METEOROLOGIST JEFF HABY
Global warming is the theory that states when greenhouse gases are added to the earth's atmosphere the result
will be for increased average global temperature. The main greenhouse gas that is of concern is Carbon
Dioxide. The replacing of trees and vegetation with pavement also contributes to warmer surface temperatures.
ATMOSPHERIC GREENHOUSE EFFECT
A greenhouse gas is one that emits and absorbs longwave radiation. These gases keep the earth's troposphere
warmer than it otherwise would be without the gases. The greenhouse gas that is of the most abundance
is water vapor. The earth is continually emitting longwave radiation. Greenhouse gases are able to
absorb some of this radiation. The gases in turn can also radiate longwave radiation back to the surface.
Greenhouse gases are often called earth's blanket since they lessen the escape of longwave radiation emitted
by the earth from making it into space. Without greenhouse gases the earth would be too cold for life as
we know it today.
ENHANCING THE ATMOSPHERIC GREENHOUSE EFFECT
Since earth's greenhouse gases keep the troposphere warmer than it would be without them, it reasons that
an increase in the abundance of greenhouse gases will make the earth global temperatures warmer. Not all
greenhouse gases have the same potency. Thus, it is not just the amount of a greenhouse gas that is
important it is also the type of greenhouse gas that is present. Carbon Dioxide is a very powerful greenhouse
gas. The amount of Carbon Dioxide in the troposphere is relatively small when compared to a gas such as
water vapor but a small quantity of Carbon Dioxide can have a significant effect. In the past 100 or so year
it has been demonstrated that quantities of Carbon Dioxide are increasing.
THE AMOUNT OF WARMING AND DISTRIBUTION OF THE WARMING ARE DEBATABLE
We know that greenhouse gas emission into the troposphere has increased but what is not known is
how this will affect global temperature. The answer is unclear. Multiple different studies would
suggest there has been a slight increase of global temperature. This would have the effect of
changing precipitation patterns, temperature patterns and sea level. Sea level rise has been
documented as occurring.
ONE EXTREME: DOOM AND GLOOM
At one extreme of the global warming debate is those that believe the change in precipitation, temperature
and sea level will be severe. They predict the average global temperature to rise several degrees Celsius over the
next several decades. Sea level will rise and take over large portions of the land in coastal areas.
Agriculture will be significantly impacted with some currently rainy regions becoming much drier and some
dry regions becoming much wetter. Humans will be unable to adapt very successfully to the change: disease,
famine and destruction of the world economy will far surpass the problems of today.
ONE EXTREME: DON'T WORRY NOTHING WILL HAPPEN
At the other extreme are those that do not believe in global warming or at least do not believe that
humans are impacting the global temperature, precipitation and sea level patterns. They will claim any
change is natural and that the human influence is not large enough to have any kind of major impact. They
will often mention that nature over time will cleanse the pollution out of the air thus it is okay to
continue to add any volume of air pollution.
LIKELY THE TRUTH IS IN THE MIDDLE
It is likely that human pollution does impact the world climate. The impact is probably not as great as
many predict. The addition of large volumes of air pollution every day into the atmosphere must have
some result since it is changing the composition of the atmosphere.
Humans have the ability to adapt to change quicker than animals or plants. Humans, decade by decade, will adapt to how the
world climate changes. It is likely that global warming is not a catastrophic event but likely a slow
ongoing adjustment. The greatest victims to global warming will likely be plant and animal life that have the
inability to adapt to new environmental conditions but
evolution promises to produce and redistribute plants and animals to be adapted to the new condition. It is also
likely that humans in the future will develop methods that produce far less air pollution than today.