Global Warming - the Melting of Polar Icecaps and its Affects and Effects on New York City


Global Warming - the Melting of Polar Icecaps and its Effects on New York City

It is a winter day in the middle of January in New York City. People step out of their houses bundled up in jackets, sweaters, hats, scarves, gloves and other clothes that could keep them warm. However, once they step out of their houses, they are welcomed with a warm draft instead of the cold bursts of air that they got last year. All of a sudden, they realize just how warm it is. So far this winter, it has snowed once. What exactly is happening with the weather?

What is global warming?
Global warming refers to an average increase in the Earth's temperature that might turn out to cause changes in the climate. A warmer earth can lead to changes in rainfall patterns, unusually strong storms, rises in sea level and may have a broad range of impacts on plants, wildlife and humans. Higher temperatures can have many dangerous consequences such as droughts, diseases, floods and lost ecosystems.

What are the causes of global warming?
Scientists believe that the burning of fossil fuels like coal and oil cause greenhouse gasses to escape into the air and that these gasses are causing global warming. the Earth on FireGreenhouse gasses are gasses that absorb infrared radiation in the atmosphere. Greenhouse gasses include water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, halogenated fluorocarbons, ozone, per fluorinated carbons and hydro fluorocarbons. Water vapor is the most abundant type of greenhouse gas. Scientists believe that greenhouse gasses are increasing. The type of greenhouse gas that scientists believe is increasing the most is carbon dioxide.

The greenhouse effect is the effect that produces greenhouse gasses along with incoming solar radiation to exceed the Earth's atmosphere. It prevents most of infrared radiation near the surface and lower atmosphere from escaping into space. This process occurs naturally and it keeps the earth's temperature about sixty degrees fahrenheit warmer than it would be.

Technically, the process helps to regulate the earth's temperature. Another cause of global warming is deforestation. Deforestation is the conversion of forested areas to urban or rural use. A tree absorbs carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas. As deforestation takes place there is more carbon dioxide in the air and less oxygen.

How will global warming affect New York City?

If the polar icecaps in New York City continue to melt, it would increase sea levels worldwide by eight inches by 2030 and seventeen inches by 2050.

"A rise by over one meter by 2100 for strong warming scenarios cannot be ruled out...[but] very low sea level rise values as reported in the [IPCC report] now appear implausible in the light of the observational data," says Stefan Rahmstorf a scientist at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Postdam, Germany, "The possibility of a fastEarth burning like a matcher sea level rise needs to be considered when planning adaptation measures such as coastal defenses, or mitigation measures designed to keep future sea level rise within certain limits."

Rahmstorf predicts that the lowest plausible limit to sea level rise by 2100 is thirty-eight centimeters, around a foot. Higher temperatures and more frequent heat waves could increase heat-related deaths and illnesses. In 2003, the West Nile virus was detected in all but three of New York's counties, with more than seventy human cases reported. Increased temperatures would bring mosquitoes that carry the virus, most likely leading to more human infections.

What will become of the New York's transportation lines?
The New York metropolitan transportation system is vulnerable to major storms since most of the rail and tunnel points of entry are at elevations of ten feet or less. Three of New York's major airports are also vulnerable since they lie at elevations of ten feet or less as well. New York City's tunnels would also be at risk if the sea level rises or if there were major storms. If the sea level rises by several feet, it would result in catastrophic destruction.

"Understanding global sea level changes is a difficult physical problem, as a number of complex mechanisms with different time scales play a role," says Rahmstorf, "For this reason, our compatibility of calculating future sea level changes in response to a given surface warming scenario with present physics-based models is very limited, and models are not able to fully reproduce the sea level rise of recent decades." If the conditions of global warming continue to worsen, New York City might fall under dire situations.

Vivien Gornitz, associate research scientist at Columbia's Center for Climate Systems Research said, "Areas that are just above sea level, including parts of lower Manhattan and New Jersey, could be protected with seawalls. Runways at Kennedy, LaGuardia and Newark airports could be raised above expected flood levels.

As New Yorkers take a step out of their houses, they should have in mind the serious consequences that they might face if they do not help to prevent global warming.