One of the factors that put planet Earth in the so-called “Goldilocks Zone” of our solar system is that it is the correct distance from the Sun for liquid water to exist. Life is not possible without liquid water. Another factor we sometimes overlook is how water affects Earth’s climate.
We are approaching the end of winter with spring on our doorstep in the Northern Hemisphere. One of the familiar features of our cold winter months is ice and snow. Although we grow tired of the cold and the frozen water, the spring melting of snow and ice from mountains supplies essential water for many parts of the world. The changing seasons caused by the tilt of our planet on its axis and the way water affects Earth’s climate are factors of design allowing humans to live over most of the globe.
The Lofoten Islands in Norway are 105 miles (169 km) north of the Arctic Circle. The area is home to more than 24,000 people and has attracted millions of tourists because of its beauty. Even though it is only 1500 miles (2,420 km) from the North Pole, the area enjoys relatively mild temperatures. The warmest temperature ever recorded at the Skrova lighthouse on one of the islands was 86.7 degrees F (30.4 degrees C) in June 1972. The coldest was 4.8 degrees F (-15.1 degrees C) in February 1966. Skrova has what Norwegians call “tropical nights” when the temperature does not fall below 68 degrees F (20 degrees C).
On the other hand, the city of Yakutsk, Siberia, has a population of 336,200 people, and it holds the title of being the coldest city in the world. Some reports say the temperature has dropped to as low as -76 degrees F (-60 degrees C). The surprising thing is that Yakutsk is 280 miles (450 km) SOUTH of the Arctic Circle. That’s 385 miles south of Skrova in the Lofoten Islands. So what makes the difference?
Water largely explains the difference. The North Atlantic Current and the Norwegian Current bring warmer water to the Lofoten Islands. Also, mild low-pressure air from the Atlantic has an open path to blow northward in the winter. By contrast, Yakutsk is landlocked and located in a valley surrounded by mountains. As a result, the cold air settles into the low area and keeps Yakutsk in the freezer.
The highest and lowest temperatures on Earth tend to be in the interior of continents. This is because landmasses heat and cool much more quickly than large bodies of water. Also, landmasses covered by snow and ice reflect the warming radiation from the Sun back into space rather than warming the land.
As we have said before, water makes life possible in many ways. It is also true that water affects Earth’s climate in significant ways. Water shows design precision at the atomic and molecular levels to give it the qualities that life requires. Furthermore, water is abundant on this planet to supply our needs if we use it wisely. We think water is strong evidence of God’s design wisdom and care for His creation.
— Roland Earnst © 2022