Planet Earth Weekly

Climate Change and Renewable Energy: Saving Our Planet for Future Generations


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The Island of Greenland Responds to Climate Change

Climate change

The rapidly melting artic

“The melting of the ice on Greenland is significant!”

By Dr. John J. Hidore

There is no doubt that Planet Earth is warming relatively fast. Data of all kinds supports this allegation. The data include biological, geological, hydrological and climatological. The year 1880 has been established as the beginning of a period of accelerated warming due to the increased use of fossil fuels and a growing population. From 1880 to 1979, the global temperature increased 0.1°F (0.05ºC) above the pre-industrial average. By 2016, the global temperature had climbed 1.4°F(0.6ºC).

Arctic Ocean

Melting of the Arctic Sea Ice

Northern Hemisphere is Warming Faster than the Southern

Climate normals are periods of 30 years that move forward every 10 years. The current normal being used is that of the period 1980-2010. When compared to the 30 year global average for the period 1980-2010, the northern hemisphere is warming faster than the average for the earth as a whole. It is also warming faster than the southern hemisphere. The reason the Northern Hemisphere is warming faster than the southern Hemisphere is due to the fact that most of the earth’s land mass is in the Northern Hemisphere.

climate change

The exchange of energy is causing rapid arctic melting.

The Arctic Region is the Most Rapidly Warming Region in the Northern Hemisphere

The Arctic is the coldest region in the Northern Hemisphere. The region consists of the sea surrounding the North Pole and land that rings the sea. The arctic is warming faster than mid-latitude or tropical regions. It is warming more than twice as fast as the average for the earth. The reason for this is, as ice and snow melt on the fringes of the arctic, the ratio between reflection and absorption of solar energy changes drastically. In the winter the sea is covered by a veneer of ice and the surrounding land is generally covered by snow. With the onset of summer the increased solar radiation results in the melting of the ice and the snow melting off the land. The more snow and ice that melts, the faster the arctic warms. This change results in what is known as a positive feedback mechanism. More and more energy is absorbed rather than reflected or used to melt the ice. As the melting season lengthens the land and atmosphere above it warm faster than areas further south. While the Arctic is still the coldest region in the Northern Hemisphere, it is warming more rapidly than other areas.

Climate Change is altering the World’s largest Island

Greenland has the most extensive ice cover of any island on the planet. In much of the region the ice is more than a mile ( O.6 km) thick. The melting of the ice sheet has been monitored by satellite since 1979. The ice sheet normally starts to melt at the end of May. In 2016 the ice began to melt in mid-April. The higher temperatures resulted in early melting of the ice sheet. In the second week of June there was melting over nearly half of the ice surface. This was a record area of melting for this date. Part of the reason for the extensive melting this year was the light snow cover during the past winter. It melted fairly quickly allowing the sunshine and warmer air to increase melting in the older snow and ice beneath. How much melting occurs on any given day depends on wind direction and cloud cover.

The year of 2012 was the record year for total melting of the ice sheet. The town of Narsarsuaq recorded a temperature of 76.6°F. In that year there was a net loss of some 200 billion tons of ice.

Climate Change, Global Warming

Climate Change Affects Everyone!

Selected High Temperatures

2012 Marsarsuaq May 76.6 °F
2013 Manitsoq July 78.6 °F
2014 Kangerlussuaq Jan 73.8°F
2016 Nuwk June 75 °F

Spring temperatures came early to the Arctic this year. The island of Greenland experienced these early warm temperatures. Average temperatures exceeded normal by several weeks. In some areas the temperatures were as much as 40° F (22°C) above normal. The early warm temperatures have resulted in early and extensive melting of the ice sheet.

The melting of the ice on Greenland is significant because it is the major source of water for the current rise in sea level. If all the ice melted it is estimated that it would raise sea level approximately 24 feet (7.3 meters). Since data has been collected, in the early 1970’s, sea level has risen about ½ inch (1 ¼ centimeters).

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Montreal Protocal Is Making a Difference

Montreal Protocol

With and Without Montreal Protocol

Scientists around the world soon realized the amount of damage the chlorofluorocarbons were doing to the environment.

By Dr. John J. Hidore

August 17, 2016—-Ultraviolet radiation is high intensity energy that Earth receives from the Sun. Ozone (O-3), high in the stratosphere, filters out much of this ultraviolet radiation. Part of this high-energy portion of the ultraviolet radiation spectrum is known as ultraviolet-B (UVB). Although the atmosphere blocks most UVB radiation, it does not block all of it. This UVB radiation is very harmful to living organisms.

Any reduction in atmospheric ozone lets more ultraviolet radiation through the atmosphere to reach the surface. Plants did not flourish on Earth until there was enough atmosphere and ozone to block much of the UVB radiation. All plants and animals now existing and living in sunlight have adapted to ultraviolet radiation in some manner. However, they vary widely in their tolerance of UVB. Plants that developed in climates with high-intensity sunlight show a variety of defense mechanisms for UVB. Some produce pigments that absorb UVB radiation.

In arid climates, plants develop thick, shiny leaves. Cacti and olive trees are examples. Most living organisms are subject to damage if UVB radiation increases. Since plants cannot adjust their behavior to changing solar radiation they are vulnerable to increases in UVB radiation. Animals have also adapted to UVB radiation. Nearly 90 percent of marine species living in the surface water surrounding the Antarctic Continent produce some form of chemical sunscreen.

Ozone Depletion

Size of Ozone Depletion

Ultraviolet-B and Human Health

Humans have adapted to UVB radiation by manufacturing melanin in the skin. This is a pigment that blocks ultraviolet radiation. A summer tan results from increased production of melanin. Persons with very fair skin do not readily manufacture melanin and sunburn very easily. Over exposure to ultraviolet radiation results in aged skin, skin cancer, and a weakened immune system. The risk of skin cancer is much greater from overexposure by a sunburn than from steady low doses. A single blistering sunburn in a person 20 to 30 years of age triples the risk of skin cancer.

The risk of getting skin cancer can be reduced with reasonable care. The first rule is to avoid exposure to the midday sun. The most dangerous hours are between 10 A.M. and 2 P.M. There is an old saying: “Only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the noonday sun.” If exposure to the sun is necessary, using a sunscreen with a rating of 15, based on Ultraviolet-B radiation, helps reduce skin damage.

03

O3

Chlorofluorocarbons

In 1974, scientists warned there was evidence to suggest that compounds known as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) were having a depleting effect on stratospheric ozone layers. These compounds are not natural compounds.

First synthesized in 1928, these compounds promised to have many uses. They are odorless, nonflammable, nontoxic, and chemically inert. They first came into use in refrigerators in the 1930’s. Since World War II, CFCs have been used as propellants in deodorants and hair sprays, in producing plastic foams, and in cleaning electronic parts. They do not react with most products dispersed in spray cans. They are transparent to sunlight in the visible range. They are insoluble in water and are inert to chemical reaction in the lower atmosphere. For these reasons they are valuable compounds.

Antarctic Ozone Hole

Chlorofluorocarbons rise into the upper atmosphere where they break apart under ultraviolet radiation. This breakdown releases chlorine, which interacts with oxygen atoms to reduce the ozone concentration. The most disturbing reduction in atmospheric ozone is that found over the Antarctic Continent and is referred to as the ozone hole.

The ozone hole over Antarctica has occurred in September and October since the late 1970’s. During the Antarctic spring, there is a decrease in ozone north from the pole to nearly 45° south latitude. In August and September 1987, the amount of ozone over the Antarctic reached the lowest level recorded to this date. In the fall the ozone hole covered nearly half of the Antarctic Continent.

The same process takes place elsewhere in the atmosphere, but at higher altitudes and at slower rates. Ozone depletion is less outside the Antarctic, where the difference is significant. There is no Arctic ozone hole like that of the Antarctic. Temperatures are warmer, and there is more variable weather in the Arctic which provide less favorable conditions for the necessary chemical and circulation processes. Ozone depletion contributes to global warming. The additional ultraviolet radiation reaching the earth’s surface adds heat to the lower atmosphere.

International Cooperation has Made a Difference

Scientists around the world soon realized the amount of damage the chlorofluorocarbons were doing to the environment. The U.N. Environment Program called a conference in Montreal, Canada, in September 1987, that drafted a treaty restricting the production of CFC’s. The agreement is officially termed the Montreal Protocol.

International support for the treaty led to a substantial reduction in CFC production. The reduction in CFC’s has led to a decline in the amount of UV radiation getting through the upper atmosphere. The average size peaked in the 1990’s. Evidence now indicates that the average extent of the Antarctic ozone hole is declining. In the Antarctic spring of 2015, (September and October) the extent of the hole was only about ½ of what the previous maximum area had been. Hopefully, the size of the hole will continue to decline. NASA has indicated that it might be gone by 2050. This accord shows that international cooperation can occur with respect the environmental problems.

The Paris Conference on climate change can make a huge difference to global warming and climate change if the signatories follow through on their commitments.

The Paris Conference on Climate Change