I started this blog about one month ago with the intent of sharing all the research I have collected over a few month about climate change and global warming. After the third paragraph I realized that the issue is far too complex. Instead, I decided to share one aspect of global warming: the feedback mechanisms that have contributed to the rise in terrestrial, oceanic and polar temperatures.
Feedback mechanisms are all over in nature and are related to key elements in ecology that involve chemistry, physics and biology. When you think of them, they don’t seem too complicated, even without a scientific background. The following are a few of the ones I have found in scientific articles:
• At the polar regions terrestrial and sea ice is melting at a record rate. When ice melts, water and land are exposed, both of which absorb sunlight much more than ice. This crates a feedback where sea and land heat up and accelerates the loss of ice. Ice reflex most of the suns energy.
Recent fires in the western states have contributed to a feedback mechanism. When black carbon from burnt trees falls on snow, it absorbs more sunlight, causing the snow to melt faster and dry out the forest earlier, creating more fire-prone forests.
• This is one that I had read about long ago and remembered it when I recently saw a picture of a glacier in the Alps region. The top of the glacier was black from airborne industrial emissions such as burning coal and petroleum products. Black absorbs heat accelerating the melting of the glacier.
• Here is one I had not thought of: As oceans and the atmosphere warm up, additional water evaporates into the air. Warmer air, in turn, can hold more vapor before it condenses into cloud droplets. The amount of vapor in the atmosphere has increased about 4% globally since the mid 1990s. Increased air temperatures increases the amount of evaporation creating more water vapor. The vapor carries with it a form of energy called latent heat. If the vapor later condenses back into liquid (clouds or dew) this energy is released in the form of heat. Latent heat is the main fuel that powers hurricanes, thunder storms and record rainfall. This explains some of the record storm events we have seen over the last few years.
This is a short list of feedback mechanisms related to changes in our climate. I’m sure there are more. If you are interested, more information can be found on line through the the National Weather Service to articles in National Geographic and Scientific American.