Effects of Global Warming

There is enough scientific evidence that the earth has warmed up a little more in the last century—and that its temperature has increased by about 1.4oF. Surely rising global temperatures will have some real impacts on a lot of things.

Extreme Weather

Climatic conditions are mostly driven by energy from the sun. Storms, winds, hurricanes and the like are all driven by wind pressure. Wind pressure differences are caused by warming of the air on the earth’s surface. So, to put it simply, rising temperatures bring about more extreme air pressure systems, as well as more water vapor resulting from evaporation. It is not surprising that we have seen the very devastating hurricanes, storms, rainfalls and floods in recent time.

Drying conditions

Many places will find more evaporation effects, leaving these places drier than usual. There may be more droughts, with small water bodies drying out. Additionally, there may be more fire outbreaks resulting from the extreme drying conditions.

Sea Levels

There are 4 major contributors to sea level rise: “Ocean heat uptake, melting of glaciers, reduction of ice-sheets, and changes in water storage on land. Sea levels have risen by about 18cm between 1900 and 2010 and are still rising”2 It is no news that ice sheets are melting in the artic, together with lots of ice caps on mountains also meting. These end up with some increased volume of water bodies and ultimately oceans. Warmer oceans mean ‘more thermal expansion’. The result is a rise in sea levels. The danger here is that the potential of sea-surges is higher and likely to be more catastrophic in the event of a hurricane. It also can make landfalls in areas with human settlements worse and cause extensive floods.

Melting glaciers, ice caps

In the coldest places of the earth, readings show that the volume of ice is reducing. Freezing occurs a bit later than usual and thawing comes sooner than usual. ‘Evidence of the age of Arctic sea ice suggests an overall loss of multi-year ice. The proportion of sea ice five years or older has declined dramatically over the recorded time period, from more than 30 per cent of September ice in the 1980s to 4 per cent in 2012. A growing percentage of Arctic sea ice is only one or two years old. This thinning of Arctic ice makes it more vulnerable to further melting.’—EPA, Arctic sea ice, Key Points

Ecosystems and wildlife

Over the past 25 years, some Antarctic penguin populations have shrunk by 33 per cent due to declines in winter sea-ice habitat1. Whenever there is a distortion in any of the biotic or abiotic factors of an ecosystem, there are bound to be consequences.  Animals may need to relocate to higher altitudes to stay within their normal temperatures.  Warming may also cause some species of animals or plants to die off completely. For example, “Warmer springs have led to earlier nesting for 28 migratory bird species on the East Coast of the United States. Coldwater fish, including many highly valued trout species, are losing their habitats. As waters warm, the area of feasible, cooler habitats to which species can migrate is reduced. The IPCC estimates that 20-30% of the plant and animal species evaluated so far in climate change studies are at risk of extinction if temperatures reach levels projected to occur by the end of this century.”—EPA

*1 The Consequences of Global Warming On Wildlife, NRDC. 
*2 Climate Change 2013 Working Group I: The Physical Science Basis