Understanding the Effects of Climate Change and Global Warming

Increases of carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide in the earth’s atmosphere throw the planet’s highly sensitive ecosystem off-balance. This climate change, or global warming, results when gases trap warmth in the earth’s atmosphere instead of letting the atmosphere release it.

Living with the greenhouse effect

Global warming is also known as the greenhouse effect and the gases involved are called greenhouse gases because concentrations of toxic gases in the Earth’s atmosphere prevent heat from escaping back into space just as the glass walls and roof of a greenhouse prevent heat from escaping a greenhouse.

The global effects of greenhouse gases.
The global effects of greenhouse gases.

Realizing that global warming doesn’t only mean higher temperatures

Global warming isn’t just about rising temperatures; it’s about the effects of those higher temperatures:

  • Stormier storms: Rising sea temperatures release more water vapor into the air above the ocean. When hurricanes form, they pick up this increased vapor, which creates a more intense storm.

  • Chillier cold: In some northern areas, melting snow and ice cool the sea water that currently offers a moderating effect on those areas.

  • Drier deserts: Arid areas can expect to be drier for longer periods each year, and other areas may become drier.

Wading into the effects of global warming on water

Changes in temperature affect the planet’s lakes, rivers, and oceans dramatically.

  • Drought conditions, caused primarily by dried-up water sources and dramatically reduced rainfall. The amount of land affected by drought worldwide has doubled in the last 30 years.

  • Increased flooding due to rising sea levels, unusually heavy rainfall, and rapidly melting snow.

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