Global warming will affect ag practices

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COLUMBUS – Within 100 years, the major agricultural staple in Ohio could be peanuts or strawberries, rather than corn or wheat.

Increase in temperature. Various global warming models have predicted an increase in average temperature over the next century, ranging from 2.5 degrees to as high as 10 degrees – enough to cause a significant climate change throughout the Great Lakes region that would affect agricultural practices.

But whether Ohio might face wetter conditions similar to those experienced in North Carolina or a drier climate like that of northern Texas remains to be seen.

However, one thing is certain, stressed Ohio State University glaciologist Lonnie Thompson. Our planet is definitely getting warmer.

Glaciers disappearing. “Glaciers are our best tool for studying natural climate variations. They respond to what’s happening to the environment and there is compelling evidence to suggest that they are rapidly disappearing,” said Thompson, who works at the Byrd Polar Research Center.

“When those records melt away, we will lose one of our best archives for studying not only global warming but in understanding the causes of past global climate change.”

Thompson is a world-renowned scientist who has focused on recreating ancient Earth’s climate and tracking current climatological shifts using glaciers located in the tropics.

About the research. Thompson and his associates have focused their work on such glaciers as those found on Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa and the Quelccaya ice cap in the Andes in South America. They have found that both areas have lost a tremendous amount of ice over the past 40-90 years.

“From five maps that have been made since 1912 to the last one completed…based on aerial photos taken in 2000, we have been able to document that Kilimanjaro has lost over 80 percent of its total area of ice. If the rate of loss continues, the ice will disappear in about 13 years,” said Thompson.

Icecap receding. The Quelccaya ice cap has also been receding at a rapid pace. From 1963-1978, the ice cap was receding 4.7 meters (15 feet) per year.

By 1998, the recession had increased 10-fold and at last calculation in 2000, the ice cap was vanishing at a rate of 508 feet per year.

Thompson said the rapid rate of glacial recession is in response to an increase in global temperature, mainly caused from the burning of fossil fuels that release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and trap the sun’s heat, creating a phenomenon known as the greenhouse effect.

Global temperatures have increased eight-tenths of a degree over the last 100 years.

“That increase may not seem significant,” said Thompson, “but when you take into account the amount of CO2 that has been released over the last century, the impact of the climate change on Earth is substantial.”

Winners and losers. “One of the problems with global warming is that there will be winners and losers. There are 6 billion people who live on this planet and there are 2 billion who make less than $300 a year. It’s those people who won’t be able to deal with changes in the environment,” said Thompson.

“If those people are displaced, where will they go and who pays the bill for them going?”

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