Get the Science on Climate Change

Ernie NeffWeather

Climate change

“Our climate is changing and, with that, comes more extreme events,” said Ashley Smyth, an assistant professor of soil and water science at the Tropical Research and Education Center in Homestead. The center is part of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS). “Just look at the most recent hurricanes. As they cross the Gulf, they gain energy. That is because of the warm water. As the air stays warmer longer, so does the water. What we also need to be concerned about is the heat and what that means for human health.”

Smyth wrote about climate change along with fellow UF/IFAS researchers and Extension personnel Josh Papacek, Holly Abeels and Alicia Betancourt. They published a new UF/IFAS Extension document titled Climate Change and Florida: Frequently Asked Questions. The document is presented in an easy-to-read, science-based, question-and-answer format.

Here are a few of the questions that the document answers:

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  • How do we know the climate is changing?
  • What are greenhouse gasses and where do they come from?
  • Is climate changing in Florida, and what are the long-term projections?
  • Why are sea levels rising?

As a rule, climate change doesn’t come along suddenly; it builds over years, Smyth said. For example, temperature increases come very gradually.

“The rate of change is increasing, meaning that unless we change our emissions, we will likely see hotter and hotter summers,” Smyth said. “That means climate change is not moving as slowly as it did in the past. One degree might not seem like a lot, but it is enough to trigger sea-level rise, snow melting, storms, heat waves and drought. These small changes add up over time to have large impacts. This is a sign of the Earth heating up.”

Another big takeaway from the Extension document, said Smyth, is that climate change is costly. It also can change growing seasons for agriculture by affecting pests, time and duration of rainfall and fertilizer use. “Those can impact businesses’ bottom lines,” she said.

Smyth sees some positive signs in human activity that might change the trend toward global warming. “More people are concerned, and there is evidence that people are taking action to reduce their carbon emissions, one potential cause of global warming,” she said.

See the climate change document here.

Source: University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences

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