Some people may simply be feeling the rising temperatures during the summers and in their homes. Just between 1993 and 2005, temperatures increased so much that the energy consumed by the average residential air conditioner in the United States doubled; by 2010, it had leaped another 20%.
While these small variations in their everyday lives are starting to pique some people’s interests, some of the affects global warming is having on the environment are much more worrisome.
According to Phys.org, researchers from Aarhus University in Denmark studied the noticeable effects that global warming has had on organisms, specifically high-arctic butterflies. They measured the wing length of around 4,500 individual butterflies collected annually between 1996 to 2013, by the Zackenberg Research Station in Northeast Greenland. What they found was that the wing length of the arctic butterflies was significantly decreasing as a result of warmer summers.
“Our studies show that males and females follow the same pattern, and it is similar in two different species, which suggests that climate plays an important role in determining the body size of butterflies in Northeast Greenland,” explained senior scientist Toke T. Hoye, from the Aarhus Institute of Advanced Studies, Aarhus University.
Their smaller body sizes present problems due to their decreased mobility. Without the ability to travel longer distances to find food and suitable mates, butterfly populations could decrease over time.
The idea that the radical climate change is actually affecting the physical nature of organisms is alarming, but one factor being studied that could directly affect everyone is the melting of ice shelves in Antarctica. The continent is one of the world’s major areas of concern in regards to global warming, considering that the ice contained there is theoretically enough to cause an estimated 200 foot rise in sea-level if it was to melt.
The Washington Post reports that a study conducted by Luke Trusel, a postdoctoral scholar at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, researched the potential future impacts that climate change could have on Antarctic ice shelves.
These shelves are large, floating platforms of ice that form where the sheet meets the ocean, spanning anywhere from hundreds to thousands of feet. Their importance lies in their ability to act as “buttressing” between melting glaciers and the ocean. If broken off, the flow of ice from the glaciers will stream into the ocean, contributing to the rise in sea-level.
“They play an incredibly important role in constraining the flow of this land ice into the ocean,” remarked Trusel, comparing ice shelves to the “cork in a champagne bottle.”
What causes ice shelves to break is melted water from the top sheet that trickles down into imperfections in the ice, leading to cracking and eventually the collapsing of the shelves.
Trusel found that the Antarctic-wide surface melt is estimated to double by the year 2050, with the amount of melt-water reaching up to 200 gigatons per year.
Even though the study didn’t account for some factors, such as rising ocean temperatures, both the effects on ice shelves and physical make-up of some organisms raises some serious questions.