The greenhouse effect and global warming are issues that are talked about by geologists all the time. The greenhouse effect is a natural process that keeps the earth at temperatures that are livable. Energy from the sun warms the earth when its heat rays are absorbed by greenhouse gasses and become trapped in the atmosphere. Some of the most common greenhouse gasses are water vapor, carbon dioxide, and methane. If there were no greenhouse gasses, very few rays would be absorbed and the earth would be extremely cold. When too many rays are absorbed, the earth’s atmosphere starts to warm, which leads to global warming. Global warming can lead to many problems that affect the environment in which we live.
In order to talk about global warming, we must first learn what causes the greenhouse effect. A lot of the rays from the sun are absorbed by water vapor that is naturally in our atmosphere. Water vapor accounts for 80 percent of natural greenhouse warming. The remaining 20 percent is due to other gasses that are present in very small amounts. Carbon dioxide is also a big absorber of the sun’s heat rays. This warming is largely attributed to the increase of greenhouse gases (primarily carbon dioxide and methane) in the Earth's upper atmosphere caused by human burning of fossil fuels, industrial, farming, and deforestation activities. (Stanford SOLAR Center) If there is more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere more rays from the sun are absorbed. This will cause the atmosphere and the earth’s temperature to warm. The warming of the earth will cause the oceans to become warmer. When they heat up, more water is evaporated, causing more carbon dioxide to be released into the atmosphere. Once this process starts, it is extremely hard to control. If the temperature keeps rising, more carbon dioxide will be released. Methane (CH4) is a greenhouse gas and contributes to climate changes well. A trace gas, methane makes up only 0.00017% of the total amount of atmospheric gases. This may seem like a very small amount, but when we consider how one kilogram of methane has more than 20 times the greenhouse effects as the same amount of carbon dioxide. (Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre) Methane gas is released into the atmosphere from both natural and human sources. Natural sources include grazing animals, volcanic eruptions, and some land plants. Methane is also released as a by-product by a number of different sources, mostly those involving human and animal waste. Landfills are a large source of methane gas as materials breakdown and release the methane to the atmosphere. Average global temperatures may increase by 1.4-5.8ºC (that's 2.5 - 10.4º F) by the end of the 21st century. Although the numbers sound small, they can trigger significant changes in climate. (Stanford SOLAR Center) Warmer temperatures will cause a greater amount of evaporation from lakes, rivers, and oceans. Globally, the mercury is already up more than 1 degree Fahrenheit (0.8 degree Celsius) (National Geographic Society). Global warming is also shifting precipitation patterns and setting animals on the move. Some butterflies, foxes, and alpine plants have moved farther north or to higher, cooler areas. The Environmental Media Services Organization has found that the greenhouse effect could drive global temperatures up as much as 6 degrees by the year 2100 - an increase in heat comparable to the 10 degree warming that ended the last ice age. If a ten degree warming was the factor that ended the ice age, imagine what another warming by about that same amount could do. Sea levels will rise and what effects will partake?
Sea levels are expected to rise between 7 and 23 inches (18 and 59 centimeters) by the end of the century, and continued melting at the poles could add between 4 and 8 inches (10 to 20 centimeters) (National Geographic Society). Floods and droughts will become more common. Rainfall in Ethiopia, where droughts are...
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