Global Warming : The Feedback Loop

Among the lot of alternative careers that I wish for, one that would have ranked up high in the list would have been climate change researcher. I feel very strongly for this subject and I guess everyone should. We have this earth not for ourselves but for posterity. I had wanted to write this post for long, about the vicious cycle and the slow changes that work behind the global warming phenomenon. Everyone knows that carbon dioxide from human activity is causing an increase in greenhouses gases in atmosphere leading to global warming as global temperatures rise due to heat being trapped in the atmosphere. This post highlights little known facts about the global warming process to give you a bigger canvas of the momentous changes happening slowly as we live and as we sleep.

Fact 1 : If you see the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere over a year, the figures tend to vary dramatically due to the fact that northern hemisphere in winters does not absorb any CO2 leading to an increase of CO2 percentage in the atmosphere while the amount goes down in northern hemisphere summers. So the graph of CO2 amount over a year is zig-zag and not constant, but the trend is definitely upward over long term.

Fact 2 : The northern hemisphere warms more than southern because there is much larger land in north which heats more than sea. Besides there is more ice cover in north.This is causing the arctic circle ice shelf to melt dramatically while some sectors in antarctic ice-shelf are gaining ice, but the net-net is negative.

Fact 3 : The warming is forcing ice caps to melt and increasing the global temperature which increases the moisture content in the air causing a feedback loop since water vapour is a mild green house gas. So the more temperature causes more water vapour and hence more temperature and the cycle goes on.

Fact 4 : The increasing temperature will lead to decreasing ice caps and ice cover, which will cause less and less of sunlight to be reflected back and more to be absorbed by ground and water causing another feedback loop.The dark water and land absorbs more heat as compared to ice cover as ice reflects it back. So the more ice melts the more land/sea gets exposed and absorbs even more. Another tragic feedback loop.

Fact 5 : The increasing temperature in the polar and sub polar region will cause the permafrost to melt. Now this permafrost is frozen for probably millions of years and hold vast amount of organic matter. Once the temperate rises, this permafrost will thaw causing the organic matter to decay and releasing the vast amount to methane/CO2 trapped inside causing another feedback loop since methane is many times for greenhouse causing gas then CO2. More temperature means more permafrost melt and hence more greenhouses gases in air and consequently more temperature. Besides permafrost will melt and flow to the sea or lose its rigidity causing vast arctic and siberian plains to be uninhabitable,.

Fact 6 : Colder water absorbs more CO2 than warmer water. As the greenhouses gases increase, the sea temperature will also rises, causing the CO2 in the oceans to decrease and that gets released to the atmosphere. Another feedback loop that will cause an increase in temperature to contribute yet more increase.

Fact 7 : As temperature in Arctic increases, it is causing lakes and rivers over the ice cap and glaciers that barrel through the width of the ice cap and lubricate the surface between ground and ice above causing the whole ice mass to move to the sea. This fresh water flow goes down in crevasse and slowly melt the underlying foundation of the ice-cap making it more prone to flow towards the sea. As temperature rises, more of these lakes and rivers get formed that increases the water that is reaching the continental shelf.

These are just some of the various factors that go into the complex climate science and since these time scales are so large and effects so small and variables so many, it is still and evolving science that is difficult to fathom to many. People find it hard to believe the idea that just cars and factories can affect the whole climate of this vast planet. But the brutal truth is that what if the science is right, what if we really cause. We do not have a luxury of a second home. This Earth is all we have!

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