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Global warming -- a gradual increase in planet-wide temperatures -- is now well documented and accepted by scientists as fact. A panel convened by the U.S National Research Council, the nation's premier science policy body, in June 2006 voiced a "high level of confidence" that Earth is the hottest it has been in at least 400 years, and possibly even the last 2,000 years. Studies indicate that the average global surface temperature has increased by approximately 0.5-1.0°F (0.3-0.6°C) over the last century. This is the largest increase in surface temperature in the last 1,000 years and scientists are predicting an even greater increase over this century. This warming is largely attributed to the increase of greenhouse gases (primarily carbon dioxide and methane) in the Earth's upper atmosphere caused by human burning of fossil fuels, industrial, farming, and deforestation activities.
What Are Greenhouse Gases?
Many chemical compounds found in the Earth’s atmosphere act as “greenhouse gases.” These gases allow sunlight to enter the atmosphere freely. When sunlight strikes the Earth’s surface, some of it is reflected back towards space as infrared radiation (heat). Greenhouse gases absorb this infrared radiation and trap the heat in the atmosphere. Over time, the amount of energy sent from the sun to the Earth’s surface should be about the same as the amount of energy radiated back into space, leaving the temperature of the Earth’s surface roughly constant.
Many gases exhibit these “greenhouse” properties. Some of them occur in nature (water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide), while others are exclusively human-made (like gases used for aerosols).
It is my belief that global climate cooling is possible in the future, or has already begun, due to solar variability. Although some of the material I base my conclusions upon comes from books and periodicals (such as Nature, Science, and the Astrophysical Journal of the AAS), I am here providing a list of Internet links I have personally reviewed.
"The reader should be forewarned that not all Internet sites contain unbiased (or even factual) information. Wherever possible, I have tried to restrict my own investigations to material released by official agencies and researchers at major universities. In other words, I try to avoid information provided by persons who simply wish to bash environmentalists and prove the global warming theories wrong.
These days, when global climate is mentioned, conversations usually segue immediately to climate change. Global climate change, whether it involves more heat or more cold, more precipitation or more drought, is mainly the result of planetary warming. Since 1900, the Earth has warmed about 1°F (0.7°C). Regionally, the effects of this warming vary. For instance, scientists contributing to the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predict changing precipitation patterns and retreating glaciers in Latin America, higher crop productivity in high-latitude regions, and sea level rise along coastal regions.
A new study in Geophysical Research Letters looks at how the anticipated recovery of the ozone hole over Antarctica and simultaneous increase in greenhouse gas concentrations will combine to affect weather and climate in the Southern Hemisphere. It concludes that over the coming half century, ozone recovery will result in a nearly complete cancellation of the effects of increased greenhouse gases on atmospheric circulation.
The Southern Hemisphere’s prevailing atmospheric circulation pattern is the Southern Annular Mode (SAM), also known as the Antarctic Oscillation. In the mode's positive phase, a stronger and more southerly vortex encircles the pole, leading to fewer intrusions of Antarctic air into the southern oceans. The negative phase features a weaker, more variable vortex and a greater risk of Antarctic outbreaks of cold air heading north.
Meteorologist Jeff Masters says that while it might not be climate change, the tornadoes are just one of many weird weather phenomena this year that may be signaling major shifts in the climate.
From April 25 to 28, 2011, a fierce and deadly storm system produced a total of 327 confirmed tornadoes in 21 states from Texas to New York, and even isolated tornadoes in Canada. Alabama was struck particularly hard. These April 2011 tornadoes killed at least 344 people people in the Southeast, Midwest, and Northeast. Then--on May 22, 2011--the deadliest single tornado since 1953 struck Joplin, Missouri, with at least 124 people now confirmed dead and more than 1,000 people reportedly injured. Shortly before the tornado struck Joplin, EarthSky spoke to meteorologist Jeff Masters of Weather Underground. He explained some of the science that has caused these fierce 2011 tornadoes in the U.S.
In particular, he said, the location and strength of the jet stream played a role.
"The jet stream, which is that powerful river of air aloft over the country, turned out to be very strong this year. It had very high wind speeds in it. And it was moving over tornado alley, where we tend to get cold, dry air from Canada colliding with warm, moist air from the Gulf of Mexico. The combination of those contrasting air masses, and then the very powerful jet stream, was just the perfect storm of conditions to make a lot of tornadoes."
'Is climate change making tornadoes more deadly? That's less clear: "On the one hand, we would expect that a warmer climate would bring warmer temperatures and potentially warm moisture in the atmosphere, enhancing instability."
"Climate change is expected to weaken the jet stream. And that's a key ingredient for making tornadoes. You need to have a really strong jet stream that changes velocity and speed with altitude in order to put a shearing force on those updrafts, to get them spinning, so that they become tornadoes. So it's unclear what's going to happen in the end."
In other words, the verdict is still out on whether climate change will create more deadly tornadoes, and, at this time, there is no evidence that it will.
If climate change isn't causing these deadly tornadoes, what is happening?
"Every 30 or so years, you do see a violent tornado outbreak like this one, where you get 10 or more of these strong, or even violent tornadoes that have wind speeds of over 150 miles per hour.
NOAA measurements show that the combined global surface temperatures for June 2010 are the warmest on record, and Wagner said there are larger conclusions to be drawn from the definite global warming trend. “We are seeing things that haven’t really happened before on the planet, like warming at this specific rate. We think it is very well tied to increasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere since the late 1800′s caused by humans.”
This graph, based on the comparison of atmospheric samples contained in ice cores and more recent direct measurements, provides evidence that atmospheric CO2 has increased since the Industrial Revolution. (Source: NOAA)
Graphs on NASA’s climate website show an undeniable rise in global temperatures, sea levels, and carbon dioxide levels. See more of these graphs here.
“Not just over 10 years, but we have satellites images, weather station records and other good records going back to the late 1800′s that tells us all about how the planet is warming up,” Wagner said. “Not only that but we have evidence from geologic records, ice cores, and sediment cores from ocean cores. All of this feeds together to show us how the planet is changing.”
People who are ridiculed for saying that earthquakes are a result of global warming could actually be right, scientists claim.
Long-term climate change has the potential to spin Earth's tectonic plates, according to a news study from the Australian National University.