Sunday, August 3, 2014

A Primer On Air Temperature And Melting Polar Ice

Changes in air temperature do not reflect the full impact of climate change.  A simple example explains why.  Suppose that you put ice in pot of water on a hot stove and measure the water temperature.  You will find the water temperature will not change until the ice is melted.  The heat from the stove is used to melt the ice.  After the ice is melted the water temperature will rise until all of the water is turned into vapor. We can extend this example to the melting of polar ice. The heat from the sun is melting polar ice fields.  After the ice is melted the water will no longer absorb all of the heat from the sun.  At that point, air temperatures will rise more rapidly.  Until we reach that point, however, air temperatures will not accurately reflect the warming that is taking place.  The increase in ocean water temperatures provides a better signal for global warming.

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