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GEOL 1302, Week 1 Notes

by: Theresa Nguyen

GEOL 1302, Week 1 Notes GEOL 1302

Marketplace > University of Houston > Geology > GEOL 1302 > GEOL 1302 Week 1 Notes
Theresa Nguyen
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This chapter begins our trip through the climate problem by defining what climate and climate change are, and how we use latitude and longitude to describe locations on the Earth. It also addresses...
Intro To Global Climate Change
yunsoo choi
Class Notes
climate change




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This 5 page Class Notes was uploaded by Theresa Nguyen on Saturday August 27, 2016. The Class Notes belongs to GEOL 1302 at University of Houston taught by yunsoo choi in Fall 2016. Since its upload, it has received 70 views. For similar materials see Intro To Global Climate Change in Geology at University of Houston.


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Date Created: 08/27/16
Chapter 1: Introduction to the Climate Problem Climate vs. Weather  Weather - Shorter-term fluctuations - In atmosphere environment (e.g., temp., press, ws, wdir, rainfall amount, etc) - Hours, Days, Weeks - Specific location for specific time  Climate - Longer-term changes - Broad composite of average (or mean) condition of a region (e.g., temp., rainfall, snowfall, ice cover, winds) - Years (and longer) - Mean state of a specific region (e.g., continent, ocean, or entire planet)  Climate is what on an average we may expect; weather is what we actually get  1901 “Outlines of Physiography”  Geographer Andrew John Herbertson Temperature Scales  Gabriel Fahrenheit  Anders Celsius  William Thomson  Ave Temp = 15 degrees C = 59 degrees F  Typical Range = 0 degrees – 30 degrees C = 32 degrees – 86 degrees F  C = (F-32) x (5/9)  F = (C x 9/5) + 32 What is climate change?  Seasonal Cycle – most familiar is seasonal temperature or precipitation changes  Concern of this book is with Longterm Climate Change  American Meteorological Society defines climate change as: - “any systematic change in the long-term statistics of climate elements (such as temperature, pressure, or winds) sustained over several decades or longer.”  If when we compare climate for one period against the climate for another period, and the statistics have changed, then we can say that the climate has changed Earth’s Coordinate System Latitude (North-South Location)  Equator: Location halfway between N and S pole  Latitude: Angle (position) N or S of the equator  Tropics 23.5 degrees North and South of equator - Approximately 50% of Earth’s surface  Mid-Latitudes: 30 degrees – 60 degrees N or S of Equator about 33% of Earth’s surface  Polar Regions: 66.5 degrees – 90 degrees N or S of Equator - About 15% Earth’s surface  Why is less area between 0 – 30 degrees and 60 – 90 degrees? Earth’s Coordinate System Longitude (East-West Location)  Prime Meridian: a line that runs from N – pole to S – pole through Greenwich, England  Longitude: Angle (position) E or W of the Prime Meridian  Tropics 23.5 degrees North and South of equator - Approximately 50% of Earth’s surface  Eastern Hemisphere meets Western at 180 degrees  Why are lines of Longitude closer together in further away from equator? Should you believe your textbook?  Students in most classes accept without question that the textbook is correct. - Author is an authority on the subject, the publisher has reviewed material for accuracy, instructor of class (someone with knowledge in the field) selected the textbook.  However, climate change is not like every other subject. - Internet search will likely find a page that disputes almost any claim made in textbook. - Your friends and family may not believe that climate change is a serious problem or even think it is a hoax.  You may even agree with them. - This book will challenge many skeptical viewpoints and you may face the dilemma of whom to believe.  Interesting question: How do you determine whether or not to believe a scientific claim?  If you happen to know a lot about an issue, you can reach your own conclusions. - However, no one can be an expert on every subject; for the majority of these issues you will need to find another way.  1) Often times people rely on first-hand experience about how the world works. Claims that fit your own experience are easy to accept. - Consider a claim that the Earth’s climate is stable.  In your lifetime climate has changed very little, so seems plausible.  However, a geologist who knows that dramatic shifts in climate are responsible for variety of rocks and fossil deposits found on Earth will likely regard the idea of a stable climate as ludicrous. - In turn, the geologist might be less likely to accept a human origin for climate change. - A problem with relying on first-hand experience about the climate is that our present situation is unique – people have never changed the global atmosphere as much or as fast as is currently occurring. - Consequently, whatever the climate response, it may likely be outside the realm of human experience.  2) Rely on your values: You can accept the claims that fit with your overall world view while rejecting claims that do not. - For example, consider the scientific claim that second-hand cigarette smoke has negative health consequences. - If you are a believer in unfettered freedom, you might choose to simply reject this claim out of hand because it implies that governments should regulate smoking in public places to protect health.  3) Rely on an opinion leader: - Opinion leaders are people you trust, because they appear authoritative or because you agree with them on other issues.  They might include a family member or influential friend, a media figure (such as a talk show host), or an influential politician. - In the absence of a strong opinion of your own, you can simply adopt the view of your opinion leaders. - The problem this approach is that there is no guarantee that the opinion leaders have a firm grasp of the science.  4) Rely on the opinion of experts: - When the relevant experts on some subject have high confidence that a scientific claim is true, that is the best indication we have that the claim is actually true. - This is a commonly accepted view.  For example, if a friend tells you that she thinks she may be sick, what would you recommend? - Your recommendation is likely to be that she should go see a doctor – not just any doctor, but one who is an expert in that particular ailment. - This is also the view of the U.S. legal system.  Many court cases involve questions of science (e.g., cause of death, if chemical causes cancer, does DNA sample match the defendant).  To settle those cases, the court will frequently turn to expert witnesses. - To be an expert witness, one must demonstrate expertise in a particular subject.  It should be emphasized that one must demonstrate specific, recent expertise in the exact area under consideration to be an expert witness.  Showing expertise in general technical matters or in a related field is not sufficient. - For example, one might consider anyone with a Ph.D. in physics to have a credible opinion about the science of climate change.  This is not so.  Similarly, someone that is a weather forecaster may be an expert about meteorology and forecasting, but not necessarily about climate.  Climate and weather are different things. - The reverse is also true, a climate expert is not qualified to be a weather expert. - Not all experts are equal.  Think of a recommendation for a doctor.  Don’t just pick the first one you find in a Google search. - For important medical decisions, even finding a doctor you trust is not enough, after all even the most trusted expert can make a mistake or some people may have biases they are unaware of.  On way to gain confidence in a particular diagnosis is to get a second opinion.  Sometimes even more than two opinions are needed. - Climate change is no different.  One approach would be to ask all of the world’s climate scientists what they think – and if the vast majority agree on a particular point, then we can have high confidence that point of view is correct. - In fact, this is what has already been done.  In 1988, as nations began to acknowledge the seriousness of the climate problem, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was formed. - The IPCC assembles large writing teams of scientific experts and has them write, as a group, a report detailing what they know about climate change and how confidently they know it.  Having many authors is like getting multiple medical opinions. - After being written by experts, the IPCC’s reports are then reviewed by other expert scientists. - To further minimize the possibility that the group of scientists writing the report are not biased is some direction, the scientists chosen to help write the reports are not chosen by a single person or group, but rather nominated by the world’s governments. - IPCC reports are available from - In addition to IPCC reports, you can also examine reports from other assessment organizations, such as the U.S. National Academy of Sciences. Chapter Summary  Weather refers to the exact state of the atmosphere at a point in time, climate refers to the statistics of the atmosphere over a period time, usually several decades in length or longer.  Climate change refers to a change in the statistics of the atmosphere over decades. - Such statistics include not just the averages but also the measures of the extremes – how much the atmosphere can depart from average.  Temperatures express in the book are in degrees Celsius; conversion from Fahrenheit can be done with this equation: C = (F – 32) x 5/9  Any position on the surface of the Earth can be described by a latitude and longitude; the tropics cover 30°N to 30°S; mid-latitudes from 30°60°: polar regions from 60° to 90°.  In our society, we frequently rely on experts for advice on highly specialized or technical fields. - For climate change, the IPCC reports represent the opinion of the world’s experts, and the science described in this course reflects the IPCC’s scientific views.


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