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Warnings: The True Story of How Science Tamed the Weather by Mike Smith tells the story of our storm warning system. See our online store book collection.

Climate and Global Change

Warm near the equator and cold at the poles, our planet is able to support a variety of living things because of its diverse regional climates. The average of all these regions makes up Earth's global climate. Climate has cooled and warmed throughout Earth history for various reasons. Rapid warming like we see today is unusual in the history of our planet. The scientific consensus is that climate is warming as a result of the addition of heat-trapping greenhouse gases which are increasing dramatically in the atmosphere as a result of human activities.

Earth's global average surface <a
  href="/earth/climate/ipcc_feb2007.html&edu=elem&dev=1">warming</a> relative to the
  1980-1999 average over the past 100 years is shown in the black line.
  Predictions of the amount of warming in the future are shown by the red,
  green, and purple lines. These predictions, developed with <a
  href="/earth/climate/cli_models.html&edu=elem&dev=1">computer models</a>, make different
  assumptions about how many <a
  href="/earth/climate/cli_greengas.html&edu=elem&dev=1">greenhouse gases</a> we release into the
  atmosphere in the future.<p><small><em> A Windows to the Universe image based on a graph from the IPCC 4th Assessment Report</em></small></p><a href="/earth/climate/cli_define.html&edu=elem&dev=1">Regional climate</a> is
the average weather pattern in a place over more than thirty years,
including the variations in
<a href="/earth/climate/cli_seasons.html&edu=elem&dev=1">seasons</a>.
The climate of a region depends on many factors including sunlight,
altitude, topography, and proximity to oceans. Since the equatorial regions
receive more sunlight than the poles, climate varies with
<a href="/earth/climate/cli_latitude.html&edu=elem&dev=1">latitude</a>.
This image shows how sea surface temperatures change at different latitudes.<p><small><em>Image courtesy of NOAA.  Public domain.</em></small></p>On November 7, 2013, Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda in the Philippines) made landfall, with imated wind speeds of ~315 km/hr - the strongest <a href="/earth/Atmosphere/hurricane/intensity.html&edu=elem&dev=1">tropical cyclone</a> to make landfall in recorded history.  As Haiyan moved across the Philippines before reaching Vietnam and China, its <a href="/earth/Atmosphere/wind.html&edu=elem&dev=1">winds</a> and <a href="/earth/Atmosphere/hurricane/surge.html&edu=elem&dev=1">storm surge</a> left devastation in its wake, leading to massive loss of life, destruction of homes, and hundreds of thousands of displaced inhabitants. <a href="http://www.cnn.com/2013/11/09/world/iyw-how-to-help-typhoon-haiyan/index.html">How to Help</a><p><small><em>Image courtesy of COMS-1, SSEC, University of Wisconsin-Madison</em></small></p>Scientists at the University of Michigan have found that <a href="/earth/polar/cryosphere_permafrost1.html&edu=elem&dev=1">permafrost</a> in the <a href="/earth/polar/polar_north.html&edu=elem&dev=1">Arctic</a> is extremely sensitive to sunlight.  Exposure to sunlight releases carbon gases trapped in the permafrost, including <a href="/earth/climate/earth_greenhouse.html&edu=elem&dev=1">climate-warming</a> <a href="/physical_science/chemistry/carbon_dioxide.html&edu=elem&dev=1">carbon dioxide</a>, to the <a href="/earth/Atmosphere/overview.html&edu=elem&dev=1">atmosphere</a> much faster than previously thought.<p><small><em>George Kling, The University of Michigan</em></small></p><b><i>Looking for online resources about climate and climate change for your classroom?</i></b> Windows to the Universe is a free interlinked learning ecosystem to a wealth of resources on our site and elsewhere that support you on these topics, including <a href="/teacher_resources/climate_change_course.html&edu=elem&dev=1">course readings</a>,  <a href="/php/teacher_resources/activity.php#6">classroom activities and presentations</a>, and online interactives.  Our <a href="/teacher_resources/climate.html&edu=elem&dev=1">Climate Change Education Resources page</a> provides links to content you can use right away in the classroom!<p><small><em>   Ute Kaden/PolarTREC</em></small></p><b><i>Looking for online resources to use in support of climate change education?</i></b>  Our <a href="/teacher_resources/climate.html&edu=elem&dev=1">Climate Change Educator Resources page</a> provides links to online content, classroom activities, interactives, and videos as well as resources provided by other leading organizations and agencies on this topic.  Our <a href="/teacher_resources/climate_change_course.html&edu=elem&dev=1">Climate Change Course Content page</a> provides links to online content for a range of climate change associated topics.<p><small><em>Image courtesy of   Mila Zinkova, Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike license</em></small></p>

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Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part is sponsored in part through grants from federal agencies (NASA and NOAA), and partnerships with affiliated organizations, including the American Geophysical Union, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Earth System Information Partnership, the American Meteorological Society, the National Center for Science Education, and TERC. The American Geophysical Union and the American Geosciences Institute are Windows to the Universe Founding Partners. NESTA welcomes new Institutional Affiliates in support of our ongoing programs, as well as collaborations on new projects. Contact NESTA for more information. NASA ESIP NCSE HHMI AGU AGI AMS NOAA