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The oxygen isotope ratio is the first way used to determine past temperatures from the ice cores. Isotopes are atoms of the same element that have a different number of neutrons. All isotopes of an element have the same number of protons and electrons but a different number of neutrons in the nucleus. Because isotopes have a different number of neutrons, they have different mass numbers. Oxygen's most common isotope has a mass number of 16 and is written as 16O. Most of the oxygen in water molecules is composed of 8 protons and 8 neutrons in its nucleus, giving it a mass number (the number of protons and neutrons in an element or isotope) of 16. About one out of every 1,000 oxygen atoms contains 2 additional neutrons and is written as 18O.

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Depending on the climate, the two types of oxygen (16O and 18O) vary in water. Scientists compare the ratio of the heavy (18O) and light (16O) isotopes in ice cores, sediments, or fossils to reconstruct past climates. They compare this ratio to a standard ratio of oxygen isotopes found in ocean water at a depth of 200 to 500 meters. The ratio of the heavy to light oxygen isotopes is influenced mainly by the processes involved in the water or hydrologic cycle.

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More evaporation occurs in warmer regions of the ocean, and water containing the lighter 16O isotope evaporates more quickly than water containing the heavier 18O. Water vapor containing the heavier 18O, however, will condense and precipitate more quickly than water vapor containing the lighter 16O. As water evaporates in warmer regions, it is moved with air by convection toward the polar regions.

Ocean-floor sediments can also be used to determine past climate. They reflect the oxygen isotope of the ocean water, because the oxygen in the calcium carbonate shells that are deposited on the ocean floor records the oxygen isotope variations in the ocean at the time of formation.

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The table explains how the oxygen isotope ratio can be used to reconstruct the type of past climate. The table explains the oxygen isotope ratio for ice cores and ocean water/ocean floor sediments during a colder climate or glacial period.

Colder Climates
Oxygen Isotopes Ratio Explanation
Ice Core Ice cores contain more 16O than ocean water, so ice cores have a lower 18O/ 16O ratio than ocean water or ocean-floor sediments. Water containing the lighter isotope 16O evaporates more readily than 18O in the warmer subtropical regions. As this water vapor (which is enriched with 16O) moves toward the poles, the heavier 18O condenses and precipitates out first at lower latitudes, leaving progressively more 16O in the water vapor reaching the poles. The water vapor that reaches the polar regions precipitates as snow, eventually becoming ice.
Ocean Water/Sediments Ocean water and ocean-floor sediments contain more 18O than ice cores, so the ocean water and sediments have a higher 18O/ 16O ratio than ice cores. When the ocean is colder, it takes more energy to evaporate the heavier isotope, 18O, than it does to evaporate the lighter isotope, 16O. The water vapor with 18O condenses and precipitates out first at lower latitudes. This causes the oceans to have more 18O.

In a warmer climate, ocean water would contain more 16O because as ice sheets melt, the water with 16O is returned to the ocean.

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The Deuterium to Hydrogen Ratio

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The second way to determine past temperatures is by calculating the deuterium to hydrogen ratio in the ice core samples. The water molecule contains two different isotopes of hydrogen (1H and 2H). 1H contains one proton and no neutrons and 2H, known as deuterium or D, contains one proton and one neutron. The ratio of deuterium to hydrogen in the ice core is compared to the ratio of deuterium to hydrogen in standard mean ocean water. The ice cores contain slightly less of the heavier isotopes of oxygen (18O) and deuterium (2H).

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What is happening in Florida that is evidence of climate change? ›

Florida's climate is changing. The Florida peninsula has warmed more than one degree (F) during the last century. The sea is rising about one inch every decade, and heavy rainstorms are becoming more se- vere.

Does NASA do climate research? ›

NASA is a global leader in studying Earth's changing climate. The agency's observations of our home planet from space, the air, and on the ground are helping us learn how the interconnected systems of our planet interact. The agency has a broad climate research program.

What is NASA doing for climate change? ›

NASA is an expert in climate and Earth science. While its role is not to set climate policy or prescribe particular responses or solutions to climate change, its job does include providing the scientific data needed to understand climate change.

What possible research problems can you identify with climate change? ›

Grand Challenges in the Physical Aspects of Climate
  • Sea-Level Rise. ...
  • Cryospheric Processes. ...
  • The Role of Clouds and Aerosols in the Climate System. ...
  • Water Availability. ...
  • Linking Extreme Events to Climate Change. ...
  • Access to Data for Climate Research. ...
  • Regional Climate Information.
Oct 1, 2013

What part of Florida is safest from climate change? ›

Climate Risks for Cities in Florida

Of these top cities in Florida, the city with the highest overall risk is Jacksonville. The city with the lowest overall risk is Cape Coral.

How soon will the Florida Keys be underwater? ›

Sea level rise projections from the Interagency Sea Level Rise Scenario Tool (published by NASA's Sea Level Change Team) indicate that Key West could experience between 0.45 and 2.16 meters (1 and 7 feet) of sea level rise by 2100.

How long until climate change is irreversible? ›

of aggressive climate change policies is that humanity is always about 10 years away from either catastrophic climate change, or some greenhouse gas emission “tipping point” at which such change will become inevitable.

What degree is needed for climate research? ›

If you'd like to prepare for a climate career, consider a major that immerses you in the study of the environment and ecology. Students who choose a specific focus — such as atmospheric science, marine biology, or horticulture — can contribute their unique expertise toward mitigating climate change.

Is it too late to stop global warming? ›

Global average temperatures have risen and weather extremes have already seen an uptick, so the short answer to whether it's too late to stop climate change is: yes.

Where is climate change the worst? ›

1. Afghanistan. Between 1950 and 2010, the temperatures in Afghanistan increased by 1.8ºC, and an optimistic view of the climate crisis in the country still shows a minimum increase of 1.4°C by 2050 (the worst case scenario would see a 6ºC increase by the end of this century).

Is Earth getting greener NASA? ›

Earth has continued to grow green since the turn of the century and this could help moderate global warming, according to new maps released by the United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA).

What company is doing the most to fight climate change? ›

The Top 10 Publicly Traded Companies Fighting Climate Change in 2023
  • #1. Alphabet.
  • #2. Beyond Meat.
  • #3. HP.
  • #4. Unilever.
  • #5. Johnson & Johnson.
  • #6. Tesla.
  • #7. Microsoft.
  • #8. Apple.
Jan 5, 2023

What are 5 things that scientists are still figuring out regarding climate change? ›

5 ways NOAA scientists are answering big questions about climate...
  • Tracking greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere. ...
  • Understanding ocean warming. ...
  • Exploring the link between climate change and hurricanes. ...
  • Tracking warming in the Great Lakes. ...
  • Working towards climate resilience.
Apr 20, 2021

What is one of the biggest problems we face with climate change? ›

The main threats of climate change, stemming from the rising temperature of Earth's atmosphere include rising sea levels, ecosystem collapse and more frequent and severe weather. Rising temperatures from human-caused greenhouse gas emissions affects planet-wide systems in various ways.

What will happen if we don't stop climate change? ›

Global warming increases the risk of more frequent—and heavier—rainfall, snowfall, and other precipitation. And as that risk increases, so too does the risk of flooding.

What part of Florida won't be underwater? ›

Most of greater Miami, the Florida Keys, and Fort Lauderdale are in that highly vulnerable zone. However, Orlando, the vacation mecca in the middle of the state is 82 feet (25 meters) above sea level and not at all vulnerable. Tallahassee, the capital, is more than 200 feet above sea level.

What Florida city is most threatened by sea level? ›

Miami Beach has been the poster city for sea-level rise for some time, and for good reason. By 2100, 98% of buildings in the city could be below sea level. A mild hurricane would likely flood the whole city.

What part of Florida is in danger if sea levels rise? ›

Overall, sea level rise is making the odds of a South Florida flood reaching more than 4 feet above high tide, by 2050, on par with the odds of losing at Russian roulette. More than half the population of more than 100 Florida towns and cities lives on land below that 4-foot line.

What environmental issues is Florida facing? ›

Pollution and Water Quality

Essentially, due to runoff and pollution algae blooms are disturbing the aquatic ecosystems. When this algae coats the surface of the water, the plants underneath no longer have enough access to sunlight and oxygen.

Is Florida going to be uninhabitable? ›

Florida Is Not Disappearing Tomorrow

Global warming, the melting of the polar ice caps, and the porous limestone are big problems for Florida. However, this is a problem that will slowly get worse over the course of the century and will not render large parts of the state uninhabitable in the near term.

How hot will Florida be in 20 years? ›

Historical and Projected Temperature Trends in Florida

In the next 20 years, average summer temperatures are projected to rise above 83°F under both moderate and high emissions scenarios.

What factors affect Florida's climate? ›

The chief factors that govern Florida's climate are latitude, land and water distribution, prevailing winds, storms, pressure systems and ocean currents. Although no place in Florida is far from sea level, during the winter altitude can be a significant local factor in affecting temperature.

What part of Florida has the most pollution? ›

Real-time Florida Most polluted city ranking
#cityUS AQI
3Four Corners47
6 more rows
Dec 29, 2022

What are the current issues in southern Florida? ›

Local Issues
  • Everglades Restoration. ...
  • Responsible Growth Management. ...
  • Water Quality. ...
  • Fracking. ...
  • Energy. ...
  • Sugar Cane Burning. ...
  • Florida Panther Protection.

Will Florida be underwater by 2025? ›

Sea level rise could leave some roads in the Florida Keys underwater by 2025, and fixing the flood threat comes at a staggeringly high cost. Take a look.

Will Florida be underwater in 40 years? ›

By 2100, large swaths of coastal land in Florida will be permanently submerged. In the shorter term, rising seas will increase the frequency and severity of coastal flooding. Statewide, three feet of flooding puts at risk: Future sea level depends on greenhouse gas emissions and atmospheric / oceanic processes.

Where will be the safest place to live in 2050? ›

Michigan, says globalization expert. A new book examining the forces shaping the future of global migration forecasts Michigan as the best place in the world to live in 2050.

Is South Florida getting hotter? ›

A report released Monday from the nonprofit climate research group First Street Foundation found that Miami-Dade leads the nation as the county that could see the sharpest increase in dangerous hot days over the next 30 years, when the U.S. could be an average of 3 degrees hotter.

How much of the US will be underwater by 2050? ›

It found that an estimated 4.3 million acres — an area nearly the size of Connecticut — will be underwater by 2050, including $35 billion worth of real estate.

Why is South Florida so hot? ›

One, peninsulas are naturally warmer than mainlands because the adjacent water absorbs the sun's warmth and heats up the land it surrounds. And two, Florida's land is 75% coastal and as air moves across the warm water it picks up heat and water vapors, making Florida the most humid in the country.


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