Posts Tagged ‘earth science’

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Yes Virginia, Global Warming Can Mean Lower Temperatures

February 16, 2014

Snow DayI’ve notice something recently, when I make a comment about all the snow or how cold a day might be on social media, a comment akin to “so much for global warming” always seems to creep in.  I have to shake my head and wonder about the education level of people making such comments.  It is one thing to make a smart-ass comment for effect; I do it all the time.  It is another matter entirely to drink the disinformation of news networks and apply it to serious issues like global warming.

In a very large part, the confusion of us lay-people is due to the moniker, “global warming.”  It is all too easy to miss-apply it and miss the real point is energy trapped in the upper troposphere and tropopause, not the relative high or low temperature of a particular day. 

For those who have forgotten middle-school earth science, the troposphere is the atmospheric layer we live in.  It extends from the earth’s surface up to about 10 miles or so.  The tropopause is the dense boundary between troposphere and the stratosphere.  These parts of the atmosphere are where the weather happens. We all know as you go higher, it gets colder, but that is only to a point.  Once you reach the tropopause, the temperature stabilizes; it then increases through the stratosphere before it again drops.  It is not uncommon for temperatures in this region to reach as low as -75°C (-103°F).

Just for the sake of clarity, the layers of our atmosphere, in order away from the earth, are the troposphere, stratosphere, mesosphere, thermosphere, and exosphere.  The ozone layer lives within the lower stratosphere but is not considered a true atmospheric layer.  Commercial jetliners like to fly in the lower stratosphere too, as it puts them above thunderstorms, clouds and such.

The term global warming, applies less to the temperature at the earth’s surface and more to the energy stored in the upper troposphere and tropopause.  A 1°C change in the average temperature in this area has a huge impact of the weather at the earth’s surface.  This is because the energy required to change the average is tremendous.  Notice I did not say it has a huge impact on the temperature at the earth’s surface.  The change affects the weather in the form of high and low pressure systems and ultimately the jet stream. The temperature will fluctuate up down, for sure, but it is the increase storms and their severity we will most readily endure by warming. 

This is why a warming in the upper troposphere and tropopause can result in lower temperatures and cause a great amount of snow.  In reality, it supports the theory of global warming.  So, keep this little tidbit in mind next time you hear someone make a silly comment about cold weather disproving global warming.  Simply shake your head and realize the person making such a comment does not know what the hell they are talking about when it comes to global warming.

 

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