SeaWiFS Project, NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center, and ORBIMAGE
You've heard a lot about how human-driven climate change will lead to hotter temperatures, cause sea levels to rise and make storms more intense. But it's projected to have plenty of other unpleasant and even disastrous effects as well. Here are 10 of them. Scientists believe that rising temperatures will lead to increased evaporation of the Great Lakes' water, and precipitation won't make up the difference. That means we're likely to see declines in water levels over the next century, and one study predicts they may drop as much as 8 feet.Earth Shots: Must See Planet Pics (Sept. 21)
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Thanks to climate change, jumbo-sized ragweed plants will spew out more pollen for a longer, more miserable allergy season.Here Are 10 Striking Images Of Future Sea Levels
CDC/ Dr. Scott Smith
By altering the wild environment, climate change makes it easier for newly mutated microbes to jump between species, and it's likely that as a result, diseases will emerge and spread across the globe even more rapidly.
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A recent Nature article reported that male Australian central bearded dragons have been growing female genitalia because of rising temperatures, a phenomenon that had not previously been observed in that species.10 Signs Climate Change Is Already Happening
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Rising sea levels are wiping out beaches all over the world already. Importing fresh sand and building them up again is only a temporary solution. To make matters worse, there's currently a sand shortage, due to demand from fracking, glass and cement making.
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Bark beetles are eating old growth forests, because the winters aren't cold enough to kill them off. So more trees like this American Elm will die.VIDEO: Global Warming And Climate Change: What's The Diff?
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Warmer temperatures mean there will be more water vapor trapped in the atmosphere, leading to more lightning. A University of California-Berkeley study predicts that lightning strikes will increase by about 12 percent for every degree Celsius gained.Sierra Nevada Snowpack Worst In Five Centuries
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Wine grape harvests are being hurt. Regions that have historically supplied the world’s best wine will no longer be hospitable climates to grow wine grapes, according to research by the Environmental Defense Fund and others.
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Coffee flavor depends upon really narrow conditions of temperature and moisture, and climate change is going to wreak havoc with that. Worse yet, as coffee growing regions become warmer, pests that couldn't survive in the past will ravage the crops. This is already being seen in Costa Rica, India and Ethiopia, which have experienced sharp declines in crop yields.California Drought by the Numbers
The upper-level jet stream gives a slight tailwind boost to aircraft headed from the United States to Europe, while making the return trip a bit slower. But new research predicts that climate change will speed up these winds, forcing transatlantic aircraft to spend an extra 2,000 hours in the air each year, and adding millions of dollars to fuel costs.
The study published in the journal Environmental Research Letters, looked at the effects of doubling the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere, which will occur within the next few decades unless emissions are cut quickly.
The average jet-stream winds along the flight route between London’s Heathrow airport and New York’s John F. Kennedy International airport are predicted to become 15 percent faster in winter, increasing from 77 to 89 km/hr (48 to 55 mph), with similar increases in the other seasons.
As a result, London-bound flights will become twice as likely to take under 5h 20m, implying that record-breaking crossing times will occur with increasing frequency in future. On the other hand, New York-bound flights will become twice as likely to take over 7h 00m, suggesting that delayed arrivals will become increasingly common.
Paul Williams, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Reading and author of the new study, explained that the jet stream is driven by temperature difference between equator and the pole, and by the laws of fluid dynamics.
“Climate change is increasing that temperature difference,” Williams told Discovery News. “When we run the detailed supercomputer simulations that is what they show.”
Due to the extra time spent in the air, transatlantic flights will burn an extra $22 million worth of fuel annually, and will emit an extra 70 million kg of CO2 – equivalent to the annual emissions of 7,100 British homes. And this might only be the tip of the iceberg.
Since the jet stream encircles the globe in both the northern and southern hemispheres, Williams expects the same effect on cross-country flights from Los Angeles to New York, for example, or Sydney to Sao Paulo.
In some of Williams’ previous work, he calculated that air turbulence will also increase because of the faster winds, making for a bumpier ride for passengers. The faster winds will keep airlines busy in an attempt to save fuel.
“Airlines employ mathematicians every day to calculate the fastest route,” Williams said. “They take in the wind speed from satellite observations and weather forecasts, plug it into an algorithm and out pops the fastest route. What I have done is using same routing algorithms, but generating the winds in a climate model.”
Williams says airplanes can’t just fly faster to compensate because of another effect, air friction that builds up as the plane gets closer to breaking the sound barrier.
“Airplanes fly at about 550 miles per hour, or 75 percent speed of sound (767 miles per hour),” he said. “The closer they get to 80 percent, the fuel efficiency drops off a cliff and the airline has to put an afterburner, real gas guzzlers. That’s why they don’t go any faster.”
There is one bright spot, Williams noted. North-south routes should not be affected by the jet stream winds.
Kristopher B. Karnauskas, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Colorado, Boulder, said that Williams’ calculations suggest that the carbon footprint of Trans-Atlantic flights could increase by 70 million kilograms of CO2 per year. Karnauskas found in his own research that the carbon footprint of Hawaii-west coast flights would increase by about a tenth as much, or by around 5 million kg CO2.
“I think Dr. Williams’ results are an important step forward in filling in the overall puzzle that is this intricate relationship that we humans have with the climate system,” Karnauskas said in an email to Discovery News.