Global Warming: It’s Affects on the Polar Ice Caps

Topics: Carbon dioxide, Greenhouse gas, Global warming Pages: 8 (3103 words) Published: July 19, 2008
Everywhere you look right now you will hear about the pheonomia of “global warming.” To understand global warming you need to understand the difference between climate and weather. Climate, as defined by Webster’s Dictionary is “the average course or condition of the weather at a place over a period of years as exhibited by tepemperature, wind velocity, and precipition” while weather is the “state of the atmosphere with respectto heat or cold, wetness or dryness, calm or storm, clearness or cloudiness” (Webster). Therefore climate describes the weather over time. Climate change and global warming are frequently used interchangeable but like climate and weather they do have different definitions. “Climate change refers to any significant change in measures of climate for an extended period” and global warming is an increase in the temperature of the atmosphere near the Earth's surface and in the troposphere, which can contribute to changes in global climate patterns” (http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/basicinfo.html right sidebar).

The climate of the earth has made many changes since before written history. From the first recorded ice age about 800 to 600 million years ago all the way up to the present day long summer. The planet during one of these changes expienced a warming trend. This occurred fifty-five million years ago. This rise in temperature is believed to have been caused by a natural gas -presumably methane, which was forced out of the sea floor and as it was passing through the earth it was heated and this caused the methane gas to become carbon dioxide that was released into the seas. This influx of carbon dioxide actually turned the ocean waters acidic and the earth's surface temperature rose by 9 to 18 degrees Ferienheight. Nature was the cause of the global warming fifty-five million years ago.

To understand global warming you need to have some understanding of the atmosphere. The atmosphere consists of four major parts. The part closet to the earth is the troposphere and is where we get our breathable air from. The troposphere has “80 percent of all the atmosphere's gases” (Flannery pg20). The troposphere is comprised of nitrogen, oxygen, and argon making up 99.95 percent and the rest is known as greenhouse gases. These gases consist of ozone, carbon dioxide, water vapor, methane and nitrous oxide. These gases are what makes the earth livable. The greenhouse gases block the sun's radiation therefore keeping the temperatures down on the planet. However, as these gases increase they cause an overall temperature increase on the planet. As the greenhouse gas concentrations rise, particular carbon dioxide more heat is being held in the atmosphere causing the temperature to increase.

The greenhouse gases are on the rise due to human activities. Carbon dioxide has been on the rise since the Industrial Revolution started this trend in the 18th century. Since the 18th century the burning of fossil fuels and clear cuting and burning forests have been steadily increasing. Methane gas is also on the rise. Livestock is the primary producer of methane gas and it is increasing due to more livestock being raised to feed the growing population. Due to the increasing greenhouse gases the “temmperature has risen by about 1.2 to 1.4 degrees Feirenheight in the last 100 years” (http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/basicinfo.html paragraph 4). This temperature increase has several side effects. One of the main concerns of global warming is the melting of the polar icecaps. As these ice caps melt they put more water into the sea therfore causing the sea levels to increase.

The polar icecaps are the focus of many studies to see how this warming trend is affecting them. The concern is the “snow/ice albedo effect.” This snow/ice albedo effect “occurs because reductions in snow, land ice and sea ice reduce reflectivity, permitting more incomin radiation to be absorbed and het the ground and ocean;...
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