By Mark M Green
I’ve been collecting articles in the scientific literature about climate change. There follows here some highlights.
Some climate scientists believe that melting sea ice in the Arctic is exposing more water to the sun, which absorbs the sun’s warmth instead of ice which reflects the sun’s rays cause warming of the artic water, which then affects the path of the jet stream. The jet stream, carrying extreme cold air from the Arctic, in then moving differently from its unperturbed path causes unusual weather patterns in areas far removed from the Arctic. This is so-called “snowmageddon,” a term used to describe extreme snow falls and winter storms in Europe, Asia and the United States. Other climate scientists disagree but all are now focusing on this possible relationship between melting sea ice and weather patterns far from the Arctic.
Climate scientists at the Columbia University Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and the University of Arizona predict, based on data collected about past droughts derived from studies of tree rings, and computer based modeling, that climate change is putting us on the path of severe draughts, “megadroughts,” especially for the midwestern and southwestern United States. They go so far as to say there is a good chance that even large rivers like the Colorado could run dry and where the effect on ground water reserves could become so severe as to be unmanageable. Get ready for food costs to increase.
Here’s a fact. In the issue of Chemical and Engineering News published on January 26, 2015 is this title of a piece: “2014 Breaks Global Temperature Record.” A scientist from NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies says that: “Trends indicate that further record highs will occur in years to come.” Perhaps connected are data from the Climate Extreme’s Index that droughts and cyclone events in 2014 are 35% above the average spanning the last 105 years.
Here is some possible good news. Coccolithophores are phytoplankton, which are microscopic organisms that populate the oceans and provide critical food sources for larger varieties of ocean live. One of the phytoplankton’s jobs is to fix chemicals essential for life into their biomass. For example, diazotrophs take nitrogen from the atmosphere, a critical element of life and convert it to forms that wide varieties of ocean life can imbibe. Coccolithophores build calcium carbonate shells, getting the carbonate by incorporating carbon dioxide into their life cycle. If these kind of phytoplankton were not around the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere would be much higher than it is with a consequence on climate change, scientists inform us. It appears that the proportion of coccolithophores is increasing as carbon dioxide in the atmosphere increases. Our activities are apparently helping these creatures.
Chemical and Engineering News, the magazine published by the American Chemical Society points out in a feature article on methane, that although industry is delighted with all the methane available via fracking, there is a danger in the leaking of methane into the atmosphere. This was published in the summer of 2014 long before the PBS News Hour feature just yesterday (as I write this on January 19, 2016) about people driven out of their homes in a town in California by a pipeline leak of enormous volumes of methane. The article points out that although methane makes up a small proportion of greenhouse gases, about 9%, it has eighty-six times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide for the twenty years after it enters the atmosphere. There is an even bigger worry about methane in that large amounts are stored in oceans as hydrates, methane in a cage of water molecules sustained by low temperature and pressure deep in the ocean. As ocean temperatures increase these hydrates dissociate releasing the methane into the atmosphere.
If you had any questions about the connections of oceans to climate change, you can be relieved of your doubts by getting the November 13, 2015 issue of “Science,” which has a whole section discussing the irrefutable evidence of the various roles the ocean plays in climate change.