If the Earth is a machine forever in motion, the Sun is its power source and the climate is the engine that drives its motion. Earth's climate is a vast yet intricate system, and the Hong Kong Space Museum's latest sky show, "Dynamic Earth: Exploring Earth's Climate Engine", which will be launched tomorrow (November 1), will explore the operation of this global planetary engine, and how the climate has been losing its balance due to human activities.
Climate determines the living environment of all life on Earth. It is composed of many parts including tides, terrain, winds and ocean currents. Although each part has its own function, they all affect one another. Working together they maintain the delicate balance of the global climate.
Carbon is an essential element of life and is stored on Earth in different forms. Carbon dioxide is one of many gases making up the air around us, and carbon is also one of the substances found in rock. It is found in tiny phytoplankton and also in the giant whale. Carbon is perpetually being exchanged and recycled between living organisms and the environment, and life depends on a stable and healthy carbon cycle.
Unfortunately, since the industrial revolution, our fossil fuel-driven civilisation has been consuming huge amounts of energy, flooding the atmosphere with carbon dioxide. In May this year, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere reached 400 parts per million, the highest since three million years ago. This increase in the concentration of carbon dioxide is seriously affecting the carbon cycle, which will in turn intensify the extent of global warming, causing a rise in air temperature, warming oceans, melting glaciers and changing landscapes, with unforeseeable consequences for life on Earth.
To slow down global warming, governments and scientists of various countries have agreed that we should strive to keep the global average temperature rise below two degrees Celsius so as to avoid catastrophic climate change. However, even if we immediately stop all emissions of carbon dioxide, it will still take a few thousand years for global temperature to return to the level before the industrial revolution. This underlines the importance of immediate action by human beings to reduce our impact on the carbon cycle.
"Dynamic Earth: Exploring Earth's Climate Engine" will illustrate how the climate system controls the Earth's natural processes, and will explain how the climate is changing due to pollution by humans. The audience will be taken on a virtual journey, riding on winds and ocean currents, following the carbon cycle, into the heart of Hurricane Katrina and down below to a volcano on the seabed to witness its amazing eruptive force. The audience will also make a virtual trip to Venus, a planet without the protection of an effective carbon cycle, to witness the consequences if the temperature continues to rise.
The 24-minute sky show "Dynamic Earth: Exploring Earth's Climate Engine" will be screened until April 30 next year and is scheduled at 3.50pm and 7.20pm daily at the museum's Stanley Ho Space Theatre. There will be an additional screening at 12.20pm on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays. The museum is closed on Tuesdays (except public holidays) and on the first two days of the Chinese New Year. On Chinese New Year's Eve, it will close at 5pm.
Tickets are available at the Hong Kong Space Museum Box Office and at all URBTIX outlets for $24 (front stalls) and $32 (stalls). Full-time students, senior citizens aged 60 or above and people with disabilities are eligible for a half-price concession. For further information about "Dynamic Earth: Exploring Earth's Climate Engine", please visit the website at http://hk.space.museum .
The Hong Kong Space Museum is located at 10 Salisbury Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon. For enquiries, call 2721 0226.
Ends/Thursday, October 31, 2013
Issued at HKT 18:40
Phytoplankton is a key component of the carbon cycle, using carbon dioxide in the water and bringing it into the food chain. As plants and animals in the food chain die, carbon released in the decaying process will be stored in the soil beneath.
Variations in the amount of solar heat absorbed by the Earth's surface due to the cycles of day and night, the seasons and geographical factors, create warm and cold convection currents, thus forming complex wind circulation around the planet.
A solar storm approaches Venus with high-energy charged particles. Scientists believe that these storms strip away the lighter elements in Venus' upper atmosphere, leaving greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide that trap the heat of the Sun, and causing the planet's surface temperature to rise to nearly 500 degrees Celsius.