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Global Warming & Climate Change

1. Outline the causes of Global warming, including the greenhouse effect.


The carbon cycle is the combined processes, including photosynthesis, decomposition, and respiration,
by which carbon as a component of various compounds cycles between its major reservoirs the atmosphere, oceans, and living organisms.

The carbon cycle itself is a self-regulating element, as the amount of carbon released in respiration, decomposition and other naturally occurring sources remain in balance with the amount of carbon absorbed by organisms. (A carbon sink is a natural or artificial reservoir that accumulates and stores some carbon-containing chemical compound for an indefinite period.) Most of the worlds carbon emissions are attributed to the large-scale use of vehicles and factories. These fuels are found in the carbon sink underground, they are created over a long period of time as the sedimentary rocks provide constant, high pressure on dead plants and animals which form (e.g.) oil.

These (oil, natural gas & coal) carbon sinks are eventually released backed into the atmosphere through their combustion towards atmospheric carbon dioxide. There has been an enormous contribution to the increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide since the industrial revolution, as well as the use of portable combustion engines within cars which have been contributed to the increased in carbon dioxide emissions. Carbon dioxide, water vapor, and methane are the main greenhouse gases, these gases play a vital role in life on Earth. They reduce the heat lost from Earth, this is done by reflecting the radiation back to earth so that leads to more heat being absorbed by the earths surface, this helps to maintain a temperature which is sufficient enough to maintain life on earth, for the time being. The diagram below shows how the sunlight converts into infrared radiation when it reaches the Earths surface, and how due to the presence of greenhouse gases the temperature is greater than usual:

2. Analyze and interpret different types of evidence for global warming and its causes, recognizing correlations and casual relationships.
In order to analyze evidence for global warming we need to use temperature proxies, these are preserved physical characteristics that are used by scientists to reconstruct previous climactic conditions of Earth. These include: 1. Frozen isotopes scientist travel to the Antarctic and drill deep into the ice to lift out a long cylindrical piece of ice. The air that was trapped whilst the ice was forming over the years provides a good record of the air dating back thousands of years. Also the past temperature can also be studied through the analyses of different oxygen isotopes within the layer of the cores. 2. Dendrochronology this is the study of past events using tree ring growth. As a tree grows its width increases with age, so when conditions are favorable (e.g. warm, optimum temperature, higher carbon dioxide concentration and etc.) the growth of the tree width is greater. Problem- if conditions seem to fluctuate a lot in one year compared to the other then the tree ring growth will differ between certain years. Also many factors seem to have an effect on tree ring growth, such as amount of rainfall, sunshine exposure, temperature and etc. thus it can be difficult to conclude whether it was one factor or a mixture of these factors 3. Coral reefs The analyses of coral reefs can show different isotopes of water taken up as the sea temperature varies, this can be used alongside dendrochronology to factor out data on temperature fluctuations in the past. 4. Peat Bogs these consist of partly decomposed plant material, along with sphagnum mosses. The peat is very acidic, cool and anaerobic these conditions prevent bacteria from decomposing this crucial piece of evidence. As a result the plant material (pollen grains, moss spores and plant tissues) are preserved with the peat. Examination of the peat will reveal the previous plant inhabitants within that area, showing us how a change in climactic condition effects the distribution of plants within the area, e.g. certain plants may be sensitive to a certain range of temperatures, and so with a change in temperature they could slowly fade from the area.

Correlation does not imply causation this phrase means that two variables that show some sort of relationship (correlation) does not always indicate that one causes the other. From these graphs we can see that an increase in carbon dioxide emissions over time has gradually increased the change average global temperature. This shows us that there seems to be a relationship between these two variables, but it doesnt necessarily mean that a change in one will cause a definite change in other.

3. Describe the effects of global warming on the distribution, development and life cycles of plants and animals.
Risk of Flooding Antarctic temperature have been increasing rapidly compared to other parts of the world, scientist believe this to be the cause of global warming. As the ice caps melt due to an increase in temperature, the water expands as well this would inevitably increase the total volume of liquid water on Earth. This could result in a loss of habitat for many species, as well as a loss of homes for people especially for those that leave close to the sea whilst being only 1m above sea level. Climate Change As a rise in temperature ensues weather and rainfall patterns are affected. Even though it is hard to tell whether or not global warming has an effect on certain weather events, there is a link between the change in extreme weather and global warming. The effect of a change in rainfall can be devastating, as in drought conditions people could be left with water for drinking or for their crops, and an increase in rainfall could result in an increase in flooding of certain areas causing a loss in homes, income and time. Effect on organisms A change in temperature has an effect on enzyme activity which in turn affects organisms. However for many enzymes there is an optimum temperature, but if temperature were to increase beyond that point it could result in the denature (irreversible damage) of enzymes, and the reaction rate would fall in turn affect processes such as growth and reproduction of an organism. For some species an increase in temperature could result in an increase in growth/reproduction, this results in more CO2 absorbed by plants overall and an increase in population of certain animals. On the other hand a change in a few degrees could end up being fatal to some species.