Natural Causes of Global Warming

There are many natural causes of global warming, and although individually they contribute a small amount, they are a significant factor when taken as a whole. The Earth has gone through numerous periods of heat and cold, with natural drivers as the cause.

Natural Causes Of Global Warming Events In The Past

For hundreds of thousands of years, global temperatures have fluctuated between periods of cooling (glacial) and warmth (interglacial). Warming periods typically occur during periods of increased concentration of certain gases, including carbon dioxide, methane, water vapor and other trace gases. These "greenhouse gases" trap heat generated by the sun, contributing to a rise in atmospheric temperature. Glacial and interglacial fluctuations have been spurred by naturally occurring phenomenon in the past. Here are some of the players:

  • Swamp gas. Tundra, peat bogs and wetlands produce methane as part of the natural plant and animal decomposition that takes place in areas that stay wet all of part of the time.
  • Thar she blows! Volcanic activity is one of the largest producers of naturally occurring greenhouse gas emissions. Volcanic eruptions have been shown to produce tremendous amounts of carbon dioxide in a single event. The out-gassing of methane is typically more intense during warm seasons.
  • Did you smell that? Methane is a byproduct of natural biological processes in mammals. Methane production is higher in grazing animals like bison and elk.
  • Solar activity. Unlike a light bulb, the emissions from the sun fluctuate over the short and long term. Sunspots and solar flares can increase the amount of energy reaching the Earth over a wide spectrum, including visible, infrared and ultraviolet.
  • A little off the top. The evaporation of ocean water has been shown to liberate several chemicals that either directly or indirectly contributes to global warming. The oceans contain more carbon dioxide (CO2) than the atmosphere and CO2 release is a common occurrence, particularly in warmer waters.
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