Though the actuality and consequences of global warming are controversial in the political world, the scientific community has been compiling evidence for years about what they see about the danger of our planet’s rising temperature. One of the scientists who has been extremely influential in his research regarding global warming is coming to Western as a part of the Distinguished Lecture Series at the Performing Arts Center.
Konrad Steffen, director of the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Studies at the University of Colorado, Boulder, has been good and chilly for nearly 30 years, doing research in arctic regions for at least seven weeks during the summer. So why is he raising a stink about global warming? His research has been targeted at discovering the impact that the Earth’s changing climate has on these regions of the earth, and his findings have been pointing to possibly far-reaching devastation that could come about in the relatively near future.
Hold on to your pocket protectors, folks, cause we’re going to dabble into a little science. Stick around if you’re interested in the possibility of events occurring that could lead to a blockbuster smash entitled “Titanic 2.”
So this whole global warming debacle starts with the “greenhouse effect” which is initiated when excessive emissions of greenhouse gasses like carbon dioxide and methane are released. It seems as though your friendly neighborhood tree can’t cope with the overabundance of CO2 (which it takes in, rips a carbon off of and then releases back into the atmosphere as oxygen), so there is a buildup accumulating. This buildup allows the sun’s ultraviolet rays to get through and the heat results when some of the sun’s energy bounces off the Earth and cannot escape the veritable wool blanket greenhouse gasses.
Many different effects of global warming have been noted by scientists including the rising level of the ocean and the plain old-fashioned rise in the earth’s temperature. Hurricane Katrina’s cataclysmic force was even attributed to global warming.
Opposition against the relevance and even the existence of global warming has stated that most of the scientific evidence is inconclusive, and that large steps are made which result in large assumptions rather than proven facts.
If you’re interested in trying to straighten out some of the hype, and get information straight from one of the more prominent sources, Steffen’s visit should be of particular interest to you.
Steffen is most famous for his research in Greenland, where he found that ice melt in the region increased by 16 percent during his thirty years of research there. This accompanies research that found that Greenland’s average temperature rose nearly three degrees since the early 1990s.
According to Steffen himself in an Earthbeat interview, the melting of the surface of Greenland’s glaciers is not the real issue. It is the dramatic melting that could lead to a sheet of water that would lubricate the bottoms of protrusions of glacial ice and cause them to split off of Greenland and into the ocean.
Icebergs split off from the affected area in Greenland regularly. A famous example of an iceberg’s effect was the sinking of Titanic, hit by an iceberg from Greenland.
The Greenland icebergs have also affected oil drilling in Baffin Bay between Canada and Greenland. Typically, icebergs can pass through the area without damaging the equipment, with small ships pulling the bergs out of the way, but the frequency of icebergs floating through the area “has happened much more in the recent past than what we know from history,” according to Steffin in an interview with Earthbeat.
Not only will there be a great influx of five to ten kilometer diameter icebergs moving down the coast, but there is a possibility that the great amount of fresh water that has melted will just make a mess of the North Atlantic oceanic currents that help to keep the weather in the North Hemisphere regulated. “If that feedback kicks in,” remarked Steffen, “then the average person will worry.”
Steffen will discuss “Changes in the Arctic Ice Cover–Greenland Ice Sheet and Surrounding Oceans” at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, January 25 at the PAC. Admission is free, but you need to nab a ticket at the PAC Box Office before they are gone.
Also, there is an open class discussion with Steffen on the same day from 3:30 to 5:00 p.m. in Old Main 590. Students and staff are welcome and encouraged to attend. Steffen will not provide a lecture, but instead answer questions from the audience. No ticket is required, so you can just show up at the time specified.