HOW GLOBAL WARMING WORKS
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How does global warming work?
Global warming is definitely a term that is tossed
around a lot these days. Whether you’re looking at a brown, murky river or
you’re sweltering under a blazing sun on hot summer’s day, you’re sure to hear
someone within earshot blame it on global warming. And although global warming
has become a particularly hot topic within the past 5 years, it’s one that
scientists and environmentalists have been studying for decades as they have
been studying climate patterns and making predictions based on those, as to what
the future of the planet holds for us.
It’s a phenomenon that have some very scared about
the future of our world and still one that others laugh off and don’t even
believe exists. So what is global warming, really? Is it something that really
exists or do all these climate issues simply point to cyclical patterns that
will straighten themselves out in time? And can human behavior really have an
impact on the future of the Earth’s atmosphere and environment? We’ll look into
it all here as we look at how global warming works.
Weather and Climate
is a significant increase in the temperature of the Earth’s climate over a short
period of time, as a result of human activity. To understand what this really
means, you must first understand the difference between weather and climate.
The weather refers to what is happening in one
small area for a short period of time. If you live in a hot, sunny area but are
experiencing a few cold and cloudy days, this is not a change in the climate of
the area but simply bad weather. Climate on the other hand, refers to the
weather patterns of a large area over a long period of time. Most people know
what to expect from a certain area’s climate. You wouldn’t expect to go to
California and pack your snowsuit while you also wouldn’t take your swimsuit to
the Arctic. However, you may not know what the weather is for that area at a
particular time. So even though you’re visiting California in May, you may know
that it’s going to be hot because that’s the climate for the area but you may
not know whether or not it will rain while you are there, which is the local
Climate is very long-term and it can take centuries
to change the climate of a certain area. This is one reason why people know what
to expect from a certain area. It’s also the reason why a particularly warm
winter in a usually cold area is simply a shift in weather patterns and doesn’t
indicate climate change, even though it happened over an entire season. Because
climate change happens so slowly, even a very small increase in the earth’s
climate is considered significant. In fact, during the last Ice Age, the Earth’s
atmosphere was only about 5 degrees colder than it is today and Ice Ages are
recurring climate changes that take place about every 50,000 to 100,000 years.
For global warming to technically be taking place, the earth would need to warm
1 degree Celsius or more over the course of a century. It has been determined
that from 1906 – 2006 the Earth’s climate had warmed .74 degrees Celsius.
The group of scientists and researchers that
collect and examine this data are the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
(IPCC), which is a group of 2,500 experts from different countries all around
the world. When they met in Paris in 2007 they studied the Earth’s climate and
determined that over the past hundred years the Earth’s climate has increased
significantly and that it is only continuing to increase, showing that the Earth
is in a state of global warming. This leads to things such as severe droughts,
melting Arctic glaciers, and increased precipitation.
The Greenhouse Effect
Understanding how the greenhouse effect works is
also essential in understanding how global warming works because it’s the
increase in the greenhouse effect that causes global warming. The greenhouse
effect in itself is not a bad thing. It’s actually a vital part of the
atmosphere that is essential to our life on Earth because it is this effect that
warms the Earth up.
In order to understand the greenhouse effect, you
can compare it to your car that sits outside with the windows rolled up on a hot
day. When you go into your car you notice that it’s extremely hot and much
hotter than the outside temperature. This is because the sun’s rays enter your
car windows and are absorbed by the seats, the dashboard, and all the other
things in your car. These things release the heat that they absorb however,
while some of the heat will escape back out through the windows, much of it will
remain inside the car because the windows will reflect it back inside.
Basically, there is more energy coming into the car than exiting it and this
causes the temperature of the inside of the car to slowly rise.
While the greenhouse effect is obviously much more
complicated than this, it works in much the same way. The sun’s rays hit the
Earth’s surface and approximately 70% of those rays are absorbed by things on
Earth such as land, oceans, and other things that make up the Earth’s surface.
The other 30% of the rays are reflected back into space. These rays are
reflected back by certain reflective surfaces on Earth such as clouds and
snowfields. The 70% of the heat that remained on Earth is also eventually
released back into the atmosphere and some of this heat also goes out into space
while some of it is absorbed by things such as carbon monoxide, methane gas, and
water vapour. Once these things absorb the heat, they will also eventually
This effect makes it so that the surface of Earth
is always much warmer than that of space and so we are able to survive and live
on the planet. In order to understand what the Earth would be like without the
greenhouse effect, you can compare Earth and Mars, which are very similar
planets with one main difference being that Mars does not have a greenhouse
effect because the atmosphere on that planet is not thick enough to send enough
energy back to the planet to allow for plant and animal life to survive. Those
researching the possibilities of life on Mars believe that if there were some
way to thicken the atmosphere and cause a greenhouse effect, life on Mars would
be entirely possible.
So if the greenhouse effect is not only an
important but vital part of our existence, why are we so concerned about it and
trying to stop it? The problem is not that the greenhouse effect exists. The
problem is that the greenhouse effect has been increasing at an alarming rate
for several decades and this is causing global warming.
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