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Climate Change

What is Climate?
Climate is usually defined as the "average weather" in a
It includes patterns of temperature, precipitation (rain or
snow), humidity, wind and seasons.

Climate patterns play a fundamental role in shaping natural

ecosystems, and the human economies and cultures that depend on
What is Climate Change?
Climate change, refers to the rise in average surface
temperatures on Earth.
An overwhelming scientific consensus maintains that climate
change is due primarily to the humanactivities.
Boulder Glacier

Causes of Climate Change

Variations inthe sun's

Changes in the Changes in
energyreaching Earth
greenhouse effect thereflectivityof
Earths atmosphere
and surface
Variations inthe sun's energyreaching Earth

Climate is influenced by natural changes that affect how much solar energy
reaches Earth. These changes include changes within the sun and changes
in Earths orbit.

Changes occurring in the sun itself can affect the intensity of the sunlight
that reaches Earths surface. The intensity of the sunlight can cause either
warming (during periods of stronger solar intensity) or cooling (during
periods of weaker solar intensity).
Changes in the shape of Earths orbit as well as the tilt and position of
Earths axis can also affect the amount of sunlight reaching Earths surface.
Changes in the greenhouse effect

When sunlight reaches Earths surface, it can either be reflected back into
space or absorbed by Earth. Once absorbed, the planet releases some of the
energy back into the atmosphere as heat (also called infrared radiation).
Greenhouse gaseslike water vapor (H2O), carbon dioxide (CO2),
andmethane (CH4) absorb energy, slowing or preventing the loss of heat to
space. In this way, GHGs act like a blanket, making Earth warmer than it
would otherwise be. This process is commonly known as the greenhouse
Main GHGs:
Carbon dioxide
Atmospheric CO2 concentrations have increased
by more than 40% since pre-industrial times,
from approximately 280 parts per million by
volume (ppmv) in the 18th century to over 400
ppmv in 2015. The monthly average
concentration at Mauna Loa now exceeds 400
ppmv for the first time in human history.
The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) reports that
human activities now emit more than 135 times
as much CO2 as volcanoes each year. Human
activities currently release over 30 billion tons of
CO2 into the atmosphere every year. The resultant
build-up of CO2 in the atmosphere is like a tub
filling with water, where more water flows from
the faucet than the drain can take away.
Methane's lifetime in the atmosphere is much
shorter than carbon dioxide (CO2), but CH4 is
more efficient at trapping radiation than CO2.
Pound for pound, the comparative impact of
CH4 on climate change is more than 25 times
greater than CO2 over a 100-year period.
Globally, over 60 percent of total
CH4 emissions come from human
activities. Methane is emitted from industry,
agriculture, and waste management activities.
Nitrous Oxide Emissions
Nitrous oxide molecules stay in the atmosphere for an average
of 114 years before being removed by a sink or destroyed
through chemical reactions. The impact of 1 pound of N 2O on
warming the atmosphere is almost 300 times that of 1 pound of
carbon dioxide.
Nitrous oxide emissions occur naturally through many sources
associated with the nitrogen cycle, which is the natural
circulation of nitrogen among the atmosphere, plants, animals,
and microorganisms that live in soil and water. However,
nitrous oxide is removed from the atmosphere when it is
absorbed by certain types of bacteria or destroyed by ultraviolet
radiation or chemical reactions.
Other greenhouse gases

Water vapor is the most abundant greenhouse gas and also the most important in terms of its
contribution to the natural greenhouse effect, despite having a short atmospheric lifetime. Some human
activities can influence local water vapor levels. However, on a global scale, the concentration of water
vapor is controlled by temperature, which influences overall rates of evaporation and
precipitation. Therefore, the global concentration of water vapor is not substantially affected by direct
human emissions.

Tropospheric ozone (O3), which also has a short atmospheric lifetime, is a potent greenhouse gas.
Chemical reactions create ozone from emissions of nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds from
automobiles, power plants, and other industrial and commercial sources in the presence of sunlight. In
addition to trapping heat, ground-level ozone is a pollutant that can cause respiratory health problems and
damage crops and ecosystems.

Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs),

perfluorocarbons (PFCs), and sulfur hexafluoride (SF6), together called F-gases, are often used in
coolants, foaming agents, fire extinguishers, solvents, pesticides, and aerosol propellants. Unlike water
vapor and ozone, these F-gases have a long atmospheric lifetime, and some of these emissions will affect
the climate for many decades or centuries.
Changes in thereflectivityof Earths
atmosphere and surface

The term albedo refers to the amount of solar radiation reflected from an
object or surface, often expressed as a percentage. Earth as a whole has an
albedo of about 30%, meaning that 70% of the sunlight that reaches the planet
is absorbed.Absorbed sunlight warms Earths land, water, and atmosphere.

Reflectivity is also affected by aerosols. Aerosols are small particles or liquid

droplets in the atmosphere that can absorb or reflect sunlight. Unlike
greenhouse gases, the climate effects of aerosols vary depending on what they
are made of and where they are emitted. Those aerosols that reflect sunlight,
such as particles from volcanic eruptions or sulfur emissions from burning coal,
have a cooling effect. Those that absorb sunlight, such as black carbon (a part
of soot), have a warming effect.
Effects of Climate Change
Sea level is rising. During the 20th century, sea level rose about 15 cm (6 inches) due to
melting glacier ice and expansion of warmer seawater. Models predict that sea level may rise as much as
59 cm (23 inches) during the 21st Century, threatening coastal communities, wetlands, and coral reefs.

Arctic sea ice is melting. The summer thickness of sea ice is about half of what it was in 1950.

Sea-surface temperatures are warming. Warmer waters in the shallow oceans have contributed to the
death of about a quarter of the world's coral reefs in the last few decades.

The temperatures of large lakes are warming. Temperature rises have increased algal blooms in lakes,
favor invasive species, increase stratification in lakes and lower lake levels.

Heavier rainfall cause flooding in many regions. Warmer temperatures have led to more intense rainfall
events in some areas. This can cause flooding.

Extreme drought is increasing. Higher temperatures cause a higher rate of evaporation and more
drought in some areas of the world.
Crops are withering. Increased temperatures and extreme drought are causing a decline in crop
productivity around the world. Decreased crop productivity can mean food shortages which have many
social implications.

Ecosystems are changing. As temperatures warm, species may either move to a cooler habitat or
die. Species that are particularly vulnerable include endangered species, coral reefs, and polar animals.
Warming has also caused changes in the timing of spring events and the length of the growing season.

Hurricanes have changed in frequency and strength. There is evidence that the number of
intense hurricanes has increased in the Atlantic since 1970. Scientists continue to study whether climate is
the cause.

More frequent heat waves. It is likely that heat waves have become more common in more areas of the

Warmer temperatures affect human health. There have been more deaths due to heat waves and more
allergy attacks as the pollen season grows longer. There have also been some changes in the ranges of
animals that carry disease like mosquitoes.

Seawater is becoming more acidic. Carbon dioxide dissolving into the oceans, is making seawater more
acidic. There could be impacts on coral reefs and other marine life.