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Anthropogenic Effects on Atmosphere & Ecosystems

VALU 191 The Environment & Society

Impact of Man
After reading articles 1 and 2 in your text you should have a good idea about how man impacts the environment.

Some of the environmental issues or problems that the authors have brought up include:
Global warming Ozone hole Smog Pollution Overfishing

Closer Look
Lets take a closer look at one of the issues that has been addressed
Global warming What is it?
Global warming is a term used to describe a gradual increase in the earths average ground and atmospheric temperatures across the whole planet. (source for all statistics on effects of global warming U. S. Environmental Protection Agency)

Terminology: Climate Change or Global Warming?

The term climate change is often used interchangeably with the term global warming, but according to the National Academy of Sciences, "the phrase 'climate change' is growing in preferred use to 'global warming' because it helps convey that there are [other] changes in addition to rising temperatures."

What is climate change?

Climate change refers to any significant change in measures of climate (such as temperature, precipitation, or wind) lasting for an extended period (decades or longer)

What is climate change?

Climate change may occur as a result from:
natural factors, such as changes in the sun's intensity or slow changes in the Earth's orbit around the sun natural processes within the climate system (e.g. changes in ocean circulation) human activities that change the atmosphere's composition (e.g. through burning fossil fuels) & the land surface (e.g. deforestation, reforestation, urbanization, desertification, etc.)

Whats happened
Measurements indicate that the global temperature has increased by about 1 degree Fahrenheit in the past century. It was determined that human activities were beginning to increase the carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

No question
There are certain facts we know from data that has been collected:
Atmospheric temperatures have increased ~1F over the last 100 years The amount of certain gases (i.e. carbon dioxide) in the atmosphere have increased. The greenhouse effect is a documented & tested scientific phenomena.

Future Problems?
Most scientists believe that an uncontrolled rise in carbon dioxide emissions will lead to further climate change Uncertainties remain about the timing and severity of resulting climatic change. Most scientists believe there is enough evidence to warrant a sensible approach toward minimizing the potential consequences of global warming.

Environmental Issues
Another environmental issue that is mentioned in unit 1 is depletion of the ozone layer. Ozone is a molecule that contains 3 oxygen atoms bonded together. It is a strong oxidizer & has some commercial & practical applications such as disinfecting drinking water.

What is the Ozone Hole?

Ozone depletion refers to the thinning of the ozone layer in the stratosphere, which extends ~9-31 miles above the Earths surface. A diminished or absent ozone layer allows more harmful radiation to reach the Earths surface. The ozone layer in the atmosphere shields the Earths surface from much of the harmful UV radiation from the sun

What caused the ozone-hole?

Stratospheric ozone depletion (or the ozone hole) was caused primarily by the presence of certain chemicals in the atmosphere (CFCs chlorofluorocarbonds). These chemicals reacted with the ozone in the outer atmosphere which reduced the concentration of ozone present. Therefore, mans use of a lab generated chemical caused a large scale global environmental problem

Ozone: good or bad or both

Ozone in the outer atmosphere or stratosphere is a good thing.
It blocks out harmful radiation from the sun.

Ozone in the troposphere (ground level or at the Earths surface) is a bad thing.
It causes smog and many respiratory problems for people. Air with high concentrations of ozone is unhealthy to breathe.

The Greenhouse Effect, Climate Change, and Global Warming

Scientists are certain about the greenhouse effect. They know that greenhouse gases make the Earth warmer by trapping heat in the atmosphere. The atmosphere has an effect on the Earths climate. Climate is the long-term average of a regions weather events lumped together.

The Greenhouse Effect, Climate Change, and Global Warming

Climate change represents a change in longterm weather patterns. Climates can become warmer or colder; annual amounts of rainfall or snowfall can increase or decrease. Global warming refers to an average increase in the earths temperature, which in turn causes changes in climate. Global warming doesnt mean that the whole planet will become hotter. The warmer atmosphere will impact existing weather patterns which may cause a variety of problems.

The Greenhouse Effect, Climate Change, and Global Warming A warmer Earth may lead to changes in rainfall patterns, a rise in sea level, and a wide range of impacts on plants, wildlife, and humans. When scientists talk about the issue of climate change, one of their concerns is about rapid global warming caused by human activities.

Climate Change Impacts

Human health, natural ecological systems, and socioeconomic systems are all sensitive to both the magnitude and the rate of climate change Many physical and ecological systems will be simultaneously affected.

Potential Climate Change Impacts

Climate change can add to existing environmental stresses Health Impacts Weather-related Mortality Infectious Diseases Air Quality-Respiratory Illnesses Agriculture Impacts Crop yields Irrigation demands

Potential Impacts (continued)

Forest Impacts
Change in forest composition Shift geographic range of forests Forest Health and Productivity

Water Resource Impacts

Changes in water supply Water quality Increased Competition for water

Potential Impacts (continued)

Impacts on Coastal Areas
Erosion of beaches Inundate coastal lands Costs to defend coastal communities

Species and Natural Areas

Shift in ecological zones Loss of habitat and species

Direct weather-related mortality

Climate change is expected to increase the frequency of very hot days
For Chicago, if average July temperatures rise 5.4F, the probability the heat index will exceed 120F during the month increases from one in 20 to one in 4

During heat waves, deaths from cardiovascular and respiratory illnesses also increase Winter mortality may decrease, but not expected to offset summer mortality increases The elderly, particularly those living alone, and children are in the greatest danger during heat waves

Water Resources
Precipitation changes and increased evaporation can affect:
water supplies water quality and drinking water water uses: hydropower, irrigation, fisheries

Floods more likely due to more intense rainfall Droughts likely to be more severe due to increased evaporation and drier soils Climate change will add to stresses in the Great Basin, California, Missouri, Arkansas, Texas Gulf, Rio Grande and Lower Colorado river basins

Impacts on Forests
Suitable habitats for many tree species likely to shift faster than rate at which trees naturally migrate Forest dieback due to drought, insects and disease may increase, especially along southern boundaries and in drier areas Projected increase in summer droughts would increase risk of forest fires, especially where forests are already under stress At risk are commercial timber production, recreational activities, and wildlife habitat

Impacts on Coastal Areas

Along much of the U.S. coast, sea levels have risen 10-12 inches in the last century Sandy beaches would be eroded 100-150 feet with a 1-foot rise in sea level in 2100 The projected global sea level rise of 20 inches (6-38 inches) by 2100 could:
Inundate 5,000 square miles of dryland Drown 15-60 percent of our coastal wetlands

Some states will experience greater increases in sea level (e.g., over 4 feet in Louisiana) Cumulative capital costs of defending against a 20 inch rise in sea level are estimated at $30-40 billion

Impacts on Wetlands
Coastal wetlands are vulnerable to sea level rise and coastal erosion
At risk: fish, shellfish, flood and erosion control, habitat

Inland freshwater marshes (including prairie potholes) are vulnerable to hotter, drier conditions
At risk: migratory bird and other species habitat

Western riparian wetlands are vulnerable to hotter, drier conditions

At risk: fish and wildlife habitat, flood and erosion control, water quality, grazing

Impacts on Species
Each 1C of warming will shift temperature zones by about 100 miles northward (or 500 feet in elevation)
Many plant and animal species will be unable to migrate fast enough to find suitable habitats Natural or man-made barriers may block natural migration

Climate change poses risks to major U.S. national parks (e.g., Everglades National Park, Glacier National Park) An increase of 3C could threaten 7-11% of North Americas plant species Northern limits of many birds strongly associated with climate Loss of cold-water fish habitat of 1.7-2.3 million acres by 2060

Current modeling is inadequate because it fails to fully account for climate variability, adaptation, and indirect effects
Location specific modeling is needed since temperature, precipitation, and soil moisture changes and water availability varies from place to place

Average climatic changes projected to affect crop yields and the geographic distribution of crops
Some states will gain, but other states may see substantial losses Some crops will be more impacted than other crops

Farmers likely to adapt to changing climate conditions

Some agricultural adaptations may be costly Adaptation may alter land-use patterns (e.g., forests converted into agricultural land) Adaptation often depends on questionable availability of water

The preceding slides discussed probable outcomes from a rise in the ambient temperature as studied and developed by the U.S. EPA. You can get on EPAs website, the UN Environmental Program website, or a variety of other sites to read about predictions regarding the effects of climate change.

Weather Patterns
What about long-range changes to weather patterns? Weather patterns are dependent on atmospheric temperature and other things such as ocean temperature. Obviously, the chemical make-up of our atmosphere also plays a role in our atmospheric temperature. Without some CO2 in our atmosphere, it wouldnt be warm enough on Earth to sustain life!

Weather Patterns
As air heats and cools, it moves in the atmosphere. The ocean & other large bodies of water impact the heat exchange in the atmosphere. The oceans have a large impact on global weather. If oceans gain or lose energy (evident by temperature changes) it affects our precipitation patterns & wind movement.

Weather Patterns
We are also discovering that pollutants in our atmosphere can impact our ambient temperatures. Some pollution can block or absorb energy from the sun resulting in a cooling effect ==solar dimming Some pollutants can trap energy from the sun therefore warming our atmosphere ==global warming

Bottom line
The presence of man & mans activities can impact our environment. Some impacts are positive Some impacts are negative Well be talking a lot more about this during the semester.