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.

Many forms of air pollution are human-made. Industrial plants, power plants
and vehicles with internal combustion engines produce <a href="/earth/climate/nitrogen_airpollution.html&dev=1">nitrogen
<a href="/earth/Atmosphere/vocs.html&dev=1">VOCs</a>,
<a href="/physical_science/chemistry/carbon_monoxide.html&dev=1">carbon monoxide</a>,
<a href="/physical_science/chemistry/carbon_dioxide.html&dev=1">carbon dioxide</a>,
<a href="/physical_science/chemistry/sulfur_oxides.html&dev=1">sulfur dioxide</a> and
<a href="/earth/Atmosphere/particulates.html&dev=1">particulates</a>.
Some of these gases are <a href="/earth/climate/cli_greengas.html&dev=1">greenhouse
meaning that they retain heat in the Earth's atmosphere, due to the Earth's
<a href="/earth/climate/earth_greenhouse.html&dev=1">greenhouse effect</a>.<p><small><em>Image copyright UCAR</em></small></p>As temperatures rise and soil moisture decreases, plants are stressed, which can lead to <a href="/earth/climate/crops_withering.html&dev=1">crop withering</a>. <a href="/teacher_resources/online_courses/health/events_health.html&dev=1">Droughts</a> accompanied by increased temperatures can lead to famine, social and political disruptions. Scientists are  helping with early identification of drought that might trigger food shortages. Watch the NBC Learn video - <a href="/earth/changing_planet/withering_crops_intro.html&dev=1">Changing Planet: Withering Crops</a> to find out more.<p><small><em>Image taken by Tomas Castelazo, Creative Commons <a href=&quot;;>Attribution 3.0 Unported</a> license.</em></small></p>Greenland's <a href="">ice sheet</a> saw a record <a href="">melt</a> in July 2012.  Scientists studying this event have found that this melting event was triggered by an influx of unusually warm air and amplified by the presence of a blanket of thin low-level <a href="">clouds</a> which pushed temperatures up above freezing.  For more information see the <a href="">press release</a> from the University of Wisconsin Madison.<p><small><em>Image courtesy of University of Wisconsin-Madison</em></small></p>A <a href="">study</a> of over 40,000 written entries in Irish Annals and ice core measurements shows a strong correlation between <a href="">volcanic eruptions</a> and extreme cold weather in Ireland over a 1200 year period, from 431 to 1649.  During this time up to 48 volcanic eruptions were identified in Greenland ice core records through deposition of volcanic sulfate in annual layers of ice. Find out more about <a href="">volcanoes and climate</a>.<p><small><em>Image Courtesy of Marco Fulle</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&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&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>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&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&dev=1">winds</a> and <a href="/earth/Atmosphere/hurricane/surge.html&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="">How to Help</a><p><small><em>Image courtesy of COMS-1, SSEC, University of Wisconsin-Madison</em></small></p>

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