Professor Linda Day
Engl. 1-A Research Paper
April 27, 2010
Man made, or the Earth’s Natural Cycle?
Breaking news: On April 21st, 2010, Eyjafjailajokull volcano in Iceland erupted, and has continued to be active for the last four days. (ABC News) Since the first of the year 2010, there have been approximately twenty volcano eruptions or volcanic activity all over the world. (Rajai’s) Pretty alarming when you think about it, so why the increase in these natural occurring events? Alarmist would have you believe that a lot of the increase in global events like hurricanes, volcanic eruptions, severe weather conditions, and droughts are due to global warming. The facts: Volcano activity actually helps cool the earth. According to Walker, and King, “when volcanoes erupt they shot vast quantities of ash that contain huge amounts of aerosols into the air far above the weather systems. This ash and droplets of sulfate put out by volcanoes can sometimes live long enough to cause significant cooling of the Earth. (21) “Such was the case in 1991, when Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines erupted with dramatic effect, it spurted a huge amount of aerosols twenty miles into the air. These aerosols where so high that over the next eighteen months they spread around the world and the global temperatures cooled by about 0.9 degrees F.” (Walker, King) I have mentioned volcanoes are natural occurring events that help cool the Earth. Yet you have a lot of people that seem to think that the Earth is warming, and many believe humans are the cause of it. Since global warming has become such a hot topic, the debate or controversy is whether global warming is real and if so, is humanity responsible or is it the Earth’s natural cycle? So let’s examine these two questions. What is global warming, and what causes global warming? The Answers:
Revkin states, “Global warming is the warming that happens when certain gases in the Earth’s atmosphere trap heat causing the “greenhouse effect.” (63) According to Revkin,” Most of the suns energy travels to Earth as visible light, this sunlight shines on the Earth’s surface where it is absorbed and warms things up. This heat is then radiated back into space as infrared radiation which basically is simple energy.” (63) For example, whenever you go camping people usually place rocks in the bottom of their camp fire, long after the fire is out those rocks will radiate heat, which is a form of infrared radiation. Revkin continues; “the greenhouse gases act like a blanket and various gases like water vapor, carbon dioxide, chlorofluorocarbon, methane, and nitrous oxide trap this energy before it escapes back into space further warming the atmosphere (63-64). McCaffrey wrote, “Scientist have known about the green house effect since 1824, where Joseph Fourier calculated that the Earth would be much colder if it had no atmosphere. This greenhouse effect is what keeps the Earth’s climate livable. Without it, the Earth’s surface would be about 60 degrees Fahrenheit cooler (5-6). “In 1895, the Swedish chemist Svante Arrhenius discovered that humans could enhance the greenhouse effect by making carbon dioxide, a green house gas. He kicked off 100 hundred years of climate research that has given us an understanding of global warming…” (McCaffrey). So now we understand that we need greenhouse gas to live on our planet Earth, so what is all the fuss about? Here is the fear according National Geographic,”Glaciers are melting, sea levels are rising, cloud forests are drying, and wildlife is scrambling to keep pace. It's becoming clear that humans have caused most of the past century's warming by releasing heat-trapping gases as we power our modern lives. Called greenhouse gases, their levels are higher now than in the last 650,000 years. (Global Warming)) So where do these greenhouse gases (GHG) come from? According to the Environment Investigation Agency (EIA),”In the United...