If climate change continues at the rate it’s going now, one of the most important types of clouds could eventually disappear for good, causing the Earth to reach extreme temperatures. According to a paper published in the journal Nature Geoscience, if enough carbon dioxide is pumped into the atmosphere, the stratocumulus clouds – which are those puffy clouds we often see in the sky – could become extinct. If that happens, the temperature here on Earth could climb to heights that are unimaginable.
Clouds are very important to our atmosphere, as they reflect sunlight away from the surface of Earth. If you look up at the sky and notice a white blanket of clouds, those are stratocumulus clouds and researchers think that sudden jumps in the Earth’s temperature in the past could have potentially been caused by changes to these types of clouds.
In newly conducted research, scientists used a supercomputer to model a small part of the sky. They noticed that if the carbon dioxide (or CO2) levels in the atmosphere reach approximately 1,200 parts per million (or ppm), stratocumulus clouds end up breaking apart. As of right now, CO2 levels have already reached past 410 ppm which is quite high considering that it was at 280 ppm prior to the industrial revolution.
Unfortunately, there is more carbon dioxide going into our atmosphere each year. If we continue at the rate we’re going now, Earth’s atmosphere could reach 1,200 ppm in only 100 to 150 years. Now that’s scary. Earth’s temperature could reach an average of 14 degrees Fahrenheit higher in addition to the dangerous changes that are already being created from greenhouse gases. Not to mention the fact that Earth’s ice would melt causing devastating rises in the water levels.
To put this scenario into better perspective, the last time that Earth was that warm, crocodiles were swimming in the Arctic and the area around the equator was pretty much lifeless and scorching hot.
If the stratocumulus clouds disappeared from our atmosphere, they probably wouldn’t come back until the carbon dioxide levels dropped below where they are now. There is, however, questions regarding this current data, as the 1,200 ppm number could end up being higher or lower as scientists conduct more research on this issue. Nevertheless, I think it’s pretty clear that something needs to be done to protect our atmosphere and the dangerous issues surrounding climate change.
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