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Global Warming Our planet's atmosphere traps energy just like a greenhouse. Energy from the Sun can enter the Earth's

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Global Warming

Our planet's atmosphere traps energy just like a greenhouse. Energy from the Sun can enter the Earth’s atmosphere, but not all of it can easily find its way out again.

What blocks the Sun’s energy from escaping from the Earth? Unlike a greenhouse, the Earth does not have a layer of glass over it! Instead, molecules in our atmosphere called greenhouse gasses absorb the heat. Greenhouse gasses include water vapor, methane, ozone, nitrous oxide, and carbon dioxide. There may not be much of some of these gasses in our atmosphere, but they can have a big impact. Each greenhouse gas molecule is made of three or more atoms that are bonded loosely together. These molecules are able to absorb heat, which makes them vibrate. They eventually release the heat energy and it is often absorbed by another greenhouse gas molecule.

The greenhouse effect is useful because trapping some energy keeps the temperatures on our planet mild and suitable for living things. Without its atmosphere and the greenhouse effect, the average temperature at the surface of the Earth would be zero degrees Fahrenheit. However, too many greenhouse gases can cause the temperature to increase out of control.

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Sea level rise is another effect of climate change. This will happen as temperatures rise, and warm water will occupy more space than cold water, flooding low lying areas (sea level rise is not primarily due to melting polar ice caps). Again, there is disagreement as to how much the sea level will rise. Many of the world's cities and much agricultural land are in the threatened zones.

As the global temperature rises, the distribution of plants and animals will be changed. Again, the consequences are unpredictable, but countries that now have rich agricultrual land could find these less productive: others may find poor areas improved.

Wildlife already faces a number of threats and many species and habitats are vulnerable to human activities. Although we. re not sure how climate change will affect wildlife, it is clear that its impact will make things worse.

Many types of wildlife depend on natural signals, such as temperature or day length, to time their life cycles, and if some of these signals alter due to climate change, the timing of life cycles will change. A study of birds across the UK from 1971 to 1995 shows that 63% of the species are showing a tendency to nest earlier.

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Methane can also be trapped by permafrost layers which over-lay lower unfrozen layers of vegetable material that is decaying and producing methane which remains trapped by the frozen permafrost on top. If the permafrost layer were to melt then the methane in the layers below would escape into the atmosphere. Given the vast areas of permafrost in northern latitudes there is a significant potential for methane to be trapped that would be released if the permafrost melted as a result of global warming.

The theory for these rapid rises and falls of temperature, based on the geological records from 55 million years ago, is that gradual global warming due to some natural cause had resulted in temperatures 5 to 7 degrees centigrade higher than average ( i.e. higher than today's temperatures). At this point methane trapped in methane hydrate deposits started to be released into the atmosphere and accelerated the rate of warming. This would result in further warming releasing more methane. As the atmosphere warmed different types of methane deposits would start to be released and so a cycle of methane release leading to increased warming leading to more methane release from other areas of methane deposits elsewhere in the world would become established as global warming effected different areas of the world.

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