Climate Change Feedback loops

The Guardian has, what it is calling “The Ultimate Climate Change FAQ”, and today somebody has just updated the answer to one of the questions … its really quite interesting … well OK, all answers are, it just so happens that today’s caught my eye.

The question is “What are Climate Change Feedback loops?” … and here is the answer …

In climate change, a feedback loop is the equivalent of a vicious or virtuous circle – something that accelerates or decelerates a warming trend. A positive feedback accelerates a temperature rise, whereas a negative feedback decelerates it.

Scientists are aware of a number of positive feedbacks loops in the climate system. One example is melting ice. Because ice is light-coloured and reflective, a large proportion of the sunlight that hits it is bounced back to space, which limits the amount of warming it causes. But as the world gets hotter, ice melts, revealing the darker-coloured land or water below. The result is that more of the sun’s energy is absorbed, leading to more warming, which in turn leads to more ice melting – and so on.

Various other feedbacks – related to emissions from soils and permafrost, for example, and changes to ocean evaporation – are known or thought to exist.

Feedback loops such as these are complex in themselves and even more complex when considered as part of an integrated global climate system. Some are already at work, while others have yet to kick in. Others still – both positive and negative – may yet be discovered.

Now that’s all fascinating … Oh and I like the final punchline at the end which is …

These uncertainties, coupled with historical evidence for the climate changing rapidly in the past, led one prominent climate scientist to compare releasing greenhouse gases into the air with “poking a beast with a sharp stick“.

You can find the Climate Change FAQ questions here.

You can also read about this FAQ project here. Its new and has only just started on 22 Dec. Their goal is to create world’s best layman-friendly guide to all aspects of climate change and they need your help, so whatever you view is, they want your questions. Given all the confusion, misinformation and divisiveness, its a truly noble goal to aspire towards. Of course, at this point in time its embryonic, so it remains to be seen how it will develop.

Oh and finally …if you just happen to be an expert in one of the topics discussed, and would like to report an error or make a suggestion, then please do get in touch with them by clicking here and filling in some details. (Self-appointed idiots need not apply)

1 thought on “Climate Change Feedback loops”

  1. Nice to see more expert opinion available to common folk.

    Common folk are very busy so reading science papers is not high on our list of things to do. But having a site where complex issues are translated, but not distorted, is a huge common good.


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