Climate Change and Global Warming Part 1

About the scientific phenonenon global warming and global climate change, a look at the science and history behind it.

Can Man Change the Climate?

Only in recent years have scientists come to believe that man may be able to change the climate over large regions of earth. Scientists have learned a great deal about the atmosphere over the past 2 decades. Although there are still many mysteries to be solved, the secrets of the atmosphere are surely being uncovered.

Satellites that circle the globe provide detailed pictures of cloud cover, along with measurements of radiant energy from the sun and earth. In the near future they may also provide data on temperature and humidity in the atmosphere, and perhaps even wind speed and direction.

Scientists are also discovering which factors control the general circulation of the atmosphere and what causes the circulation to change. Although many important details are still lacking, scientists have learned that the temperature difference between the equatorial and polar regions is of extreme importance. This has suggested a number of possible ways in which the circulation of the atmosphere--and, therefore, the weather and climate--can be modified.

A number of schemes have been suggested for warming the Arctic, to reduce the temperature difference between the pole and equator and change the overall circulation. The suggestion is to coat the Arctic ice with a layer of black carbon dust, which would absorb more solar heat than white snow and ice. This would probably increase Arctic temperatures and cause the ice to melt. Some scientists believe that once the ice melted, it would not return. The theory is that exposed rock, soil, and water would continue to absorb relatively large amounts of solar heat, which, in turn, would prevent snow and ice from building up in large amounts. Other scientists dispute this theory, but there is little chance it will be tried out. The enormous amount of carbon black needed--about 1.5 billion tons for a layer 4/1000" thick--renders this scheme of little practical value.

Another, more feasible suggestion by Soviet engineer P. M. Barisov involves building a 60-mi.-long dam across the Bering Strait between Alaska and Siberia. He proposed pumping cold Arctic water into the Pacific Ocean. Warmer Atlantic Ocean water would then flow into the Arctic to replace it. This might lead to a small, but important, increase in Arctic temperature.

Most meteorologists agree that warming the Arctic by a small amount would change the world's overall climate and weather. Unfortunately, nobody can predict whether the change will be for the better or worse. Will deserts get more rainfall or will they become drier? Will swamps dry up or become wetter? How about the distribution of rainfall, hail, and snow in farming regions? Will a rise in sea level lead to the flooding of coastal cities? Will another Ice Age be initiated or will glaciers recede? No one know the answers to these questions for sure.

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