March 29, 2012

Investigating Weird Weather, Scientists Study The Ice

In order to explain some of the weird weather occurring across the world over the past few years, scientists have begun to research the loss of arctic sea ice. They believe this ice is being lost due to greenhouse gases released by humans.

Odd and sometimes dangerous weather phenomenon has scientists left without answers as to why these things are happening. Last year´s unusually hot summer has led into an unusually mild winter. Recently, spring seems to have sprung a bit early across much of the world, causing flowers to pop from the ground and trees to burst into bloom. According to the New York Times, some farmers even planted their crops 6 weeks early because of the warm snap.

Now that northern US states are in the middle of a bitter cold snap, all of this spring growth is at a risk, causing millions of dollars worth of damage to the crops.

While this sort of flip flopping from one weather extreme to another seems to be the new routine for the Northern Hemisphere, scientists are looking for answers to better understand this weird weather.

So far, it seems no definitive answers have been found.

The best guess these scientists have so far are theories involving global warming. As those words have now become synonymous with contention, scientists want to be absolutely certain their suspicions are correct. Specifically, the scientists are concerned with the drastic decline of sea ice in the arctic ocean due to greenhouse gasses.

“The question really is not whether the loss of the sea ice can be affecting the atmospheric circulation on a large scale,” said Jennifer A. Francis, a Rutgers University climate researcher. “The question is, how can it not be, and what are the mechanisms?”

Earlier research confirms these new theories.

When the Earth warms, more water vapor is sent into the atmosphere, affecting weather conditions. “The reason you have a clothes dryer that heats the air is that warm air can evaporate water more easily,” Thomas C. Peterson, a researcher with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration told the Times.

In a report released on Wednesday by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a strong body of evidence linking global warming to an increase in heat waves was documented. Global warming is also believed to increase heavy rainfall and frequent coastal flooding.

“A changing climate leads to changes in the frequency, intensity, spatial extent, duration and timing of extreme weather and climate events, and can result in unprecedented extreme weather and climate events,” the report found.

While the link between global warming and warmer weather seems clear, the link between global warming and other types of weather extremes have yet to be found.

Scientists studying tornadoes have yet to find conclusive evidence of a rise in frequency of twisters, and as such cannot point to global warming as a factor. Similarly, scientists studying the Russian heat wave of 2010 came to conflicting results as to whether or not global warming is to blame.

While scientists continue to debate whether or not ice sheet melting, increased greenhouse gasses, or other natural causes  are to blame for the wild weather, such phenomenon may become routine.


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