Friday, November 07, 2014

New Mechanism Behind Arctic Warming Revealed

                                     Comments due Nov. 16, 2014

We all know that greenhouse gases contribute to global warming, but new research identifies a new mechanism that could turn out to be a major contributor to melting sea ice, specifically in the Arctic region.
Scientists from the US Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have studied a long-wavelength region of the electromagnetic spectrum called far infrared. Far infrared is a region in the infrared spectrum of electromagnetic radiation. While it is invisible to our eyes, it accounts for about half the energy emitted by the Earth’s surface.
Despite its importance in the planet’s energy budget, it’s difficult to measure a surface’s effectiveness in emitting far-infrared energy. In addition, its influence on the planet’s climate is not well represented in climate models.
Current models assume that all surfaces are 100 percent efficient in emitting far-infrared energy. However, scientists found that open oceans are much less efficient than sea ice when it comes to emitting in the far-infrared region of the spectrum. This means that the Arctic Ocean traps much of the energy in far-infrared radiation, a previously unknown phenomenon that is likely contributing to the warming of the polar climate.
“Far-infrared surface emissivity is an unexplored topic, but it deserves more attention. Our research found that non-frozen surfaces are poor emitters compared to frozen surfaces. And this discrepancy has a much bigger impact on the polar climate than today’s models indicate,” says Daniel Feldman, a scientist in Berkeley Lab’s Earth Sciences Division and lead author of the paper.
Simulations conducted by the researchers revealed that far-infrared surface emissions have the biggest impact on the climates of arid high-latitude and high-altitude regions.
In the Arctic, the simulations found that open oceans hold more far-infrared energy than sea ice, resulting in warmer oceans, melting sea ice, and a 2-degree Celsius increase in the polar climate after only a 25-year run.
This could help explain why polar warming is most pronounced during the three-month winter when there is no sun.
“The Earth continues to emit energy in the far infrared during the polar winter,” Feldman says. “And because ocean surfaces trap this energy, the system is warmer throughout the year as opposed to only when the sun is out.”
Their research appears this week in the online early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

27 comments:

Maria Hernandez-Norris said...

As an environmentalist we are so focused on global warming as a shameful effect of humans but this article was a breath of fresh air. If I am understanding correctly, this infrared is a new possible cause to global warming, particularly in the polar regions. However it is appears to be a completely natural cause with no human relation to the cause. Am I correct?
If so, shouldn't we refocus our science on ways of changing human bahavior and causes of global warming as they relate to the human? Those are the causes we can do something about.

Anonymous said...

Far infrared is a new concept that I think needs to be investigated further before claims are made. If it is true that far infrared contributes to global warming by melting the polar ice far more than we had even began to suspect, something needs to be done. We can't change nature or the effects that far infrared has on nature, but we can try and lessen the effects that we, as humans, have on the polar caps melting. We should aim to lessen the anthropocentric worldview that we have and realize that there are things that happen that are outside our control. We are not responsible for what happens in nature, and we should stop acting like we are the sole inhabitant of the earth and that the world is there for our benefits only.

-Marrina Gallant

Chelsea Dow said...

This is a very interesting look into another prospect of global climate change. I hate to continue to use the word "global warming" because I think we can collectively come to the conclusion that in many cases the globe is not warming, it is in fact cooling, or undergoing drastic uncharacteristic weather patterns. In any case, with this new discovery of far infrared, it could be a new lens into the future of combating climate change. Discovering a completely new source is a way for humans to understand what is making the Earth change so drastically and so quickly. I think that regardless if it is human caused or not it should be looked upon as something worth investigating, because it clearly has severe effects on the polar caps. Indeed, once they start to melt beyond a certain point, the climate of the Earth will change to a point in which we have not yet seen, and not all will be able to adapt.

Anonymous said...

I agree with what Daniel Feldman said in the article, that "far-infrared surface emissivity is an unexplored topic, but it deserves more attention." Since it is difficult to measure, it definitely deserves some attention. Maybe, one day, people will find a way to accurately measure the planet's infrared surface emissivity, and help us learn more about the other planets in the solar system.

-E. Piper Phillips

Anonymous said...

I agree with Marrina, in that since this concept is relatively new, more research must be done before serious claims can be made and accepted. I also feel as though this is not good news. It may be able to take some of the blame off humans as the cause of global warming, but if we aren't the only ones contributing to the issue, it means we must put in double the effort to reduce the damage we are doing.
Jennifer Hare

Nicole Virgona said...

As a society, we are extremely anthropocentric. Even with the far infrared as a possible explanation to the melting of the ice caps, this is not a gateway to escape. As humans, we are still responsible to what we do to this land. There is only so much control that we have over nature.

Nicole Virgona

Anonymous said...

This is an interesting topic, but doesn't seem like we know that much about it. It does sound like it could be causing climate change, but there are no results that directly prove that. This also doesn't mean that we aren't partial responsible, it just means we added to the problem. I'm sure we could find natural reasons for a few other things to, but it doesn't mean that we don't cause them too. It is good that we found out there is another factor contributing, so we can account for that in our solution. In the end, how things happened are not more important than how we respond and fins a solution.

Mikayla Bonnett

Anonymous said...

This article was very interesting. Global warming and climate change have always been described as being the result of human activity. If far infrared is going to be considered a viable factor, it needs to be tested. Even then, if tests prove that the melting of the polar ice is the result of far infrared, society still needs to take responsibility for their part in global warming. We cannot and should not change naturally occurring events in this world. If they happen to result in global warming, we must alter our own lifestyles to limit our unnatural influence and slow the process.
-Haylei P.

Anonymous said...

I see this as an example of how humans and earth's natural systems continue to evolve and dynamically change. New research and human efforts can inhibit and enhance certain ways the earth works, and sadly much of human contribution has been only to constrict and disable the systems in place. A balance can be achieved between human actions and the earth's ways that does not mean a truce, but harmony, referencing Bookchin. Whether or not far infrared's effects are enhanced by human activity is still up to debate. But as long as scientists are actively researching all the ways in which human societies and nature interact, all hope is not lost.

Micaela Itona

Anonymous said...

I found this article interesting because it reminded me that although we think we know a lot about our environment, there is always something new to be discovered. I would love to read more on this topic as more information is uncovered.
We cannot control nature as much as we think we can, therefore it is our responsibility to do our part to fix the problem we have created. As more research is being done on far-infrared energy, we should still focus on preventing and stopping the human causes of climate change.
-Emma Weis

Sulana Robinson said...

This is a very interesting article. It shows a possibility that the danger of global warming isn't entirely to blame on human activity. However, to tell people this information publicly, it is a worry that people will take global warming less seriously, if they were to believe their role in the issue is not existent.... IT IS, in fact, Regardless of this insightful article. Also, this can be something to think about in which there is already a relevant force contributing to global warmth, so we need to be even more careful and responsible for how we contribute on our own.

Gian Joseph said...

Although, far infrared is responsible for emitting energy into the oceans and causing the to warm p, it is obviously a natural mechanism produced by earth to maintain its system. As explained in the article it is a mechanism used to warm up polar ice and waters during the three months that they aren't exposed to the sun. This is totally natural. Now what I believe should be looked at are how human activity is affecting the amount of far infrared energy which being emitted by the earth, and what implications that could have on our environent.

Anonymous said...

I think that this is a very interesting concept to explore; it tests the things we take as fact today and shows us that information can always be changing and that we can always learn more. The facts are that climate change is happening, we just don't know how exactly it occurs. Our earth is a massive place and things that happen in a large scale such as this is definitely difficult to measure. I am glad though, that these labs are continuing to test climate change theories , and that they are keeping it in their minds that we need to figure out all the possible causes in order to fix the warming of our planet.

Leanna Molnar

Anonymous said...

This article sheds a whole new light on the subject of global warming. Naturally the Earth is warm, our emissions have contributed to the rising temperature and so has far infrared. The only problem with this knowledge of far infrared is that it's going to make people think there's nothing we can do about the Earth's rising temperature. We can still cut our emissions and have the Earth do it's thing naturally. There are many ways we can help to slow the process down.

- Juliana Cesario

Michael Tierney said...

This is a very interesting, yet confusing post. The far infrared gets trapped in the open oceans creating more heat during the winter season. This is causing the giant glaciers of ice to continue to melt when there is no light on them and they are freezing? I understand that our polar ice caps are thinning and melting, but now we know that it will not stop melting even when the sun is not shining for 3 months. So because the far infrared rays are getting trapped in the oceans, will that disrupt the rays that are being radiated at the poles? because these ice caps will continue to melt and less and less far infrared rays will radiate through the solid ice. I think there needs to be some more lab tests until we get a better understanding on the topic, but it does give us more things to watch change while the rest of the world is changing as well. Hopefully if we can reduce how much it is changing, we can keep some of the ice caps in order to reduce the amount of rays that are trapped.
-- Michael Tierney

Anonymous said...

This article was somewhat confusing to understand. After reading the article multiple times, I believe that the evidence presented can help climate scientists determine the rate of climate change. The increase in temperature of our oceans has many effects: melting of glaciers and I think weather might be connected to the water temperature as well. As ocean levels increase the warming could exponentially increase at the same time with an increase in ocean surface.

-Frazer Winsted

Dylan Hirsch said...

This is an interesting article in the sense that it shows us just how complex the earth is, and just how hard it is to measure the feedback loops that are inevitably effected with the rise of the global temperature. There are many mechanisms that lead to warmer Arctic regions - those such as IR light mentioned in the article - that will keep scientist busy with research. This proves to us that we do not fully understanding the natural world, and that we do not yet understanding the true cost of the massive pollution of the atmosphere, on a geological scale.

- Dylan Hirsch

Maria- Vitoria Bernardes said...

I found this article very interesting. It is so crazy the new things we learn everyday about our earth and the effects it has on us and the environment. If this is true, that infrared is a contributor to global warming this phenomena could be both a good and bad thing. I think that knowing this is of great importance because it allows us to make changes that could better help the global warming problem. But at the same time are people going to stop being conscious of the damage that humans aid to global warming? Though this is very important but at the same time people might think that now they don't have to change their ways because this is the cause to global warming not them. It is important to be aware of all things that contribute to global warming because it really is such a serious matter.

Maria-Vitoria Bernardes

Anonymous said...

Far infrared definitely does deserve more attention. As capable inhabitants of this planet we should be professing to understand exactly how planet earth works and these kind of studies are leading us in that direction. By understanding the world we live we will have more solutions to problems, and a better understanding of the causes of those problems initially.

I hope that people, particularly politicians, will not manipulate this study as a way justifying their believes that humans do not need to be held accountable for the harm they cause on the environment. I can envision certain political parties, I do not believe specific names are necessary because it is obvious, using this as a way of averting attention from the fact we need a change by claiming the earth is 'warming' on its own anyway.

Anonymous said...

Far infrared definitely does deserve more attention. As capable inhabitants of this planet we should be professing to understand exactly how planet earth works and these kind of studies are leading us in that direction. By understanding the world we live we will have more solutions to problems, and a better understanding of the causes of those problems initially.

I hope that people, particularly politicians, will not manipulate this study as a way justifying their believes that humans do not need to be held accountable for the harm they cause on the environment. I can envision certain political parties, I do not believe specific names are necessary because it is obvious, using this as a way of averting attention from the fact we need a change by claiming the earth is 'warming' on its own anyway.

-Elizabeth Eggimann

Anonymous said...

I found this post insightful has I've never heard of the term Far infrared, at least in respects to Environmental studies and climate change. Someone above mentioned how complex the world is and the we tend to find new ways our greenhouse gasses and carbon emissions are destroying our planet. While reading this article, I automatically thought of the Law of conservation of energy. It mentions that even when the sun isn't present, the warming levels are and that heat continues to be trapped in ocean surfaces. It's time that political pundits and politicians stop riding off scientific facts because it's hurts their bottom line. If we continue to ignore facts, it's Earth and every living thing's bottom line we're hurting.


-Patrice Purnell

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