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Geography professor discusses Conn. climate change

By Kathleen McWilliams
On November 5, 2012

Sunday afternoon, the sun shone brightly and the wind was a biting reminder that winter is on its way. It was a day that made it hard to believe that Climate Change may be one of the most pressing issues facing out generation.
Despite the beautiful weather, the Connecticut Natural History Museum hosted UConn geography professor and esteemed atmospheric science researcher, Anji Seth. Seth's lecture was entitled, "Climate Change Where We Live: What We Know, What We Don't Know, and Why."
The lecture was broken up into three distinct sections, background information on greenhouse gases and the history of climate change, the results from the IPCC, or the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and the effects of climate change of the Northeastern United States.
Seth's goal was to inform the crowd about climate change, as she said, "I am hoping, in a small way, I am helping you be more informed about climate change."
Seth began her lecture with a discussion on the history of climate science. Contrary to popular belief, the study of climate change has been in existence since the early 19th Century. She analyzed famous climatologist's hypotheses and described how society's perceptions of climate change have evolved over the years. According to Seth, climate science was developed in the mid-19th Century as a means to understand ice ages and potentially prevent another one from impacting Europe. As Dr. Seth emphasized, "This has been around for a while, it's not a new event." Seth also discussed greenhouse gases at length, dispelling several myths surrounding climate change. Seth was adamant that greenhouse gases are necessary to Earth's environment, "without greenhouse gases, earth would be 30 degrees Celsius cooler." With this fact, Seth segued into speaking about the fine line between anthropogenic climate change, or climate change spurred by human activities, and natural climate change. By showing numerous tables and graphs created by the IPCC, Seth demonstrated to the audience that Earth's climates have fluctuated over time, but never so great a degree. Seth showed graphs that displayed an upward trend in Glacial melt, ocean temperatures, and sea levels worldwide. With this information, Seth tied the discussion into recent storm, Hurricane Sandy. "It is ridiculous to say that Hurricane Sandy was caused by Climate Change, however it is feasible to say that climate change had a hand in how strong it was," said Seth, explaining that rising ocean temperatures will eventually lead to stronger storms later in the year.
The Hurricane Sandy connection, served as a lead to a discussion about the effects of climate change on the Northeastern United States. Seth told a rapt audience that the projections for the Northeast were wetter more humid winters, and summers that would become increasingly arid. That said, Seth stressed that these are only projections and that the potential for what the Northeast might get in reality, could be very different. Seth expressed her concern that the global community might not be able to handle such variations in climate, given the fact that the food producing areas of the world are likely to become arid and infertile. With a potential population expansion of 4 million in the next forty years, it may be difficult to support human lives.
Seth's talk was met with incredible enthusiasm by the participants. Her lecture was only scheduled to be an hour long, but her energy and passion kept audience members in attendance for an extra hour as she continued her lecture. Audience members called questions out during her lecture, which she happily answered. The Natural History Museum has several other events this semester, including a talk with prolific Carbon Cycle researcher, David Archer, Thursday at 4 p.m at the Dodd Research Center.


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