Thursday, March 20, 2008

Test Your Climate Knowledge

Considering the number of snow cancellations this winter, you are probably starting to think global warming might not be such a bad thing. Unfortunately scientists, predict that climate change will bring us not shorter winters and lower snow plow bills, but less pleasant things, like more frequent extreme precipitation events; rising sea levels; intermittent flood and drought conditions; increased spring frost damage to crops, fluctuating snow cover levels for ski areas; an increase of disease-carrying insect populations; changes in forest type and changes in marine habitat and species populations.Test your knowledge of Earth’s climate—past, present and future—with our climate quiz.

1. Earth’s atmosphere is made up of mostly:
a. oxygen
b. carbon dioxide
c. nitrogen
d. helium

The concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has more than doubled since the start of the Industrial Revolution.

Over the last hundred years, the average annual temperature in New England has increased:
a. 0.7º F
b. 6º F
c. 3.8º F
d. not at all; it has gone down

4. The greenhouse effect:
a. Happens when the Earth absorbs solar radiation and re-emits heat which is absorbed by gases and water vapor in the atmosphere that in turn emit the heat back to earth.
b. Maintains the conditions that allow us to survive on Earth; without it we would freeze.
c. Is being increased by human-caused emissions of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide.
d. All of the above.

5. The largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in Maine is:
a. Volcanoes
b. Industry
c. Transportation
d. Agriculture

6. What steps can you take to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases?
a. Switch to energy- and water-efficient appliances and compact fluorescent lightbulbs.
b. Reduce the miles you drive and minimize air travel.
c. Purchase locally-grown food whenever possible.
d. All of the above.


c. Earth’s atmosphere consists of 78.1% nitrogen, 20.9% oxygen, 0.9% argon and 0.1% trace gases, including carbon dioxide and methane. Even though the amounts of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and methane seem small, they play a big role in warming our planet because of their ability to absorb and re-emit heat.

False. Prior to the Industrial Revolution, atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) were 280 parts per million (ppm). Today, CO2 concentrations are 370 ppm, the highest level in the last 160,000 years.

a. The average annual temperature in New England has increased 0.7º Fahrenheit over the last century.

d. All of the above.

c. Transportation accounts for 31%, or nearly a third, of all greenhouse gas emissions in Maine. Other big sources are: land use change (20%); electric utilities (15%); residential fossil fuel combustion (13%); industrial fossil fuel combustion (6%).

d. Almost everything we do on a daily basis results in greenhouse gas emissions—our activities and associated emissions are known as our “carbon footprint.” Whenever we reduce our consumption of energy, we reduce our carbon footprint. And that’s a good thing for the climate.

This column was submitted by Andrea Lani, an Environmental Specialist with the Maine Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) Bureau of Air Quality. In Our Back Yard is a weekly column of the DEP.

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