Climate Change

Climate Change: The Science of Global Warming and Our Energy Future

EDMOND A. MATHEZ
Student Companion by Jason E. Smerdon
Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 344
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7312/math14642
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  • Book Info
    Climate Change
    Book Description:

    Climate Change is geared toward a variety of students and general readers who seek the real science behind global warming. Exquisitely illustrated, the text introduces the basic science underlying both the natural progress of climate change and the effect of human activity on the deteriorating health of our planet. Noted expert and author Edmond A. Mathez synthesizes the work of leading scholars in climatology and related fields, and he concludes with an extensive chapter on energy production, anchoring this volume in economic and technological realities and suggesting ways to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions.

    Climate Change opens with the climate system fundamentals: the workings of the atmosphere and ocean, their chemical interactions via the carbon cycle, and the scientific framework for understanding climate change. Mathez then brings the climate of the past to bear on our present predicament, highlighting the importance of paleoclimatology in understanding the current climate system. Subsequent chapters explore the changes already occurring around us and their implications for the future. In a special feature, Jason E. Smerdon, associate research scientist at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University, provides an innovative appendix for students.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-51818-5
    Subjects: Environmental Science, General Science, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. FOREWORD
    (pp. xi-xiv)
    Michael Oppenheimer

    WE LIVE IN THE ERA of global warming. That much is certain. Atmospheric levels of heat-trapping greenhouse gases have increased due to human activities, and a cornucopia of climate changes is now apparent. Global average temperature increased about 1°C (1.8°F) over the past century, and sea level has risen more than 15 centimeters (6 inches). Glaciers are melting worldwide, the major ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica are fraying at their peripheries, and the imagined Northwest Passage may soon open permanently. Rainstorms are intensifying in many areas, and summer heat waves have become more intense while winters are less severe....

  4. PREFACE
    (pp. xv-xviii)
    Edmond A. Mathez
  5. ABBREVIATIONS
    (pp. xix-xxi)
  6. 1 CLIMATE IN CONTEXT
    (pp. 1-13)

    “RAIN, HEAVY AT TIMES, will begin in late morning and continue into the evening hours as a cold front sweeps across the area. . . .” Ah, the weather forecast—what would we do without it? There is no shortage of conversation about the weather, which, after all, touches our daily lives. For some, the weather is pretty important—especially if their harvest depends on it. For others, it is more tangential. I’m thinking of myself here—most days I just want to know about my trek in and out of New York City, where I work. Will rain or...

  7. 2 THE CHARACTER OF THE ATMOSPHERE
    (pp. 15-33)

    THE ATMOSPHERE¹ IS THE protective blanket that makes life possible. It is the air we breathe; it protects us from the Sun’s deadly ultraviolet (UV) radiation; and it regulates temperature so that liquid water exists now and has always existed somewhere on Earth. Without its atmosphere, Earth’s surface would be frozen, and life would not exist here.

    Despite its importance, the atmosphere constitutes only a minuscule part of Earth. The total mass of the atmosphere is 5.14 × 1018 kilograms, which is a mere three-thousandth of the mass of the ocean (1.39 × 1021 kilograms) and one-millionth that of the...

  8. 3 THE WORLD OCEAN
    (pp. 35-55)

    HOW CLIMATE WILL CHANGE in response to the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere will depend in large part on what happens in the world ocean. The reasons for this connection begin with the large amount of solar energy the ocean absorbs and holds, about 1,000 times more heat than the atmosphere holds. Consequently, the ocean is effective at both distributing that heat around the globe and moderating regional temperature (which is why summers in oceanic climates are not too hot or winters too cold). Moreover, the ocean also holds much more carbon than the atmosphere does. And because...

  9. 4 THE CARBON CYCLE AND HOW IT INFLUENCES CLIMATE
    (pp. 57-73)

    THE GROWING AMOUNT of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere is the primary cause for global warming (chapters 7 and 9), so it is important to understand the factors that naturally control its abundance. Atmospheric CO2 levels have been measured continuously only since 1958. In that year, Charles Keeling (1928–2005), who would go on to become a professor at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, began measuring CO2 at a newly established observatory on the top of Hawaii’s Mauna Loa volcano.¹ The change in CO2 content with time, widely referred to as the Keeling curve, shows two interesting features (figure 4.1)....

  10. 5 A SCIENTIFIC FRAMEWORK FOR THINKING ABOUT CLIMATE CHANGE
    (pp. 75-97)

    ENERGY. THAT IS WHAT drives climate, and the balance between the energy Earth receives from the Sun and that which it radiates out to space will ultimately determine our climate future. To understand climate change, we need to quantify the amounts of energy that flow in and out of the Earth system, identify the factors that are causing the balance between incoming and outgoing energy to shift, and determine which of those factors are important and which are not.

    The present balance between incoming and outgoing energy is such that the mean global temperature at Earth’s surfaces is about 15°C...

  11. 6 LEARNING FROM CLIMATES PAST
    (pp. 99-129)

    HOW MIGHT WE SEEK to understand climate? One way, of course, is to observe the system in its current state: we determine radiative balance, investigate how forcing factors and feedbacks operate, study the various components of the carbon cycle, and so on. From these and other activities, we gain an understanding of the present climate system’s character and dynamics. This approach, however, offers only a snapshot of a system that operates on a continuum of timescales that extends far beyond the decades or even centuries during which we have observed climate.

    To understand today’s climate, we must also look to...

  12. 7 A CENTURY OF WARMING AND SOME CONSEQUENCES
    (pp. 131-149)

    IN DISCUSSIONS OF GLOBAL WARMING, two questions always arise: Is the warming real? If so, why is it occurring? These questions now have definitive answers based in observation. The fact of the matter is that warming has been measured on land, in the atmosphere, in the ocean, and even in the ground, as described in this chapter. In addition, ice is melting, which is the subject of the next chapter. In other words, all of the components of Earth’s surface (geosphere, atmosphere, hydrosphere, and cryosphere) have been warming.¹

    As to why, all the observations of warming are consistent with the...

  13. 8 MORE CONSEQUENCES: THE SENSITIVE ARCTIC AND SEA-LEVEL RISE
    (pp. 151-169)

    THE ARCTIC IS UNIQUE. The vast, deep, and mysterious Arctic Ocean is shrouded in sea ice (figure 8.1) and surrounded by barren tundra and scrub forest tenaciously sprouting from a layer of soil that lies on permanently frozen ground. This frozen world is “framed in extremes.”¹ Long, cold winters with little light transform abruptly into light-filled summers when snow and ice melt and the tundra comes alive.

    But the Arctic is warming at an alarming rate. For those of us who do not live in the far north, we see it most dramatically in images of the steady disappearance of...

  14. 9 CLIMATE MODELS AND THE FUTURE
    (pp. 171-183)

    UP TO NOW in this book, the focus has been on past and present climate and how the climate system works. The workings of the climate system are at the heart of our ability to make realistic projections of how climate will change in the future. To make such projections, we need models, so this chapter describes the general nature of climate models. Models, of course, are not reality, so inevitably the question of how well climate models represent the real world arises. The models possess both intrinsic and practical limitations, which, along with the uncertainties about how the climate...

  15. 10 ENERGY AND THE FUTURE
    (pp. 185-216)

    AS A WORLD SOCIETY, we have some control over our future climate by how we produce and consume energy simply because energy production accounts for about 80 percent of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Most of the rest comes from deforestation and land-use change related to agriculture, so it is in tackling energy use that we will make the biggest dent in carbon emissions.

    A look at world energy consumption in 2005 by fuel type reveals what probably most of us already suspected. Fossil fuels—oil (37 percent), coal (27 percent), and natural gas (23 percent)—together accounted for 87 percent...

  16. NOTES
    (pp. 217-246)
  17. GLOSSARY
    (pp. 247-256)
  18. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 257-276)
  19. STUDENT COMPANION
    (pp. 279-310)

    One way to think about the difference between weather and climate is to consider the fact that we often dress for the weather but build houses in accordance with the climate. In other words, weather often dictates our day-to-day decisions, whereas our houses are built to withstand the climate in the region where they are located over many seasons and years. This example illustrates the important distinction between weather and climate: the former is the condition of the atmosphere at a given location and instant in time; the latter is the long-term average of the atmosphere within a region (ranging...

  20. INDEX
    (pp. 311-318)