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People changing climate
1. Man-made climate change?
- Changes in concentrations
- Changes in climate
- Inertia of climate
- Feedback effects
- Abrupt changes
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2. How will future be?
3. How hinder climate change?

How are
people changing
the climate?

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1. Man-made climate change?


Feedback effects

When the Earth warms up, a large number of changes take place in the atmosphere, the oceans, and the land surface. Some of these changes can, in turn, affect the temperature. This is called feedback effects. Some of these feedback effects increase global warming, while others reduce it.




Feedback from water vapor

Water vapor is one of the most important feedback effects. A slight warming of the Earth due to more sunlight or an increased greenhouse effect will lead to an increase in the amount of water vapor in the atmosphere. The water vapor is also a greenhouse gas, and the extra water vapor will increase the greenhouse effect even more, leading to even greater warming. Thus water vapor has an amplifying effect on global warming.


Feedback from snow and ice cover

The feedback effects from ice and snow-covered surfaces are similar. With a cold climate, there is a lot of ice and snow on Earth. These shiny surfaces reflect sunlight away from the ground and make it even colder. A warmer climate means less ice and snow. This leads to less reflection of solar radiation to outer space and increased warming.

1. ICE COVER in the Arctic ocean around Greenland. Photo: NASA (click to enlarge, 100 kB) 


  Feedback from clouds

2. CLOUDS, Photo: The NOAA Photo Library (click to enlarge, 48 kB)

Another important feedback mechanism is changes in the cloud cover. When it gets warmer on Earth, the amount of water vapor in the atmosphere increases and more clouds may be formed. This can either increase or decrease warming, depending on what type of clouds they are. All clouds both cool off the Earth by reflecting sunlight and warm it up by absorbing heat from the ground surface in the same way as greenhouse gases. Thin cirrus clouds (that appear when the weather is fine) high up in the atmosphere will generally have a warming effect. Low cumulus and stratus clouds, on the other hand, have a cooling effect because their greenhouse effect is smaller than high level clouds. There is still much we do not know about how climate changes will affect the formation of various types of clouds.


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Author: Camilla Schreiner - CICERO (Center for International Climate and Environmental Research - Oslo) - Norway. Scientific reviewers: Andreas Tjernshaugen - CICERO (Center for International Climate and Environmental Research - Oslo) - Norway - 2004-01-20 and Knut Alfsen - Statistics Norway - Norway - 2003-09-12. Educational reviewer: Nina Arnesen - Marienlyst school in Oslo - Norway - 2004-03-10. Last update: 2004-03-27.




last updated 11.07.2005 18:48:44 | © ESPERE-ENC 2003 - 2013