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.

Coral animals build reefs in warm, tropical seawater. However, <a href="/earth/changing_planet/ocean_temperatures_intro.html&edu=high&dev=">seawater can be too warm</a> for their liking.  If waters get too warm, coral animals lose the algae that live within their little bodies, a process called coral bleaching. Without the algae, corals have less nutrition. Unless cooler temperatures return, allowing algae to
 return, the coral dies.<p><small><em>Credit: UNC</em></small></p>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&edu=high&dev=">nitrogen
oxides</a>,
<a href="/earth/Atmosphere/vocs.html&edu=high&dev=">VOCs</a>,
<a href="/physical_science/chemistry/carbon_monoxide.html&edu=high&dev=">carbon monoxide</a>,
<a href="/physical_science/chemistry/carbon_dioxide.html&edu=high&dev=">carbon dioxide</a>,
<a href="/physical_science/chemistry/sulfur_oxides.html&edu=high&dev=">sulfur dioxide</a> and
<a href="/earth/Atmosphere/particulates.html&edu=high&dev=">particulates</a>.
Some of these gases are <a href="/earth/climate/cli_greengas.html&edu=high&dev=">greenhouse
gases</a>,
meaning that they retain heat in the Earth's atmosphere, due to the Earth's
<a href="/earth/climate/earth_greenhouse.html&edu=high&dev=">greenhouse effect</a>.<p><small><em>Image copyright UCAR</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=high&dev=">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=high&dev=">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>Scientists are concerned that melting Arctic sea ice will increase the amount of fresh water in the <a href="/earth/polar/arctic_currents.html&edu=high&dev=">Beaufort Gyre</a>, which could spill out into the Atlantic and cause major climate shifts in North America and Western Europe. Watch the <a href="/earth/changing_planet/freshwater_arctic.html&edu=high&dev=">Changing Planet: Fresh Water in the Arctic video</a>.<p><small><em> Courtesy of Jack Cook, WHOI (<a href="http://www.whoi.edu">Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute</a>)</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=high&dev=">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=high&dev=">winds</a> and <a href="/earth/Atmosphere/hurricane/surge.html&edu=high&dev=">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>A <a href="http://iopscience.iop.org/1748-9326/8/2/024035/article">study</a> of over 40,000 written entries in Irish Annals and ice core measurements shows a strong correlation between <a href="http://www.windows2universe.org/earth/interior/eruptions.html">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="http://www.windows2universe.org/earth/climate/geosphere_volcanoes_influence_on_climate.html">volcanoes and climate</a>.<p><small><em>Image Courtesy of Marco Fulle</em></small></p>

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