

What could cause a destabilizing point like that? Nobody knows for sure though the sudden release of gas hydrates -- methane gas molecules that are essentially trapped under ocean floor sediments--offers a strong and scary scenario. There’s a lot of gas hydrate on Earth -- up to ten times the amount of known reserves of natural gas --and those hidden hydrocarbons become unstable when ocean waters warm. It's quite possible that these huge deposits would break loose very quickly--sending the global temperature upwards rapidly. There's even a slight change they would ignite when released in sufficient concentration. Imagine the light show! (of course anyone seeing it would be dead)

I don't worry about global warming. Too slow to care about. A sudden jump --or drop-- in temperature is a lot more scary. And quite possible. So, the old saw comes to mind: Life is uncertain, I'll have dessert first.

Comments

Teresa said…
Life is uncertain, I'll have desert first.

I know you like it hot, but my understanding of deserts is that it's very hot in the daylight and quite chilly in the evening. Hmmmm...

Also, how do you emerge from an ice age by dropping the temperature 25 degrees? I do understand how changes in temperature particularly when "climate control" wasn't available could wipe out, endanger, or cause a mutation in some species.

What I find interesting about global warming is that heat rises. So shouldn't it be rising and escaping through all those holes in the ozone layer and making us colder? Heat gets in but it can't get out?

We've also had relatively cool summers over the past few years. Why isn't the extra heat coming here -- it seems to be localized over the polar caps -- and theoretically there aren't enough people there to be causing all those nasty ozone destroying gases.

Anyone want to explain this all to a skeptic like me?
kenju said…
I know so little about ti that I can't discuss it intelligently, but Theresa's questions make sense. I'd like to hear the answers.
GA Girl said…
Dessert is great no matter how it's spelled, and all us finite critters will have a fine time before we end... ;)
utenzi said…
I frequently do that desert instead of dessert thing. I corrected it.
utenzi said…
As for Teresa's concerns:

Very poorly. Ha! The temps moved upwards as the ice age ebbed but then for reasons not understood--the global temp plummeted for two decades. Then moved upwards once again. Odd.

Holes in the ozone layer have nothing to do with heat escaping. There's still the normal amount of atmosphere there, including the greenhouse gas CO2, there's just very little O3 aka ozone.

Global warming is about overall trends, not individual seasons--though the media often get that one wrong, and some scientists get overzealous in trying to explain away cold weather. It's all about averages, folks.

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