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€?.
The above image shows the Koeppen-Geiger world climate zone classifications (click on the image for the full-size version).
There can be variations in climate from year to year, or one decade to another, one century to another, or any longer time scale. There is much uncertainty -- and controversy -- about what causes climate variations on the longer time scales. This is a controversial subject among scientists, with a majority of scientists believing that warming has been primarily due to humanity's greenhouse gas emissions from burning of fossil fuels. During the interglacial periods, which are shorter than the icy ones, earth’s temperature rises and the snow and ice melt, increasing sea levels. Around the end of the last ice age (the Weichsel, above), the earth transitioned into the benign interglacial climate of the Holocene epoch. Variations in the sun’s energy output, measured as changes in the amount of radiation it emits. Small changes in earth’s orbit (Milankovitch cycles) caused by the variable tilt of the planet, its slightly eccentric orbit, and its axial (gyroscopic) precession.
Motion of earth’s tectonic plates with seismic activity (drifting continents), which changes the relative locations of landforms and affects wind and ocean currents.
Impact of meteorites—not small phenomena like the recent ones in Russian, but relatively huge masses like the six-mile (10-km) Chicxulub asteroid that smacked into Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula 66 million years ago.
Volcanic mega-eruptions, especially from the prehistoric caldera-forming colossi in the American West near Yellowstone, the North Island of New Zealand, subtropical and temperate South America, and potentially from the massive igneous province forming in Iceland. With meteorites and volcanoes, we can watch earth’s atmosphere in flux, as visible particles crowd the skies. On this final accompaniment of climate change—atmospheric variation—today’s research is nearly unanimous (97%). But over the past 200 years, as humans industrialized and populations grew rapidly, the formerly placid natural phenomenon of climate change has been occurring at a much faster rate. In fact, over the past couple of decades, scientists have started saying we have switched over from the Holocene to the Anthropocene (human-centered) epoch, and the polar bear on a shrinking ice floe has become a visual cliche. Since the Industrial Revolution, we have obtained energy through the quick fix of mining and burning our limited reserves of coal, oil, and gas. Burning for energy changes the atmosphere by raising levels of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases.
This is the first time humans have been capable of causing major climate change on our planet.

Keep up to date with all the most interesting green news on the planet by subscribing to our (free) Planetsave newsletter. Tags: aerosol, air, alaska, American West, animal reproduction, Animals, antarctica, Anthropocene, ash, asteroid, atmosphere, atmospheric composition, atmospheric shell, axial tilt, balance of gases, BERINGIA, burning, caldera, carbon dioxide, Cenozoic, chemical composition, Chicxulub, climate, climate change, climate changes, climate fluctuations, coal, coastline, cold stage, continental bridge, continental drift, cook, Cool, Cretaceous, crop seasons, development, dinosaur, Doggerland, drifting continents, drive, Earth, east Asia, eccentricity, ecologically rich, ecosystems, ejecta, ellipse, Energy, English Channel, eruption, Europe, expanding population, experiment, exploration, extinction, Eyjafjallajoekull, factories, Food, fossil records, gas, glacier, glaciers, Great Britain, greenhouse, Hawaii, Health, heat, heat-trapping gases, historic maps, hockey stick, Holland, Holocene, human civilization, human life, ice, ice ages, ice cap, ice cores, ice floe, ice melt, indonesia, Industrial Revolution, Interglacial, Irish Sea, island, Krakatoa, labor-saving invention, land, landform, limited reserves, mammal, massive igneous province, Mauna Loa, metamorphosis, meteorite, meteorological records, methane, mexico, migration, Milankovitch cycle, mining, moon, Mount St.
Sandy Dechert covers environmental, health, renewable and conventional energy, and climate change news. Planetsave is part of the Important Media network of blogs working to make the world a better, greener place. Plots monthly and seasonal composites of US climate Division Data (temperature, precipitation and PDSI). Plots daily composites and averages over a range of dates of daily data from 1948 to the present. Plot and compare monthly climate index timeseries such as the PDO, the NPI, ENSO, and others. Point and Click or text interfaces to United States station data climatologies of temperature, precipitation and other variables where available. Plot distributions and fit selected distribution models of daily data from reanalyses including the20th Century Reanalysis and observed datasets. 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. Wind speeds may reach 300mph in the narrow funnel which descends from the clouds and causes a trail of destruction on the ground.
This warming trend has been increasing in recent years and is what scientists mean when they speak about 'global warming'. On historic maps, we see climate change in the advance and retreat of glaciers, the transitory nature of coastlines, and the periodic appearance and drowning of islands. They’ve found any or all of these factors important to some degree to the question of what is climate change.
Its impact sent millions of tons of material high into the atmosphere, blacking out the sun for months. But along with them comes an invisible, and possibly invincible, alteration in the atmosphere—in the gases that comprise it, including its concentrations of carbon dioxide and methane. We know from meteorological records kept since 1880 that the planet’s temperature has risen about one degree Fahrenheit in the last century.
None of the natural causes discussed earlier can fully explain the climate changes we are seeing today. Opinions and comments published on this site may not be sanctioned by, and do not necessarily represent the views of Sustainable Enterprises Media, Inc., its owners, sponsors, affiliates, or subsidiaries. Timeseries plots, climatologies and data distributions available for temperature(max,min) and precipitation.

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. Although tornadoes can happen anywhere, they are commonest in the USA which has a 'tornado season' in early Spring. And sunny days, well, they’re the best for being outdoors, unless it’s noon in the tropics.
It enabled east Asian migrants to become “native Americans.” Through Dutch fishing boats and recent North Sea oil drilling, we have discovered that around the same time, humans could walk from the current nation of Holland all the way to the Irish Sea.
It caused the earth’s last great extinction, abruptly and forcefully wiping out all dinosaurs without wings, ending the Cretaceous period of life on the planet, and paving the way for the Cenozoic and the emergence of mammals. They send huge amounts of ejecta (ash, gas, and aerosol droplets) into earth’s stratosphere. We can see these influences in the deep Vostok ice core samples from Antarctica that record atmospheric composition over the past 800,000 years. A lot of the phenomenon has to do with the effects of increasing certain atmospheric gases. The temperatures on earth’s surface (land and oceans) are directly related to the chemical composition of our planet’s thin atmospheric shell. The accelerating temperature results from a massive new influence shaping world climate—the human factor. We cannot calculate the amounts of greenhouse gases that will enter the atmosphere, how much and how quickly warmer temperatures will lead to other changes, or even what will be going on in our own backyards by 2050.
What’s more difficult for us to perceive, from the relatively short perspective of one human lifetime, is that like weather, climate changes too. Scientists have learned to measure these climate fluctuations using treetrunk rings, snow lines, fossil records, and cores of ancient ice or seabed. Before the English Channel formed, Great Britain was a peninsula linked to the rest of Europe by a low, ecologically rich plain called Doggerland. We’ve seen more snow and ice melt, a rise in ocean levels, intensifying storms, and changes in crop seasons and animal reproductive and migration schedules. Our expanding quest for and use of energy has given people the ability to alter the climate. We find ourselves conducting an unplanned and potentially vast experiment as we segue from the Holocene into the Anthropocene.
In the past 50 years, we have even devised sophisticated satellite instruments to reveal changes in earth’s land, air, water, and ice, or in the sun and the energy it puts out.
Within the brief time of recorded history (last green bar above), our climate has been relatively stable. Our own Promethean activities now alter the balance of gases that trap the sun’s heat within the atmosphere, which until now has been earth’s protective greenhouse.
It has been generous to human life, allowing exploration, trade, development, labor-saving invention, and even space flight and greater awareness of our universe. Amounts of carbon dioxide, the most common greenhouse gas, are rising sharply to a level unmatched in the past 650,000 years, and other potentially harmful gases like methane are increasing, too.

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