Climate Change Introduction

‘Scientific evidence for warming of the climate system is unequivocal’Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change


CHANGING, CHANGING AND CHANGING

According to NASA, the climate of a region is its average weather. The weather is the short-term changes that we observe in temperature, clouds, precipitation, humidity and wind in certain region. Under this definition, the climate of the Earth is the average of all the world’s regional climates. Climate change refers to a change in this Earth’s climate average.

Analyzing global temperatures from 1880 to 2016, NASA concluded that sixteen of the seventeen warmest years all have occurred since 2001 (with the exception of 1998). Adding to this, 2016 ranks as the warmest of them all. This evidence shows that, although in relatively ‘small’ amounts, the climate has been changing – temperature has been increasing. This graph shows a slow but constant temperature increase for our planet.

Fig. 1 NASA, 2016

 

There are seven main indicators of climate change:

  1. humidity increase
  2. torposopheric temperature increase
  3. sea surface temperature increase
  4. seal level rise
  5. increase in ocean heat content
  6. temperature over land increase
  7. increase of the temperture over oceans

At the same time three factors are decreasing the planet’s temperature:

  1. melting of the glaciers
  2. meting of snow covers
  3. melting of sea ice

The following image shows all of these combined:

Fig. 2 NOAA, 2010

Climate change has both natural and anthropogenic (man-related) causes. The former includes natural phenomena such as volcanic eruptions or changes in the Earth’s orbit. The latter is mostly related with the burning of fossil fuels, such as coal, oil and gas. The burning of these fuels releases heat-trapping gases to the atmosphere (like carbon dioxide CO2), which increase the planet’s temperature. Today, 97% of actively publishing climate scientists agree that climate-warming trends over the last hundred years are most likely related to human activities. See the graph below made by NASA.

Fig. 3 NASA, 2016

Climate change is not the same than  global warming. The former refers to long-term changes in the Earth’s climate, whether it be warming, cooling or changes other than temperature. Global warming, however, refers specifically to the increase in our planet’s  temperatures.

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