No, that was not a wacky idea from a self-proclaimed alarmist. It is a fact with which the vast majority of the scientific community agrees. Still, so many people around the world are nitpicking at best —and flat-out disbelieving at worst —the scientific evidence on the matter.
There are a number of reasons why a person could choose to believe that global warming is not happening at all. Two of the main ones are misinformation and disinformation. Which end up being the same, really. So, if you are a frequent reader, or a new one (Welcome!), looking to be convinced, here are 9 signs that global warming is for real.
1. ECOSYSTEMS ARE GOING CRAZY
If you are cheering for longer summers, you may want to think twice.
Changes in climate, soil and other factors caused by global warming are disrupting ecosystems. Animals —and in general, all forms of life— are very closely related to the space they inhabit, hence why even small changes in it can wreak havoc in any bionetwork.
In this post we cited the up-hill migration of Andean tree species to find cooler areas that support their existence. One of the main effects of global warming on ecosystems is the disruption of their habitat ranges —the locations in which they can survive and reproduce. Much like the Andean trees, many species are moving northward and upwards to escape warmer temperatures. This can result in range expansion for some species, while it means range reduction for others. Habitat rage disruption can also cause the movement of a species into a less hospitable area or increased competition. The worst case scenario? That the species has nowhere else to go and perishes.
But habitat ranges are not the only ones affected. Food chains and seasonal life-cycle events are changing too! Warmer temperatures have a hand in rising sea levels, which means that salt water is now intruding freshwater ecosystems. The consequence? Key species are forced to relocate or die, which means that some predators and prey are being removed from the food chain. Moreover, warmer seasons are causing stages of the annual life cycle, such as migration, blooming and mating, to start earlier.
FIGHTING FOR THEIR LIVES
In addition to this, there are threshold effects and the proliferation of parasites and pathogens in places where they formerly didn’t exist. Bottom line? Extinction. As of July 13th, 2016 the IUCN Red List cited 49 species as extinct due to climate change, severe weather and pollution, while over a thousand were critically endangered due to the same factors.
2. HUMIDITY IS GOING UP!
Sources: Climate Education for K-12 (NC State University),
Everyone’s best friend is taking the center of the stage thanks to global warming.
Humidity chart shows an increasing trend on humidity levels in the atmosphere - Photo Credit: NOAA through the Climate Reality Project
Humidity is a measure of how much water vapor there is in the air. Besides ruining your hairdo humidity has a huge impact on the health of humans, animals and plants. It affects the ability of plants and animals to regulate their inner temperatures through evaporation and similar processes, and it plays a vital role in cloud formation and precipitation.
But not all is fine and dandy. While humidity contributes to the Earth’s natural greenhouse effect and the positive feedback of global warming, humans aren’t too keen on it. In fact, they hate it. More humidity in the air, as noted by the Climate Reality Project is bound to make more people turn up their air conditioners, which results in more energy use. We all know what happens from there.
3. MORE EXTREME WEATHER EVENTS
Global warming and climate change are increasing the chances for extreme weather events. Severe droughts, stronger tropical storms and hurricanes, as well as flash floods –they are all happening now.
Severe droughts, heatwaves, tropical storm, floods and extreme precipitation will become more frequent because of global warming - Photo Credit: Wikipedia
While some may argue that this has nothing to do with global warming, that is not the reality. Among the consequences of global warming is an “increase in both ocean evaporation into the atmosphere and the amount of water vapor the atmosphere can hold” (UCSUSA, W/D). High humidity levels create more favorable conditions for heavier precipitation. Other events, like droughts, more frequent heat waves and less frequent cold waves are product of a changing climate and increasingly warm conditions.
The most notorious weather anomaly in recent times was 2015’s unusually strong El Niño, which caused drought in many parts of the world and heavy precipitations in others.
4. HEATWAVES ARE BECOMING A COMMON THING
Source: Heat Waves: The Details (Climate Communication)
Global warming has brought in more frequent and more severe heat waves. They have killed thousands in recent years and will continue to do so, if global warming continues unharnessed.
A tiger embraces a big lump of ice to beat the heat in the midst of a heat wave in Karachi - Photo Credit: Wikipedia
Over the last three to four decades, the frequency with which long periods of abnormally hot weather occur has increased. In this time, there has been an increasing trend for high-humidity, high night-time temperature heatwaves. These heatwaves are potentially deadly, especially for the elderly, as high night-time temperatures mean no relief from the heat.
Low-humidity heatwaves fueled by global warming have also been on the rise, causing disastrous wildfires. The aftermath leaves multi-million dollar property damages and the loss of human lives, as well as precious biodiversity in the affected areas.
5. THE AVERAGE AIR TEMPERATURE OVER LAND AND SEA IS GETTING WARMER
December 2015–February 2016 Blended Land and Sea Surface Temperature Anomalies in degrees Celsius - Photo Credit: NOAA
2015 was the hottest year on record, and 2016 has a 99% chance of stealing that title. By the end of last year, the global average surface temperature ranked at 0.76 °C over the 1961-1990 average. This was the first time global surface temperatures were above 1°C from pre-industrial era averages. As of April 2015, temperatures were hovering around 1.5°C (Climate Central, 2016) above pre-industrial averages.
The results? More floods, hurricanes and extreme precipitation events. On the other end of the spectrum? Intense droughts that entail failed crops, wildfires, low water supplies, etc.
6. SEA SURFACE TEMPERATURES ARE INCREASING
Increase in water temperature at sea surface level - Photo redit: NOAA through the Climate Reality Project
Water temperatures at the ocean’s surface are going up. This, much like humidity, is part of a natural process in which the ocean waters warm when they absorb sunlight. Part of that heat is then radiated into the atmosphere, creating wind, rain and clouds. Global warming is amplifying this effect, which can result in stronger and more frequent tropical storms and hurricanes.
7. THE OCEAN’S HEAT CONTENT IS INCREASING
The oceans store heat and the release part of it. In recent years and due to global warming, oceans have been absorbing more and more heat, which causes waters to warm and oceans to radiate more heat - Photo Credit: NOAA through the Climate Reality Project
The ocean absorbs and releases heat as a part of a natural cycle which helps stabilize the climate system. In recent years, ice sheets have been losing size, which means that less sunlight is being reflected towards the atmosphere and hence, more heat is being stored in the ocean.
This is a chicken-and-egg problem, because warmer ocean waters also lead to more ice loss. They also affect climate patterns, such as El Niño, and cause stress in marine ecosystems.
8. GLACIERS, PERMAFROST AND ICE SHEETS? ALL ARE MELTING!
Top: Extent of multiyear Arctic Sea Ice Age in 2012. Bottom: Extent of multiyear Arctic Sea Ice Age in 1980 - Photo Credit: Wikipedia
The Greenland ice-sheet has been melting at an alarming pace since 1979, peaking in 2007. The accumulation of winter show has been able to offset the melt, but the latter is still outpacing accumulation. This is due to warmer temperatures and the movement of glaciers.
Also, the Arctic sea-ice extent reached its 4th lowest minimum during summer 2015. Unlike 2012’s critical levels, this was not caused by any weather event and shows a more worrisome pattern. Arctic sea ice thinned by 65% between 1979 and 2012 and Arctic permafrost is thawing.
Antarctica has also been affected. Antarctica's ice cover showed a drastic decrease in mid-August last year, with West Antarctica being the most affected area. In fact, the entire area has showed a warming of 2.5°C since 1950.
THE RESULTS? GLOBAL WARMING IS CAUSING SEA LEVELS TO RISE
Ground ice can contribute to sea level rise if it is melting at a faster pace than snow is accumulating on shore - Photo Credit: Wikipedia
According to the Climate Reality Project, sea levels have been rising for the last century. This has been exacerbated in recent years by the increasingly fast pace with which glaciers are melting and ocean waters are warming. This puts people and freshwater ecosystems at risk.
9. CARBON DIOXIDE LEVELS REACHED 400 PPM AND THE OCEANS ARE BECOMING MORE ACIDIC
The Met Office forecasts 2016 will see annual CO2 concentrations breach 400 parts per million. To keep below global warming of 2C - the ‘safe’ level - concentrations must be kept below 450ppm. - Photo Credit: OCO-2 /JPL-Caltech/NASA
According to a new Met Office study, atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide will go well above 400 ppm this year and will not go down in our lifetime. While historically the annual increase in carbon dioxide levels hovers around 2.1 ppm, this year is set to mirror 2015 and surpass the 3.1 ppm mark thanks in part to the cyclical El Niño event.
Mauna Loa Observatory CO2 concentration in atmosphere record for the last 5 years - NOAA
It is worth noting that oceans have absorbed at least 1/3 of carbon dioxide emissions produced by human activities since 1800 and about half of those resulting from burning fossil fuels. High concentrations of carbon dioxide in the oceans have showed to increase the waters’ pH, which puts ocean life forms at the face of mass extinction. This is happening now and it’s happening quickly: At least 93% of the Great Barrier Coral Reef has experimented bleaching thanks to warmer and more acidic waters.