[Documents menu]History of the Polar Regions
Date: Sat, 15 Nov 97 17:12:21 CST
From: Mark Graffis <ab758@virgin.usvi.net>
Posted to the web: Fri Nov 14 13:07:06 EST 1997

Arctic Climate Changing Rapidly

From Environment News Service (ENS)
14 November 1997

WASHINGTON, D.C., November 14, 1997 (ENS) - Two scientists who have measured glaciers, examined ice samples and sampled sediments at lake bottoms in the Arctic over the past 10 years say they have proof that Earth's temperature is rising and that "scares" them.

"I'm worried. I fear what the consequences of that (global warming) will be," Raymond Bradley, chair of the geosciences department at the University of Massachusetts, said at a news conference Thursday announcing publication of an article in the journal Science. Science is a publication of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, a U.S. journal that publishes research only after it is reviewed for soundness and clarity by other scientists.

Jonathan Overpeck, another of the paper's authors, said, "What we're talking about is...climate changing rapidly. That can't help but scare everyone."

Overpeck, head of the paleoclimatology program at the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and Bradley were part of a team of 18 scientists from Canada, Russia and the United States who have been examining the environment in the Arctic. The most striking change revealed by looking at the land, sea and ice in the Arctic is the warming by 1 to 3 degrees Celsius in various parts of the polar region since the mid-1800s.

About half of this increase is due to natural causes such as greater energy bursts from the sun. But the other half of the temperature rise is due to factories, homes, offices and power plants burning coal and oil, which produces carbon dioxide, Overpeck said. That gas, and some others produced in agriculture and mining, act like the glass in greenhouses, trapping much of the heat rising from Earth.

Swedish scientist Svante Ahrrenius warned back in 1898 that carbon dioxide emissions could lead to global warming. It was not until the 1970s that a growing understanding of Earth's atmosphere system brought his concern to wider attention.

In 1990, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPPC) confirmed the scientific basis for climate change. More than 2,000 scientists warned in an IPPC study published in 1995 that these emissions, if unchecked, could raise the planet's average temperature 1.5 to 3 degrees Celsius by the year 2100.

This rise in global temperature could raise sea levels 15 to 95 centimeters, change rainfall patterns, increase the severity of storms and spread tropical diseases to what were the cooler parts of the globe, the IPPC study said.

More than 150 countries have been trying for the past two years to negotiate a binding target and timetables to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as part of the Framework Convention on Climate Change, an international treaty. The concluding round of the talks is scheduled for Kyoto, Japan, December 1-10, but the United States, the 15 nations in the European Union (EU) and developing countries are still far apart on what should be done.

The Arctic research team was able to put together a 400-year climate record from studying tree rings, ice cores and lake sediments. Average temperatures are now the warmest in this period, which has dramatically shortened glaciers, reduced the amount of ice covering the seas around the pole and thawed much of the frozen layer of soil in the region.

The models created in supercomputers to mimic the climate of Earth and to predict the effects of increasing amounts of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere show that most of the projected warming of Earth would take place in the northern parts of Europe, Asia and North America. A small group of scientists has been arguing that these computer models do not accurately portray what is happening in real life, and that there is no possibility of disruptive global warming.

Overpeck and Bradley believe that their study not only indicates an "unprecedented" warming of the North Pole region, but also that the glacier retreats and melting of frozen land show the first clear signs that man-made greenhouse gases have begun to affect the planet's climate.

"Our study is the best one to date that...says it probably already is happening," Overpeck said.

The Environment News Service is exclusively hosted by the [6]EnviroLink Network. Copyright 1997 ENS, Inc.

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