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The Facts of Global Warming

Global warming and climate change is a very important subject we should all learn about. Here are the current facts about global warming without the hysteria.

Global warming is a fact and is occurring at this time. The current debate is whether or not our global warming trend is natural, man-made or both. Learn the facts and know what to look for in future discoveries.

The Greenhouse Effect and Global Warming

The greenhouse effect that is currently causing global warming is thought to be caused by gases from man-made pollution that is trapped high in the atmosphere, causing the Earth to heat up. Greenhouse gases that cause global warming are water vapor (H2O), carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O) and other gases, with water vapor being the most abundant and carbon dioxide the most talked about [1]. Man-made carbon dioxide is caused mainly by the burning of fossil fuels like coal and petroleum.

The carbon dioxide lets the sunlight and heat in, but does not let all of the heat escape. This is called the greenhouse effect. The greenhouse effect is like getting into a car on a hot summer day, trapped heat.

This greenhouse effect is important to life on Earth. Without the greenhouse effect, the Earth would be much colder, with the average temperature being about 0 F (-18 C) instead of the global average of 57 F (14 C). Picture this carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases as a blanket with holes in it over the Earth, some heat escapes, but the more carbon dioxide put into the atmosphere, the fewer holes there are in the blanket thus trapping more heat. There are several reasons for global warming:

  • Increased carbon dioxide into the atmosphere causing an enhanced greenhouse effect
  • Changes in the output energy of the sun
  • Sunspot cycles
  • Slight shifts in the Earth’s orbit
  • Unknown causes

Global Warming Causes Climate Change

Global warming and climate change is not the same thing, global warming causes the climate to change. As global warming continues, the climate can become more extreme. With more extreme storms, more extreme temperatures (cold and hot), more rain in some areas and worse droughts in others. As the atmosphere warms, it can hold more moisture which can cause storms to become more severe. Hurricanes can become stronger as the oceans heat up, since the warmer the water, the stronger a hurricane can become.

Is Global Warming Occurring?

Global warming is and has been occurring for centuries, but during the past 50 years, the average temperature of the Earth has increased at the fastest rate in recorded history with a global increase of 1 degree F. The National Weather Service updated the 30-year average temperatures for 1981-2010 and found that the average temperature of the US is 0.5 degrees F warmer than the 1970-2000 period [2]. If this trend continues, in 50 years there will be no more glaciers in Glacier National Park, Montana [3].

Grinnell Glacier in Montana                                                               USGS

Is Global Warming Man-made or Natural?

The big debate; are humans causing the current global warming, contributing to it or have no part in global warming? Looking at a chart of temperatures over the centuries, it can be seen that the Earth’s temperature fluctuates between cold and warm periods. About 1,200 years ago, the temperatures were about the same or warmer as they are today. This was at a time the Vikings discovered Greenland. Around 400 years ago, the Earth was much colder, a time called The Little Ice Age which corresponded to an unusually low sun spot period called the Maunder Minimum. Volcanic eruptions and weather patterns like El Nino and La Nina can also cause rapid temperature changes.

Looking at the CO2 chart, you can see that in the past 650,000 years, there has never been so much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. An undisputable fact is that carbon dioxide in the atmosphere does cause the Earth to warm and since it is a known fact that CO2 levels in the atmosphere have increased dramatically since 1950, it would seem CO2 has to have an effect on the global temperatures. But many things in nature other than man put CO2 into the atmosphere, including volcanoes, rotting vegetation and the oceans.

The burning of the rainforests is doubly bad for global warming since the burning also increases carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and trees absorb carbon dioxide. The rainforests are called the lungs of the planet, by burning the trees; you cause more carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere and lose the benefits of all those CO2 absorbing trees.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reported that " there is a greater than 90% certainty that emissions of heat-trapping gases from human activities have caused most of the increase in the globally averaged temperatures since the mid-20th century.” [4]

650,000 years of carbon dioxide records                                            NASA

The Man-made or Natural Carbon Dioxide Debate

There is currently a debate about which type of carbon dioxide is causing the increase in CO2 in the atmosphere. There is man-made carbon dioxide and there is natural carbon dioxide. Most scientists today believe it is the man-made carbon dioxide that is causing the global warming and there is nothing naturally that could account for such a rapid increase in the rise of carbon dioxide since 1950. Other scientists believe that CO2 increases in hot years and decreases in cooler years, making the CO2 in the atmosphere more temperature dependant than a cause for increased temperatures.

The Ice Core Debate

Many of the people who claim humans are not the cause of global warming look to ice core samples. Three ice core studies have revealed that carbon dioxide (CO2) levels started to rise after global warming has started, about 800 years after. Does this mean that the higher CO2 levels are a result of global warming and not the cause?

As the Earth warms, the oceans get warmer and the warmer the oceans get the more CO2 they release. It is thought that it takes about 800 years for the oceans to warm enough to release an immense amount of CO2. Some scientists now believe that the increased levels of carbon dioxide does not start global warming, it amplifies the global warming as the increase in CO2 continues.

Another argument is that not every global warming cycle starts out for the same reason and that this global warming cycle is starting because of the CO2. This debate continues unresolved at this time.

Noctilucent Clouds and Global Warming

Another clue could be in noctilucent clouds. These clouds are the highest clouds in our atmosphere and were never observed until 1885. At that time they were only seen over the Polar Regions but have been steadily moving south in latitude (in the northern hemisphere). During July 2011, they were seen as far south as Denver, Colorado at latitude 39.7 degrees north. Scientists think that these clouds could be proof that man-made pollution is the cause of global warming.

Noctilucent clouds

Beware of Global Warming Hyperbole

There is scientific fact and then there is news channel hysteria. Hurricane Katrina and the Joplin tornado were not proof of global warming. These were severe storms that just happened to hit populated areas. And there is no proof that hurricanes are any stronger today than they were 100 years ago. If global warming continues, severe storms could become more prevalent. It is the real science data you need to pay attention to. And real scientists stay away from the headline grabbing hysteria that cable news thrives on. In other words, the real global warming science you should pay attention to will be dull and full of real facts.

Global Warming and You

Learn as much as you can about the real science of global warming so you can make informed decisions, since this will be an important subject for many decades.

Even it if it is found out that humans are not causing or contributing to global warming and climate change, there is still no excuse for burning down the rainforests and polluting the Earth into a spinning ball of hazy trash.

Copyright © August 2011 Sam Montana

Resources

[1] NOAA - List of all greenhouse gases

[2] NOAA – Updated US average temperatures

[3] USGS repeat glacier photo project

[4] IPCC 2007 report

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Comments (24)

I wonder if you have seen the documentary The Global Warming Swindle since it falsify the idea of man-made global warming...

Hi P. Guims. I don’t remember seeing that video. Unfortunately, here in the US, the subject of global warming has become too political. I believe the next big breakthrough can only happen when scientists can determine for certain if the increase in carbon dioxide is man-made or natural. That has to do with the C12/C13 ratio. That has to be the next discovery.

Excellent presentation!

Good article. I have given over to the idea that it is far better to error on the side of caution. We may or may not be causing the changes we are witnessing, but it certainly won't hurt to try to clean up our act.

Excellent job explaining and documenting sources and relevant global warming and pollution information in this article. Voted up. Especially love your last sentence: "Even it if it is found out that humans are not causing or contributing to global warming and climate change, there is still no excuse for burning down the rainforests and polluting the Earth into a spinning ball of hazy trash."

Great, informative article Sam but can't say I agree. Global warming has been taking place for millions of years -- just like ice ages. However, we sure do need to clean up the environment, no doubt of that. Good article.

I love it. I wrote a few pieces on this subject mater but you just blew mine away. Job well done!

Excellent article, as usual. Thanks.

The science is there for me regarding global warming. Excellent article.

Very interesting facts on Global warming. Article also very well written displaying mind stimulating illustrations. Thanks for posting. Voted up. ;-)

A thorough discussion on global warming.Certainly the pollution caused by man is a major and contributing factor to increase the CO2 content in the atmosphere.In fact it requires uniform and sustained efforts from man to control global warming.Will it be possible?

Beverly, you can’t agree with what? That global warming is happening or man is the cause. The most disturbing sign is the rapid increase in the CO2 levels in just 50 years. When scientist can finally determine the cause of this rapid CO2 rise, then I think real decisions can be made. And there is no doubt that the global temperature is rising and there are a lot more people living on the coasts and to feed now than 900 years ago.

Sam, its a political thing. NASA sent congress a book full of their data on this subject and they edited it via a black marker an doesn't it back to them. It's a denial issue but it is also a religious issue which will soon come full circle and everything will be clear, the unveiling, or the "Apocalypse" as many call it.

I read somewhere that global warming is somewhat due to the eruption of some volcanos in the world. Those obviously are out of everyone's control and cannot be prevented either. I was engrossed in your well composed article.

Great article. I have written an article about global warming. I believe that human activities are great contributors of CO2 in the atmosphere. This should remind people to help minimize pollution because it is also unhealthy for human. No votes but will tweet.

Sam, you presenting an outstanding case and argument here. I find your work very satisfying and well backed. Good job.

Well researched and well written. In Colorado, our glaciers are almost extinct also. Voted up and promoted.

Prolific article! Superb work Sam.

Kevin, global warming has been far too politicized. I do not think it is a religious issue, it is a scientific issue. Science proves this. Something is going on at this time, and I most certainly do not think it is apocalyptic, at least I hope not, I like to think positive as much as possible. Roberta, I find volcanoes a confusing issue. On the one hand they put a lot of CO2 in the atmosphere, yet history shows that every time there is a major volcanic eruption the global temperature drops due to the cloud or actually smoke cover. Sandy, you are right, I believe St. Mary’s glacier is melting away up in Boulder county.

I do think it is human caused.. but even if not, you cannot deny that humans are not harming the planet with pollution and other factors. Near me there is also the Athabasca glacier they have it marked where it was every 5 years or so, Its at least 100 yards back from where it was when I saw it last as a kid. Frightening to think where people will get water from when these glaciers are gone and no longer feed creeks and rivers.

Unlike many, I feel there is no one factor in which caused this factor. Rather it has been building up from a combination of the factors you have listed above as well as some we may not have taking into consideration. Great article. Voted up

Well done, Sam.

Nice article! Very easy to comprehend. my vote.. =)

It's rare to find an article with the facts on global warming. Thanks for sharing this well-written article.

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