31 January 2008

A Vicious Cycle (or) I'm Just as Good as Al Gore

Did you know that Earth is warming?? Did you know that this is due to a phenomenon known as "global warming"? You may be familiar with the concept if you saw Al Gore's film, An Inconvenient Truth. I'm about to share with you a disturbing little factoid that could make you think about your carbon emissions. Or it may possibly make you feel incredibly helpless and depressed for days. Let's hope it's the former.

Earth is a relatively dark place. That is to say, it absorbs much of the energy it gets from the sun. Just like your leather jacket starts to boil in the mid-day sun and your friend in his white sweater is peachy keen. The "whiteness" of Earth is called the albedo and it's measured from 0 to 1, one being 100% white. Earth's albedo is currently about 30%. That number, however, is falling. Earth is getting darker and absorbs more of the sun's energy.

Due to a number of factors, glacial ice is melting at an unprecedented rate, causing Earth's albedo to lower. This fall, the Arctic Sea ice loss was greater than ever before. Just one stop in the vicious cycle that is global warming:

1. Ice melts due to a warming atmosphere and surface.

2. Albedo decreases- more energy absorbed the sun- surface temperature rises

3. Atmosphere temp rises because of surface temp rise.

4. More ice melts.

Then we go back to number one. Each time the cycle starts over, more ice is gone thus Earth's albedo continues to dip lower and lower until there is no ice left. BAD news.

One thing we can do: reduce carbon emissions which will *eventually* slow the Greenhouse effect, thus ice melt, thus falling albedo, thus more warming and ice melt.


Jim H. said...

Didn't Al Bedo play shortstop for the old Brooklyn Dodgers?

Old Cubs Fan said...

Yeah! I remember hearing his name on the radio in the old days. Remember when they used to let us listen to the World Series in school?!?!? How cool was that. . .