We see it everywhere. It is in the news, in our social media feeds, in our weekly conversations and, depending on your view, it could be unfolding right before our eyes. Climate change is a controversial topic within our society and pressing political issue around the world.
When we think of climate change two main points come to mind: an abundant amount of carbon emissions and the rise of global warming. It appears that these topics are the viewed as some of the main sources for climate change around the world. Over the past century scientists have found proof of climate change across the globe. Scientists have found evidence in our coral reefs, the melting of our glaciers, and a rise in extreme events. Since 1880, the Earth has warmed to about 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit. The warming of our Earth does not just include our atmosphere, but our ocean waters too.
So far this year there have been twelve named tropical storms in the Atlantic Ocean for 2019’s hurricane season. Four out of the twelve storms have formed into hurricanes. This is because of much warmer temperatures in the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. Warm tropical waters are key ingredient in the formation of hurricanes and earlier this year the Gulf of Mexico had very warm water temperatures. As of September 27, water temperatures are well above 80 degrees Fahrenheit. A few stations recorded temperatures at 88 degrees!
In the past three years the National Hurricane Center (NHC) reported at least 15–17 named storms every hurricane season. Each hurricane season lasts from June 1 until November 30. Only two months remain in the hurricane and we have almost matched the last three years! This has become an increasing trend in the number of named storms and hurricanes within the last half century. The NHC has tracked the number of storms since as early as the 1850’s. This increase in our trends could be related to the rise in ocean temperatures and the global temperature. But how does climate change relate to our local creeks and rivers?
Rising global temperatures could also have an impact in our local ecosystems. Certain regions of the United States, of course, have different types of climates that support different types of ecosystems. If temperatures continue to rise across the globe, our local environments will be altered. Indiana University’s Environmental Institute reports that warmer water temperatures in streams could result in a number of issues in streams and rivers. The fish, animals and other critters in the environment could be replaced by other non-native species or invasive species from other parts of the country. In addition, extreme rainfall in some areas could increase river runoff or the overflow of many sewer systems. This could spread toxins and bacteria throughout the ecosystem leading to more damage in the environment.
Furthermore higher temperatures along with other factors could lead another issue in rivers and lakes: algae blooms. Different types of algae blooms can be harmful. Earlier this year, right here in Northeast Ohio, an outbreak of blue-green algae was found across 300 square miles of Lake Erie. Eventually, it was reported that the algae bloom grew to at least 620 miles. This was harmful to mainly humans, but in general harmful algae blooms can damage different types of animal populations too. NASA’s observatory caught a picture of the algae bloom and says the bloom was caused by “Microcystis cyanobacteria”. This bacteria can cause liver damage, vomiting, dizziness and numbness. The government organization also reports that the algae bloom was caused by a plethora or rainfall, calm winds and possible river runoff with fertilizer due to excessive flooding earlier in the summer.