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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

what do you think will be some unexpected side effects of global warming?


I was surprised to read this in an article — from the Associated Press — about the extreme heat that is currently baking the American West:

The scorching weather presented problems for airlines because high temperatures can make it more difficult for planes to take off. Hot air reduces lift and also can diminish engine performance. Planes taking off in the heat may need longer runways or may have to shed weight by carrying less fuel or cargo.

Smaller jets and propeller planes are more likely to be affected than bigger airliners that are better equipped for extreme temperatures.

In June 1990, when Phoenix hit 122 degrees, airlines were forced to cease flights for several hours because of a lack of data from the manufacturers on how the aircraft would operate in such extreme heat.

US Airways spokesman Todd Lehmacher said the airline now knows that its Boeings can fly at up to 126 degrees, and its Airbus fleet can operate at up to 127.

Those temps are barely higher than the forecast for today.

We’re used to hearing about rising sea levels and desertification as results of a rapidly warming planet, but I’d never heard about a potential impact on airline travel. Twenty years from now, will some cities be cut off from air travel for significant portions of the year because airliners simply cannot operate safely in their weather? The quick and easy answer might be: Well, we’ll just invent planes with a higher tolerance for extreme heat… but will airlines invest in new planes? As the oil gets harder to find and the price of fuel goes up — which is inevitable unless we find some other way to power our civilization — airline travel is probably going to become even more of a luxury than it is now, so why buy new equipment in a contracting industry?

What do you think will be some unexpected side effects of global warming? It could be pure speculation on your part, not necessarily something you’re aware is true but don’t typically see brought up in discussion about the future of our planet and our civilization. But if you’ve got those, we’d love to hear about them, too.

Image from a BBC News slideshow of heat-wave photos.

(If you have a suggestion for a Question, feel free to email me.)

  • RussellListon

    Water Wars. Nations have gone to War all throughout history for Resources. When lakes, rivers, wells, and reservoirs begin to dry up, people are going to start dying of Thirst. If the neighboring country has a better Water supply, doesn’t take a genius to figure out how that will go down. Especially if the other country can’t or wont share their own water.

  • althea

    Have a look at the current Rolling Stone. There’s an article about what’s happening, and going to happen, to Miami. The intro is written as a future-history piece detailing how it became unlivable there. Scary. Not just a matter of being under water; there’s the water seeping into underground communication infrastructure, impossibility of getting financial backing for the government to repair, reclamation, or replacement projects,and what happens when people start to abandon a city, destroying its economy base.

  • beccity98

    This may be showing my lack of knowledge about how things work, but I always thought that if the ice just started to melt a little, it would lower the temp of the oceans, thereby stalling global warming a bit. Yes, there would be less ice, and yes, the oceans would rise a bit, but still, doesn’t melting ice make the rest of the water cooler?

    Also I read somewhere that even though we’ve always been told to reduce our CO2 emissions, because high levels of CO2 causes global warming, in fact it is global warming that causes high levels of CO2. I’m sure we’re not helping ourselves, it’s not as drastic as people make it out to be. Supposedly, there was global warming around the time of the dinosaurs, too, causing rising CO2 levels. I dunno, I’m not smart enough on the subject to tell if that was anti-propaganda propaganda or what.

  • beccity98

    We’d just have to figure out a better way to get fresh water from the ocean. Water doesn’t go anywhere-Earth has always had the exact same amount of water. Which is why I didn’t like the series ‘V’ the aliens wanted water and other resources. You can’t take them, we don’t know what it would do to the planet if you actually took so much water off planet.

    On a related note, I wondered recently if some of our environmental problems were because of the amount of stuff we’ve sent into space that hasn’t come back. Earth has had the same amount of XYZ on it that it always has had, but in the last century we’ve been sending tons of it off the planet? Isn’t that messing with our gravity, or something? But then my hubs said we’re always getting hit with meteors, so maybe it equals out?

    This is me assuming that the Earth is one giant self-sustaining organism, that if you remove part of it, it sends it out of whack.

  • RussellListon

    That would mean someone would have to pay for the technology to accomplish the task. That could be private hands or public hands. Both risks all kinds of corruption. I Could also ask would that water be free, low priced, high priced, would certain areas be cut off for whatever reason. I’m sure that technology could be mass produced, but even then I can see 5 or six issues of the top of my head. Then again I may need to quit thinking about the worst that could happen, which I do. :)

  • Arthur

    Regarding the ice, yes, it buffers the temperature, but the ice is dwindling — climatologists now predict an iceless summer in the Arctic this century, so ice will not be there to cool us off, and sea water absorbs more of sunlight’s heat than ice or snow. So it’s likely that the warming trend will accelerate

    Not sure where you heard that global warming causes CO2, but wouldn’t that be further incentive to decrease CO2 emissions?

    Yes, according to ice core samples CO2 was much higher millions of years ago, but that doesn’t mean that it would have been pleasant, and in our time the CO2 has risen quickly, so there is less time for ecologies to adapt. Species will die (e.g. polar bears are losing their habitat), and we will have more mosquitoes, more poison ivy, and more droughts. And with these pleasant thoughts, off to bed!

  • Arthur

    We already have ways to get fresh water from seawater (e.g. Israel). However that takes energy/money.

    Regarding the amount of material we’ve sent into space, it’s negligible compared to the size of Earth.

    The idea that Earth has self-correcting processes has been proposed. However,even if this is true, there’s no guarantee that what the Earth comes up with will be pleasant for humanity.

  • Bluejay

    even though we’ve always been told to reduce our CO2 emissions, because high levels of CO2 causes global warming, in fact it is global warming that causes high levels of CO2.

    It’s a vicious cycle. CO2 emissions contribute to global warming. As a result, global warming causes things like the melting of permafrost in places like Siberia, which then releases large quantities of carbon and methane previously stored in the permafrost.

  • RogerBW

    English wine may finally be worth drinking. Briefly, before the entire country freezes as the Gulf Stream shuts down.

  • There are already some very nice whites and roses, such as those from http://www.chapeldown.com/ .

    And I’ve heard from someone who would now (a wine professional) that the French vineyards are buying up land in the southeast of England in anticipation of the time, which is close, when France will be too hot to grow champagne grapes. Watch for the French wine industry to lobby for the bubbly to be allowed to be officially called “champagne” even if it’s not grown in France as long as it’s grown by French vineyards in England.

  • An influx of fresh cold water into the North Atlantic may shut down the current that keeps Europe warmer than it would otherwise be (by pushing the heavier warm salt water down). So Western Europe might get colder while the rest of the planet swelters.

  • RogerBW


    Given this country’s propensity for Weather, I should have said: English wine worth drinking, except harvest ruined by storms.

  • ChesireKat

    I’m looking for the local NPR radio link that I heard this am: It was a discussion on how tweeting and all the devices we use may be contributing global warming. Sorry now facts, but while I’m here maybe someone will run into a link. :(

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