These climate change? – What are the

These climate change
skeptics rise to the top in google searches. Some say they don’t want to
believe in climate change because they are scared of the consequences it may
bring. Climate change is a frequently discussed topic nowadays. You will find
thousands of articles on it on the internet, a form or consequence of climate
change is on the news almost every day, kids study climate change in schools,
etc. It seems to be a global issue we are all contributing too.

But why is climate
change such a highlighted topic these days? That is the main question of this
Social Research Report. To substantiate the answer to the main question, I
answered three sub questions which are:

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–         
What climates
do we know and what are their characteristics

–         
What causes
climate change?

–         
What are the
effects of climate change?

 

BODY

 

WHAT CLIMATES DO WE KNOW AND WHAT ARE THEIR CHARACTERISTICS?

First of all the
obvious question, what are climates? The definition of a climate is:      
the composite or generally prevailing weather conditions of a region
as temperature, air pressure, humidity, precipitation, sunshine,
cloudiness, and winds, throughout the year, averaged over a series of
years. Climates create differences
in weather. Different climates are the reason we leave our home and go on a
vacation to a warmer country. How many different climates are there, and what
makes each one different?

The American climatologist
Charles Thornthwaite developed a climate classification system in 1948
which is still used by scientists today. The three major groups in
Thornthwaite’s climate classification are microthermal, mesothermal, and
megathermal. Even though this system is still used very often, there is a more
popular way to classify climates. The Russian-German scientist, Wladimir Koppen
proposed a climate classification system in 1900. By studying vegetation,
temperature, and precipitation data of certain areas, he and other scientists
developed a system for naming climate regions. According to the climate
classification system Koppen created, there are five climate groups: tropical, dry, mild, continental,
and polar. Each one of these climates have further sub-groups that are divided
into climate types.

A tropical climate has
three climate types; wet (rain forest), monsoon and wet and dry (savanna).

Tropical Wet: Rain
Forests                                                                                                                                                                    Rain forests, are places
with a tropical wet climate. These regions are on and around the equator and
have the most predictable weather on earth, consisting of warm weather and
rainfall. Before dawn the coolest temperature,  20° to 23° Celsius, usually arises. The
temperatures in the afternoon normally reach up 
30° to 33° Celsius. There is little to no seasonal change in the rain
forests. Average monthly temperatures remain quite constant throughout the
year. Some tropical wet climates have a large amount of rainfall throughout the
year. Others experience more rainfall during the summer or winter, but they
never have out of the ord. The United States, state of Hawaii; Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia; and Belém, Brazil, are examples of areas with tropical wet climates.

Tropical Monsoon                                                                                                                                                              Tropical monsoon climates
are mostly found in Southern Asia and West Africa. A monsoon is a wind system,
it reverses its direction every six months. In the summer, monsoons usually
flow from sea to land and in the winter they flow in the opposite direction.
Large amounts of rainfall are brought to tropical monsoon regions by summer
monsoons. Famous for their monsoon climate patterns are India and
Bangladesh.                                                                                                     

Tropical Wet and Dry:
Savanna                                                                                                                                                       Tropical wet and dry
climates are often referred to as “savanna” climates due to the grassland
ecosystems that are formed by wet as well as periods. Tropical wet and dry
climates have three seasons. The first season is cold and dry, followed by the
second season which is hot and dry. The last season is hot and wet. Life in the
tropical wet and dry climates is dependent on the third season’s rainfall. During
years when rainfall is minimal, humans and animals suffer from drought with
scarcity of water and food. During extreme wet years the abundant rainfall can
cause floods with subsequent hazards for animal and human life.  Havana, Cuba; Kolkata, India; and Africa’s
vast Serengeti Plain are tropical wet and dry areas.                                         

The Dry climate is
further divided into arid and semiarid areas.

Dry arid                                                                                                                                                                                             Arid climates usually receive 10 to 30 centimetres of rain each year.
The temperatures in arid areas vary largely during the day and during seasons.
The hottest zones in the world classify under dry arid regions. The temperature
in the arid North African town of El Aziza, Libya, reached 58° Celsius on
September 13, 1922, which is the highest weather temperature ever recorded. Due
to the high temperatures and lack of rainfall, arid areas tend to have little
to no vegetation.  These arid areas
include most of Africa and parts of South America, Central America and
Australia.

Dry semiarid                                                                                                                                                                      Semiarid climates commonly
receive 25 to 50 centimetres of rainfall per year. This only seems to be a
little bit more than arid areas but semiarid areas receive, in contrast to arid
areas, enough rainfall to support extensive grasslands. They are often located
between arid and tropical areas. An example of a region with a semiarid climate
is the Australian Outback.

The Mild climate
contains: Mediterranean, Humid subtropical and Marine.

Mediterranean                                                                                                                                                                 
Mediterranean climates have warm summers and their winters are mild and
rainy. These climates are
found along the shores of the Mediterranean Sea and are on the west coasts of
continents between 30° and 40° latitude. Some characteristics of the
Mediterranean summer are: chilly nights, little rainfall and clear skies. Besides
the countries along the shores of the Mediterranean Sea, other examples of
countries with a Mediterranean climate are California, United States; Western
and South Australia; and Central Chile.

Humid Subtropical                                                                                                                                                                   
Contrary to Mediterranean climates, Humid subtropical regions are
mostly found on the eastern side of the continents. Summers can reach high temperatures
and are humid, while the winters can be extremely cold. There is precipitation
in all seasons which can add up 76 to 165 centimetres a year.  Rough storms such as hurricanes are familiar
to these areas.

Marine                                                                                                                                                                                                              The Marine climate is a mild
one but with longer, colder winter than Mediterranean climates. It drizzles a
lot in these areas and winter temperatures vary around 5° Celsius. Cities with
typical marine climates are Seattle in the United States and Wellington, New
Zealand.

The Continental
climate is also divided into three groups: Warm summer, Cool summer and Subarctic
(boreal).

Warm Summer                                                                                                                                                                         Warm summer climates are quite similar to
monsoon climates due to the wet summer seasons. The climate type is therefore
also called “humid continental”. All three continental climates only exist in
the Northern hemisphere.

Cool Summer                                                                                                                                                                         Cool summer climates are
known for their harsh weather. They have winters with low temperatures and
snow. Cold winds  from the Artic cause
temperatures to drop steeply during winter time. Cool summer climates
experience extreme seasonal changes.

Subarctic (boreal)                                                                                                                                                                  Subarctic climates are also called boreal climates
or taiga. They are usually northern regions with cool summers and quite long and
very cold winters with little precipitation. Scandinavia and Siberia are
examples of areas with a Subarctic climate.

Lastly we have the
Polar climate which has two sub groups: Tundra and Ice cap.

Tundra                                                                                                                                                                                          Typical tundra
climates have short growing seasons but still have plenty of animals and
vegetation.  The word “tundra” usually
refers to areas with a permanent frozen subsoil. The highest temperatures, in
July, only reach up to 10° Celsius. Tundra’s usually occur in the northern
hemisphere, like the artic.

Ice cap                                                                                                                                                                                             The ice cap climates of the
Artic and Antarctic are the coldest climates on Earth. Few adapted species
survive in these rough areas. Even in the summer, temperatures rarely rise
above freezing. Because there is a low amount of precipitation, Antarctica is
one of the largest, driest deserts on Earth.

 

WHAT CAUSES CLIMATE CHANGE?

Climate does not change
from day to day like weather does. Climate changes over time and the study of
historic climate change is called paleoclimatology. As mentioned, climate
change happens slower than weather, in fact it takes hundreds or sometimes even
thousands of years for a climate to change. There are many reasons climate
change happens. Different natural activities can also influence the climate.
Glaciers, insects, vegetation and change in sea level are included in this
list.

Another example of
natural phenomena influencing climate is the movement of tectonic plates. The
Earth’s crust is divided into plates, magmatic currents below the Earth’s
surface cause the plates to move along currents. First of all, plate tectonics
cause a change in the ocean’s current, which in turn generates more heat.
Secondly, when plates shift and cause volcanic eruptions, the amounts of carbon
dioxide and sulfur dioxide in the atmosphere increase, causing a rise in the
global temperature. However, a volcanic eruption can also have other effects on
the climate, as described after the eruption of the island volcano of Krakatoa,
Indonesia, in 1883. After the eruption, winters and even summers in Asia and
Europe were colder and darker because volcanic ashes blocked the sun. Climates
around the world were changed for years. 

Named after the
mathematician Milutin Milankovic, Milankovic cycles are slow variations in the
Earth’s tilt and rotation. These
cycles include changes in the angle and direction of the axis on which the
Earth rotates as well as the changes in the shape of the Earth’s orbit. These
are slow and regular changes that cause change in the amount of solar radiation
that reaches the Earth’s surface. Scientists believe that these cycles affect
our climates.

These two examples are
climate changing phenomena that are not created by humans. The current period
of climate change is often called “global warming”. The definition of global
warming is: a gradual increase in the overall temperature of the earth’s
atmosphere generally attributed to the greenhouse effect caused by increased
levels of carbon dioxide, CFCs, and other pollutants. The greenhouse effect is
a natural process. But nowadays this greenhouse effect is enlarged due to the
extra so called “greenhouse gasses” that humans emit into the atmosphere in
large quantities. Human activities that include burning fossil fuels and
cutting down forests release greenhouse gases into the atmosphere at an
unprecedented rate. These gasses are trapped in the planet’s lower atmosphere,
in turn trapping the sun’s light reflected by the Earth’s surface. On average,
the planet’s temperature has risen with 1.1° Celsius since the late 19th
century.

 

WHAT ARE THE EFFECTS OF CLIMATE CHANGE?

Even though climate
change might not be affecting you directly, there are many parts of the world
that have already met the devastating effects of climate change. The effects of
climate change start with the impacts climate change has on the world’s flora
and fauna. This will in its turn have consequences for humans and our economy.

The oceans are heating
up, there is no denying it. In the north-Atlantic ocean, fish, zooplankton,
seabirds and other species are moving towards the poles to escape the rising
temperatures. In the Mediterranean Sea, some species have ceased to exist while
warm-water species are invading the waters. A large part of the fishing
industry is lost due to the migration of  fish. Ninety percent of the activities in the fishing
industry is performed by people in poorer countries who are at risk of losing
their jobs. Areas like central and western Africa, Peru and Columbia rely on
the seas for their food. Famine will strike areas like these if all the fish
disappeared. Unlike fish, coral reefs have no way to escape rising temperatures
of the ocean waters.  All around the
world coral reefs are bleaching and dying. As coral reefs harbour an enormous
biodiversity of fish and other sea creatures, the irreversible vanishing of the
reefs will affect millions of people relying on the reef’s ecosystems for food
and employment.

Due to the global
rising of temperatures, sea ice, glaciers and ice sheets are melting at an
alarming rate.  The melting of these ices
cause sea levels to rise dangerously. Low-laying countries like The
Netherlands, are threatened by the rising sea level. If these levels continue
to rise the way they are now, it will only be a matter of decades before such
countries are threatened by serious flooding. The melting of sea ice on the
arctic has a devastating effect on species like polar bears and sea lions.
Scientist are for the first time finding polar bears that have drowned due to
the distances they have to swim before finding a piece of sea ice thick enough
to hold them. The food security for the indigenous people who live in the
arctic is also threatened.

The heat in the
atmosphere can also increase the interaction of diverse weather systems.
Unusually arid climates in a semi-arid region may experience prolonged
droughts, for instance. In regions with mild climates, the increased
atmospheric moisture associated with humid climates may increase the likelihood
of hurricanes and typhoons. These extreme storms kill people, leave people
homeless and may cost a country billions to rebuild houses and infrastructure. 

These are only a few
examples of the impact climate change has. The dramatic effects on nature,
animals and humans have increased the urgency to study climate change, discuss
this subject on a national and international level and to take measures to
prevent further rising of the global temperature. Preventive measures will
require a change in human behaviour, for instance changes in our food patterns
and mobility. For instance, we will have to eat less meat and start using
electric cars instead of vehicles that depend on the combustion of fossil fuels.
Such changes in human behaviour are difficult to achieve and that is probably one
of the reasons that climate change is such a hot topic. Most people realize
they have to change the way they live but simply cannot or don’t want to
because they are used to a comfortable way of living with plenty of food and
one or maybe even two cars. Governments and many non-governmental organisations
try to create awareness among people that time is running out and we need to change
our way of living fast. As stated at the beginning of this report, there is
also a large group of opponents of these changes who do not believe that there
is a climate change at all. As discussions are largely on changing human
behaviour, the debate between believers and non-believers of climate change can
sometimes be intense.

 

CONCLUSION

 

We have discussed five
different climate groups: tropical, dry, mild, continental, and polar. Each of
these climate groups have their own subgroups and each of these subgroups have
their own characteristics. These climates can change over longer periods of
time due to natural factors like tectonic plate movement and Milankovic cycles.
However, the emission of greenhouse gasses by human activity also contributes
to the changing of climates through global warming. Global warming spreads its
effects on nature, the civilization and its economy. These are almost always
long-term effects that have a negative impact on the planet. Threats such as
famine, unemployment and deadly storms such as hurricanes is what causes fear
amongst people, and fear in its turn causes people to discuss the subject. The
“climate change skeptics”, try to out their opinion that there is no climate
change at all. In the coming decades we will probably see major changes in
human behaviour in an attempt to stop the climate change that may have been caused
largely by our own actions.