Month: November 2020

Carbon . . . Cooling?

Layers of the atmosphere (Wikimedia Commons, 2010)

Scientists have recently discovered another atmospheric temperature cycle called the Quasi-Quadrennial Oscillation (QQO) in the upper atmosphere. The researchers believe that this newly discovered natural cycle can enrich climate modelling. This cycle describes a pattern of temperature variation, between 3-4 °C every four years, taking place 90 kilometers above Antarctica in the mesosphere.

The Earth’s atmosphere is divided into many layers, starting with the troposphere (which we call home, ending 15 km above sea level), stratosphere (50 km), mesosphere (85 km), thermosphere (500 km), and ending with the exosphere (outer space). Interestingly, while the concentration of green house gases (GHGs) rising in the troposphere leads to warming, the same occurring in the mesosphere leads to a cooling effect.

This is because gas molecules are much less dense in the mesosphere, so instead of trapping heat by transferring energy between other gas molecules, the few molecules capable of capturing infrared radiation are more likely to radiate it directly out to space. This results in an accelerated cooling in the mesosphere, at a rate the researchers determined to be 1.2 °C per decade. Studying the change in temperature in the mesosphere could allow us to build more accurate climate models and provide us with a new way to analyze changes in temperature due to the increasing (or decreasing) concentration of GHGs.

Learn more about the science here!

Climate Lawsuits

The La Rose youth climate plaintiffs (Our Children’s Trust, September 30, 2020)

On October 27th 2020, the Canadian Federal Court rejected a lawsuit headed by 15 Canadian youth who intended to argue that their Charter Rights were being violated by insufficient government action against climate change. The details of La Rose et al. vs. Her Majesty the Queen and the rejection are explored in greater depth here.

These young Canadians were not the first nor will they be the last to try to bring the climate change fight into a legal arena. The Netherlands vs. Urgenda ruled on December 20th 2019 that inadequate action against climate change is a violation of human rights, and the court mandated a strict target on greenhouse gas emission reduction. Similar cases are being brought to the table across the world.