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Geoengineering Earth's Climate: Resetting the Thermostat

Geoengineering Earth's Climate: Resetting the Thermostat

Автор Jennifer Swanson

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Geoengineering Earth's Climate: Resetting the Thermostat

Автор Jennifer Swanson

127 страниц
2 часа
1 авг. 2017 г.


  • STEM: Earth Science
  • 5KN: Traditional Nonfiction
1 авг. 2017 г.

Об авторе

Jennifer Swanson began her writing career at the age of five when she wrote and illustrated books for her kindergarten class. A self-professed science geek, Jennifer started a science club in her garage at the age of 7. She used to gather leaves and flowers and look at them under a microscope. Much to her mother's dismay, her prize possession was a cow skull that she found in a field down by the river. Her love of science continues to this day as when she is not writing, she loves to go out and notice the science all around her. Jennifer lives in Jacksonville with her husband and two dogs. Learn more about Jennifer at her website: www.JenniferSwansonBooks.com

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Geoengineering Earth's Climate - Jennifer Swanson


Author’s Note

Geoengineering is a fascinating field of study. Some say it is the most important topic of our time. With the effects of climate change creeping into every aspect of our planet, it is easy to see why.

While many geoengineering ideas are controversial, the fact that we are discussing them and researching them shows a collective spirit and one that is interested in resetting Earth’s thermostat. I encourage everyone who reads this book to continue learning about this controversial topic. Research. Theorize. Engage in debate. Devise your own ideas if you think you have one that might work. It is the job of the entire planet to solve this issue.

I would also like to thank those leaders in the field who took time out of their busy schedules to speak with me about their projects. The list includes

Dr. Peter Eisenberger, Global Thermostat

Dr. Clare Heyward, University of Warwick

Dr. Richard Houghton, Woods Hole Research Center

Dr. David Keith, Harvard University

Dr. Piers Forster, University of Leeds

Dr. John Sterman, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

They were all happy to share their beliefs and passion for their subjects with me and, by extension, with the readers of this book. I am very grateful to them.

—Jennifer Swanson


An Abrupt Change in Climate

Rising seas. Flooded islands. Catastrophic droughts, tornadoes, and hurricanes. Scientists say that these trends, which have been increasing in the twenty-first century, are caused by climate change, created by the warming of Earth. Most scientists also say that humans have caused climate change by burning fossil fuels (coal, petroleum, and natural gas), which release heat-trapping gases into the atmosphere. As levels of these gases increase, the planet grows warmer. The higher temperatures have led to extreme weather events. Most experts agree that if humans don’t take action to prevent Earth from warming further, the climate will undergo even more drastic changes. And these will ultimately affect every living thing on Earth. What can humans do to counteract climate change?

Some engineers propose using geoengineering to tackle the problem. The prefix geo means relating to Earth, so geoengineering means engineering Earth. A more formal definition of geoengineering is the active transformation of Earth’s climate through human intervention—or using technology to reverse the effects of climate change. Sounds good, right? Maybe so. But geoengineering is one of the most complex and controversial topics in the world. Messing with Earth’s climate is a big deal and could have lasting consequences, both positive and negative.


Tiny cracks have appeared in a glacier (a large body of moving ice) along Evigheds Fjord in western Greenland. In the past, ice and snow completely covered the towering mountains that surround the fjord. But in the twenty-first century, dense rock is visible underneath the ice. The extremely cold weather that allows Greenland’s coastal mountains to remain covered in ice and snow year-round has changed. Warmer temperatures in Earth’s atmosphere are melting the top of the glacier, sending rivulets of ice water into the ocean. Warming waters of the North Atlantic Ocean are melting the glacier from the bottom as well.

Chunks of ice break off a glacier on the southeastern coast of Greenland and fall into the Denmark Strait. Warmer air and water temperatures are melting ice in Earth’s polar regions, causing sea levels to rise.

The melting glacier on the Evigheds Fjord is part of a much larger formation called an ice sheet. Earth has two major ice sheets—one on Greenland and one on Antarctica. Measuring more than 660,000 square miles (1.7 million square kilometers), Greenland’s ice sheet is approximately the size of Texas. On average, the ice sheet is 1 mile (1.6 km) deep. Its greatest depth is 3 miles (4.8 km). If it were to melt entirely, the total amount of water it contains would raise the oceans by about 23 feet (7 meters). The rising waters would flood the coasts of every country on the planet and submerge many inhabited islands.

While the probability of the entire Greenland ice sheet melting is slim, climatologists (scientists who study Earth’s climate) note that Greenland is shedding more ice during summer than it regains from snowfall in winter. The US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) reports that Greenland’s ice sheet is losing about 31 billion tons (28 billion metric tons) of ice annually. Some of the melting ice evaporates (turns into water vapor) or stays on the land, but most of it goes directly into the ocean. And studies show that the melting on Greenland is increasing every year.

NASA uses satellites to measure the depth of Earth’s oceans. The agency has noticed a definite rise in ocean levels over the last century, with an average yearly rise of about 0.13 inches (3.3 millimeters). While that may seem small, it adds up to a 4- to 8-inch (10- to 20-centimeter) rise over the past one hundred years. If that water were lying in the street, it could flow over curbs and into houses. If you were standing next to the ocean, the rising water would cover your legs to mid-calf. Imagine that much water flooding the entire world. And if the ice sheets continue to melt, the water levels will only get higher.

NASA climate scientist Jay Zwally says that the melting of Greenland’s ice sheet is like a canary in a coal mine. Before coal mines used modern air-quality detectors, miners sometimes took live canaries with them into mineshafts. If the birds stopped singing, miners knew that deadly carbon monoxide, which is frequently found inside coal mines, had risen to dangerous levels and killed the birds. Miners then knew it was time to hightail it out of the shaft.


Sea levels have already begun to rise due to global warming. If all the polar ice on Earth were to melt, large areas of coastline would end up underwater. This map shows what North America would look like in that case. Florida would be submerged, along with vast stretches of coast along the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico.

Climatologists think of Greenland as a canary, or an early warning system, for the rest of the planet. Since the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets account for almost 99 percent of all freshwater ice on the planet, the melting of either sheet would spell trouble. As Greenland warms and sheds its ice, so do other parts of the Arctic, including Alaska. Many climatologists think that the melted ice streaming into the Arctic Ocean and other northern waters is a signal that the canary has stopped singing. They say that climate change has reached a dire tipping point. Why is this occurring? The answer is related to Earth’s atmosphere.

Iceland Rising!

The country of Iceland is rising out of the North Atlantic Ocean. No, this scene is not something from a science fiction movie. The land is

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