Have you ever wondered why the climate is getting warmer throughout the years? Do you ask yourself as to why late winter months are feeling a bit warmer from year to year? Like most people, if these questions have ever crossed your mind, you may be worried about what is causing this climate change and the outcome effects of it.
The biggest factor that controls the Earth’s climate is the solar radiation, or energy given off by the Sun. Scientists believe that as the Sun ages, its brightness over time increases. This results in the Sun giving off greater amounts of energy as heat. However, conclusive studies show that this has a very minimal impact on Earth’s climate getting warmer because of its unsustainable, inconsistent fluctuation of the heat given off as solar radiation.
Figure 1: The Sun, which is a large ball of hydrogen and helium gas. Source: https://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sun
Now you may be asking yourself, “How exactly does this heat up the Earth?” To begin with, the Earth orbits in nearly a circular motion around the Sun. Furthermore, the amount of energy received on Earth comes from how far the Earth is relative to the Sun. At times, some aspects of the Earth’s orbit can vary distances with respect to the Sun. For example in this era, during the wintertime the Earth is orbiting more closer to the Sun, and orbits further away during the summer. It is pretty intuitive that this provides a low seasonal contrast, as we do not experience cold winters, nor extremely hot summers. Another important fact is that Earth rotates on a tilt. This means Earth doesn’t orbit around the Sun along its perpendicular axis; rather it is tilted by 23.50. Research suggests that the angle in which Earth rotates fluctuates between 22.30 and 24.50 over 41,000 years. These changes alter how sunlight is distributed over the planet. However because of how slow these orbital variations can take, there is no significant evidence that this has lead to the recent warming of the climate.
Figure 2: Earth rotating around the Sun. Shows the axis of rotation along with the tilt. Source: https://www.quora.com/Why-is-the-earth-tilted-at-23-5-degrees
What and who may be the culprit at hand for the raise in global temperatures? You won’t have to look any further than yourself. Human activity is directly related to the vast amounts of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere that are expected to warm the planet. Greenhouse gases increase the overall surface temperature of the planet as they act as barriers from preventing outgoing radiation, in the form of heat to dissipate into space. The major greenhouse gas that is responsible for this is carbon dioxide. The number one human activity that raises the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is from burning fossil fuels.
Figure 3: A smoking power plant. Source: Thinkstock
Another important impact the sudden climate change has is the melting of sea ice and glaciers. This can lead to elevated sea levels, which can in turn lead to floods, storms and other natural disasters. As you can see, climate change can have severe effects on our planet, and unfortunately we are to blame for the drastic increase in climate.
Posted in Outreach Project, Public Engagement, Science in News
Tagged Carbon dioxide, climate, Earth, fossil fuels, Global Warming, Natural Disaster, seasons, Sun, sunlight
Have you guys ever wondered where carbon dioxide (CO2) molecule goes after you exhale? A lot of carbon dioxide on the Earth, including what we exhale and carbon from our factories or cars, actually ends up in the ocean. Once CO2 molecule is in the ocean, it might travel in through the surface for a while before going back to the air above or it can travel deep down into the ocean and stay there for hundreds of years. A computer model was made to track CO2 in the ocean in order to find out where it travels and the time duration it stays at the bottom of the ocean. Research has shown that carbon dioxide cycles in different levels of the ocean. This information enables us to find out how the ocean responds to and contributes to global climate change.
The oceans play an important role to the Earth’s climate change because it can take in a huge amount of carbon above and store carbon in the atmosphere. In fact, more than 93% of the carbon dioxide (CO2) in the world is stored in the oceans. Fortunately, most of the CO2 is stored in the oceans, which leaves less CO2 in the atmosphere. The reason is that Greenhouse gases such as CO2 can trap heat that is radiated back to the Earth, which can overheat our planet. Thus, oceans help to store a large amount of CO2.
Tiny plants called phytoplankton live on the surface of the water where they can be exposed to sun. They gather CO2 from the atmosphere to build their bodies. When they die, phytoplankton sink into the bottom of the oceans and bacteria break them down to release the stored carbon dioxide back into the seawater. This process is called biological carbon pump, which pumps carbon dioxide into the bottom of the oceans for many years.
Study has shown that phytoplankton are usually bigger in colder areas compared to warmer areas and stick together into large clumps when they die. This will make them heavier and sink down into the ocean further and faster before they get decomposed by bacteria. The colder area of the oceans also slows down the bacteria growth, which allows phytoplankton to sink further down before their carbon dioxide be decomposed and released by bacteria.
If humans keep continuing to pollute the Earth and emit CO2 to the atmosphere, the oceans and the world will become warmer. The warm oceans can not store more CO2, which will cause CO2 to be released into the atmosphere and further heat up the Earth. In order to break this cycle, humans need to work together to save our planet and reduce the use of fossil fuels and factory waste into the atmosphere. Also, human beings can avoid many natural disasters such as hurricane, blizzard, and volcanic eruptions resulted from the effect of Global Warming.
Posted in Biological Sciences, Issues in Science, Science Communication, Science in News
Tagged Atomosphere, Carbon Cycle, Carbon dioxide, Cycle, Global Warming, Greenhouse Gases, Natural Disaster, Ocean, Phytoplankton, Science