Shop Windows to the Universe

Learn about planets outside our solar system through Exoplanets and Alien Solar Systems by Tahir Yaqoob, Ph.D., a book in our online store book collection.
Icebergs floating near Cape York, Greenland
Mila Zinkova

Climate Change

When people talk about climate change, they mean changes in the average weather in a place or on the planet as a whole.  When average temperature or precipitation in a place changes over a long term - say 30 years or more - we have evidence that climate is changing.  A single big storm does not prove that climate is changing - not even a really warm summer or a really cold winter.  Instead, we see evidence of climate change when long term average weather is different from before over decades.

You may have noticed yourself how quickly day-to-day weather can change.  But climate can't change that quickly.  When it comes to climate, the Sun, the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, and the Earth's surface together control the overall climate on Earth.  Because these things don't change fast, neither does climate.  But climate can change over decades or longer if we change the gases in the atmosphere or the Earth's surface. 

Plants and animals decide where they want to live based in part on the average weather there.  So when long-term average weather changes, that can impact on plants and animals, too!  In addition to temperature and rainfall, climate change can impact winds, ice, sea level, the temperature of the ocean and lakes, and where diseases occur.  And all of these things can have big impacts on how we all live our lives. 

Today, thousands of climate scientists around the world study how the Earth's climate is changing. Climate science is not new - over one hundred years ago scientists realized that humans could influence the Earth's climate through the growth of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. 

Most climate scientists agree that Earth's climate is changing.  Climate models are an important tool which can be used to study how climate will change in the future, based on our consumption choices.

Last modified August 21, 2013 by Roberta Johnson.

Shop Windows to the Universe Science Store!

The Spring 2010 issue of The Earth Scientist focuses on the ocean, including articles on polar research, coral reefs, ocean acidification, and climate. Includes a gorgeous full color poster!

Windows to the Universe Community

News

Opportunities

You might also be interested in:

Cool It! Game

Check out our online store - minerals, fossils, books, activities, jewelry, and household items!...more

Earth's Greenhouse Gases

Only a tiny amount of the gases in Earth’s atmosphere are greenhouse gases. But they have a huge effect on climate. There are several different types of greenhouse gases, but they all have something in...more

Kingdom Plantae

Kingdom Plantae has almost 300,000 different kinds of plants. Plants are found all over planet Earth. They can live in fields, in swamps, in oceans and in the desert. They can live where it is hot and...more

Effects of Climate Change Today

Have you ever taken your temperature to see if you are getting sick? Scientists have been taking the Earth's temperature and have found that it is getting warmer. During the past 100 years, the Earth's...more

Modeling the Future of Climate Change

To figure out what the Earth might be like in the future, scientists need to know how Earth reacts to changes. Models help scientists to better understand how the Earth works and how it will react to climate...more

Regional Climate

The average temperature, precipitation, and winds at a location determine its regional climate. These average weather conditions are determined by factors including the latitude and altitude of the region,...more

Earth's Global Climate

Earth's climate is determined by the amount of energy received from the Sun and the amount of energy held in the Earth system - in short, Earth's radiation budget.  The Sun emits a huge amount of energy,...more

What Is Climate?

How do you know to pack your bathing suit and sunhat for a trip to a tropical island or pack warm sweaters and coats for a trip to Alaska? If you know a little about regional climates, then you know what...more

Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part by the National Science Foundation and NASA, our Founding Partners (the American Geophysical Union and American Geosciences Institute) as well as through Institutional, Contributing, and Affiliate Partners, individual memberships and generous donors. Thank you for your support! NASA AGU AGI NSF