Updated: Feb 5
Climate change affects nature in many obvious ways, like drought, more intense storms, and the melting of glaciers, but it also is causing some changes you might not have thought of or experienced yet. These changes can be seen in many different climates and ecosystems, including the animal world, the plant world, and even within our own bodies. So what are some unexpected ways that climate change is impacting the earth and our lives? Let’s get into it.
As you might expect, climate change is making storms stronger. But what you may not realize is that it makes snow storms stronger too. Although the earth is getting warmer, it is still cold enough in many regions for snow. Snow needs two variables to form, moisture and cold temperatures, but cold air doesn’t hold moisture that well. This means that snow is formed from the collision of warm, moist air and cold dry air. The warmer the air, the more moisture it can hold. With the global rise in temperatures, the atmosphere will be able to carry a greater capacity of moisture. More moisture will lead to more snow, and larger snowstorms.
Many processes in nature are influenced by temperature. For some reptiles, the sex of the animals inside the eggs is not determined at the time of laying, but instead by the temperature of the egg during incubation. Temperature-dependent sex determination is found in all crocodilians, most turtles, and some lizards. This is because of temperature’s impact on the enzyme aromatase. In many temperature dependent reptile species, low temperatures will lead to male characteristics while high temperatures will lead to female characteristics. Scientists believe that warmer temperatures give females an advantage by causing them to develop more quickly and be able to reproduce earlier in their lives. As the global temperatures rise, this leads to a higher ratio of females to males in the reptile world. This can disrupt the reproductive efficiency of the species.
Trees are notorious for being slow growers with very long lives, and many scientists have been worried that trees would not be able to adapt to the rapid changes in global temperatures over the last century. Researchers in Germany though have found that some species, including the Beech and Spruce trees, have begun to increase their growth rate. This is because of the increased levels of carbon dioxide and nitrogen in the atmosphere as well as an increased growing season due to longer periods of warmer temperatures. This is potentially good for the forestry industry because they can harvest trees faster. The increased rate of growth in trees is like an immune response to climate change, as more trees leads to more carbon dioxide being taken out of the atmosphere. Many people say trees are one of our best defenses against climate change.
Our bodies and behavior are also impacted by the effects of climate change. A rise in global temperatures adds extra heat stress on our bodies that can alter our behavior. An increase in body heat causes our bodies to redirect blood away from the brain towards other parts of the body to help cool down. This decrease of resources to the brain makes it harder to process new information, manage emotions, and control impulses. Scientists believe that an increase in global temperatures will promote an increase in aggressive behavior because of this effect of heat on our bodies. This ranges from increases in arguments to increased frequencies of wars. So remember to stay cool out there!
Climate change is leading to drastic changes in the environment around the world. Some are obvious, like the melting of the ice caps, while others are a bit more unexpected. A global rise in temperatures is leading to larger snow storms, more female reptiles, faster growing trees, and changes in our own behaviors. Some of these might be consequences of a rapidly changing environment, while others might be a healthy response to a system outside of homeostasis. Regardless, we can’t deny that our planet is changing.