Sunday, November 15, 2009

Physical impacts

So now,I (Rosyati Saien)again want to discuss about the global warming ini physical impacts.

Effects on weather

Increasing temperature is likely to lead to increasing precipitation but the effects on storms are less clear. Extratropical storms partly depend on the temperature gradient, which is predicted to weaken in the northern hemisphere as the polar region warms more than the rest of the hemisphere.

Extreme weather

Global warming may be responsible in part for some trends in natural disasters such as extreme weather.
Based on future projections of climate change, the IPCC report makes a number of predictions. It is predicted that over most land areas, the frequency of warm spells/heat waves will very likely increase. It is likely that:
• Increased areas will be affected by drought
• There will be increased intense tropical cyclone activity
• There will be increased incidences of extreme high sea level (excluding tsunamis)
Storm strength leading to extreme weather is increasing, such as the power dissipation index of hurricane intensity. Kerry Emanuel writes that hurricane power dissipation is highly correlated with temperature, reflecting global warming. However, a further study by Emanuel using current model output concluded that the increase in power dissipation in recent decades cannot be completely attributed to global warming. Hurricane modeling has produced similar results, finding that hurricanes, simulated under warmer, high-CO2 conditions, are more intense, however, hurricane frequency will be reduced. Worldwide, the proportion of hurricanes reaching categories 4 or 5 – with wind speeds above 56 metres per second – has risen from 20% in the 1970s to 35% in the 1990s. Precipitation hitting the US from hurricanes has increased by 7% over the twentieth century. The extent to which this is due to global warming as opposed to the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation is unclear. Some studies have found that the increase in sea surface temperature may be offset by an increase in wind shear, leading to little or no change in hurricane activity. Hoyos et al. (2006) have linked the increasing trend in number of category 4 and 5 hurricanes for the period 1970-2004 directly to the trend in sea surface temperatures.
Increases in catastrophes resulting from extreme weather are mainly caused by increasing population densities, and anticipated future increases are similarly dominated by societal change rather than climate change. The World Meteorological Organization explains that “though there is evidence both for and against the existence of a detectable anthropogenic signal in the tropical cyclone climate record to date, no firm conclusion can be made on this point.” They also clarified that “no individual tropical cyclone can be directly attributed to climate change.”
Thomas Knutson and Robert E. Tuleya of NOAA stated in 2004 that warming induced by greenhouse gas may lead to increasing occurrence of highly destructive category-5 storms. In 2008, Knutson et al. found that Atlantic hurricane and tropical storm frequencies could reduce under future greenhouse-gas-induced warming. Vecchi and Soden find that wind shear, the increase of which acts to inhibit tropical cyclones, also changes in model-projections of global warming. There are projected increases of wind shear in the tropical Atlantic and East Pacific associated with the deceleration of the Walker circulation, as well as decreases of wind shear in the western and central Pacific. The study does not make claims about the net effect on Atlantic and East Pacific hurricanes of the warming and moistening atmospheres, and the model-projected increases in Atlantic wind shear.
A substantially higher risk of extreme weather does not necessarily mean a noticeably greater risk of slightly-above-average weather. However, the evidence is clear that severe weather and moderate rainfall are also increasing. Increases in temperature are expected to produce more intense convection over land and a higher frequency of the most severe storms.

Increased evaporation

Increasing water vapor at Boulder, Colorado.
Over the course of the 20th century, evaporation rates have reduced worldwide , this is thought by many to be explained by global dimming. As the climate grows warmer and the causes of global dimming are reduced, evaporation will increase due to warmer oceans. Because the world is a closed system this will cause heavier rainfall, with more erosion. This erosion, in turn, can in vulnerable tropical areas (especially in Africa) lead to desertification. On the other hand, in other areas, increased rainfall lead to growth of forests in dry desert areas.
Scientists have found evidence that increased evaporation could result in more extreme weather as global warming progresses. The IPCC Third Annual Report says: " average water vapor concentration and precipitation are projected to increase during the 21st century. By the second half of the 21st century, it is likely that precipitation will have increased over northern mid- to high latitudes and Antarctica in winter. At low latitudes there are both regional increases and decreases over land areas. Larger year to year variations in precipitation are very likely over most areas where an increase in mean precipitation is projected."

As the World Meteorological Organization explains, “recent increase in societal impact from tropical cyclones has largely been caused by rising concentrations of population and infrastructure in coastal regions.” Pielke et al. (2008) normalized mainland U.S. hurricane damage from 1900–2005 to 2005 values and found no remaining trend of increasing absolute damage. The 1970s and 1980s were notable because of the extremely low amounts of damage compared to other decades. The decade 1996–2005 has the second most damage among the past 11 decades, with only the decade 1926–1935 surpassing its costs. The most damaging single storm is the 1926 Miami hurricane, with $157 billion of normalized damage.

The American Insurance Journal predicted that “catastrophe losses should be expected to double roughly every 10 years because of increases in construction costs, increases in the number of structures and changes in their characteristics.” The Association of British Insurers has stated that limiting carbon emissions would avoid 80% of the projected additional annual cost of tropical cyclones by the 2080s. The cost is also increasing partly because of building in exposed areas such as coasts and floodplains. The ABI claims that reduction of the vulnerability to some inevitable effects of climate change, for example through more resilient buildings and improved flood defences, could also result in considerable cost-savings in the longterm.

The first recorded South Atlantic hurricane, "Catarina", which hit Brazil in March 2004
In the northern hemisphere, the southern part of the Arctic region (home to 4,000,000 people) has experienced a temperature rise of 1 °C to 3 °C (1.8 °F to 5.4 °F) over the last 50 years. Canada, Alaska and Russia are experiencing initial melting of permafrost. This may disrupt ecosystems and by increasing bacterial activity in the soil lead to these areas becoming carbon sources instead of carbon sinks. A study (published in Science) of changes to eastern Siberia's permafrost suggests that it is gradually disappearing in the southern regions, leading to the loss of nearly 11% of Siberia's nearly 11,000 lakes since 1971. At the same time, western Siberia is at the initial stage where melting permafrost is creating new lakes, which will eventually start disappearing as in the east. Furthermore, permafrost melting will eventually cause methane release from melting permafrost peat bogs.
Prior to March 2004, no tropical cyclone had been observed in the South Atlantic Ocean. The first Atlantic cyclone to form south of the equator hit Brazil on March 28, 2004 with 40 m/s (144 km/h) winds, although some Brazilian meteorologists deny that it was a hurricane. Monitoring systems may have to be extended 1,600 km (1,000 miles) further south. There is no agreement as to whether this hurricane is linked to climate change, but one climate model exhibits increased tropical cyclone genesis in the South Atlantic under global warming by the end of the 21st century.

A map of the change in thickness of mountain glaciers since 1970. Thinning in orange and red, thickening in blue.
In historic times, glaciers grew during a cool period from about 1550 to 1850 known as the Little Ice Age. Subsequently, until about 1940, glaciers around the world retreated as the climate warmed. Glacier retreat declined and reversed in many cases from 1950 to 1980 as a slight global cooling occurred. Since 1980, glacier retreat has become increasingly rapid and ubiquitous, and has threatened the existence of many of the glaciers of the world. This process has increased markedly since 1995.
Excluding the ice caps and ice sheets of the Arctic and Antarctic, the total surface area of glaciers worldwide has decreased by 50% since the end of the 19th century. Currently glacier retreat rates and mass balance losses have been increasing in the Andes, Alps, Pyrenees, Himalayas, Rocky Mountains and North Cascades.
The loss of glaciers not only directly causes landslides, flash floods and glacial lake overflow, but also increases annual variation in water flows in rivers. Glacier runoff declines in the summer as glaciers decrease in size, this decline is already observable in several regions.[44] Glaciers retain water on mountains in high precipitation years, since the snow cover accumulating on glaciers protects the ice from melting. In warmer and drier years, glaciers offset the lower precipitation amounts with a higher meltwater input.
Of particular importance are the Hindu Kush and Himalayan glacial melts that comprise the principal dry-season water source of many of the major rivers of the Central, South, East and Southeast Asian mainland. Increased melting would cause greater flow for several decades, after which "some areas of the most populated regions on Earth are likely to 'run out of water'" as source glaciers are depleted. The Tibetan Plateau contains the world's third-largest store of ice. Temperatures there are rising four times faster than in the rest of China, and glacial retreat is at a high speed compared to elsewhere in the world.
According to a UN climate report, the Himalayan glaciers that are the sources of Asia's biggest rivers—Ganges, Indus, Brahmaputra, Yangtze, Mekong, Salween and Yellow—could disappear by 2035 as temperatures rise. Approximately 2.4 billion people live in the drainage basin of the Himalayan rivers. India, China, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Myanmar could experience floods followed by droughts in coming decades. In India alone, the Ganges provides water for drinking and farming for more than 500 million people. It has to be acknowledged, however, that increased seasonal runoff of Himalayan glaciers led to increased agricultural production in northern India throughout the 20th century.

The recession of mountain glaciers, notably in Western North America, Franz-Josef Land, Asia, the Alps, the Pyrenees, Indonesia and Africa, and tropical and sub-tropical regions of South America, has been used to provide qualitative support to the rise in global temperatures since the late 19th century. Many glaciers are being lost to melting further raising concerns about future local water resources in these glaciated areas. In Western North America the 47 North Cascade glaciers observed all are retreating.

Retreat of the Helheim Glacier, Greenland
Despite their proximity and importance to human populations, the mountain and valley glaciers of temperate latitudes amount to a small fraction of glacial ice on the earth. About 99% is in the great ice sheets of polar and subpolar Antarctica and Greenland. These continuous continental-scale ice sheets, 3 kilometres (1.9 mi) or more in thickness, cap the polar and subpolar land masses. Like rivers flowing from an enormous lake, numerous outlet glaciers transport ice from the margins of the ice sheet to the ocean.
Glacier retreat has been observed in these outlet glaciers, resulting in an increase of the ice flow rate. In Greenland the period since the year 2000 has brought retreat to several very large glaciers that had long been stable. Three glaciers that have been researched, Helheim, Jakobshavn Isbræ and Kangerdlugssuaq Glaciers, jointly drain more than 16% of the Greenland Ice Sheet. Satellite images and aerial photographs from the 1950s and 1970s show that the front of the glacier had remained in the same place for decades. But in 2001 it began retreating rapidly, retreating 7.2 km (4.5 mi) between 2001 and 2005. It has also accelerated from 20 m (66 ft)/day to 32 m (100 ft)/day. Jakobshavn Isbræ in western Greenland had been moving at speeds of over 24 m (79 ft)/day with a stable terminus since at least 1950. The glacier's ice tongue began to break apart in 2000, leading to almost complete disintegration in 2003, while the retreat rate doubled to over 30 m (98 ft)/day.
The role of the oceans in global warming is a complex one. The oceans serve as a sink for carbon dioxide, taking up much that would otherwise remain in the atmosphere, but increased levels of CO2 have led to ocean acidification. Furthermore, as the temperature of the oceans increases, they become less able to absorb excess CO2. Global warming is projected to have a number of effects on the oceans. Ongoing effects include rising sea levels due to thermal expansion and melting of glaciers and ice sheets, and warming of the ocean surface, leading to increased temperature stratification. Other possible effects include large-scale changes in ocean circulation.

Sea level rise

Sea level has been rising 0.2 cm/year, based on measurements of sea level rise from 23 long tide gauge records in geologically stable environments.
With increasing average global temperature, the water in the oceans expands in volume, and additional water enters them which had previously been locked up on land in glaciers, for example, the Greenland and the Antarctic ice sheets. For most glaciers worldwide, an average volume loss of 60% until 2050 is predicted. Meanwhile, the estimated total ice melting rate over Greenland is 239 ± 23 cubic kilometres (57 ± 5.5 cu mi) per year, mostly from East Greenland. The Antarctic ice sheet, however, is expected to grow during the 21st century because of increased precipitation. Under the IPCC Special Report on Emission Scenario (SRES) A1B, by the mid-2090s global sea level will reach 0.22 to 0.44 m (8.7 to 17 in) above 1990 levels, and is currently rising at about 4 mm (0.16 in) per year. Since 1900, the sea level has risen at an average of 1.7 mm (0.067 in) per year; since 1993, satellite altimetry from TOPEX/Poseidon indicates a rate of about 3 mm (0.12 in) per year.
The sea level has risen more than 120 metres (390 ft) since the Last Glacial Maximum about 20,000 years ago. The bulk of that occurred before 7000 years ago. Global temperature declined after the Holocene Climatic Optimum, causing a sea level lowering of 0.7 ± 0.1 m (28 ± 3.9 in) between 4000 and 2500 years before present. From 3000 years ago to the start of the 19th century, sea level was almost constant, with only minor fluctuations. However, the Medieval Warm Period may have caused some sea level rise; evidence has been found in the Pacific Ocean for a rise to perhaps 0.9 m (2 ft 11 in) above present level in 700 BP.
In a paper published in 2007, the climatologist James Hansen et al. claimed that ice at the poles does not melt in a gradual and linear fashion, but that another according to the geological record, the ice sheets can suddenly destabilize when a certain threshold is exceeded. In this paper Hansen et al. state:
Our concern that BAU GHG scenarios would cause large sealevel rise this century (Hansen 2005) differs from estimates of IPCC (2001, 2007), which foresees little or no contribution to twentyfirst century sealevel rise from Greenland and Antarctica. However, the IPCC analyses and projections do not well account for the nonlinear physics of wet ice sheet disintegration, ice streams and eroding ice shelves, nor are they consistent with the palaeoclimate evidence we have presented for the absence of discernible lag between ice sheet forcing and sealevel rise.[62]
Sea level rise due to the collapse of an ice sheet would be distributed nonuniformly across the globe. The loss of mass in the region around the ice sheet would decrease the gravitational potential there, reducing the amount of local sea level rise or even causing local sea level fall. The loss of the localized mass would also change the moment of inertia of the Earth, as flow in the Earth's mantle will require 10-15 thousand years to make up the mass deficit. This change in the moment of inertia results in true polar wander, in which the Earth's rotational axis remains fixed with respect to the sun, but the rigid sphere of the Earth rotates with respect to it. This changes the location of the equatorial bulge of the Earth and further affects the geoid, or global potential field. A 2009 study of the effects of collapse of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet shows the result of both of these effects. Instead of a global 5-meter sea level rise, western Antarctica would experience approximately 25 centimeters of sea level fall, while the United States, parts of Canada, and the Indian Ocean, would experience up to 6.5 meters of sea level rise.
A paper published in 2008 by a group of researchers at the University of Wisconsin lead by Anders Carlson used the deglaciation of North America at 9000 years before present as an analogue to predict sea level rise of 1.3 meters in the next century, which is also much higher than the IPCC predictions. However, models of glacial flow in the smaller present-day ice sheets show that a probable maximum value for sea level rise in the next century is 80 centimeters, based on limitations on how quickly ice can flow below the equilibrium line altitude and to the sea.

Temperature rise

From 1961 to 2003, the global ocean temperature has risen by 0.10 °C from the surface to a depth of 700 m. There is variability both year-to-year and over longer time scales, with global ocean heat content observations showing high rates of warming for 1991 to 2003, but some cooling from 2003 to 2007. The temperature of the Antarctic Southern Ocean rose by 0.17 °C (0.31 °F) between the 1950s and the 1980s, nearly twice the rate for the world's oceans as a whole [67]. As well as having effects on ecosystems (e.g. by melting sea ice, affecting algae that grow on its underside), warming reduces the ocean's ability to absorb CO2

Ocean acidification

Ocean acidification is an effect of rising concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere, and is not a direct consequence of global warming. The oceans soak up much of the CO2 produced by living organisms, either as dissolved gas, or in the skeletons of tiny marine creatures that fall to the bottom to become chalk or limestone. Oceans currently absorb about one tonne of CO2 per person per year. It is estimated that the oceans have absorbed around half of all CO2 generated by human activities since 1800 (118 ± 19 petagrams of carbon from 1800 to 1994). In water, CO2 becomes a weak carbonic acid, and the increase in the greenhouse gas since the Industrial Revolution has already lowered the average pH (the laboratory measure of acidity) of seawater by 0.1 units, to 8.2. Predicted emissions could lower the pH by a further 0.5 by 2100, to a level probably not seen for hundreds of millennia and, critically, at a rate of change probably 100 times greater than at any time over this period.
There are concerns that increasing acidification could have a particularly detrimental effect on corals (16% of the world's coral reefs have died from bleaching caused by warm water in 1998, which coincidentally was the warmest year ever recorded) and other marine organisms with calcium carbonate shells.
Shutdown of thermohaline circulation
Main article: Shutdown of thermohaline circulation
There is some speculation that global warming could, via a shutdown or slowdown of the thermohaline circulation, trigger localized cooling in the North Atlantic and lead to cooling, or lesser warming, in that region.This would affect in particular areas like Scandinavia and Britain that are warmed by the North Atlantic drift.
The chances of this near-term collapse of the circulation are unclear; there is some evidence for the short-term stability of the Gulf Stream and possible weakening of the North Atlantic drift.However, the degree of weakening, and whether it will be sufficient to shut down the circulation, is under debate. As yet, no cooling has been found in northern Europe or nearby seas.Lenton et al. found that "simulations clearly pass a THC tipping point this century".

Oxygen depletion

The amount of oxygen dissolved in the oceans may decline, with adverse consequences for ocean life.