DISCUSSION: When it comes to understanding the premises behind issues including (but certainly not limited to) planetary warming (and anomalies thereof), it is important to understand what the core impacts actually are. In reality, when atmospheric and climate scientists discuss concerns pertaining to planetary warming, one of the chief concerns had by many is the primary impact which planetary heating will ultimately have on the world's oceans. The reason for this concern is due to the fact that net increasing planetary warming has a direct impact of the heat content of the world's oceans. This is a result of the fact that water has a much higher heat capacity than air and can hold much greater heat content for a much longer period of time. Hence, during periods of time in which there is a net surplus of heat energy being generated by a combination of both natural and anthropogenic (i.e., human-caused) processes, there is a net increase in oceanic heat energy.
During periods of time (i.e., years, decades, centuries, etc.) in which there is found to be a net increase in the amount of net oceanic heat energy, there is a consequentially increased threat for stronger oceanic-native storm systems (i.e., extra-tropical and/or tropical). This is due to the fact that both tropical and extra-tropical cyclones require a substantial amount of warm ocean water to help "fuel" their intensity along with provide more atmospheric water vapor to the lowest parts of atmosphere. When the ocean is warmed significantly and particularly across critical parts of the Tropical Atlantic as well as within and near ocean currents such as the Gulf Stream, this allows low-pressure system which develop to take advantage of increased heat energy and increased low-level water vapor. Therefore, with increased oceanic heat content, there are major concerns moving forward in time with respect to increased storm potential. You can also note from the graphic attached above (courtesy of Climate Central) that there is also a notable percentage of heat energy stored in the deep ocean and then trace amounts of heat energy stored within the air, land, and ice around the world.
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© 2018 Meteorologist Jordan Rabinowitz
DISCUSSION: There is no debate that global temperature variability has been, is currently, and will remain to be a hot global topic for years and likely decades to come. Regardless of one's personal beliefs or fundamental psychology about whether anthropogenic (i.e., human-induced) warming has profoundly or minimally affected the net rate of planetary warming in recent years, there is concrete evidence that it is most definitely happening. As shown in the animated globally-averaged temperature anomaly graphic which is attached above (courtesy of the NASA Earth Observatory), you can clearly see how over the past few decades, there has definitely been a notable increase in the rate of net globally-averaged temperature increase.
More specifically, you can see how the differential spacing between the respective curved lines (which represent the given monthly temperature anomaly over the past 100 + years) has increased substantially with time. This increased line spacing verifies the fact that globally-averaged net temperature increases have been increasing at a greater rate over the course of the past 20 to 30 years. This increasing globally-averaged temperature increase also contributes as a factor playing into the rate at which Arctic sea ice coverage is decreasing as well. This is one of the many reasons for why it is rather concerning to see that there are confirmed indications for 5 of the warmest years on record between NASA and NOAA temperature records have all occurred within the past 10 years alone. Thus, this is a concerning issue which will continued to be monitored and why it is especially critical for man-kind to continue to make substantial progress on all logical and plausible sustainability initiatives for both everyday activities as well as travel resources.
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© 2018 Meteorologist Jordan Rabinowitz
DISCUSSION: Chocolate is the go-to for many with a sweet tooth. Rich, smooth, and full of sugar, Americans consumed roughly 18% of the world’s chocolate in 2015. According to Euromonitor.com, that’s roughly $18.42 billion, more than all of Pacific Asia combined, which consumed roughly $14 billion.
While chocolate remains one of the country’s most popular treats, it’s possible that in coming years chocolate will become unaffordable and out of reach for the average American, and climate change may be a factor. The production of chocolate revolves around the cacao plant. Cacao is produced in the world’s tropical regions (i.e., within 20 degrees north or south of the equator). In a 2016 report, NOAA cited that the cacao plant needed “fairly uniform temperatures, high humidity, abundant precipitation, nitrogen-rich soil, and protection from wind” in order to survive. Rainforests provide the perfect growing climate for cacao with consistent temperatures, high humidity, plenty of rain, rich soil and minimal wind.
The world’s rainforests that are most suitable for the cultivation of cacao are located mostly within 10 degrees of the equator in West Africa and Southeast Asia. Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana account for over 50% of the world’s cacao production and are also extremely vulnerable to climate change, specifically a 3.8 increase in temperature by 2050 as projected by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 2014. The increase in temperature, however, is not what hurts cacao plants directly. It is the increase in evapotranspiration which will affect the cacao plant the most. The IPCC cites that there is unlikely to be an increase in precipitation to counteract this increase in evaporation. Therefore, rainforests will get drier, which is detrimental to chocolate lovers.
Chocolate likely wouldn’t become extinct because of climate change, but instead would become unaffordable- and it isn’t alone. Almonds are another snack that are highly susceptible to a change climate. 99% of almonds are grown in California according to the US Department of Agriculture. In 2014, the US Drought Monitor had California’s Central Valley experiencing “extreme to exceptional drought”. The Central Valley is the epicenter of almond growth, and with one almond requiring one gallon of water to ripen, farms in California were hard-pressed when trying to keep their almond crops from dying.
Almonds and chocolate are just two of the many crops that could become unaffordable due to climate change. From fruits to vegetables, some foods could become a luxury if projections come true. Steps can be taken, however, to make sure this doesn’t happen. Countries like Brazil have started using innovative techniques, such as Cabruca, to combat climate change’s effects on agriculture. Cabruca works by planting and growing trees that keep other trees and plants, such as Cacao trees, in the shade. The taller trees provide shade, leaving for rich soil and protection from wind. Other countries can learn from Brazil to stem the effects of climate change on the agriculture industry.
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© 2018 Weather Forecaster Jacob Dolinger
Discussion: The Great Lakes are one of Earth’s most precious freshwater resources, holding about 20% of the worlds freshwater and numerous different economic resources; whether that be fishing, tourism, and state and national parks alongside the shoreline. Within recent decades, thirty-seven years to be exact, the Great Lakes have experienced an overall ice coverage decrease of about 71%. More specifically, Lake Ontario has had a decrease of 88%, Lake Superior 79%, Lake Michigan 77%, Lake Huron 62%, Lake Erie 50% and finally, although a minor but substantial body of water, Lake St. Clair 37%. Ice coverage on the Great Lakes is highly variable from year to year. This variability can be attributed to natural climate patterns that result from the Arctic Oscillation and El Nino Southern Oscillation which both effect surface air temperatures in the Great Lakes region. Although such climate forcing are only short-term, overall Great Lake ice coverage decrease can be related to a warming climate.
Major economic and societal impacts have yet to occur, but few are being seen currently. If you live in the Great Lakes region then you are very familiar with lake-effect snow. With less ice coverage, this will produce more evaporation which, in turn, will cause more precipitation. Ice on the Great Lakes acts as an “evaporation seal”—diminishing the amount of moisture being brought up to the atmosphere. Matter of fact, the difference between water and air temperatures play a key role in evaporation. Warmer waters lead to less ice coverage, and mixing that with cooler air temperatures will lead to larger rates of evaporation. For example, in January of 2014 Lake Superior’s water temperature was 30-40 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than the air above. That drastic difference between water and air temperature led to high evaporation rates.
While lake-effect snow can have dangerous societal impacts, what about ecological impacts that a decrease in lake ice could have? Many northern ecosystems heavily rely on ice coverage throughout the winter. Plankton, for instance, become more resilient when protected by ice and would lose population mass with less ice. Also, cold-water fish species such as whitefish and lake trout would have no choice but to compete with warm-water fish species as they move north to warmer temperatures. Lastly, with warmer temperatures in lakes, oxygen levels would actually decrease in the lower levels of the lakes due to the overall lake becoming warmer. Colder water temperatures can hold more oxygen than warmer temperatures. The increase in water temperature and lack of oxygen would produce so called “dead zones.” With dead zones, toxic algae blooms would take place like those seen in Lake Erie around spring and early Summer time. In this case, all of the Great Lakes would experience these algae blooms which would be detrimental to fish species and the overall ecology of the Great Lakes.
Ice coverage in the Great Lakes is variable from year to year with some years having above average and below average coverage. Overall, the trend for ice coverage over the past couple decades has undoubtedly decreased, which will pose future societal and economic impacts.
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©2018 Weather Forecaster Alec Kownacki