Verdict Uncertain

Certain purveyors of gloom paint a bleak picture of global warming, condemning all human activities no matter what their purpose or intent. Other people are more pragmatic. Some regions would actually benefit from a rise in the average temperature of the earth. It has been suggested that a slightly higher CO2 concentration could spur plant growth by enhancing the natural process of photosynthesis. However, no one really knows what will happen, and whether the net effect will be good or bad.

Computers have been used in an attempt to figure out exactly what would happen in various parts of the world if the average global temperature were to rise by x°C in y years (x and y being input variables), but this has only increased the confusion, because slight differences in program parameters produce dramatic differences in the predicted effects.

The main problem with global warming may not be the temperature change and its eventual effects, but the possibility that our children and grandchildren might not be able to adapt fast enough without enormous economic and social cost.

There is another possibility that could render all concern about global warming academic: a geological or cosmic catastrophe that would fill the stratosphere with dust for decades, chilling the planet and bringing on an Ice Age. But, of course, it would be silly to do nothing about global warming or other human-caused damage to the environment, based on the hypothesis that an asteroid is eventually going to smash into the earth and put an end to life as we know it, anyway!

PROBLEM 8-5

I've read science fiction books and seen TV shows and movies in which the climate changes catastrophically. For example, the earth's atmosphere goes into "runaway greenhouse mode" and the whole planet ends up like Venus, roasting in oven-like heat, boiling away the oceans and annihilating all life forms. Could this actually happen as a result of human-induced global warming?

SOLUTION 8-5

This is a far-fetched scenario, but it would be arrogant of us to assert that it is absolutely impossible. The idea makes for good stories and movies, though!

Quiz

This is an "open book" quiz. You may refer to the text in this chapter. A good score is 8 correct. Answers are in the back of the book.

1. A warm, arid climate would most likely be found over a land mass at latitude

2. In the downtown areas of large cities on sunny days, the concrete, asphalt, and other human-made materials commonly cause or contribute to

(a) intensification of hurricanes.

(b) frequent lightning.

(c) heat islands.

(d) localized droughts.

3. Refer to Fig. 8-9. Suppose conditions are as shown in the map, and it is February. A cold wave in the United States would most likely be taking place

(a) in the Northern Plains.

(b) in the Southwest, especially California.

(c) in the Southeast, especially Florida.

4. Refer to Fig. 8-9. Suppose conditions are as shown in the map, and it is October. Warm, dry weather in the United States would most likely be taking place

(a) in the Northern Plains.

(b) in the Southwest, especially California.

(c) in the far Northeast.

5. Refer to Fig. 8-9. Suppose conditions are as shown in the map, and it is December. At this time, we can reasonably expect to observe a wind shift to the northwest along with falling temperatures

(a) in the South, for example in the Mississippi Delta area.

(b) in the West, especially in California.

(c) in the far Northeast.

Fig. 8-9. Illustration for Quiz Questions 3 through 5.

6. In the summer, a persistent ridge in the jet stream over the central United States would likely be associated with

(a) cool weather in the West and a heat wave in the East.

(b) a heat wave in the West and cool weather in the East.

(c) heavy rains in the Midwest.

(d) a heat wave in the Midwest.

7. You can get electrocuted if you wade near a downed utility wire after a flood, even if you don't actually come into contact with the wire, because

(a) the water, especially dirty flood water, conducts electricity.

(b) downed utility wires always carry extremely high voltages.

(c) downed utility wires are almost always "shorted out."

(d) the power demand is above normal when wires are down.

8. Suppose it is a hot day in the deserts of Nevada. The National Weather Service forecast contains a warning to be careful about overexertion. It does not feel hot to you, but only very warm. At 6:00 p.m., you decide to go out for your 10-km (6-mi) run as usual, even though it is well over body temperature in the shade. This is foolish because

(a) you could become overheated before you knew it, and collapse with heatstroke.

(b) the humidity is high, even in the desert, and especially after 4:00 p.m.

(c) the sun is high in the sky at this hour, and you could get sunburned.

(d) a sudden rain storm might come up, and you could catch a cold.

9. In January, a deep trough in the jet stream over the Atlantic coast of the United States might result in

(a) blizzards in California.

(c) freezing weather in Florida.

(d) All of the above

10. When the humidity is high, the apparent temperature is lower than the actual temperature on a warm day because

(a) you sweat more than you would if the humidity were low, and the evaporation helps to cool you off.

(b) your body temperature cannot rise above normal because the water in the air prevents overheating.

(c) the water in the air helps to conduct heat away from your body.

(d) Forget it! The premise is wrong. When the humidity is high, the apparent temperature is higher than the actual temperature on a warm day.

This page intentionally left blank r

CHAPTER

Was this article helpful?

0 0

Post a comment