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Desert Diary
Climate/Global Warming


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Global warming is politically, if not scientifically, controversial. A few serious scientists caution that we don't know enough to understand whether the current rise in the world's temperature is natural or man-made. There are those less scientifically astute, though, who have been adamant that there could be no way that man could possibly affect the climate.

Now, as if rising to mock such sentiments, there is a scientific hypothesis that man may have begun to affect climate as long as 8,000 years ago by clearing forestlands for agriculture and, later, by forming artificial wetlands for raising rice. Such activities would be expected to release greenhouse gases—carbon dioxide as forests are cleared and methane from rice paddies. The evidence? Antarctic ice has captured atmospheric gases for hundreds of thousands of years. The pattern of changes in the concentrations of the greenhouse gases shows up very nicely—until broken abruptly by an unexpected rise in carbon dioxide 8,000 years ago and in methane some 3,000 years later—times correlating with the significant onset of agricultural activities
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Listen to the Audio (mp3 format) as recorded by KTEP, Public Radio for the Southwest. rule

Contributor: Arthur H. Harris, Laboratory for Environmental Biology, Centennial Museum, University of Texas at El Paso.

Desert Diary is a joint production of the Centennial Museum and KTEP National Public Radio at the University of Texas at El Paso.