Volcanoes partially to blame for slowed global warming according to a study performed by the Lawrence Livermore National laboratory in California. Noting the drastic slowing of global temperature rise since blistering 1998, many loudly claim that global warming has ceased or was a hoax. But although the rate of warming has slowed the emission of greenhouse gasses has not, meaning that the tapering temperature is due instead to a reduction of incoming heat from the sun. The study showed that about 15% of this reduction comes from volcanic influence, ash and soot thrown into the air that can linger as smog in the upper atmosphere for years, blocking sunlight and resulting in cooler temperatures. Once again, human influence is also a strong factor, as Chinese smog is believed to have become widespread enough to block some of the Suns incoming energy as well.
During the period of temperature increase large portions of once permanent sea ice melted and spread out, reducing the amount of energy reflecting white space and replacing it with heat absorbing dark sea water, dragging down the Earths albedo and increasing its ability to store warmth rather than reflect it back into the air. This process seems to have reached a tipping point however as the rate of sea ice loss appears to be levelling off, meaning that the amount of warmth stored by the oceans may reach its peak in the next few years, at which point average global temperatures will begin to rise again. The overall cooling is also partly due the Sun being in a natural lull period in its cycle of sun spot activity, meaning that less energy than usual has been sent to Earth to warm it in the first place. Although volcanoes are partially to blame for slowed global warming, all of these factors have come together in order to drive the changes we are seeing manifested as this particularly fierce winter.
Despite the difference between change that was predicted and what has been observed, large ongoing changes still need to be made to combat temperature rise once the absorbing effects have been overwhelmed. Carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere have not levelled off, and once the input of energy rises back to levels of the past, the extra trapped heat will restart the increase in temperature all over again. 13 of the 14 warmest years on record were observed in this century, and temperatures are expected to soar even higher in the coming years if change is taken seriously. But just as volcanoes partially to blame for slowed global warming are only one factor in a wide range of things responsible for the ongoing changes seen in the Earths climate, the impact of humanity only makes so much of a difference as well. In the end, all that is needed is responsibility. No one is calling for an end to world economies, all that is needed is a concerted effort from the worlds populace, individuals and corporations to seek balance.
By Daniel O’Brien