Assignment 1

In Class Group Presentations on Jan 23

Modeling Global Warming

Remember doubling times and exponential growth!

Doubling time is 70/n; where n is the percentage growth rate. Thus something which has a 5% rate of growth, doubles every 70/5 = 14 years.

Here is what we know.

  1. in 1900 the concentration of CO2 in our atmosphere was 280 parts per million.

  2. in 1900 the concentration of CH4 in our atmosphere was 1.2 parts per million

  3. The rate of increase of CO2 in our atmosphere is about 0.5% per year over the last 100 years.

  4. The rate of increase of CH4 in our atmosphere is about 1.0% per year but in the past 5 years seems to have declined to about 0.7% per year (for unknown reasons).

    Note that there is stored methane in artcic permafrost as well as gas hydrate deposits in the ocean. As the oceans expand and warm, the density of ocean water decreases and thus the pressure confinement by the ocean layers of these gas hydrate deposits is relaxing, thus possibly releasing large amount of methane.

Your task is to take the following set of input parameters and assumptions and make a model prediction about what the effects of global warming will be in 100 and in 200 years (i.e. in the year 2100 and the year 2200). You are to work together in your assigned team. Appoint a group leader that will give a short (e.g. 10 minutes) in class presentation on the results of your modeling.

There is no unique answer that you can get from this exercise. Your results will be highly model dependent (which is the point of this exercise!). Depending upon your assumptions, you might find that warming is severe in which case you might want to spin your presentation towards that, or you might find that its not as severe as the hype makes it sound.

Here is what we don't know and therefore must be modeled within some parameter range. You should do some independent research to find the best supporting scientific evidence for adopting various values below.

  1. The absorption of infrared radiation of CH4 relative to CO2 is uncertain and lies in the range of 10 to 25 times as much. (e.g. 1 CH4 molecule is equivalent to 10-25 CO2 molecules). For instance, if this ratio is 10, then in 1900 the combined CO2 + CH4 concentration in our atmosphere, in units of CO2 ppm would have been 280 + 10*1.2 = 292. If this ratio is 25 it would be 280 + 25*1.2 = 310.

  2. A doubling of combined CO2 + CH4 will produce a net increase in average global temperature of between 2 and 6 degrees C. This depends quite a bit on the amount of water vapor feedback that will occur. You should do a bit of research on this topic.

  3. The combined biomass on the planet currently can process 15 ppm of CO2 per year. The amount of biomass on the planet is shrinking in relation to population growth at the rate of 1-3% per year. The Amazon rain forest accounts for 15% of the worlds total biomass. However, global warming may actually grow more biomass at high latitudes and so you can, if you can defend it, choose to actually increase the amount of biomass per year.

  4. An increase in global temperature by each degree C will cause a rise in sea level of between 0.25 and 0.75 meters. In addition, each increase by 0.5 degree C will "suddenly" release methane from the frozen tundra. But the amount is uncertain - estimates vary from 0.5 to 10 parts per million (its very uncertain) Thus, if the methane concentration at Time X is say 20 ppm and 0.5 degree C increase has occurred then the methane concentration will "suddenly" increase 20 ppm to somewhere in the range 20.5 - 30 ppm. Again, you will need to incorporate this "sudden" release factor directly into your model.

  5. The current world population growth is 1.5% per year and 1/3 of the world is responsible for CO2 production (hence it grows at 0.5% per year). Approximately 2/3 of the world is responsible for CH4 production. If the LDC (less developed countries) use fossil fuels to reach the economic standard of the developed countries, then these factors increase from 1/3 to 1 and from 2/3 to 1.

    Therefore your assumption matrix in this regard is the following:

    Your task is to make a model, tied to a specific set of assumptions and give a report on

    Again your team will need to do some independent research to see what some of the "best" scientific estimates are for some of the parameter ranges specified above.

    These presentations are due on Jan 21.1