Although there’s a global effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere, scientists still expect global temperatures to rise 2 degrees Fahrenheit or more in the next century. The change will likely produce more frequent and intense natural disasters such as hurricanes, droughts and floods. So what does that mean for the world’s natural wonders?
1. Grand Canyon
The Grand Canyon offers majestic views that attract millions each year, but the landmark is at risk of facing the effects of climate change sooner and more intensely due to its location in the Western United States. According to the Sierra Club, changes in the natural environment will be more evident in this particular area. Warming temperatures could make the region drier and limit water availability. Environmental conditions also could reduce the number of wildlife and plant species in the Grand Canyon.
2. Great Barrier Reef
The 1,800 mile-long coral reef formation, located off the east coast of Australia, is already bearing the burden of climate change. Warming ocean temperatures, strong storms and increased carbon dioxide are causing erosion and coral bleaching along the Great Barrier Reef. More than half of the reef has disappeared since 1985 and some say we could see the destruction of the natural wonder in as little as 16 years.
3. Harbor of Rio de Janeiro
The Harbor of Rio de Janeiro is a remarkable natural attraction. The harbor is actually the largest bay in the world and it’s surrounded by stunning mountains that almost reach the water’s edge. The wonder was created over time by erosion from waves in the Atlantic Ocean and this erosion still takes place today. Although it will take a long time for waves to chip away at the granite formations along the bay, stronger storms promised from a rising global temperature may speed up the process.
4. Mount Everest
Climate change is also taking a toll on the world’s tallest peak. According to a study, glaciers on Mount Everest have declined 13 percent in the past 50 years and the snowline has moved up several hundred feet. The temperature on the mountain has also risen by 1 degree Fahrenheit. It may not seem like much, but even a small change can increase flooding, avalanches and rock slides. According to the American Geophysical Union, greenhouse gases may be the culprit for the changes across the Himalayan region.
The dazzling lights in the Northern and Southern hemispheres (aurora borealis and aurora australis respectively) are actually caused, in part, by gases in the Earth’s atmosphere. The colors you see depend on the level of oxygen and nitrogen surrounding the Earth. High nitrogen content produces a blue or purplish-red aurora while oxygen concentrations cause yellow-green and sometimes red auroras. Although climate change has not been credited for any changes to the natural wonder, it will be interesting to see if increased emissions in the atmosphere change the auroras’ colors.
6. Paricutin Volcano
Paricutin, located in the Mexican state of Michoacán, doesn’t appear to be suffering any damage due to climate change. In fact, volcanoes can actually help cool the Earth, according to a study by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. When volcanoes erupt they release sulfur droplets, called aerosols, which reflect the sun’s rays so they can’t warm the ground. However, the carbon dioxide released during an explosion only adds to the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Scientists admit they have not seen noticeable global warming due to a volcanic eruption.
7. Victoria Falls
Some say the beauty of Victoria Falls may no longer be around in 50 years if the effects of climate change aren’t reversed. The waterfall, in southern Africa, is the world’s largest sheet of falling water, but as water levels decline due to warming temperatures and a drier climate, the natural beauty of the site will likely diminish.