Environmental Oceanography: Topics and Analysis
For Students

Issues Questions

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1:  In his 1999 article in GSA TODAY,2 Broecker says, “An extreme scenario is an unlikely one, for [present] models suggest that in order to force a conveyor shutdown, Earth would have to undergo a 4 to 5 degree C warming.” Eight years later, a conclusion of the 2007 IPCC Report on the impact of global climate change stated that “the amount of global average surface warming following a doubling of carbon dioxide concentrations by 2100 is likely to be in the range of 2 to 4.5 °C.” Based on this statement, comment on the possibility of a conveyor shutdown in the North Atlantic before 2100. Cite evidence for your conclusion.

2:  How does the Gulf Stream warm Western Europe?

3:  What do computer forecasts suggest would happen if the Gulf Stream “conveyor” were to stop?

4:  Describe the controversy over this report in Nature that suggested the Gulf Stream might be slowing down.

5:  What were the striking fi ndings about the Earth’s climate 55 million years ago discovered by the ocean drilling expedition to the Arctic?

6:  Scientists can deduce the temperature of surface water in the past by analyzing the oxygen isotope ratios in shells of planktonic organisms living in the surface water at that time and now preserved in deep ocean sediments. What was the temperature of surface water in the Arctic 55 million years ago?

7:  What did the commentator mean when he described present climate models as “overly conservative?”

8:  What was the nature and importance of the “one little rock in particular” as described by Dr. Moran?

9:  What do the researchers mean when they refer to “greenhouse worlds” and “icehouse worlds?”

10:  How did Dr. Moran describe the importance of Arctic sea ice to the global climate system?

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