10 unexpected effects of climate change

Climate change doesn’t just manifest itself in obvious examples like sea level rise, but it also affects intangibles like gravity.



The earth’s light fades. In astronomical terms, “earthlight” refers to the reflection of sunlight from our planet back into space. This phenomenon can be measured by observing the dark part of the Moon’s disk – the part that is not illuminated by the Sun.

A study published in August this year looked at measurements over two decades and found something unexpected: the earth’s luster is weakening. This is because climate change makes the Earth less cloudy, which reflects more light than the sea.

Scientists think this could accelerate global warming. A less reflective planet means more solar energy reaches the Earth’s surface and generates more thermal radiation. As greenhouse gas concentrations increase in the atmosphere, more trapped heat radiation makes our planet hotter. Photo: NASA



The poles are shifting. Climate change is also making the Earth more “shaken”. Many studies have addressed a phenomenon known as polar drift. Using satellite data from NASA’s GRACE mission, the scientists noticed an unmistakable change in the planet’s two rotating poles.

The Earth does not always rotate on an axis that runs through its poles. Instead, it wobbled erratically over time, drifting toward North America for much of the 20th century (green arrow). That direction has changed dramatically due to fluctuations in Earth’s water mass, caused by melting ice in Greenland and Antarctica. Photo: NASA



The Earth’s crust is shifting. Not only the poles, the Earth’s crust is also moving. A study published earlier this year used satellite data and computer models to see how melting ice affects the Earth’s crust. The ice acts like a paperweight, putting pressure on the planet to keep most things in place. As the ice disappears, the crust is both pulled upwards and horizontally. That movement is in millimeters per year. Photo: David McNew



The “Gate of Hell” appeared. There are many ways that climate change creates an astonishing sight, among them the appearance of giant craters that look like portals to hell. Scientists have been documenting a growing number of new craters in the Siberian tundra, likely formed from gas explosions that have accumulated in permafrost.

Where does the gas build up come from? The permafrost is rich in methane. As temperatures rise, melting ice releases it and creates air pockets in the ground. When the limit is exceeded, they will explode. The aftermath, however, is even more worrisome. Methane is a greenhouse gas and when it ends up in the atmosphere, it creates a radiation trap that causes the planet to heat up. Photo: AFP



The crabs are getting bigger and bigger. In a 2013 study, scientists pumped CO2 into a full tank of water, then released some crabs and oysters. The scene was later described as resembling “a lion tearing a lamb”. Crabs frantically pry open oyster shells to devour their prey.

So an increase in atmospheric carbon, which eventually settles into the ocean, can actually cause crabs, shrimp and lobsters to become gluttonous and grow larger in size. Bigger crabs aren’t just because of the food. The increased amount of carbon also stimulates them to molt more often, thereby growing faster. Photo: Justin Sullivan



Larger waves in the Arctic contribute to cloud formation. The Arctic is no stranger to climate change. It warms almost three times faster than the rest of the world. Less sea ice means more open water, allowing large waves to form. That alone is a remarkable finding, but what makes it to this list is the waves that can reach the clouds.

A study published earlier this year found that the open waters of the Arctic attract many microscopic creatures to live on the surface. Big waves knock those tiny creatures into the air and are carried aloft by the wind, where they become nuclei for water to form around and turn into ice crystals, contributing to clouds. Photo: AFP



Gravity changes. Right! Even invisible things like gravity are not immune to the effects of climate change. The loss of ice – especially in the West Antarctic region – and the depletion of groundwater are responsible for the shift in gravity. The image above shows gravity anomalies. The difference in surface color and elevation represents the strength of gravity in that area. Photo: NASA



The Moon exacerbates the effects of climate change. Research published in the journal Nature Climate Change revealed earlier this year that we are entering an 18.6-year cycle in relation to the Moon, causing the oceans to rise higher. Combined with sea level rise due to climate change, they create larger floods. One of the most affected areas is the North American coast. Photo: AFP



The ice vibrates more. Climate change is destabilizing the ice sheets. Scientists have recorded increased earthquakes from Alaska to Antarctica. They can occur in freeze-thaw cycles, or when ice sheets collapse. This discovery will help to more accurately predict the fate of the ice shelves as well as the impact of climate change in the future. Photo: AP



The river changes color. The rivers in America are not what they used to be. In addition to being ravaged by drought, a report earlier this year found that a third of rivers in the US have changed color. The study used satellite data from 1984 to 2018 to catalog rivers more than 2 kilometers long across the country.

The results show that major changes are taking place. Scientists speculate that impacts from agricultural runoff, fluctuating flows of the rivers themselves and rising water temperatures due to climate change may be to blame. Even so, the team notes that discolored rivers do not necessarily mean they are in decline. Photo: AFP

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