It's Getting Warmer

Written by I.R.C.. Posted in Earth Matters Columns

It seems likely that 2012 will be the hottest year on record in the continental United States. Records go back 118 years. This was assured by the spring-like December that we have so far experienced. It was a very warm year before the recent warm spell, as thousands of daily high temperature records had already been set through the first eleven months.

The twelve month period ending in July 2012 was the hottest in U.S. history. July was the hottest month ever recorded in the continental United States. And we’ve been counting for more than 1,400 months.

This isn’t just a 2012 or U.S. phenomena either. The average worldwide land surface temperature for June, July and August was also the hottest ever recorded. Worldwide, it will be the ninth warmest year on record. Prior to 2012, nine of the ten warmest years have occurred since the turn of the century.
Meanwhile, the last nine Septembers (when the Arctic ice cap is at its smallest each year) have brought the nine smallest ice caps since they began measuring the Arctic ice. The ice is getting thinner, too, meaning that it will melt quicker in the following summer.

Less ice means that less sunlight is reflected back into space and a vicious circle of heating and more ice melt occurs.  The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported that the United States experienced an even dozen weather disasters that resulted in more than a billion dollars in damage this year. While it is certainly true that weather disasters occur every year, such events are more likely to occur as ocean water temperatures increase. Warm ocean water is the foundation of our most violent and moisture-laden weather.

No matter where you come down on the causes of global warming, it is difficult to deny that something is afoot in the climatological world. Even those that doubt man’s influence on climate change have a difficult time denying that the planet is warming. Three quarters of Americans now believe that global warming is responsible for these profound changes in the weather. Yet we have a hard time taking the steps to lessen our impact on the problem.

Some have argued that this is a one of those natural fluctuations in climate. Most scientists believe that greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and the resulting extreme levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide are causing historic warm temperatures.

Even though reducing GHG emissions would also save energy and money, we still have not been able to slow increases in CO2. Our emissions are actually growing faster than ever. The Global Carbon Project reports that the worldwide emissions of carbon dioxide rose by 5.9% in 2010. Their research indicates that it is the biggest annual increase since the Industrial Revolution began.

Perhaps the most important thing to understand is that the ultimate impacts of this warming are not just mere inconveniences. Entire coastal communities and island nations (like the Maldive Islands and their 300,000 residents) are likely to see large areas of their land disappear over the next decade. Regardless of whose fault it is, ignoring the issue doesn’t seem like such a good idea.

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