Climate's Vicious Cycle

A little temperature rise can unlock vicious feedback loops that speed global warming. If global temperatures continue to rise, some of these feedbacks could spiral beyond our ability to reverse them.
penguinonglacier.jpg

A penguin walking on a melting glacier.

Photo illustration by Hiroshi Howell/Getty Images

As early as 1896, Swedish chemist Svante Arrhenius devised a basic formula to explain geologic changes in climate: add carbon dioxide, things heat up. Simple.

But scientists have since learned that a little atmospheric temperature rise can unlock vicious feedback loops that speed global warming. Some of these feedbacks are already taking effect. Others may be triggered by further warming. If global temperatures continue to rise, some of these feedbacks could spiral beyond our ability to reverse them. Here are four examples.

YES! Magazine Graphics, 2008. Photos from iStock.

 

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