Breeding cattle and cutting down forests Industrialised nations have also breeding vast numbers of methane-producing livestock and cutting down the forests that naturally absorb carbon dioxide from the air. Trapped carbon dioxide The extra carbon dioxide in the atmosphere traps more of the sun’s heat, so it’s been raising global temperatures.
Scientists predict possible rises of up to 6°C this century if we don’t drastically cut greenhouse gas emissions.
Some people might try to tell you that global warming is natural, or that the Earth is actually cooling. Temperatures are rising faster than ever The Earth’s climate has always changed: temperatures have risen and fallen over thousands of years. Man made global warming The overwhelming evidence is that the global warming we’re seeing now is mostly man-made – it’s largely down to burning fossil fuels and large-scale deforestation. The good news is that if we accept humans are a major cause of climate change, we can choose to do something about it.
The carbon cycle is the natural process by which carbon gases are emitted and absorbed across the globe.
As the Earth warms, the impacts can fuel each other and cause runaway, irreversible changes. WWF-UK is a registered charity in England and Wales (1081247) and in Scotland (SC039593) and a company limited by guarantee registered in England and Wales (4016725). Here's what you need to know about ?the warming planet, ho??w it's affecting us, and what's at stake. Glaciers are melting, sea levels are rising, cloud forests are drying, and wildlife is scrambling to keep pace. High-tech harvesting and wasteful management have brought world fish stocks to dangerous lows. Engineer your own turbine and find out for yourself whether or not the answer to our clean energy problem is blowin' in the wind.
Persistent human activities like driving cars, farming, burning coal and cutting down forests produce greenhouse gases a€“ mainly carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide. Climate change could have significant impacts on our economy, environment and the way we live a€“ the effects of a warming planet and subsequent changing climate patterns are already becoming evident.
However, over the past 50-100 years, increasing industrialisation and human activity (such as industry, agriculture and transportation) have begun to affect the natural climate balance. Since the start of the industrial revolution (about 1750) the overall effect of human activities on the climate has been a warming influence. Scientists are now detecting changes which suggest the climate is becoming hotter on average, and more variable. The graph shows atmospheric concentrations of important long-lived greenhouse gases over the past 2000 years. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) defines a€?climate changea€? as a€?a change of climate which is attributed directly or indirectly to human activity that alters the composition of the global atmosphere and which is in addition to natural climate variability observed over comparable time periodsa€?.
This diagram shows the relationship between physical and biological oceanography and climate variability.
Physical characteristics of heat transport and ocean circulation impact the Earth's climate system.
Climate is also influenced by the "biological pump," a biological process in the ocean that impacts concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. NASA satellite observations of the oceans of the past three decades have improved our understanding of global climate change by making global measurements needed for modeling the ocean-atmosphere climate system. The SeaWinds scatterometer aboard NASA's QuikSCAT satellite collected the data used to create this multicolored image of winds on the surface of the Pacific Ocean. The heat in the water is carried to higher latitudes by ocean currents where it is released into the atmosphere.
This false-color map represents the Earth's carbon "metabolism"-the rate at which plants absorbed carbon out of the atmosphere. Because of their role in the ocean's biological productivity and their impact on climate, scientists want to know how much phytoplankton the oceans contain, where they are located, how their distribution is changing with time, and how much photosynthesis they perform. Probably the most important and predominant pigment in the ocean is chlorophyll-? contained in microscopic marine plants known as phytoplankton.
The Extreme Weather & Climate Change infographic is based on an evaluation of the Special Report on Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation (SREX), an authoritative 2012 assessment by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). You are free to use and post this infographic without alterations online, in written materials, and in presentations.
We can reduce global warming emissions and ensure communities have the resources they need to withstand the effects of climate change—but not without you. Sign up to receive critical updates and urgent action opportunities from the Union of Concerned Scientists.
President Obama recently declared “climate change is the global threat of our time,” and revealed his plans to address it. He’s correct about one thing: Earth’s climate has been changing – a 5,000-foot thick glacier once covered Ohio. Eighty percent of our sample are the folks Obama called the “Flat Earth” crowd because they disagree with him.
According to the Heritage Foundation, 34 companies that received over $7 billion of Obama’s green energy loan guarantees are faltering, including 19 that have already filed for bankruptcy. China, for example, is the worst polluter in the world, emitting one-fourth of global CO2, while producing only 10% of global GDP. Here’s another way to look at this accomplishment: American businesses have almost tripled GDP in the last 23 years without increasing emissions. America needs a national energy plan that builds on what we’ve accomplished, the resources we own and the technology we can create, without making us less competitive. Recent ArticlesMirror of the Mind: Customer Service What can a company do, so that employees have a greater sense of customer care? It’ll mean more extreme and unpredictable weather across the world – many places will be hotter, some wetter, others drier. That might not sound much, but on a global scale it’s a huge increase and it’s creating big problems for people and wildlife. The speed of change has been faster than any natural process, and faster than many natural systems can adapt. But it’s happening now at a far faster rate than ever before, which doesn’t give the world’s species (including ourselves) much time to react or adapt.
They’re vital in the Earth’s atmosphere in certain quantities because they help trap and retain some of the sun’s heat (the ‘greenhouse effect’). But when it melts (and predictions suggest Arctic sea ice will be mostly gone in summer within the next few decades), more heat will be absorbed instead. It's becoming clear that humans have caused most of the past century's warming by releasing heat-trapping gases as we power our modern lives.
Glaciers are retreating, ice shelves are fracturing, sea level is rising, permafrost is melting. This process is often called a€?global warminga€™ but it is better to think of it as a€?climate changea€™ because it is likely to bring about more extreme events a€“ floods, storms, cyclones, droughts and landslips a€“ rather than an increase in temperature alone. Its climate has naturally fluctuated between being very cold and covered in ice, or very hot.
These activities are increasing the amount of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere and causing Earth not only to heat up, but to heat up at an unprecedented rate. The human impact of this era greatly exceeds that due to known changes in natural processes such as solar changes and volcanic eruptions. This variability is being attributed in part to increased levels of carbon dioxide in the Eartha€™s atmosphere. The UNFCCC thus makes a distinction between a€?climate changea€? attributable to human activities altering the atmospheric composition, and a€?climate variabilitya€? attributable to natural causes. Heat transport and ocean circulation are key factors between physical oceanography and climate variability. In addition, physical and biological processes affect each other creating a complex system.

Like a massive 'flywheel' that stabilizes the speed of an engine, the vast amounts of heat in the oceans stabilizes the temperature of Earth. The oceanic biological productivity is both a source and sink of carbon dioxide, one of the greenhouse gases that control climate. NASA uses several instruments to get sea-surface temperature (AVHRR or other), height (altimeter), winds (scatterometers), productivity (MODIS), and salinity (future instruments). The SeaWinds scatterometer has provided scientists with the most detailed, continuous global view of ocean-surface winds to date, including the detailed structure of hurricanes, wide-driven circulation, and changes in the polar sea-ice masses. Bouncing radio waves off the ocean surface and timing their return with incredible accuracy, these instruments tell us the distance from the satellite to the sea surface within a few centimeters - the equivalent of sensing the thickness of a dime from a jet flying at 35,000 feet!
To determine topography of the sea-surface, height maps are compared with a gravitational reference map that shows the hills and valleys of a motionless ocean due to variations in the pull of gravity.
Blue and purple areas represent heights measuring between 8 and 24 centimeters (3 and 9 inches) lower than normal. Solar heat absorbed by bodies of water during the day, or in the summer, is released at night, or in winter.
The Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) measures the amount and health of plants on land, while chlorophyll a measurements indicate the amount of phytoplankton in the ocean.
The map shows the global, annual average of the net productivity of vegetation on land and in the ocean during 2002. Across Earth's oceans, tiny marine plants called phytoplankton use chlorophyll to capture sunlight during photosynthesis and use the energy to produce sugars. They gather this information by using satellites to observe chlorophyll as an indicator of the number, or biomass, of phytoplankton cells. When it comes to heat waves and coastal flooding, the scientific evidence is clear: Human-caused climate change is increasing these extreme weather events. Scientific confidence with observed data is currently low, though the underlying mechanisms of climate change are expected to play a role.
Your generous support helps develop science-based solutions for a healthy, safe, and sustainable future. When the ice started melting 10,000 years ago, the receding force carved out the Great Lakes and the meltwater turned a small lake into the Black Sea. In an online poll we asked small business owners their opinion of the president’s position and plans. It’s absorbed by plants as they grow, and emitted by all life forms when they respire and when they die (or when they’re burned as fuel).
This makes life as we know it possible on Earth – without it the world would be mostly frozen. Also, thawing permafrost releases trapped methane, and drying forests and warming oceans emit their stores of carbon dioxide – all further increasing the greenhouse effect.
Called greenhouse gases, their levels are higher now than in the last 650,000 years.We call the result global warming, but it is causing a set of changes to the Earth's climate, or long-term weather patterns, that varies from place to place. In the past 10,000 years the planeta€™s climate has become much more stable, leading to flourishing flora and fauna, and the subsequent population explosion of humankind. According to scientific studies, in the past 650,000 years the planet has never had so much carbon dioxide in its atmosphere as it does today, and the levels are continuing to rise.
This great reservoir continuously exchanges heat, moisture, and carbon with the atmosphere, driving our weather patterns and influencing the slow, subtle changes in our climate.
Both the ocean and the atmosphere transport roughly equal amounts of heat from Earth's equatorial regions - which are intensely heated by the Sun - toward the icy poles, which receive relatively little solar radiation.
The "biological pump" happens when phytoplankton convert carbon dioxide and nutrients into carbohydrates (reduced carbon). Global data sets available on time scales of days to years (and, looking ahead, to decades) have been and will be a vital resource for scientists and policy makers in a wide range of fields.
Scatterometer signals can penetrate through clouds and haze to measure conditions at the ocean surface, making them the only proven satellite instruments capable of measuring vector winds at sea level day and night, in nearly all weather conditions. At the same time, special tracking systems on the satellites give their position relative to the center of mass of Earth also with an accuracy of a few centimeters. This is a false color illustration of wave height off the east coast of the United Stated on September 15, 2003 shows a significant increase in wave height to over 5 meters beneath Hurricane Isabel. The GRACE (Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment) mission will provide very accurate maps of gravity that will allow us to greatly improve our knowledge of ocean circulation. Red and white areas represent higher than normal sea-surface heights and indicate warmer water.
In some regions where the water is also very salty, such as the far North Atlantic, the water becomes dense enough to sink to the bottom.
The yellow and red areas show the highest rates, ranging from 2 to 3 kilograms of carbon taken in per square meter per year. Phytoplankton are the basis of the ocean food web, and they play a significant role in Earth's climate, since they draw down carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, at the same rate as land plants. If the ratio of blue to green is low for an area of the ocean surface, then there is more phytoplankton present. Twelve percent of our respondents said the president is right, while another 8% allowed that climate change is a concern, but not our greatest. As the Earth spins each day, the new heat swirls with it, picking up moisture over the oceans, rising here, settling there. The oceans influence climate by absorbing solar radiation and releasing heat needed to drive the atmospheric circulation, by releasing aerosols that influence cloud cover, by emitting most of the water that falls on land as rain, by absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and storing it for years to millions of years.
Together, air-sea gas fluxes and penetrative solar radiation are feedbacks between physical and biological oceanography processes that ultimately influence climate.
The atmosphere transports heat through a complex, worldwide pattern of winds; blowing across the sea surface, these winds drive corresponding patterns of ocean currents. As a result, the ocean slowly warms in the summer, keeping air cool, and it slowly cools in winter, keeping the air warm. It stays in the deeper ocean for years to centuries before the water is mixed back to the surface and warmed by the sun. Ocean surface topography and currents, vector winds (both speed and direction), sea-surface temperature, and salinity are the critical variables for understanding the ocean-climate connection. QuikScat carries the SeaWinds scatterometer, a specialized microwave radar that measures near-surface wind speed and direction under all weather and cloud conditions over the Earth's oceans.
By subtracting the height of the satellite above the sea from the height of the satellite above the center of mass, scientists calculate maps of the sea-surface height and changes in the height due to tides, changing currents, heat stored in the ocean, and amount of water in the ocean.
GRACE has provided gravity measurements that are up to 100 times more accurate than previous values. Temperature & Salinity control the sinking of surface water to the deep ocean, which affects long-term climate change.
Deep water returns to the surface in the Indian and Pacific Oceans through the process of upwelling.
Mixing in the deep ocean due to winds and tides brings the cold water back to the surface everywhere around the ocean.
This global biosphere image reveals amount of land vegetation in addition to amounts of phytoplankton.
This relationship works over a very wide range of concentrations, from less than 0.01 ton early 50 milligrams of chlorophyll per cubic meter of seawater.
It's changing the rhythms of climate that all living things have come to rely upon.What will we do to slow this warming?
The oceans absorb much of the solar energy that reaches earth, and thanks to the high heat capacity of water, the oceans can slowly release heat over many months or years. But the ocean currents move more slowly than the winds, and have much higher heat storage capacity. A coastal city like San Francisco has a small range of temperature throughout the year, but a mid-continental city like Fargo, ND has a very wide range of temperatures. Earth's weather patterns such as El Nino, and the Northern Oscillation, which affect the hydrologic and bio-geochemical balance of the ocean-atmosphere system. In recent years, the ability to detect and track severe storms has been dramatically enhanced by the advent of weather satellites.

By mapping the topography of the ocean we can determine the speed and direction of ocean currents.
This improved accuracy will lead the way to break-throughs in our understanding of ocean circulation and heat transport.
Such sinking is also a principal mechanism by which the oceans store and transport heat and carbon dioxide. The warm shallow current then returns west past the Indian Ocean, round South Africa and up to the North Atlantic where the water becomes saltier and colder and sinks starting the process all over again. Some reaches the surface via the global ocean water circulation conveyor belt to complete the cycle.
High amounts of phytoplankton are observed in the mid to high latitudes and along the west coast of North Africa and east coast of China. The oceans store more heat in the uppermost 3 meters (10 feet) that the entire atmosphere, the key to understanding global climate change is inextricably linked to the ocean.
The winds drive ocean circulation transporting warm water to the poles along the sea surface. Data from the SeaWinds scatterometer is augmenting traditional satellite images of clouds by providing direct measurements of surface winds to compare with the observed cloud patterns in an effort to better determine a hurricane's location, direction, structure, and strength. Just as wind blows around high- and low-pressure centers in the atmosphere, water flows around the high and lows of the ocean surface. Two animations showing sea surface height (SSH) and sea surface temperature (SST) Anomalies in the Pacific Ocean from October 1992 to August 2002. Together, temperature and salinity differences drive a global circulation within the ocean sometimes called the Global Conveyor Belt. While we struggle to figure it all out, the face of the Earth as we know it—coasts, forests, farms and snow-capped mountains—hangs in the balance.Greenhouse effectThe "greenhouse effect" is the warming that happens when certain gases in Earth's atmosphere trap heat. Climate is influenced by storage of heat and CARBON DIOXIDE in the ocean, which depends on both physical and biological processes. Some (but not all, or even a large part) of this water comes to the surface in the tropical Pacific perhaps 1000 years later, releasing carbon dioxide stored for that period. Specifically, these wind data are helping meteorologists to more accurately identify the extent of gale-force winds associated with a storm, while supplying inputs to numerical models that provide advanced warning of high waves and flooding. The increase in temperature and height in the equatorial region west of South America illustrates the 1997-98 El Nino event. These gases let in light but keep heat from escaping, like the glass walls of a greenhouse.First, sunlight shines onto the Earth's surface, where it is absorbed and then radiates back into the atmosphere as heat. The physical temperature of the ocean helps regulate the amount of carbon dioxide is released or absorbed into the water. When deep water comes to the surface in the tropics, it is warmed, and the carbon dioxide is released back to the atmosphere.
In the atmosphere, “greenhouse” gases trap some of this heat, and the rest escapes into space.
At the end of the last ice age, about 15,000 years ago, and the ice sheets melted away and climate warmed at that time. This water is eventually brought to the surface in many regions by mixing in the ocean, completing the oceanic conveyor belt (see below).
Salinity can be as important as temperature in determining density of seawater in some regions such as the western tropical Pacific and the far North Atlantic.
The more greenhouse gases are in the atmosphere, the more heat gets trapped.Scientists have known about the greenhouse effect since 1824, when Joseph Fourier calculated that the Earth would be much colder if it had no atmosphere. Ice sheets began to grow, and climate cool about 130,000 years ago at the beginning of the last ice age.
Changes in the distribution of heat within the belt are measured on time scales from tens to hundreds of years. About 130,000 years ago, fed by evaporation of ocean waters, the polar ice caps thickened and expanded Earth cooled by almost 12° C and global sea level to drop 130m below its current level. While variations close to the ocean surface may induce relatively short-term climate changes, long-term changes in the deep ocean may not be detected for many generations.
Penetrative solar radiation warms the ocean surface causing more carbon dioxide to be released into the atmosphere.
About 15,000 years ago, this process was reversed as more sunlight reached areas near the Arctic Circle, and Earth emerged from the ice age. Oceanic processes of air-sea gas fluxes effect biological production and consequentially impacting climate. Evaporation increases salinity because as evaporation occurs, salt is left behind thus making surface water denser.
In 1895, the Swedish chemist Svante Arrhenius discovered that humans could enhance the greenhouse effect by making carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas. But as plant growth increases, the water gets cloudy and prevents the solar radiation from penetrating beneath the ocean surface. He kicked off 100 years of climate research that has given us a sophisticated understanding of global warming.Levels of greenhouse gases (GHGs) have gone up and down over the Earth's history, but they have been fairly constant for the past few thousand years.
This denser saltier water sinks into the ocean contributing to the global circulation patterns and mixing. Global average temperatures have stayed fairly constant over that time as well, until recently.
The past century alone has seen global temperature increase by 0.6 degree Celsius (1 degree Fahrenheit), and the average global sea level over the past decade has risen steadily. Ocean salinity measurements have been few and infrequent, and in many places salinity has remained unmeasured. Through the burning of fossil fuels and other GHG emissions, humans are enhancing the greenhouse effect and warming Earth.Scientists often use the term "climate change" instead of global warming. Remotely sensed salinity measurements hold the promise of greatly improving our ocean models. This is because as the Earth's average temperature climbs, winds and ocean currents move heat around the globe in ways that can cool some areas, warm others, and change the amount of rain and snow falling. This is the challenge of project Aquarius, a NASA mission scheduled to launch in 2008, which will enable us to further refine our understanding of the ocean-climate connection. As a result, the climate changes differently in different areas.Aren't temperature changes natural?The average global temperature and concentrations of carbon dioxide (one of the major greenhouse gases) have fluctuated on a cycle of hundreds of thousands of years as the Earth's position relative to the sun has varied.
Our response to the challenge of global warming begins by formulating the right set of questions. Other cycles, such as El Nino, also work on fairly short and predictable cycles.Now, humans have increased the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by more than a third since the industrial revolution. The first step in addressing the issue of global warming is to recognize that the warming pattern, if it continues, will probably not be uniform.
Changes this large have historically taken thousands of years, but are now happening over the course of decades.Why is this a concern?The rapid rise in greenhouse gases is a problem because it is changing the climate faster than some living things may be able to adapt.
Also, a new and more unpredictable climate poses unique challenges to all life.Historically, Earth's climate has regularly shifted back and forth between temperatures like those we see today and temperatures cold enough that large sheets of ice covered much of North America and Europe.
Some spots will warm, while others will cool; these changes, and the accompanying shifts in rainfall patterns, could relocate agricultural regions across the planet. The difference between average global temperatures today and during those ice ages is only about 5 degrees Celsius (9 degrees Fahrenheit), and these swings happen slowly, over hundreds of thousands of years.Now, with concentrations of greenhouse gases rising, Earth's remaining ice sheets (such as Greenland and Antarctica) are starting to melt too. By studying the oceans from space, we can unlock a vast store of information about our changing environment. The extra water could potentially raise sea levels significantly.As the mercury rises, the climate can change in unexpected ways.
This means more intense major storms, more rain followed by longer and drier droughts (a challenge for growing crops), changes in the ranges in which plants and animals can live, and loss of water supplies that have historically come from glaciers.Scientists are already seeing some of these changes occurring more quickly than they had expected.
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, eleven of the twelve hottest years since thermometer readings became available occurred between 1995 and 2006.

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