lesson 10 - Introduction to Environmental and Climatic...

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1 Introduction to Environmental and Climatic Change In this lesson, we will explore the timely issues of environmental and climatic change. These issues are often a hot topic for all sides involved: the scientific community, politicians, activist groups, concerned citizens, etc. By the end of this lesson, you should have a better feel for natural cycles and changes in the Earth's environment and climate as well as the key pieces of evidence used by the scientific community to study them. Our goal is for you to become a better-informed citizen so that you can look critically at the arguments made by all sides concerned with these issues. Introduction to Prehistoric Environmental Change The concept of global climate change is something we hear a lot about these days, specifically that the Earth is warming. The Earth's average surface temperature has increased almost 0.5° C since 1880. Although we tend to focus on temperature change, we also know that global precipitation (over land) has increased by about 1%, and sea level has risen 4-8 inches over the past century. Mean Global Temperature (over Land and Ocean), 1880-2005 "NCDC's long-term mean temperatures for the Earth were calculated by processing data from thousands of world- wide observation sites on land and sea for the entire period of record of the data. Many parts of the globe are inaccessible and therefore have no data. The temperature anomaly time series presented here were calculated in a way that did not require knowing the actual mean temperature of the Earth in these inaccessible areas such as mountain tops and remote parts of the Sahara Desert where there are no regularly reporting weather stations. Using the collected data available, the whole Earth long-term mean temperatures were calculated by interpolating over uninhabited deserts, inaccessible Antarctic mountains, etc. in a manner that takes into account factors such as the decrease in temperature with elevation. By adding the long-term monthly mean temperature for the Earth to each anomaly value, one can create a time series that approximates the temperature of the Earth and how it has been changing through time." Global warming and global climate change are parts of a larger issue of global environmental change, which encompasses changes in all the systems on Earth. It is here, within the overall
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2 issue of global environmental change, that we can see human/environmental issues at their most dynamic. In fact, some of the changes that are presently occurring within the Earth's systems are taking place because of the impact that people are having on the environment. These systems are interrelated and can interact in complex ways. For example, the projected increases in temperature and precipitation in Michigan over the next century are expected to increase the frequency of droughts, floods, wildfires, heat-related deaths, and insect-related diseases. We could see changes in the types of trees in our forests, the sizes of our rivers, as well as the types
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This note was uploaded on 09/14/2009 for the course ISS 731 taught by Professor A.arbogast during the Summer '09 term at Michigan State University.

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lesson 10 - Introduction to Environmental and Climatic...

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