Water Ice and Global Warming

As noted in the last chapter, water has a relatively high specific heat, which means that it heats up and cools down more slowly than many other substances. Without water, the earth would be much hotter. As Robert Stewart, a professor of oceanography and meteorology at Texas A&M says, "For insights into what Earth might be like if there had never been an ocean, hop over to Venus, where a runaway greenhouse effect has rendered the surface hot enough to melt lead."1 The ocean, in other words, moderates temperatures. Thus, for example, in Chicago, temperatures close to the lake are generally slightly cooler in summer and slightly warmer in winter than temperatures farther from the water. Similarly, as discussed in the last chapter, people who live along a coast are more likely to experience moderate temperatures than those who live at the same latitude in the middle of a continent.

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