Heading Towards Global Cooling?

Years of industrialisation and modernisation led to neglect of the environment we live in. We always believed in looking ahead, never look at whatever crimes we might have ended up doing. Meanwhile, levels of Carbon Dioxide was rising, there was pollution, destruction of forests, ruination of water bodies. Life on earth seemed to be moving towards extinction…

Only recently we realised what mistakes we had made, making us also aware of a situation that threatens the earth- appropriately termed as Global Warming.

Putting it in simplest terms, due to the accumulation of green house gases (like Carbon Dioxide, Methane, Chlorofluorocarbons and many others) in the earth’s atmosphere, the tendency of this cloud of gases to trap the incoming sunlight increases. Initially, these gases were in appropriate proportions in the atmosphere. keeping the earth’s temperature pleasant. Now, due to human consumption of resources, these gases are emitted in large quantities. This in turn raises the earth’s temperature to such an extent that the Polar ice caps have started melting.

The fresh waters of the ice caps and glaciers now get mixed up with the saline ocean waters. What is alarming is that the melted water does not freeze into ice again. Since fresh water is getting mixed with the ocean water, the our supply of fresh drinking water is also decreasing by the day. Imagine a period when there will be excessive water in the oceans, yet there will be very little drinkable water!

Rising sea waters has increased humidity in several countries that lie near the equator. Delhi itself, has received the highest rainfall in this present year. Clearly, the climate seems to be in a sudden shift. And the other, rather alarming consequence of the melting ice is the possibility of another ice age to occur.

Ice Age is referred to as the rapid cooling of earth’s surface. Though we still live in an Ice Age, as we have polar caps covered in ice, there are possibilities that this ice will cover most of the landmasses on earth in the future due to unusual heating of earth’s surface.

Countries in Northern Hemisphere now have a habitable temperature due to the cycle of warm currents that run along their coastline. For example, the Gulf Stream, which bathes the UK and north-west Europe in warm water carried northwards from the Caribbean. Without the Gulf Stream, temperatures in the UK and north-west Europe would be five degrees centigrade cooler, with bitter winters at least as fierce as those of the so-called Little Ice Age in the 17th to 19th centuries.

History is evidence that because of weakening of these gulf currents, the temperature of Northern Europe has changed drastically. In the past, the slowing of the Gulf Stream has been intimately linked with dramatic regional cooling. Just 10,000 years ago, during a climatic cold snap known as the Younger Dryas, the current was severely weakened, causing northern European temperatures to fall by as much as 10 degrees. Ten thousand years before that, at the height of the last ice age, when most of the UK was reduced to a frozen wasteland, the Gulf Stream had just two-thirds of the strength it has now.

Today Europe is a landmass of urbanization and technology. A fall in temperatures can potentially destroy the population that lives in these masses.

The evidence is all around us- yes, the climate is shifting and yes it is affecting us – 0.2 degrees in Delhi winters, floods in Bombay and West Bengal, hot and humid summer and even chiller winters. Not just India but the rest of the world is also suffering from these climatic changes- the hurricane Katrina is a perfect example.

Whether or not another Ice Age is possible, we can still conclude that the direction in which this climatic change is heading is not positive. Rather than wasting time on debating whether our geographical models are accurate or scientific theories true, we should take measures within our reach to stabilize something that we unbalanced.

Shambhavi Sharan

[Image Source:http://flickr.com/photos/caribb/536593098/]