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a. Analysis of the Problem
1. History of the Problem
Some scientist’s have been concerned since 1896 about what might happen
if there were 5.5 billion tons carbon dioxide in our atmosphere. In 1961 a
British scientist did an experiment showing that the carbon in the air was
absorbing some of the sun’s radiation. Afterward a Swedish scientist, Suante
Arrhenius, found out if the radiation of the sun was trapped in the carbon
dioxide the temperature of the earth would increase by 1-2 degrees. In 1988
James Hanson, a respected scientist, told the U.S. Congress “the greenhouse
effect is occurring now and it’s changing global climate.”(1989 Koral). After
the 1900’s people started making factories and started using fossil fuels like
coal, oil, and aluminum. It was the industrial revolution and overpopulation of
humans that was the cause of the environmental problems that we have today.
2. Human Activity Causing the Problem
The reason our Earth is getting hotter is that human activities are
emitting too much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The radiation from the
sun gets trapped in the bag of carbon dioxide that surrounds our earth.
One main reason for the problem of global warming is the burning of
fossil fuels. Fossil fuels are coal, oil and natural gases. We use these fuels
to run factories, power plants, cars, trucks, buses, air conditioning and etc.
The people of the earth are putting 5.5 billion tons of carbon, in the form of
carbon dioxide in the air every year! Seventy five percent of this is fossil
3. Impact Causing Global Change
For many years, scientists have been predicting that our disregard for
Mother Nature would make the climatic temperature of this Earth to increase
greatly. There have been arguments that the whole idea of Global Warming is a
hoax, that the temperature cycle is just experiencing an upward trend and will
eventually come back down. Now, however, we are starting to see the evidence of
Remember the great heat wave in Chicago? That could have been a
consequence of global warming. Nearly a hundred people died, and the city’s
economy came to a standstill. A much more tragic but less known heat wave
smashed into India, causing upward of 600 deaths.
Global Warming doesn’t only increase temperatures in hot areas. It also
decreases temperatures in cold areas. An example of this has been the cold
spell that struck the midwest. In Montana, temperatures plummeted to 30 degrees
below and stayed there. The coldest weather ever recorded plagued our country’s
heart for over three weeks, and still hasn’t returned to normal. A related
incident has been the blizzards of the east coast. Some places in New York
State got over twenty feet of snow.
On a Native Island, where native tribes live, if the sea level rises
three fourths of a meter then half of the island will sink. This will happen in
many different islands around the world and if the water keeps on rising as it
is, then farming land near the seashores will be flooded and the crops will be
Like California and other states, we are adding CO2 and changing the
earth’s weather. Some places are getting too little water which causes a
drought and other places get too much water which causes a flood.
In California, there was an almost permanent drought during the
eighties. This was gone in the nick of time by the great rainstorms of 1995.
We also experienced a frightening cold spell in 1992.
The Road Ahead
With all these obvious scourges plaguing us now, it seems that things
cannot get any worse. However, the current droughts, floods, and storms are just
the tip of the iceberg. If the greenhouse effect continues unabated, then the
inhabitants of Planet Earth have some surprises in store.
Scientists estimate that the global temperature will rise between 5 and
9 degrees by the middle of the 21st century, accompanied by a sea-level rise of
one to four feet. Five degrees may not seem like a drastic change, but in the
last ice age at the beginning of the Quaternary period, the average temperature
was only five degrees colder than it is now. Thus, our actions our warming the
earth enough to break out of an ice age.
Once the temperature reaches a certain threshold, the polar ice caps
will began to melt. While those living in the Arctic may find that a welcome
surprise, the implications for the rest of the world are serious. Even a partial
melting of the polar ice caps will cause sea levels to rise so much as to
completely wipe out most coastal cities. This includes such cultural centers as
San Francisco and New York. Those cities that survive will be battered down by
hurricanes much more severe than anything seen in history. Of course, inland
cities are not immune either. Rather than floods, they will face drought. So
while half the world is swimming to work, the other half will be crawling on
their knees with a scorching sun beating against their backs.
When drinkable water is a scarcity, it will become a commodity that
represents political power. The countries with water will be the countries with
power. This means there will be a political upheaval of global proportions. Life
as our children know it will be completely different, and not necessarily for
the better. With most of America’s lakes dried up and its major trading ports
under several feet of salt water, perhaps we won’t be the economical leader.
If we don’t start trying to stop global warming from happening now,
there will be many more consequences. Another consequence will be that there
will be high raises in temperature, affecting human life by causing skin cancer,
damaging the human immune, and causing cataracts. Raises in temperature will
also affect agricultural and aquatic life. Also, many species will die off. And
in the forests or maybe animals, there could be medicines to cure some kind of
disease. The way these cancers and diseases come to be is because the sun
deadly rays like UV rays, which mutate human cells.
b. Experimental Design
1. Restate Problem
Natural occurrences are not the only caused and influences of our
atmosphere changing. Human activities also cause the atmosphere to change.
Fossil fuels burning is producing a worldwide increase in the atmosphere
concentration of carbon dioxide. If atmospheric carbon dioxide continues to
increase at the present rate, studies estimate that the average surface
temperature will rise 2 degrees Celsius by the middle of the next century. This
will be a climate change greater than any other ever experienced in history,
that we know of. The four main greenhouse gases are Carbon Dioxide (CO2),
Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), Methane (CH4), and Nitrous Oxide (N2O). With the
exception of CFCs, all these gases are found in nature. It is the recent
explosion of the human population that has caused an exponential increase in
their atmospheric presence.
Although nature has provisions for removing carbon dioxide, it does not
take into account the human factor. The long, complicated carbon cycle can only
keep up with increasing human activity if the tree population increases
proportionately. Due to modern medicine and increased awareness of nutrition and
health, the human race has managed to extend its lifespan considerably, thereby
releasing more CO2 into the atmosphere. This, combined with an alarming rate of
rainforest depletion and air pollution, leads to an unmanageable amount of CO2
in the atmosphere. Since its sources are both natural and human, carbon dioxide
is the largest contributor to the greenhouse effect, at 50%.
As far as CFCs, our only excuse is that “it seemed a good idea at the
time.” When they were first invented, they seemed to be the miracle chemical of
the century. Because of their low boiling point, CFCs could act as coolers in
refrigerators, freezers, and air conditioners. Also, they were used to make
Styrofoam and as aerosol propellants. As it turns out, they are as skilled at
destruction as they are at refrigerating. Scientists discovered in the 1970’s
that CFCs destroy ozone, starting an international ban on their usage. Later, it
was determined that CFCs contribute to global warming as well, making them a
dangerous double whammy. CFCs are no longer used in aerosol and Styrofoam,
however most refrigerators still contain freon, a CFC. Fortunately, the freon
can be recycled. Contributing to 25% of global warming, CFCs are still a major
problem, but at least the U.S. and the other powers have recognized it as such.
Methane, also known as a natural gas, contributes 15% to the greenhouse effect.
It is caused by cows and rice paddies. The major American demand for so much
beef urges foreign farmers to clear forests for pastures. This also causes an
increase in carbon dioxide, as well as a cow population so high that the
methane-rich burps of the complex digestive system are a major contributing
factor to the greenhouse effect. Add to that the methane released from natural
sources, and you have a very large problem. The ten percent that is left comes
from nitrous oxide, a common pollutant. It, along with carbon dioxide, forms the
major part of car exhaust. Half a billion cars drive the streets of the world
today, a number expected to double by 2030. N2O is also released by the burning
of fossil fuels. Finally, it finds its way into the atmosphere from nitrogen
fertilizers, which are used heavily by today’s modern farmers. Overall there
are many pollutants in our atmosphere, influenced by humans, and by natural
effects. In our opinion if any member of this country wants to live in a good
environment then they have to take charge and to make a difference even if you
have to become a vegetarian so there will not be CO2 from the animals.
If we continue to pollute the air with methane gases and don’t do
anything about it, then the average global temperature will rise and there will
be many consequences. Warming expands ocean water and may melt some glaciers.
The sea level could rise one foot in the next 35 years and two in the next 100.
Hurricanes, tornadoes and other extreme storms may become more frequent.
Centers of large continents, such as the U.S. Great Plains, may be drier even if
the overall world rainfall increases somewhat. Heat waves may be more common.
Movement of just 1 percent of a future population of 6 billion people due to
higher sea level, drought, or other climate change would produce 60 million
migrants, many times the number of all refugees today. Impact mixed. Carbon
dioxide stimulates plant growth. However, heat increases demand for water.
Growing zones will shift if weather patterns change. Warming that expands the
tropics will also expand the range of tropical diseases such as malaria and
other insect borne maladies. Possible mass extinction may occur as conditions
change faster than species can move or adapt. Urban and agriculture development
leaves few wilderness corridors for migration.
3. EOS Satellite
The Earth Observing System (EOS) Data and Information System (EOSDIS) is
NASA’s Mission to Planet Earth’s (MTPE) project to provide access to Earth
Science data. EOSDIS manages data from NASA’s past and current Earth science
research satellites and field measurement programs, providing data archiving,
distribution, and information management services. During the EOS era–
beginning with the launch of the TRMM satellite in 1997 EOSDIS will command and
control satellites and instruments, and will generate useful products from
orbital observations. EOSDIS will also generate data sets made by assimilation
of satellite and in situ observations into global climate models.
The instrument that we chose that monitors the impact of human activity
is HIRDLS. HIRDLS is an infrared limb-scanning radiometer designed to sound the
upper troposphere, stratosphere, and mesosphere to determine temperature; the
concentrations of O3, H3O, CH4, N2O, NO2, HNO3, N2O5, CFC11, CFC12, and
aerosols; and the locations of polar stratospheric clouds and cloud tops. The
goals are to provide sounding observations with horizontal and vertical
resolution superior to that previously obtained; to observe the lower
stratosphere with improved sensitivity and accuracy; and to improve
understanding of atmospheric processes through data analysis, diagnostics, and
use of two- and three-dimensional models.
HIRDLS performs limb scans in the vertical at multiple azimuth angles,
measuring infrared emissions in 21 channels ranging from 6.12 to 17.76 um. Four
channels measure the emission by CO2. Taking advantage of the known mixing ratio
of CO2, the transmittance is calculated, and the equation of radiative transfer
is inverted to determine the vertical distribution of the Planck black body
function, from which the temperature is derived as a function of pressure. Once
the temperature profile has been established, it is used to determine the Planck
function profile for the trace gas channels. The measured radiance and the
Planck function profile are then used to determine the transmittance of each
trace species and its mixing ratio distribution.
Winds and threatening tornados are determined from spacial variations of
the height of geopotential surfaces. These are determined at upper levels by
integrating the temperature profiles vertically from a known reference base.
HIRDLS will improve knowledge of data-sparse regions by measuring the height
variations of the reference surface provided by customary sources with the aid
of a gyro package. This level, which is near the base of the stratosphere can
also be blended downward using nadir temperature soundings to improve
“Climate Change Brings Trouble”. The Earth Care Annual 1993. Emmaus:
Rodale Press, 1993
?EOS? http://eos.nasa.gov/ Logon November 3, 1996
“Global Warming” http://users.aimnet.com/~hyatt/gw/gw.html Logon October 25,
?Global Warming?. Microsoft Encarta 95, Microsoft, 1994.
?HIRDL? http://eos.acd.ucar.edu/hirdls/home.html Logon November 1, 1996
Newton, David. Global Warming A Reference Handbook. Santa Barbara:
Silver, Cheryl. One Earth, One Future, Our Changing Global Environment.
Washington D.C., National Academy Press, 1990
Woodwell, George. The Rising Tide Global Warming and World Sea Levels.
Washington D.C., Island Press, 1991
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