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Where are we now? Climate "Today"

Before we move on to projections of future state of our planet's climate, let's take a few looks at the current state of Earth's climate.

These graphs show how carbon emissions, atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, and global average temperatures have changed in recent times.

CO2 emissions

CO2 concentration

Global temperature

This image shows sea surface temperatures (SST) averaged over a whole year (in this case, 2001). Notice how temperatures range from freezing (0° C or 32° F) near the poles to around 30° C (about 86° F) in the tropics.

Global average SST in 2001

Credits: Image courtesy of Plumbago via Wikipedia, using data from the World Ocean Atlas 2001.

Here is Earth's surface air temperature in recent times. This image shows average temperatures for the period from 1961 to 1990.

Earth surface air temperatures present day

Credits: Image courtesy of Robert A. Rhohde and the Global Warming Art project.

Earth surface temperature around 2000

Average Global Temperature 1940-2005
Earth surface temperature 1940-2005
All values are in comparison to 1940-1980 average (green shading). Map at left shows 1995-2005 averages (the orange shaded region on the graph above). Blue points and lines on the graph are annual values; the red line is the 5-year smoothed average.

This map (above) shows recent changes in Earth's surface air temperatures. The colors indicate the temperatures in the decade around 2000 as compared to average values from about 40 years earlier. Specifically, the colors compare average temperatures during the years 1995 through 2004 versus the averages from 1940 through 1980. The global averge temperature increased about 0.42° C during this time.

Credits: Map image courtesy of Robert A. Rohde and the Global Warming Art project. Graph is original artwork by Windows to the Universe staff (Randy Russell) using data from NOAA.

Use the popup menu in the upper left corner of the interactive below to select a map to view. Choices include contemporary global surface air temperature and sea surface temperature, changes in temperature by 2000, and four climate model projections for possible future climate in 2025 and 2095.

Compare maps side-by-side using the viewer below.

Last modified September 1, 2010 by Randy Russell.

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The Winter 2009 issue of The Earth Scientist, focuses on Earth System science, including articles on student inquiry, differentiated instruction, geomorphic concepts, the rock cycle, and much more!

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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