SEA LEVEL: PAST AND FUTURE

By: Dr. Ricky Rood , 9:04 PM GMT on June 18, 2007

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Sea Level: Past and Future

About 10 years ago I went to Portchester Castle on the coast of England. This castle is built at sea level and has a moat that is filled with tidal water. The first enclosure is Roman, built in the third century. What strikes a climate person is that sea level has been stable for a long time. Here is great aerial photo of the castle from Goggle Maps.




Figure 1: Aerial photo of Portchester Castle


In the 10 April 2007 issue of EOS (The Transactions of the American Geophysical Union ), there was an article by John Day Jr. and co-authors on the emergence of civilizations after sea level stabilized following the last ice age. This article shows that cities and complex societies started to form about 1000 years after the sea level rise stabilized. The argument was that in this amount of time coastal ecosystems stabilized. This was a source of relatively easy food, hence calories, and having excess caloric energy is what allows people to move away from being primarily food collectors. This is one of several pieces of evidence of the co-evolution of thriving humanity and climate.

We have evolved, and we have changed our relationship with coastal ecosystems. We exploit ecosystems far from our homes. We have depleted the natural resources of coastal ecosystems, and we use aquaculture to generate food. Still, rapid sea level will be disruptive to this ecosystem and those who depend on it.

Looking into the future, however, brings a new problem. The Day et al. article cited above shows the development of cities along the coasts. Today people are moving to the cities, and more than half of the world's population lives in cities. By 2030 more than 60% of the people are projected to live in cities. (Here are current and projected urban centers from the consulting firm Demographia .) We have seen the emergence of mega-cities. A majority portion of population will live on a very small percentage of the land. And, like 6000 years ago, many of these cities are on the sea. Hence, when we think about the impact of climate change on people, we need to think specifically about how cities are impacted. Already stressed resources, like fresh water, are subject to additional stresses from climate change. Harbors, airports, roads, and buildings will be more vulnerable to storm damage and outright flooding. With the projected rise in sea level, we once again, link the stability of sea level rise to the stability and success of societies. Since significant sea level rise will occur, this leads to the question of adaptation--potentially relocation.

ricky


Day et al., 2007: The Emergence of Complex Societies after Sea Level Stabilized. EOS, Transactions of the American Geophysical Union, pp 169-170.

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88. ccharlottenz33
5:02 PM GMT on December 29, 2009
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87. MarcKeys
7:34 PM GMT on June 22, 2007
Wow, glad I bought a sailboat. When the water rises and the fuel runs out, I will be good to go. Just need some fresh water and food.
Key Largo Fishing
86. hcubed
1:49 PM GMT on June 22, 2007
To add even more, consider this:

The following is taken from the www.prb.org website:

In the United States, even with a large number of immigrants, natural increase (births minus deaths) accounts for 60% of population growth. If these patterns continue, the U.S. will likely remain the world's third-largest country (behind India and China ) through 2050.

(Added asterisks show "developing" countries)

The World’s 10 Largest Countries in Population
2006
Country (millions)
China 1,311 *
India 1,122 *
United States 299

Indonesia 225 *
Brazil 187 *
Pakistan 166 *
Bangladesh 147 *
Russia 142
Nigeria 135 *
Japan 128

2050
Country (millions)
India 1,628 *
China 1,437 *
United States 420

Nigeria 299 *
Pakistan 295 *
Indonesia 285 *
Brazil 260 *
Bangladesh 231 *
Dem. Rep. of Congo 183 *
Ethiopia 145 *

U.S. projected increase: 121 mil.

China projected increase: 126 mil.

India projected increase: 506 mil.

India's projected INCREASE will be more than the total population of the U.S!

Right now, all but 3 of the top 10 are "developing" countries. By 2050, the U.S. will be the ONLY developed country in the top 10.

"Also, if you start from the premise that anthropogenic CO2 emissions are a problem that needs to be addressed, I'd think that the country that is most responsible for creating the problem should take the most responsibility for fixing it."

The two leading "undeveloped" countries currently have 2025 million (2.05 BILLION) more people than the U.S.

Once again (bold print additions are mine):

The 1997 Kyoto Protocol is an international treaty that caps the amount of carbon dioxide that can be emitted from power plants and factories in industrialized countries. Currently, at least 3.293 billion people are exempt from its obligations ("developing" countries). By 2050, that number will increase to 4.468 billion.
Member Since: May 18, 2007 Posts: 289 Comments: 1639
85. hcubed
12:57 PM GMT on June 22, 2007
Posted By: AtsaFunny at 9:22 PM GMT on June 21, 2007.

The US is responsible for 25% of anthropogenic CO2 emissions; China 15%. I think that it will take more than "a couple of years" for them to catch up. Also, if you start from the premise that anthropogenic CO2 emissions are a problem that needs to be addressed, I'd think that the country that is most responsible for creating the problem should take the most responsibility for fixing it. If you don't believe that CO2 emissions are a problem, it's a bit disingenuous to play the China card. BTW, I'm not sure that I'd refer to a country that has the bomb and a manned space program as "non-developing".


Here's that link to the CNN China story:

Link

The area I'm referring to says:

"China has fallen under increasing pressure internationally to take more forceful measures to curb releases of greenhouse gases. The country relies on coal -- among the dirtiest of fuels -- to meet two-thirds of its energy needs and is projected to surpass the U.S. as the world's No. 1 emitter of greenhouse gases sometime in the next two years."

And it's the IPPC and the Kyoto treaty that considers China to be a "non-developed" country, not me.

"The 1997 Kyoto Protocol is an international treaty that caps the amount of carbon dioxide that can be emitted from power plants and factories in industrialized countries. Currently, developing countries like China and India are exempt from its obligations."

Member Since: May 18, 2007 Posts: 289 Comments: 1639
83. crucilandia
1:30 AM GMT on June 22, 2007
more O2 more forest fires

Oceans general circulation models predict that global warming may cause a decrease in the oceanic O2 inventory and an associated O2 outgassing. An independent argument is presented here in support of this prediction based on observational evidence of the ocean's biogeochemical response to natural warming. On time scales from seasonal to centennial, natural O2 flux/heat flux ratios are shown to occur in a range of 2 to 10 nmol of O2 per joule of warming, with larger ratios typically occurring at higher latitudes and over longer time scales
Member Since: March 6, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 2212
82. crucilandia
1:26 AM GMT on June 22, 2007
the direct decrease in pH due to ocean warming is approximately equal to but opposite in magnitude to the indirect increase in pH associated with ocean warming (ie reduced DIC concentration of the upper ocean caused by lower solubility of CO2).
Member Since: March 6, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 2212
81. NRAamy
11:36 PM GMT on June 21, 2007
Atsa...

Well, it's not my friend...and, my new friend, Cipro, is gonna take care of Mr. E real fast....


;)
Member Since: January 24, 2007 Posts: 317 Comments: 31946
80. AtsaFunny
11:02 PM GMT on June 21, 2007
Amy - sorry to hear about your GI difficulties; hope you start feeling better soon. I know that you're a bit angry with the E. coli right now but keep in mind that, for the most part, E. coli is our friend and constant companion. Don't let one bad strain turn you against the whole species. Get well.
79. NOLAinNC
9:42 PM GMT on June 21, 2007
from cnn.com

100-foot deep Andes lake disappears

SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) -- A five-acre glacial lake in Chile's southern Andes has disappeared -- and scientists want to know why.

Park rangers at Bernardo O'Higgins National Park said they found a 100-feet-deep crater in late May where the lake had been in March. Several large pieces of ice that used to float atop the water also were spotted.

"The lake had simply disappeared," Juan Jose Romero, head of Chile's National Forest Service in the southernmost region of Magallanes, said Wednesday. "No one knows what happened."

A group of geologists and other experts will be sent to the area 1,250 miles southeast of Santiago in the next few days to investigate, Romero said.

One theory is the water disappeared through cracks in the lake bottom into underground fissures. But experts do not know why the cracks would have appeared because there have been no earthquakes reported in the area recently, Romero said.

A river that flowed out of the lake was reduced to a trickle.
78. NRAamy
9:35 PM GMT on June 21, 2007
no....I'm home with E.coli....tainted hamburger meat....shoot me now, please....

Just say NO to E.coli!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Member Since: January 24, 2007 Posts: 317 Comments: 31946
77. AtsaFunny
9:32 PM GMT on June 21, 2007
Amy - You're now the referee to the nerds. Are you really that bored?
76. NRAamy
9:23 PM GMT on June 21, 2007
touche' Atsa!!

Score: Atsa, 1
hcubed, 0


;)

Member Since: January 24, 2007 Posts: 317 Comments: 31946
75. AtsaFunny
9:22 PM GMT on June 21, 2007
The US is responsible for 25% of anthropogenic CO2 emissions; China 15%. I think that it will take more than "a couple of years" for them to catch up. Also, if you start from the premise that anthropogenic CO2 emissions are a problem that needs to be addressed, I'd think that the country that is most responsible for creating the problem should take the most responsibility for fixing it. If you don't believe that CO2 emissions are a problem, it's a bit disingenuous to play the China card. BTW, I'm not sure that I'd refer to a country that has the bomb and a manned space program as "non-developing."
74. hcubed
7:22 PM GMT on June 21, 2007
Posted By: AtsaFunny at 6:45 PM GMT on June 21, 2007.

It looks to me like that 0.3% figure is the annual increase in per capita CO2 emissions. Even if that number was 0, we'd still see an increase in emissions due to population growth.


I'm sure that when they ran their models, they assumed a population growth (thus the need for increased electricity, transportation and manufacturing).

Still, there are areas of the world, "non-developed" areas, that far outstrip the increases the U.S. will have.

In a previous post, it was stated in a CNN article that China is projected to become the #1 polluter in a couple of years. Even if the U.S were to totally stop emissions, "non-developing" China would take up the slack.
Member Since: May 18, 2007 Posts: 289 Comments: 1639
73. AtsaFunny
7:02 PM GMT on June 21, 2007
"After a century of polar exploration, the past decade of satellite measurements has painted an altogether new picture of how Earth's ice sheets are changing. As global temperatures have risen, so have rates of snowfall, ice melting, and glacier flow. Although the balance between these opposing processes has varied considerably on a regional scale, data show that Antarctica and Greenland are each losing mass overall. Our best estimate of their combined imbalance is about 125 gigatons per year of ice, enough to raise sea level by 0.35 millimeters per year. This is only a modest contribution to the present rate of sea-level rise of 3.0 millimeters per year. However, much of the loss from Antarctica and Greenland is the result of the flow of ice to the ocean from ice streams and glaciers, which has accelerated over the past decade. In both continents, there are suspected triggers for the accelerated ice discharge—surface and ocean warming, respectively—and, over the course of the 21st century, these processes could rapidly counteract the snowfall gains predicted by present coupled climate models."

Andrew Shepherd and Duncan Wingham, Science 16 March 2007:Vol. 315. no. 5818, pp. 1529 - 1532
72. AtsaFunny
6:45 PM GMT on June 21, 2007
It looks to me like that 0.3% figure is the annual increase in per capita CO2 emissions. Even if that number was 0, we'd still see an increase in emissions due to population growth. I think the better number to look at is total US CO2 emissions which were 5945 million metric tons in 2005 and projected to be 7950 in 2030. This is a 34% increase in annual emissions after 25 years. The numbers are from the link provided by hcubed.
71. crucilandia
6:35 PM GMT on June 21, 2007
more updated values

http://www.eia.doe.gov/oiaf/1605/ggrpt/carbon.html
Member Since: March 6, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 2212
70. crucilandia
6:33 PM GMT on June 21, 2007
As I mentioned before Greenland and Antarctica gain ice mass during 1992 and 2003, despite global warming

energy consumption US

transportation 28%
industrial 38%
residential 36%

turn lights off and buy energy star appliances
Member Since: March 6, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 2212
69. hcubed
5:35 PM GMT on June 21, 2007
Posted By: RickyRood at 3:01 PM GMT on June 21, 2007.

Figure 1: Energy Consumption by Fuel from the Department of Energy, Energy Information Agency.


Since you're using this report as a source, do you have a comment about this chart from there? It projects the U.S. CO2 emissions rising 0.3% over the next 25 years.

Link

Care to compare that to the "non-developing" nations of China and India?
Member Since: May 18, 2007 Posts: 289 Comments: 1639
67. Dr. Ricky Rood , Professor
3:01 PM GMT on June 21, 2007
Hi, a couple of comments. Yes, there is an increase of snow in the central Greenland and central Antarctic ice sheet. They build. They melt at the edge. The important question is the mass balance, build up versus melt. Generally calculated to be decreasing. I had a series of blogs on ice melting, and the increase of Greenland and Antarctic snow a few months ago. They are in the archive.

Energy. Here's a plot of energy consumption. There are a lot of other plots at the web site I link to. Tranportation in the US is order 25 - 30 % of the total. This is petroleum, gasoline, dependent. As I recall (this is recall) if you break down the energy flow, gasoline is made largely from imported oil.



Figure 1: Energy Consumption by Fuel from the Department of Energy, Energy Information Agency.
Member Since: January 31, 2007 Posts: 322 Comments: 273
66. NRAamy
4:40 AM GMT on June 21, 2007
like those big windmills I see out near Palm Springs, California...those produce electricity...why not build more of those? They're as ugly as sin, but, as this point, who cares.....
Member Since: January 24, 2007 Posts: 317 Comments: 31946
65. NRAamy
4:37 AM GMT on June 21, 2007
Atsa...nah, you don't come off as mean....but you guys sure do like to break eachother's you-know-whats a lot on here...

;)

Thank you for the explanation...yes, I know coal is dirty...pollutes the sky....and as StSimon says ( ooh, I made a rhyme!!! say that three times fast!!) it is expensive to convert it to liquid fuel for cars....but, if transportation is the big user of fuels, why not build more generators of electricity? Cars can run on that...so could buses, taxis...maybe even airplanes I guess...

We don't need fossil fuels for electricity, right? Hey, I got a C in Physical Science, so cut me some slack boys....

;)
Member Since: January 24, 2007 Posts: 317 Comments: 31946
64. crucilandia
4:18 AM GMT on June 21, 2007
Coal is primarily used as a solid fuel to produce electricity and heat through combustion. World coal consumption is about 5,800 million short tons (5.3 petagrams) annually, of which about 75% is used for the production of electricity. The region including the People's Republic of China and India uses about 1,700 million long tons (1.5 Pg) annually, forecast to exceed 3,000 million short tons (2.7 Pg) in 2025.[4] The USA consumes about 1,100 million short tons (1.0 Pg) of coal each year, using 90% of it for generation of electricity. Coal is the fastest growing energy source in the world, with coal use increasing by 25% for the three-year period ending in December 2004 (BP Statistical Energy Review, June 2005).


Because coal is at least 50% carbon (by mass), then 1 kg of coal contains at least 0.5 kg of carbon, which is where 1 mol is equal to NA (Avogadro Number) particles. This combines with oxygen in the atmosphere during combustion, producing carbon dioxide, with an atomic weight of (12 + 16 × 2 = mass(CO2) = 44 kg/kmol). of CO2 is produced from the present in every kilogram of coal, which once trapped in CO2 weighs approximately .
Member Since: March 6, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 2212
63. crucilandia
4:14 AM GMT on June 21, 2007
1 gal of gas makes 8kg of CO2
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62. crucilandia
4:13 AM GMT on June 21, 2007
that's a lot of coal that will get burnt.
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61. crucilandia
4:12 AM GMT on June 21, 2007
lol amy is entertaining.
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60. crucilandia
4:09 AM GMT on June 21, 2007
no I was just quoting atmoexp that 10m (30ft) in 1000y is considered rapid melting.
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58. AtsaFunny
11:56 PM GMT on June 20, 2007
Amy - Damn, do I really come off as that mean of a guy. I was diagnosed as a terminal a**h*** a few years back and I vowed to overcome the affliction. Must have more work to do. But to your question (which I am not qualified in the least to answer. Help me somebody). I think the short answer is that you can't run a car on coal. Alright, not entirely true but close enough for right now. If I'm not mistaken, something like 70% of our energy use is related to transportation so an abundance of coal doesn't help us in the short term. Coal also has a reputation for being a dirty fuel so there is considerable opposition to new coal fueled power plants. I think this has been a big issue in Texas lately; maybe someone can add to this. In my opinion, the use of fossil fuels to meet our energy needs is unsustainable (wars in the Middle East, acid rain, global warming, smog, ground water contamination....) I'm thinking that is the energy crisis. Others may disagree. I'd like to hear.
57. NRAamy
10:07 PM GMT on June 20, 2007
Atsa, if we have enough coal for the next 600 years, where is the energy crisis? What am I missing here?


And don't dump on me like you do on cruc!! I'm not educated about this stuff!

;)
Member Since: January 24, 2007 Posts: 317 Comments: 31946
56. AtsaFunny
9:45 PM GMT on June 20, 2007
cruc-

1) from Wikipedia:
"In 1996 it was estimated that there was around one exagram (1 × 1015 kg or 1 trillion tonnes) of total coal reserves accessible using current mining technology, approximately half of it being hard coal. The energy value of all the world's coal is 290 zettajoules.[28] At the current global consumption of 15 terawatt,[29] there is enough coal to provide the entire planet with all of its energy for 600 years." link

2) Yesterday, you posted "It will take 600yrs to raise sea level 1 foot." Now you're saying 20ft in 600yrs (aka 10m within 1000 years). You have a change of heart?
55. Patrap
9:16 PM GMT on June 20, 2007
Sat pic of Shock Wave from Mt.St. Helens eruptiom, May 18th,19805
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 428 Comments: 129903
54. crucilandia
9:04 PM GMT on June 20, 2007
em>Rapid sea-level changes (10 meters within 1000 years

my point exactly
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53. crucilandia
8:23 PM GMT on June 20, 2007
The CO2 emissions from Orimulsion are 20% lower when compared to coal. Moreover, since Orimulsion is a liquid fuel, there are no emissions associated with fuel handling, unlike coal. Also, there are considerably lower amounts of ash (50 times less) using Orimulsion than using coal.

Orimulsion has been used as a commercial boiler fuel in power plants worldwide in such countries as UK , Canada , Denmark , Japan , Italy , Lithuania , China and Barbados , since the Commercial combustion trials initiated in 1986. Negotiations also are under way with electric utilities in Brazil , Costa Rica , Denmark , Finland , Germany , Guatemala , Northern Ireland , Philippines , Singapore , South Korea , Taiwan , Thailand and Turkey...
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52. atmoexp
8:21 PM GMT on June 20, 2007
The following is Spencer Weart's reference with his detailed notes -http://www.aip.org/history/exhibits/climate/index.html
"29. Following measurements of total heat absorbed by the oceans by Levitus et al. (2000) and Levitus et al. (2001), '20th-century sea level remains an enigma — we do not know whether warming or melting was dominant, and the budget is far from closed,' according to Munk (2003). IPCC (2001), pp. 641-42, estimated 0.1 to 0.4 m rise from thermal expansion with a total anywhere between 0.1 and 0.88 m. The problem will be compounded in many river deltas (Nile, Ganges, Mississippi, etc.) by a half meter or so of subsidence, thanks to dams that impound sediment and the withdrawal of water from aquifers. Rapid sea-level changes (10 meters within 1000 years) were found in ancient coral reefs: Thompson and Goldstein (2005)."
I thought this might be helpful.
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51. crucilandia
8:20 PM GMT on June 20, 2007
The only place I know that have fossil fuel supply that can maintain the world for 200 yrs is venezuela.

Bitumen orimulsion
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50. crucilandia
8:10 PM GMT on June 20, 2007
Simon

I know that coal is found on the ground. My point was, whre is this amaizing storage that will give us energy for 300 ys.

I know CO2 is homogenized in the troposhere, point is cities absorb lots of heat and hold to that heat longer if otherwise we had natural cover.
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49. Snowfire
6:46 PM GMT on June 20, 2007
If the price of oil reaches some threshold such as described, it will become cheaper to make liquid fuels from coal than it will be to pump oil. That may or may not forestall exploitation of tar sands, depending on the relative price of the two options. Neither is good news for GW, but there may be a sea-change in the international political picture if (or should I say when?) petroleum becomes uncompetitive. There will be big winners and losers in the short term. It's anyone's guess how far we are from this scenario right now, but my hunch is not very.
Member Since: June 29, 2005 Posts: 24 Comments: 311
48. atmoexp
6:42 PM GMT on June 20, 2007
"At least one thing was certain. If temperatures climbed a few degrees, as most climate scientists now considered likely, the sea level would rise simply because water expands when heated. This is almost the only thing about global change that can be calculated directly from basic physics. The additional effects of glacier melting are highly uncertain (scientists were still arguing over how much of the 20th century’s sea level rise was due to heat expansion and how much to ice melting). In 2001 an international panel of experts made a rough guess for the total rise expected by the end of the 21st century — perhaps half a meter. Later studies of glaciers in Greenland and Antarctica raised worries it might be twice that.(29*)"
From Ricky Rood's excellent source: http://www.aip.org/history/exhibits/climate/index.html
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47. NRAamy
5:28 PM GMT on June 20, 2007
Really, you did know that coal is found in the ground. Didn't you?

You guys crack me up....this is one of the best shows on here, I swear...

:)
Member Since: January 24, 2007 Posts: 317 Comments: 31946
46. Thundercloud01221991
5:25 PM GMT on June 20, 2007
You can talk about global warming on my forum here

Link
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44. desertdisaster
2:48 PM GMT on June 20, 2007
It seems that the scientific community has extremists on both sides… Some are predicting absolute Chaos, massive extinctions amongst the biodiversity, unpredictable and abrupt changes & ultimately the end of humanity, as we know it! Others are predicting a natural return to cooler temperatures and very slow changes despite the fast rising CO2 levels! The vast majority of the scientific community is somewhere in-between those two extremes.

The models, so far seems to follow the “business as usual” scenario of the IPCC reports, but will there be unpredicted abrupt changes? To examine that question requires a clear analysis of the data, and examination of what models suggests, but so far, there is insufficient data to make such a prediction at the moment. What we know is that; if the West Antarctic ice sheet melted, then sea level would rise by about 7 m (20 feet), the same as would happen if the Greenland ice sheet melted completely. However, if the Greenland ice started melting and raised sea level by only 1 m, that might destabilize the West Antarctic ice sheet. The consequent rise in sea level around the Greenland coast could accelerate the melting there… you have here, one example of what as not been taken in consideration in the IPCC reports.

That is why some scientifics are worried! Hopefully they worry for nothing!
43. crucilandia
12:56 PM GMT on June 20, 2007
1. I think global warming is anthropogenic we have already changed the CO2 concentrations more than they shifted between prior ice ages and interglacials.
- not true, after the LGM, we had temp higher than todays for many decades

2. I think fossil fuels are very abundant, especially as prices rise--the tar sands and oil shales of Alberta and the Orinoco basin hold trillions of barrels of oil that become profitable if prices stay above $80/$100 bbl for long, and with rising demand from India and China that will happen Coal won't run out, in the USA if you assume a 3% growth rate in coal consumption, doubling every 25 years coal will run out--In 300 years!
- where is all this coal?
- oil sands use so much solvent to process that is almost not profitable.

3. Urban heat island is not the major cause of global warming--in the arctic and Antarctic peninsula where warming is greatest, there are no large cities.

- heat from cities is carried polewards by wind and do reach the poles.
- if CO2 is causing warming, is all CO2 in the poles?
Member Since: March 6, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 2212
41. weatherboykris
2:55 AM GMT on June 20, 2007
2200?LOL,making such a prediction for 2200 assumes several things:

1.That GW is anthropogenic.If it's not,we should start cooling in 15-25 years.
2.If you believe we are warming due to greenhouse gases,how much fossil fuel do you think we have left?We're out of it by 2080.
3.That the urban heat island is causing GW.Eventually,human expansion will cease,and the temperature will stabilize,if this is the cause.

Member Since: December 9, 2006 Posts: 125 Comments: 11346
38. AtsaFunny
1:58 AM GMT on June 20, 2007
Amy - The spanish thing probably not going to help you too much in Brazil (my first choice of equatorial type countries). Don't know much (read nothing) about Ecuador but I think they do Spanish there. I'd probably stay from equatorial Africa if I were you.

weatherboykris - I'm guessing that you're talking about Greenland or Antarctica when it comes to ice sheets. But, whatever the source, if the ice has been stable, why are the sea levels rising? And if that graph is showing the extent of the ice sheet -- it really hasn't been stable, has it?

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About RickyRood

I'm a professor at U Michigan and lead a course on climate change problem solving. These articles often come from and contribute to the course.

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