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Consequences of Global Warming


 101

by Theodora Filis


  • Global warming is happening now and its effects are being felt in the US and around the world. Among the expected consequences of global warming is an increase in the heaviest rain and snow storms, fueled by increased evaporation and the ability of a warmer atmosphere to hold more moisture.

    Recent studies show extreme rainstorms and snowstorms have became more frequent and produced more total precipitation across much of the contiguous US over the past 60 years. 


    An increase in extreme downpours has costly ramifications for the US, with the potential to cause more flooding that jeopardizes property and lives. With scientists predicting even greater increases in extreme precipitation in the years ahead, the United States and the world must take action to reduce pollution that contributes to global warming.


    Scientists report that some polar bears are drowning because they have to swim longer distances to reach ice floes. So, unless we take effective action now, the polar bear will likely become extinct in Alaska by 2050.

    Consequences of global warming are upon us. This has been the warmest decade since 1880. In 2010, global surface temperatures tied 2005 as the warmest on record, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Scientists say that the earth could warm by an additional 7.2 degrees Fahrenheit during the 21st century if we fail to reduce emissions from burning fossil fuels, such as coal and oil. This rise in average temperature will have far-reaching effects on the earth's climate patterns and on all living things. Many of these changes have already begun.

    According to the National Resources Defense Council, at the current rate of retreat, all of the glaciers in Glacier National Park will be gone by 2070.

    Melting Glaciers, Early Ice Thaw

    Rising global temperatures will speed the melting of glaciers and ice caps and cause early ice thaw on rivers and lakes.

    Warning signs today:

    After existing for many millennial, the northern section of the Larsen B ice shelf in Antarctica -- a section larger than the state of Rhode Island -- collapsed between January and March 2002, disintegrating at a rate that astonished scientists. Since 1995, the ice shelf's area has shrunk by 40 percent.

    According to NASA, the polar ice cap is now melting at the alarming rate of nine percent per decade. Arctic ice thickness has decreased 40 percent since the 1960s.

    Arctic sea ice extent set an all-time record low in September 2007, with almost half a million square miles less ice than the previous record set in September 2005, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center. Over the past 3 decades, more than a million square miles of perennial sea ice -- an area the size of Norway, Denmark and Sweden combined -- has disappeared.

    Multiple climate models indicate that sea ice will increasingly retreat as the earth warms. Scientists at the U.S. Center for Atmospheric Research predict that if the current rate of global warming continues, the Arctic could be ice-free in the summer by 2040.

    Sea-Level Rise

    Current rates of sea-level rise are expected to increase as a result both of thermal expansion of the oceans and melting of most mountain glaciers and partial melting of the West Antarctic and Greenland ice caps. Consequences include loss of coastal wetlands and barrier islands, and a greater risk of flooding in coastal communities. Low-lying areas, such as the coastal region along the Gulf of Mexico and estuaries like the Chesapeake Bay, are especially vulnerable.

    Warning signs today:

    Global sea level has already risen by 4 to 8 inches in the past century, and the pace of sea level rise appears to be accelerating. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicts that sea levels could rise 10 to 23 inches by 2100, but in recent years sea levels have been rising faster than the upper end of the range predicted.

    In the 1990s, the Greenland ice mass remained stable, but the ice sheet has increasingly declined in recent years. This melting currently contributes an estimated one-hundredth of an inch per year to global sea level rise.

    Greenland holds 10 percent of the total global ice mass. If it melts, sea levels could increase by up to 21 feet.


    Through cutting-edge CGI, National Geographic explores the potential effects of sea level rise on our civilization over the next few centuries.


    Weather disasters kill or injure hundreds of Americans each year and cause billions of dollars in economic damage. The risks posed by some types of weather-related disasters will likely increase in a warming world

    In the Path of the Storm finds that roughly four out of five Americans live in counties that have experienced weather-related disasters since 2006 and calls for action to reduce the threat of extreme weather fueled by global warming.

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