Climate Change

Global Warming

Is there a connection between global warming and geology?

Yes, there is an indirect connection between global warming and geology because changes in one part of the Earth’s complex systems affect other parts. In particular, a change in the global atmosphere (and biosphere) can affect the rock cycle: A rise in sea level can change the expanse of glacial ice, change positions of deserts, and cause ocean waters to inundate coastlines—all of which would change rates and types of weathering taking place on our planet.

Another important connection involves dissolved carbon dioxide in the oceans and surface water. Undoubtedly, the gas is taken up by organisms, but it also precipitates out of the ocean and surface waters to form certain sedimentary rocks. Carbon dioxide then returns to the system from a multitude of places, including the dissolution of carbonate minerals in rocks and shells, weathering of carbonate minerals, volcanic eruptions or hot springs, reactions with the atmosphere, respiration of organisms, and through streams and groundwater. Most scientists agree that a major change in the amount of carbon dioxide in or out of the environment can affect us all. Not only would humans and other living organisms be affected, but also the natural cycles connected to the world’s geology.

Still another geologic-global warming connection may be found in the weather and climate. If global warming continues, more powerful and intense weather systems may develop. Such events as superhurricanes would cause a great deal of erosion along coastlines, not to mention deluging countless rivers and creeks inland. In terms of climate change, variations in vegetation patterns could contribute to more erosion in various areas; glacial, polar, and sea ice would change drastically, altering the amount of radiation reflected back into space—thus enhancing the warming effect; and changes in the hydrologic cycle would alter stream flow and groundwater levels.


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