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Climate Change

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Teacher/Instructor Patrick Roisen
Patrick Roisen

M.Ed., Stanford University
Winner of multiple teaching awards

Patrick has been teaching AP Biology for 14 years and is the winner of multiple teaching awards.

Climate change is defined as the long term change in weather patterns over time. The greenhouse effect is the trapping of heat in the Earth by gasses like carbon dioxide and some scientists argue that increases in atmospheric greenhouse gases will trap more heat. When more heat is trapped, there is more energy to drive weather patterns. This increased heat can also have unpredictable effects such as the melting of ice caps, shifting rainfall patterns and more powerful storms.

Something you hear a lot about in the news is something known as climate change. Now what is that all about? Well it's the idea that things are going in such way that scientists believe that there's going to be long term changes in the weather patterns here on earth. Now what's driving this? Well the idea is something known as the greenhouse effect. Now there's gases that are in the earth atmosphere like carbondioxide or methane that allow regular light to go through but they block or reflect what's known as infrared light which is one of the forms of heat and this is a good thing because of the greenhouse effect, when the sun goes down we don't suddenly start to freeze. If you're on the moon which has no atmosphere to help trap heat. When you're outside of the direct light of the sun, there's very little heat and you'll wind up freezing so the greenhouse effect helps keep the earth warm so that we can live and maintain our life in the way that we like. However, if you increase the level of greenhouse gases, you can then ultimately wind up trapping more heat. Now heat is a form of energy and it's the energy that helps drive our weather patterns so if you start adding more and more heat to the global system, there's more and more energy to drive the weather patterns so the idea is that you'll likely get changes in ocean currents, greater energied power storms, more energy evaporating water from the oceans to produce rain, now the problem is is that this winds up generating really unpredictable effects, somethings may actually be changes that we a lot might like. For example the Northern ice cap is starting to melt and there's a lot of interest by countries like China that would like to go through the Antarctica Ocean with their cargo ships. Normally that doesn't work so because there's a relative a constant ice cap. Well if it melts during the summer, they can take a greatly shortened trip to Europe and deliver their goods there so they may say,"Hey, that's a good side effect," but some of the side effects that we may not like could be changes in rainfall patterns so areas of say the US that are currently major farm crops that raise a lot of the world's food, they may start losing some of their rainfall effects and that may wind up no longer being as profitable and not able to make as much food.
Other areas of the world that are currently nice, may start having more extreme weather. Here in the bay area we have really nice weather and I'm hoping that there isn't any climate change. Well, some of the people who are in New England right now are suffering blizzards now. We've always had blizzards so I'm not going to say it's because of climate change but we've had some pretty strong ones recently in the last couple of years, so who knows? Maybe it is due to this whole climate change thing.