Global Warming: An Introduction
by Robert J. Ruhf
This paper was written in 1999 and focuses on research done in the early to mid 1990's. I have not yet had the time to update this paper to include research conducted over the last decade. The reader may wish to look elsewhere for a summary of more recent research.
[About the author: Robert J. Ruhf received his Ph.D. in Science Education from the Mallinson Institute for Science Education at Western Michigan University in 2006. He also received a Communications degree from Cornerstone University in 1990, a Meteorology degree from Central Michigan University in 1998 and a master in Geography from Western Michigan University in 2000. He currently works as a program evaluator with the center for Science and Mathematics Program Improvement (SAMPI) at Western Michigan University.]
Many researchers, scientists, and environmentalists are expressing concerns about changes in the overall climate of the earth. Some believe that a dramatically dangerous warming is taking place in the overall global climate, a problem that is referred to as "global warming." This paper will attempt to explore this very issue.
Climate is defined as the analysis of accumulated weather data for long term patterns and trends. The Oxford Reference Dictionary defines change as, "To make or become different." Climate change is therefore defined as "long-term weather patterns and trends becoming different over an extended period of time." For example, if the average temperature in Kalamazoo, Michigan over the 20th century is significantly higher or lower than the average temperature in Kalamazoo, Michigan over the 19th century, this would be an example of climate change.
Changes in climate can result from both natural events and human activities. Examples of natural causes of climate change are volcanic eruptions, variations in the earth's orbit around the sun, and variations in solar output (Ahrens, 485-491). Examples of human-induced causes of climate change include industrial pollutants and fossil fuels (Rhodes, 116), warming of average annual temperatures due to urbanization (Eichenlaub, 163), and changes in the earth's albedo due to deforestation of tropical rainforests (Geiger, 320). Climate change in the context of this paper refers to changes that result from human activities, especially as these changes relate to the issue of global warming. Of special importance is the "greenhouse gas" effect which is defined as, "The trapping of thermal emissions from the earth's surface by human-induced greenhouse gases" (He). If global warming is indeed happening, it is the greenhouse gas effect that is believed to be the most responsible.
There are some scientists who do not believe that there is enough evidence to support the idea of global warming. They assert that concerns about global warming have been blown well out of proportion by the media. At the same time, other scientists assert that there is sufficient evidence to suggest that industrial activities, automobile emissions, and technological pollutants may eventually result in dangerous (and even deadly) trends in the overall global climate. This paper will attempt to address this concern by analyzing some of the scientific studies that have been published in major meteorology journals.
Our atmosphere consists of many gases. Some of these gases, such as carbon dioxide and water vapor, naturally absorb long-wave radiation that is emitted from the earth's surface. Short-wave solar radiation enters the earth's atmosphere and is absorbed by the earth's surface. This radiation is then recycled and emitted as long wave terrestrial radiation. Gases such as water vapor and carbon dioxide absorb this radiation, hold it in the atmosphere, and keep the temperature of the earth warmer than it would otherwise be if there wasn't an atmosphere. This is what meteorologists refer to as the "natural greenhouse effect" (Mower).
Problems could potentially arise, however, when human activities add additional trace gases into the atmosphere that also absorb out-going long-wave radiation. These additional trace gases include methane, chlorofloro carbons, nitrous oxide, aerosols, ozone, and carbon dioxide. The result is an increase in the amount of long-wave radiation that is being trapped by the atmosphere. It is believed that this could eventually increase the average overall global temperature.
Carbon dioxide "...is considered the trace gas of greatest importance because of the substantial increase in its atmospheric concentration as well as its probable continued rise due to global consumption of fossil fuels" (Rhodes, 116). It is clear from looking at the evidence that carbon dioxide concentrations are increasing dramatically in the atmosphere. Observations of carbon dioxide concentrations are available for several locations. Over the period of 1973 to 1982, the atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide in Barrow, Alaska rose steadily from 332.6 parts per million (ppm) to 342.8 parts per million (Geiger, 110-111).
This is not isolated to Barrow, Alaska. Records from other locations, such as Mauna Loa in Hawaii, are confirming that carbon dioxide concentrations are increasing in the atmosphere at a dramatic rate. Continuous instrument records for atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations date back to the 1950's at the Mauna Loa observatory (Michaels, 1564). In 1958, the average atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide was only 316 parts per million (ppm). Preindustrial carbon dioxide concentrations are believed to be 279 parts per million (Michaels, 1564), and the atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration in 1990 was 353 parts per million (Rhodes, 116). However, as one author points out, the fact that we are dealing with significant changes in carbon dioxide does not automatically mean that we are looking at a serious problem (Lindzen, 288). This author points out that carbon dioxide is a " ...minor atmospheric constituent and as such, its variations might not be notably important." He goes on to say that there are a number of things that increasing levels of carbon dioxide could effect and influence, including in ways that are beneficial. For example, " ...at altitudes of 25 km to 90 km, the atmosphere is cooled primarily by thermal radiation emitted to space by carbon dioxide. Increasing carbon dioxide should cool these regions, and this, in turn, should lead to increasing concentrations of ozone at these levels. Increasing carbon dioxide might also stimulate the growth of vegetation..." (Lindzen, 288-289).
While there are indeed some possible benefits to increased atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations, "...the main concerns have focused on the possibility that increasing carbon dioxide might significantly warm our climate" (Lindzen, 289). One author wrote that there is "...general agreement that increasing carbon dioxide will produce warming due to its ability to absorb in the infrared radiation" (Lindzen, 289).
There are studies that have indicated that no significant change in the overall global climate has yet taken place. For example, a study that was done by P. W. Spencer and J. R. Christy, using temperature records from the period of 1979 through 1990, showed a global trend of only +0.04 degrees Celsius per decade (Michaels, 1566). Other studies showed that the Northern Hemisphere has had no significant warming, while the Southern Hemisphere has had a slight temperature increase in the order of 0.2 degrees Celsius since the 1950's (Michaels, 1566). Patrick J. Michaels speculates that the reason that we have not seen a significant increase in temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere is because of the balancing effect of anthropogenerated sulfates going into the atmosphere as a result of industrial pollution. Anthropogenerated sulfates have a cooling effect on the atmosphere because of their ability to reflect incoming solar radiation back to space. Michaels explains this in more detail when he writes, "Because anthropogenerated sulfates are primarily produced and reside in the Northern Hemisphere, we may therefore be equaling the current enhanced greenhouse forcing ... with actual negative forcing in the hemisphere that contains most of the world's population" (Michaels, 1573).
This lead to the obvious question of whether or not the lack of a significant increase in global temperature should be taken as evidence that we should not be concerned about the issue. William W. Kellog of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado has written an article called "Response to Skeptics of Global Warming" in which he responds to many of the objections that have been raised against global warming. Kellog points out that "...five or so of the most advanced climate models, developed over a period of many years by top notch teams, have all come to essentially the same conclusion: The global average surface temperature would probably rise by about 2 to 5 K if the greenhouse gas concentration were maintained at double the pre-industrial revolution level" (Kellog, 500). Kellog suggests that the reason that we have not seen a change as of yet in the overall warming is because of a temperature lag of several decades "...due in large part to the large heat capacity of the oceans of the world" (Kellog, 500). He asserts that the evidence is still in favor of the fact that, sooner or later, a serious warming of the climate will occur.
Ahrens, C. Donald. Meteorology Today: An Introduction to Weather, Climate, and the Environment, 5th Edition. New York: West Publishing Company, 1995.
Eichenlaub, Val L., Jay R. Haman, Fred V. Nurnberger, and Hans J. Stolle. The Climatic Atlas of Michigan. University of Notre Dame Press: Notre Dame, Indiana, 1990.
Geiger, Rudolf, Robert H. Aron, Paul Todhunter. The Climate Near the Ground, 5th Edition. Braunschweig, Germany: Friedr, Veiweg & Sohn Verlagsgesellschaft, 1995.
He, Chansheng. Classroom notes presented verbally in Natural Resource Management, GEOG 555. Western Michigan University, winter 1999.
Kellog, William W. "Response to Skeptics of Global Warming." Bulletin American Meteorology Society. Volume 74, Number 4 (April 1991), pp. 499-511.
Oxford American Dictionary. Oxford University Press: New York, 1980.
Lindzen, Richard S. "Some Coolness Concerning Global Warming." Bulletin American Meteorology Society. Volume 71, Number 3 (March 1990), pp. 288-299.
Michaels, Patrick J. "Global Warming: A Reduced Threat?" Bulletin American Meteorology Society. Volume 73, Number 10 (October 1992), pp. 1563-1577.
Mower, R. Neil. Classroom notes presented verbally in Physical Meteorology, ESC 530. Central Michigan University, autumn 1996.
Rhodes, Steven L. "Climate and Environmental Degradation of the Great Lakes." Journal of Environmental Systems. Volume 22, Number 2, pp. 105-122.
Global warming refers to the rise in surface temperature of the earth due to the green house effect created by green house gases. Global warming is a big environmental and social issue all over the world which everyone must know especially our kids and children as they are the future. Let your kids and school going children learn about this environmental issue, its causes and prevention methods using these essay on Global warming, written in English language using very simple words for students use. You can select any global warming essay given below:
Essay on Global Warming
Global Warming Essay 1 (100 words)
Global warming is a major atmospheric issue all over the world. Our earth’s surface becoming hot day by day by trapping the sun’s heat and rise in the level of atmospheric carbon dioxide. The bad effects of it increasing day by day and causing major problems to the living of human being. It has become one of the subjects of big social issues which need social awareness to a great level. People should know its meaning, causes, effects and solutions to solve it immediately. People should come forth together and try to solve it in order to save life on the earth.
Global Warming Essay 2 (150 words)
Global warming is a big issue of the atmosphere on the earth which cause continuous rise in the surface temperature of the Earth. It has been estimated that in next 50 or 100 year the temperature of earth would be increased to a great level which would create big problem of living on earth. The highly known and most basic cause of increasing the Earth’s temperature is continuous rise in the atmospheric carbon dioxide.
Rise in the carbon dioxide level is the use fossil fuels like coal and oil, deforestation (cut down of plants) by the human beings on Earth. Decreasing number of the plants on the earth increases the level of carbon dioxide, as plants are the main source of the using carbon dioxide released by the human being (as a by-product of respiration) and other means. Increasing level of Earth’s temperature creates lots of problems like sea level becomes hotter and higher, glaciers melt, flood, strong storms, lack of food, diseases, death, etc.
Global Warming Essay 3 (200 words)
Global warming is the steady and continuous rise in the level of earth temperature. Out earth surface is becoming hotter day by day just because of some unnoticeable habits of human beings all across the world. Global warming has become the most worrying threat for the earth’s atmosphere as it is reducing the life possibilities on the earth day by day through a continuous and steady declining process.
Before planning the solutions of the global warming, we must think about the causes and effects of it on the atmosphere in order to get sure that we are in right direction of getting full relief from this issue. The continuous warming of the earth surface is the increasing emission of CO2 in the environment. However, the increasing level of CO2 is caused due to many reasons like deforestation, use of coal, oil, gas, burning of fossil fuels, burning of gasoline for transportation, unnecessary use of electricity, etc which in turn causes rise in earth temperature. Again it becomes the reason of rising sea level, occurrence of flooding, storms, cyclone, ozone layer damage, changing weather patterns, fear of epidemic diseases, lack of food, death, etc. We cannot blame any single entity for this as each and every human being is responsible for the increasing threat of global warming which can be solved only by the global awareness and kind efforts of everyone.
Global Warming Essay 4 (250 words)
Global warming is a steady process of continuous rise in the level of Earth temperature. Global warming has become one of the biggest problems faced by the world now. It is believed that increasing level of carbon dioxide gas and other greenhouse gases on the earth are the main reasons of heating the atmosphere of earth. If it is not noticed and solved immediately by the efforts of all countries worldwide, it would boom its effects and cause end of life on the earth a day.
Its threatening effects are increasing day by day and creating danger for human life. Global warming is the main and only reason of rising sea level, flooding, changes in weather patterns, storms, cyclone, epidemic diseases, lack of food, death, etc. The only solution to solve the issue of global warming is the individual level social awareness. People must be aware of its meaning, cause, bad effects and other things about global warming to get it eradicated from worldwide and make the possibilities of life on earth forever as usual.
People should stop producing C02 by just stopping their bad habits such as stop the use of oil, coal and gas, inhibit cutting plants (as they are main source to absorb carbon dioxide and produce oxygen), minimize the use of electricity, etc. Just small changes in everyone’s life all over the world, we can be able to stop the huge negative changes in the atmosphere by lessening the effects of global warming and even stop it a day.
Global Warming Essay 5 (300 words)
Global warming is the continuous rise in warming of the earth’s surface due to the increased level of carbon dioxide gas in the environment. Global warming has become a big issue which need to be solved by the positive initiation of countries all over the world. As gradual increase in the earth temperature calls various threats as well as makes the existence of life hard on this planet. It enhances the gradual and permanent changes in the earth’s climate and thus affecting the nature’s balance.
Rise in the CO2 level on the earth impacts the human life to a great level through continued heat waves, sudden occurrence of strong storms, unpredictable and unexpected cyclone, damage to ozone layer, floods, heavy rain, drought, lack of food, diseases, death etc. It has been researched that increasing emissions of CO2 in the atmosphere is because of the nonstop burning of fossil fuels, usage of fertilizers, cutting forests, extra use of electricity, gases used in refrigerator etc. According to the statistics, it has been noted that by 2020 global warming may boom its bad effects if it is not taken under control as CO2 emissions are increasing continuously.
The increasing level of CO2 causes greenhouse effect on the earth in which all the greenhouse gases (water vapour, CO2, methane, ozone) absorbs thermal radiation, which in turn re-radiated to all directions and come back to earth surface causing increase in the temperature of earth surface and lead to global warming.
In order to stop the life threatening effects of the global warming, we should take a permanent break from all the bad habits causing increase in the CO2 level and other green house gases leading to the green house effect and then earth surface warming. We should stop deforestation, lessen the use of electricity, stop the burning of wood, etc.
Global Warming Essay 6 (400 words)
Global warming is the big environmental issue we are facing today as a greatest challenge which we need to get it solved permanently. In fact, global warming is the continuous and steady process of increasing in the temperature of earth surface. It needs to be discussed widely by all countries worldwide to stop the effects of it. It has impacted the nature’s balance, biodiversity and climatic conditions of the earth over decades.
Green house gases like CO2, methane are the main reasons of increasing the global warming on the earth which directly impacts the rising sea levels, melting ice caps, glaciers, unexpected changing climate which represents life threats on the earth. According to the statistic, it has been estimated that earth temperature has increased to a great level since mid 20th century due to the increased atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations globally because of the increased demand of the human living standard.
It has been measured that year like 1983, 1987, 1988, 1989 and 1991 as the warmest six years of the past century. This increasing global warming calls the unexpected disasters on the earth like flood, cyclones, tsunami, drought, landslides, ice melting, lack of food, epidemic diseases, death etc thus causing imbalance to the nature’s phenomenon and indicating end of life existence on this planet.
Increasing global warming lead to the more water evaporation from earth into the atmosphere, which in turn become a greenhouse gas and again causes rise in the global warming. Other processes like burning of fossil fuels, use of fertilizers, rise in other gases like CFCs, tropospheric ozone and nitrous oxide are also the reasons of global warming. The ultimate causes of such reasons are the technological advancement, population explosion, increasing demand of industrial expansion, deforestation, priority towards urbanization, etc.
We are disturbing the natural processes through the deforestation and use of technological advancement like global carbon cycle, making hole in ozone layer, etc and allowing the UV rays to come on earth thus increasing global warming. Plants are the ultimate source of removing extra carbon dioxide from the air and making it in balance thus by just stopping the deforestation and enhancing people for more plantation we can get success of reducing the global warming to a great level. Controlling the population growth is also a great hand towards reducing the global warming all through the world as it lessens the use of destructive technologies on the earth.
Global Warming Essay 7 (800 words) (Long Essay)
What is Global Warming
Global warming is a gradual process of heating of earth’s surface and whole environment including oceans, ice caps, etc. The global rise in atmospheric temperature has been clearly noticed in the recent years. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, in the past century there is increase in the earth’s surface average temperature by around 1.4 degree Fahrenheit (means 0.8 degrees Celsius). It has also been estimated that global temperature may increase by another 2 to 11.5 degrees F in the next century.
Causes of Global Warming
There are many causes of the global warming, some are natural causes and some are human made causes. The most important cause of global warming is greenhouse gases which are generated by some natural processes as well as human activities. The increase in the level of green house gases has been seen in the 20th century because of the increasing population, economy and use of energy. Increasing demand of industrialization in the modern world to fulfill almost each need is causing the release of variety of green house gases through many industrial processes in the atmosphere.
The release of carbon dioxide (CO2) and sulphur dioxide (SO2) gas has been increased in the recent years by 10-fold. The release of carbon dioxide gas varies according to the natural and industrial processes including photosynthesis and oxidation cycles. Methane is another green house gas release in the atmosphere by the anaerobic decomposition of organic materials. Other greenhouse gases are like oxides of nitrogen (nitrous oxide), halocarbons, chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), chlorine and bromine compounds, etc. Such green house gases get collected to the atmosphere and disturb the radiative balance of atmosphere. They have capability to absorb heat radiations and cause warming of the earth surface.
Another cause of global warming is ozone depletion means declination of ozone layer over Antarctica. Ozone layer is declining day by day by increasing release of chlorofluorocarbon gas. It is a human generated cause of global warming. Chlorofluorocarbon gas is used at many places as aerosol propellants in the industrial cleaning fluids and in the refrigerators, the gradual release of which causes declination to the ozone layer in the atmosphere.
Ozone layer causes protection to the earth surface by inhibiting the harmful sun rays to coming to the earth. However, gradually declining ozone layer is the big indication of increasing global warming of the earth surface. Harmful ultraviolet sun rays are entering to the biosphere and get absorbed by the green houses gases which ultimately increase the global warming. According to the statistics, it has been estimated that the size of ozone hole has been twice the size of Antarctica (more than 25 million km2) by 2000. There is no any clear trend of ozone layer declination in the winter or summer seasons.
Presence of various aerosols in the atmosphere is also causing earth’s surface temperature to increase. Atmospheric aerosols are fully capable to scatter (causes cooling to the planet) and absorb (makes air warm) the solar and infrared radiations. They are also capable to change the microphysical and chemical properties of the clouds and possibly their lifetime and extent. The increasing amount of aerosols in the atmosphere is because of human contribution. Dust is produced by agriculture, organic droplets and soot particles are produced by biomass burning, and aerosols are produced by the industrial processes through the burning of wide variety of products in the manufacturing process. Various emissions by means of transport generate different pollutants which get converted to the aerosols through many chemical reactions in the atmosphere.
Effects of Global Warming
The effects of global warming have been very clear in the recent years because of increasing sources of global warming. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, it has been recorded that there were 150 glaciers located in the Montana’s Glacier National Park however because of increasing effect of global warming, only 25 glaciers are left. Huge level climate changes are making hurricanes more dangerous and powerful. Natural storms are getting so strong by taking energy from temperature difference (of cold upper atmosphere and warm Tropical Ocean). Year 2012 has been recorded as hottest year since 1895 and year 2013 together with 2003 as the warmest year since 1880.
Global warming causes lot of climate changes in the atmosphere such as increasing summer season, decreasing winter season, increasing temperature, changes in air circulation patterns, jet stream, rain without season, melting ice caps, declining ozone layer, occurrence of heavy storms, cyclones, flood, drought, and so many effects.
Solutions of Global Warming
Many awareness programmes and programmes to reduce global warming have been run and implemented by the government agencies, business leaders, private sectors, NGOs, etc. Some of the damages through global warming cannot be returned by the solution (like melting of ice caps). However, we should not get back and try everyone’s best to reduce the effects of global warming by reducing the human causes of global warming. We should try to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere and adopt some climate changes which are already happening for years. Instead of using electrical energy we should try using clean energy or energy produced by solar system, wind and geothermal. Reducing the level of coal and oil burning, use of transportation means, use of electrical devices, etc may reduce the global warming to a great level.
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