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What Is Climate Change?

essay of climate and weather

Climate change is a long-term change in the average weather patterns that have come to define Earth’s local, regional and global climates. These changes have a broad range of observed effects that are synonymous with the term.

Changes observed in Earth’s climate since the mid-20th century are driven by human activities, particularly fossil fuel burning, which increases heat-trapping greenhouse gas levels in Earth’s atmosphere, raising Earth’s average surface temperature. Natural processes, which have been overwhelmed by human activities, can also contribute to climate change, including internal variability (e.g., cyclical ocean patterns like El Niño, La Niña and the Pacific Decadal Oscillation) and external forcings (e.g., volcanic activity, changes in the Sun’s energy output , variations in Earth’s orbit ).

Scientists use observations from the ground, air, and space, along with computer models , to monitor and study past, present, and future climate change. Climate data records provide evidence of climate change key indicators, such as global land and ocean temperature increases; rising sea levels; ice loss at Earth’s poles and in mountain glaciers; frequency and severity changes in extreme weather such as hurricanes, heatwaves, wildfires, droughts, floods, and precipitation; and cloud and vegetation cover changes.

“Climate change” and “global warming” are often used interchangeably but have distinct meanings. Similarly, the terms "weather" and "climate" are sometimes confused, though they refer to events with broadly different spatial- and timescales.

What Is Global Warming?

global_warming_2022

Global warming is the long-term heating of Earth’s surface observed since the pre-industrial period (between 1850 and 1900) due to human activities, primarily fossil fuel burning, which increases heat-trapping greenhouse gas levels in Earth’s atmosphere. This term is not interchangeable with the term "climate change."

Since the pre-industrial period, human activities are estimated to have increased Earth’s global average temperature by about 1 degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit), a number that is currently increasing by more than 0.2 degrees Celsius (0.36 degrees Fahrenheit) per decade. The current warming trend is unequivocally the result of human activity since the 1950s and is proceeding at an unprecedented rate over millennia.

Weather vs. Climate

“if you don’t like the weather in new england, just wait a few minutes.” - mark twain.

Weather refers to atmospheric conditions that occur locally over short periods of time—from minutes to hours or days. Familiar examples include rain, snow, clouds, winds, floods, or thunderstorms.

Climate, on the other hand, refers to the long-term (usually at least 30 years) regional or even global average of temperature, humidity, and rainfall patterns over seasons, years, or decades.

Find Out More: A Guide to NASA’s Global Climate Change Website

This website provides a high-level overview of some of the known causes, effects and indications of global climate change:

Evidence. Brief descriptions of some of the key scientific observations that our planet is undergoing abrupt climate change.

Causes. A concise discussion of the primary climate change causes on our planet.

Effects. A look at some of the likely future effects of climate change, including U.S. regional effects.

Vital Signs. Graphs and animated time series showing real-time climate change data, including atmospheric carbon dioxide, global temperature, sea ice extent, and ice sheet volume.

Earth Minute. This fun video series explains various Earth science topics, including some climate change topics.

Other NASA Resources

Goddard Scientific Visualization Studio. An extensive collection of animated climate change and Earth science visualizations.

Sea Level Change Portal. NASA's portal for an in-depth look at the science behind sea level change.

NASA’s Earth Observatory. Satellite imagery, feature articles and scientific information about our home planet, with a focus on Earth’s climate and environmental change.

Header image is of Apusiaajik Glacier, and was taken near Kulusuk, Greenland, on Aug. 26, 2018, during NASA's Oceans Melting Greenland (OMG) field operations. Learn more here . Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

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The sum of Earth's plants, on land and in the ocean, changes slightly from year to year as weather patterns shift.

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Climate is the long-term pattern of weather in a particular area.

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  • National Geographic Education: What is the Future of Earth's Climate?

Climate is the long-term pattern of weather in a particular area. Weather can change from hour-to-hour, day-to-day, month-to-month or even year-to-year. A region ’s weather patterns , usually tracked for at least 30 years, are considered its climate . Climate System Different parts of the world have different climates . Some parts of the world are hot and rainy nearly every day. They have a tropical wet climate . Others are cold and snow-covered most of the year. They have a polar climate . Between the icy poles and the steamy tropics are many other climates that contribute to Earth’s biodiversity and geologic heritage . Climate is determined by a region ’s climate system. A climate system has five major components: the atmosphere , the hydrosphere , the cryosphere , the land surface, and the biosphere . The atmosphere is the most variable part of the climate system. The composition and movement of gases surrounding the Earth can change radically, influenced by natural and human-made factors. Changes to the hydrosphere , which include variations in temperature  and salinity , occur at much slower rates than changes to the atmosphere . The cryosphere is another generally consistent part of the climate system. Ice sheets and glaciers reflect sunlight, and the thermal conductivity of ice and permafrost profoundly influences temperature . The cryosphere also helps regulate thermohaline circulation . This “ocean conveyor belt” has an enormous influence on marine ecosystems and biodiversity . Topography

Topography and vegetation influence climate by helping determine how the Sun’s energy is used on Earth. The abundance of plants and the type of land cover (such as soil , sand , or asphalt ) impacts evaporation and ambient temperature . The biosphere , the sum total of living things on Earth, profoundly influences climate . Through photosynthesis , plants help regulate the flow of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere . Forests and oceans serve as “ carbon sinks ” that have a cooling impact on climate . Living organisms alter the landscape , through both natural growth and created structures such as burrows , dams , and mounds . These altered landscapes can influence weather patterns such as wind , erosion , and even temperature . Climate Features The most familiar features of a region ’s climate are probably average temperature and precipitation . Changes in day-to-day, day-to-night, and seasonal variations also help determine specific climates . For example, San Francisco, California, and Beijing, China, have similar yearly temperatures and precipitation . However, the daily and seasonal changes make San Francisco and Beijing very different. San Francisco’s winters are not much cooler than its summers, while Beijing is hot in summer and cold in winter. San Francisco’s summers are dry and its winters are wet. Wet and dry seasons are reversed in Beijing—it has rainy summers and dry winters. Climate features also include windiness , humidity , cloud cover , atmospheric pressure , and fogginess . Latitude plays a huge factor in determining climate . Landscape can also help define regional climate . A region ’s elevation , proximity to the ocean or freshwater , and land-use patterns can all impact climate . All climates are the product of many factors, including latitude , elevation , topography , distance from the ocean, and location on a continent . The rainy, tropical climate of West Africa, for example, is influenced by the region ’s location near the Equator ( latitude ) and its position on the western side of the continent . The area receives direct sunlight year-round, and sits at an area called the intertropical convergence zone (ITCZ, pronounced “itch”), where moist trade winds meet. As a result, the region ’s climate is warm and rainy. Microclimates Of course, no climate is uniform . Small variations , called micro climates , exist in every climate region . Micro climates are largely influenced by topographic features such as lakes, vegetation , and cities. In large urban areas , for example, streets and buildings absorb heat from the Sun, raising the average temperature of the city higher than average temperatures of more open areas nearby. This is known as the “ urban heat island effect.” Large bodies of water, such as the Great Lakes in the United States and Canada, can also have micro climates . Cities on the southern side of Lake Ontario, for example, are cloudier and receive much more snow than cities on the northern shore. This “ lake effect ” is a result of cold winds blowing across warmer lake water. Climate Classification In 1948, American climatologist Charles Thornthwaite developed a climate classification system that scientists still use today. Thornthwaite’s system relies on a region ’s water budget and potential evapotranspiration . Potential evapotranspiration describes the amount of water evaporated from a vegetated piece of land. Indices such as humidity and precipitation help determine a region ’s moisture index . The lower its moisture index value, the more arid a region ’s climate . The major classifications in Thornthwaite’s climate classification are microthermal , mesothermal , and megathermal . Microthermal climates are characterized by cold winters and low potential evapotranspiration . Most geographers apply the term exclusively to the northern latitudes of North America, Europe, and Asia. A microthermal climate may include the temperate climate of Boston, Massachusetts; the coniferous forests of southern Scandinavia ; and the boreal ecosystem of northern Siberia . Mesothermal regions have moderate climates . They are not cold enough to sustain a layer of winter snow, but are also not remain warm enough to support flowering plants (and, thus, evapotranspiration ) all year. Mesothermal climates include the Mediterranean Basin , most of coastal Australia, and the Pampas region of South America. Megathermal climates are hot and humid. These regions have a high moisture index and support rich vegetation all year. Megathermal climates include the Amazon Basin ; many islands in Southeast Asia, such as New Guinea and the Philippines; and the Congo Basin in Africa. Köppen Classification System Although many climatologists think the Thornthwaite system is an efficient , rigorous way of classifying climate , it is complex and mapping it is difficult. The system is rarely used outside scientific publishing. The most popular system of classifying climates was proposed in 1900 by Russian-German scientist Wladimir Köppen. Köppen observed that the type of vegetation in a region depended largely on climate . Studying vegetation , temperature , and precipitation data , he and other scientists developed a system for naming climate regions . According to the Köppen climate classification system, there are five climate groups : tropical, dry , mild, continental , and polar . These climate groups are further divided into climate types . The following list shows the climate groups and their types: Tropical

  • Wet ( rainforest )
  • Wet and dry ( savanna )
  • Mediterranean
  • Humid subtropical

Continental

  • Warm summer
  • Cool summer
  • Sub arctic (boreal)

Tropical Climates There are three climate types in the tropical group: tropical wet; tropical monsoon; and tropical wet and dry. Tropical Wet: Rainforests Places with a tropical wet climate are also known as rain forests . These equatorial regions have the most predictable weather on Earth, with warm temperatures and regular rainfall. Annual rainfall exceeds 150 centimeters (59 inches), and the temperature varies more during a day than it does over a year. The coolest temperatures , about 20° to 23° Celsius (68°-73° Fahrenheit), occurs just before dawn. Afternoon temperatures usually reach 30° to 33° Celsius (86°-91° Fahrenheit). Rain forests experience very little seasonal change, meaning average monthly temperatures remain fairly constant throughout the year. Tropical wet climates exist in a band extending about 10° of latitude on either side of the Equator . This part of the globe is always under the influence of the intertropical convergence zone. The ITCZ follows a pendulum -like path during the course of a year, moving back and forth across the Equator with the seasons. It moves north during summer in the Northern Hemisphere, and south during the northern winter. Some tropical wet climates are wet throughout the year. Others experience more rainfall during the summer or winter, but they never have especially dry seasons . The U.S. state of Hawaii; Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; and Belém, Brazil, are examples of areas with tropical wet climates . Tropical Monsoon Tropical monsoon climates are most found in southern Asia and West Africa. A monsoon is a wind system that reverses its direction every six months. Monsoons usually flow from sea to land in the summer, and from land to sea in the winter. Summer monsoons bring large amounts of rainfall to tropical monsoon regions . People living in these regions depend on the seasonal rains to bring water to their crops . India and Bangladesh are famous for their monsoon climate patterns. Tropical Wet and Dry: Savanna Tropical wet and dry climates are sometimes called “ savanna ” climates after the grassland ecosystem defined by wet and dry periods. Tropical wet and dry climates sit just outside the ITCZ, near the Equator . They have three seasons. One season is cool and dry —when the warm, moist ITCZ is in the opposite hemisphere. Another season is hot and dry as the ITCZ approaches. The last season is hot and wet as the ITCZ arrives and the region experiences months as a tropical wet climate . Life in these tropical wet and dry regions depends on the wet season’s rains. During years when rains are light, people and animals suffer through drought . During especially rainy years, regions may experience flooding . Havana, Cuba; Kolkata, India; and Africa’s vast Serengeti Plain are in the wet and dry tropics . Dry Climates Regions lying within the dry climate group occur where precipitation is low. There are two dry climate types : arid and semi arid . Most arid climates receive 10 to 30 centimeters (four to 12 inches) of rain each year, and semiarid climates receive enough to support extensive grasslands . Temperatures in both arid and semi arid climates show large daily and seasonal variations . The hottest spots in the world are in arid climates . The temperature in the arid Death Valley National Park, California, U.S., reached 56.7° Celsius (134° Fahrenheit) on July 10, 1913—the highest temperature ever recorded. Although rainfall is limited in all dry climates , there are a few parts of the world where it never rains. One of the driest places on Earth is the Atacama Desert of Chile, on the west coast of South America. Stretches of the Atacama may have never received rain in recorded history. Semi arid regions , such as the Australian outback , usually receive between 25 and 50 centimeters (10-20 inches) of rainfall every year. They are often located between arid and tropical climate regions . Arid and semi arid climates can occur where the movement of warm, moist air is blocked by mountains. Denver, Colorado, just east of the U.S. section of the Rocky Mountains, has this type of dry climate , known as a “ rain shadow .” Mild Climates Regions with mild and continental climates are also called temperate regions . Both climate types have distinct cold seasons. In these parts of the world, climate is influenced mostly by latitude and a region ’s position on the continent . Mediterranean Mediterranean climates have warm summers and short, mild, rainy winters. Mediterranean climates are found on the west coasts of continents between 30° and 40° latitude , and along the shores of the Mediterranean Sea. Mediterranean summers feature clear skies, cool nights, and little rain. Humid Subtropical Humid subtropical climates are usually found on the eastern sides of continents . In cities such as Savannah , Georgia, in the U.S.; Shanghai, China; and Sydney, Australia, summers are hot and humid. Winter can be severely cold. Precipitation is spread evenly through the year and totals 76 to 165 centimeters (30-65 inches). Hurricanes and other violent storms are common in these regions . Marine West Coast Weather on both sides of a continent generally becomes cooler as latitude increases. The marine west coast climate , a type of mild climate typical of cities such as Seattle, Washington, in the U.S. and Wellington, New Zealand, has a longer, cooler winter than the Mediterranean climate . Drizzle falls about two-thirds of winter days, and temperatures average about 5° Celsius (41° Fahrenheit). Continental Climates Areas with continental climates have colder winters, longer-lasting snow, and shorter growing seasons . They are the transition zones between mild and polar climates . Continental climates experience extreme seasonal changes. The range of weather in continental climate regions makes them among the most spectacular sites for weather phenomena . In autumn, for instance, vast forests put on their annual show of brilliant color before shedding their leaves as winter approaches. Thunderstorms and tornadoes , among the most powerful forces in nature, form mostly in continental climates . There are three types of continental climate —warm summer, cool summer, and sub arctic . All these climates exist only in the Northern Hemisphere. Usually, continental climates are found in the interior of continents . Warm Summer Warm summer climate regions often have wet summer seasons, similar to monsoon climates . For this reason, this climate type is also called humid continental . Most of Eastern Europe, including Romania and Georgia, has warm summer climates . Cool Summer Cool summer climates have winters with low temperatures and snow. Cold winds , sweeping in from the Arctic , dominate winter weather . People living in these climates have grown accustomed to the harsh weather , but those unprepared for such cold may suffer. Many of French Emperor Na poleon Bonaparte’s soldiers, for example, were used to the mild Mediterranean climates of France. Thou sands died in bitter cold as they retreated from Russia’s cool summer climate in the winter of 1812. Subarctic North of regions with cool summer climates are regions with subarctic climates . These regions , including northern Scandinavia and Siberia , experience very long, cold winters with little precipitation . Sub arctic climates are also called boreal climates or taiga . Polar Climates The two polar climate types, tundra and ice cap, lie within the Arctic and Antarctic Circles near the North and South Poles. Tundra In tundra climates , summers are short, but plants and animals are plentiful. Temperatures can average as high as 10° Celsius (50° Fahrenheit) in July. Wildflowers dot the landscape , and flocks of migratory birds feed on insects and fish. Whales feed on microscopic creatures in the region ’s cold, nutrient -rich waters. People have adapted to life on the tundra for thou sands of years. Ice Cap Few organisms survive in the ice cap climates of the Arctic and Ant arctic . Temperatures rarely rise above freezing, even in summer. The ever-present ice helps keep the weather cold by reflecting most of the Sun’s energy back into the atmosphere . Skies are mostly clear and precipitation is low. In fact, Ant arctica , covered by an ice cap 1.6-kilometers (one-mile) thick, is one of the largest, driest deserts on Earth. High Elevation Climates Many geographers and climatologists have modified the Köppen classification system over the years, including geographer Glen Trewartha, who added a category for high-elevation climates . There are two high elevation climate types : upland and highland. Both highland and upland climates are marked by very different temperatures and levels of precipitation . Climbing a lofty mountain or reaching a plateau can be like moving toward the poles . On some mountains, such as Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania, the climate is tropical at the base and polar at the summit. Often, high- elevation climate differs from one side of the mountain to the other. Influence of Climate The enormous variety of life on Earth is largely due to the variety of climates that exist and the climate changes that have occurred in the past. Climate has influenced the development of cultures and civilizations . People everywhere have adapted in various ways to the climates in which they live. Clothing Clothing, for example, is influenced by climate . Indigenous Arctic cultures of Europe, Asia, and North America, for example, developed warm, durable , fur and animal-skin clothing. This clothing was necessary for survival in the icy climate near the North Pole . Many parkas worn by Arctic peoples are not only insulated , but waterproof. This combats both the frigid temperatures and precipitation found in polar climates . Lightweight, papery tapa cloth , on the other hand, is part of many cultures in the warm, humid climates of Polynesia , in the South Pacific. Tapa cloth was traditionally made from dried leaves, coconut fibers, and breadfruit bark. Tapa cloth is delicate and loses strength when wet, which would be deadly near the poles but only inconvenient near the Equator . Shelter Climate also influences how civilizations construct housing. For instance, the ancient Anasazi people of southern North America built apartments into tall cliffs . The sheltered, shady area kept residents cool in the hot, dry desert climate . The yurt is a part of the identity of many cultures across the windy , semi arid steppe of Central Asia. Yurts are a type of original “mobile home,” a portable , circular dwelling made of a lattice of flexible poles and covered in felt or other fabric. Yurts protect residents from fierce winds , and their portability makes them an ideal structure for nomadic and seminomadic herding cultures on the grassland . Agriculture The development of agri culture was very dependent on climate . Ancient agricultural civilizations , such as those in Mesopotamia and India, flourished where the climate was mild. Communities could grow crops every season, and experiment with different types of crops , livestock , and farming techniques . The mild, Mediterranean climate in which the Roman Empire developed, for instance, allowed farmers to cultivate crops , such as wheat, olives, grapes, barley, and figs. Livestock included cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, and even honeybees. Like the ancient Romans, ancient cultures of the Amazon Basin in South America were also able to develop agricultural practices. The chief domesticated trees in the Amazon were mostly harvested for food and medicine : Brazil nuts, Inga ynga fruit (commonly known as “ice-cream beans”), Amazon tree grapes, abiu (another tropical fruit), and cacao fruits (whose seeds are known as cocoa beans). Today, farmers are still in tune with the climate . They plant certain crops according to the expected amount of rainfall and the length of the growing season . When the weather does not follow the typical climate pattern, it can mean hard times for farmers and higher food costs for consumers. Climate Change Climate does not change from day to day like weather , but it does change over time. The study of historic climate change is called paleoclimatology . Climate changes happen slowly over hundreds or even thou sands of years. For example, periodic glacial periods have covered large portions of Earth with ice caps. Some paleoclimatology evidence shows that the Sahara Desert was once covered by plants and lakes during a warm “wet age.” Climate change can happen for many reasons. The movement of tectonic plates , volcanic activity, and the tilt of Earth’s axis all have effects on climate . For example, after the eruption of the island volcano of Krakatoa, Indonesia, in 1883, winters and even summers in Asia and Europe were colder and darker. Volcanic ash blocked the sun. Farmers had to adjust to shorter, weaker growing seasons . Climates around the world were changed for years. The so-called “ Little Ice Age ” was a period of climate change extending from the 12th through the 19th centuries. The Little Ice Age was not a true glacial period , but describes colder climates around the world. In Europe, canals in Great Britain and the Netherlands were often frozen solid, allowing for ice skating. In North America, European colonists reported especially harsh winters. Global Warming Since the Industrial Revolution of the 19th century, human activity has begun to impact climate . The current period of climate change is sometimes called “ global warming .” Global warming is often associated with a runaway “ greenhouse effect .” The greenhouse effect describes the process of certain gases (including carbon dioxide (CO2), methane, nitrous oxide (N2O), fluorinated gases , and ozone) trapping solar radiation in a planet's lower atmosphere . Greenhouse gases let the sun’s light shine onto Earth’s surface, but they trap the heat that reflects back up into the atmosphere . In this way, they act like the glass walls of a greenhouse. The greenhouse effect is a natural phenomenon and keeps Earth warm enough to sustain life. However, human activities that include burning fossil fuels and cutting down forests release greenhouse gases into the atmosphere at an unprecedented rate. The current period of climate change has been documented by rising temperatures , melting glaciers , and more intense weather phenomena . Our planet’s temperature has risen about 1.1° C (2° F) since the late 19th century. Sixteen of the last 17 warmest years on record have occurred in the 21st century. According to NASA, not only was 2016 the warmest year on record, but eight of the 12 months that make up the year were the warmest on record for those respective months. The current period of climate change is also associated with the massive retreat of glaciers , ice sheets , and sea ice. Warmer temperatures have reduced the number of glaciers of Montana’s Glacier National Park from 150 in 1850 to just 26 today. In 2017, one of the largest icebergs ever recorded entered the ocean as a huge chunk of the Larsen C ice shelf broke off the Ant arctic Peninsula. Warmer ocean temperatures and warmer ambient air temperatures likely contributed to the fracturing of the ice shelf and the massive Ant arctic ice sheet associated with it. Finally, both the extent and thickness of Arctic sea ice has declined rapidly during the past several decades. The famed Northwest Passage , the treacherous route connecting the North Atlantic and North Pacific ocean basins , is now habitually free of ice and safe enough for cruise ships to navigate . Melting glaciers and ice sheets , as well as expansion of seawater as it warms, have contributed to unprecedented sea level rise . Sea level rises at about 2.3 millimeters (0.2 inch) every year, contributing to up to 900% more frequent flooding in coastal areas. Increasing temperatures can change the climate impacts and even the classification of a region . For instance, low-lying islands may be flooded as seawater rises. The populations of island nations, such as Maldives or Comoros, have been forced to contemplate becoming “ climate refugees ”—people forced to leave their homes and migrate to a different region . Heat in the atmosphere may increase the interaction of diverse weather systems . Unusually arid climates in a semi arid region may prolong droughts , for instance. In regions with mild climates , the increased atmospheric moisture associated with humid climates may increase the likelihood of hurricanes and typhoons . Climate change is also impacting organisms and species range . Organisms that have adapted to one climate may have to migrate or adapt to warmer temperatures . Manatees, for instance, are marine mammals native to tropical waters. As temperatures increase, manatees have been migrating as far north as New York City, New York. Polar bear populations, on the other hand, are venturing farther south as Arctic sea ice becomes more scarce . Climate change can be mitigated through reducing greenhouse- gas emissions . This can mean investing in new technologies, relying more on renewable energy sources, making older equipment more energy- efficient , or changing consumer behavior.

The Big Chill Antarctica’s frigid climate makes it the only continent on Earth with no permanent human residents. The coldest temperature ever recorded at ground level on Earth—-89.2° Celsius (-128.5°Fahrenheit)—was at Vostok Station, Antarctica.

Climograph A climograph depicts the highs and lows of temperature and precipitation over a set period of time. Climographs can summarize daily, monthly, yearly, or decades-long weather patterns to help climatologists identify a region’s climate.

Did the Language You Speak Evolve Due to Heat? Some research indicates that the concentration of a language’s vowels and consonants may be due in some part to the climate of the language’s region. Vowel-heavy languages, such as Hawaiian, may have been influenced by pockets of warm air that can “punch into a sound wave”, making it harder to distinguish consonants such as “k” and “ch.”

Geographic Perspective British geographer Andrew John Herbertson described climate like this: "Climate is what we expect, weather is what we get."

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The Extraordinary Ways Weather Has Changed Human History

From determining the outcome of wars to wholesale destruction of lives and property, weather affects our lives in a shocking number of ways.

Since the beginning of human history, we have been buffeted by weather and climate change, sometimes to a shocking extent. And we’ve only just begun to understand the whys and hows. In his new book, Weather: An Illustrated History , Andrew Revkin , with Lisa Mechaley, traces 4.5 billion years of weather and climate in 100 entries, from major weather events, to climate change, to the people who started to figure out how our planet works .

When National Geographic spoke to him from his home in the Hudson Valley, New York, Revkin explained how Ben Franklin became the first storm chaser; how weather has affected the outcome of wars ; and some of the weird ways extreme weather events can mess with us.

book cover

How did you decide which moments in history to include in your book?

Well, my wife is an environmental educator and she helped me write this. It became kind of … I wouldn’t say a competition, but a game. It became intriguing. Here I’d been writing about climate change and big weather events for 30 years, and you might think I could just dive right in. But the more I poked around, surprises kept emerging. So we created a Google document and just kept adding things. “Oh, well, look at what we just found in 1602!”

For instance, in the early 1600s Galileo invented the idea of temperature . It’s not just cold, less cold, fine, warm, hot, really hot. That was essentially how the Greeks and everyone before them in Western and even in Eastern science or philosophy was thinking about temperature. Then Galileo came up with the idea of increments that are measurable. And that, to me, became the kind of item that I was trying all along to look for. Many of the entries are transitional, transformational ideas , not just the worst storms, the hottest day.

Another example of that was Shen Kuo, sort of China’s Ben Franklin. He was everything: He was an inventor, military strategist, regional politician, and he showed this amazing insight that many people in this arena have shown, which is they look at something and they go, “Wow, that’s interesting. Why is that like that?”

He looked at a riverbank that had collapsed and there was fossilized bamboo. This was a part of China that was dry and they have no bamboo. And in his memoirs, a couple of years later, he put together those ideas . He said, “Maybe this area had a different climate.” It seems inconsequential now, but back then, it was a fundamentally new idea.

For Hungry Minds

The other key element to the book was that we decided early on to look at our relationship with weather and climate, not just insights and not just records. And I started thinking, what are the things that have changed our relationship with climate and weather? And that’s where air conditioning came in, and the umbrella , and looking at harnessing the wind.

You mentioned Ben Franklin, I think in three entries, more than any other person.

Ben Franklin had the kind of mind, like Galileo, that saw things and saw patterns and wondered about them. He wrote a long treatise on waterspouts and then he was out riding with his friends in Maryland and there was a whirlwind. So they’re chasing this whirlwind. He had heard that if you shoot a gun through a tornado or whirlwind, it could disrupt it. And so he tried to do this with his whip —I just felt it made him the first storm chaser.

He’s among the first people who deduced that there must be a Gulf Stream . Because he spent so much time going back and forth from America to Europe in his diplomatic work, he noticed that the ships were faster going East than West. Then he talked to the sea captains and put some data around it. That’s the second part, actually doing the work.

I think that most of us feel like we’re pretty much in control most of the time. But one thing we can’t control is the weather. How much has weather determined the course of human history?

On every level, climate change on long time scales has really powerfully shaped human history; it’s in the section in the book on the exodus from Africa . People at Columbia and other universities looked at things like seabed records in the Red Sea or near North Africa and found that there’s sort of a wobbling weather pattern over time. The Sahara Desert, as National Geographic has written about many times, was sometimes grassland and green. There are stone carvings there, people and paintings of people swimming in lakes in the Sahara .

Weather shapes our communities and our responses to the environment in different ways. The Dust Bowl was a long and extraordinary drought, with human landscape changes exacerbating the conditions to create the dust. And that had a pretty transformational impact that reverberated for a long time.

Talk about the role of weather in the outcome of conflict. Can you explain that?

Weather has influenced wars throughout history. For the book, we chose a World War II example: Russia and winter. Winter was always Russia’s biggest ally. Anyone who tried to invade Russia near winter, if they didn’t get the job done quickly, they were going to be in deep trouble.

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When the Spanish Armada tried to attack England, it was stray changes in the winds that favored England and contributed to the defeat of the Spaniards. There are more examples throughout history.

There are some really strange ways that weather has messed with us through the ages; most bizarre to me in the book was the hail story. Apparently, hail can commit mass murder.

There is this one mysterious case high in the Himalayas where someone looked into a lake and found a horrific scene of slaughtered people preserved there. The presumption was that it was warfare. But then a crew of scientists from National Geographic took a closer look at the forensic analysis. All the wounds were from the top down, from some large kind of object, and the presumption was that it was hail. There was nothing around to indicate it was a weapon. You think about hurricanes and flooding, but hail causes some of the biggest financial losses every year, very consistently, in the United States.

In the mid-1800s, scientists started figuring out that global warming was happening and even said it was not a bad thing. Can you talk us through the advent of this realization and at what point it became clear that warming wasn’t good?

From the 1820s through the mid-1800s, there was already the basic concept that there are these gases in the atmosphere that trap heat. And the next step was in the 1890s, when scientists began to calculate, “Oh, we’re burning a lot of coal. We’re adding carbon dioxide to the air.”

The Swedish chemist Svante Arrhenius ran the numbers in a rough way. Around the turn of the 20th century, it was estimated that a couple of billion tons of coal a year were being burned. He was the person who really wrote the first paper tabulating that that would lead to substantial warming over a long time period.

What’s interesting to me about this is that the moment in history when knowledge emerges, and where in the world the knowledge emerges, can really shape perceptions of what the knowledge means. And so at that time, his conclusion was that colder parts of the world would enjoy a warmer climate and would be able to grow more crops, people would have more to eat: Warming was a good thing.

One of the insights that emerged for me in this book, after 30 years of writing about climate change, was that it is important to step back and examine your own perceptions, your own cultural moment—how much is related to my beliefs and my norms, and how much is related to actual data. I think it is a very important thing—especially with all of the polarization today—for everyone to just take a pause and reflect a little bit that even the guy who pioneered this idea—it was the peak of the Industrial Revolution—at the time thought it was a good thing. It was really from the ‘70s onward when the downside of climate change started to emerge, and also when our environmental movement emerged.

This is a big transition we’re going through as a species. And one of the key underpinnings of the book was that nearly all of our experience in history with weather and climate has been in one direction. We either got out of the way, or invented things like air conditioning and the umbrella to cope.

Now it’s a two-way relationship. We’re changing the system even as it’s changing us, and that’s a big deal. To me, it’s not surprising that it’s taking time for this to sink in, and for there to be divisions in what to do about it. And then you add on to that, of course, that for most of the world, the main issue is a lack of energy, a lack of access to things that make our lives convenient, and that’s all led me to a different sense of what’s going on than I had in the 1980s.

Seeing the timeline of change in science that’s set down in your book, does it make you feel hopeful or less than hopeful about our future on this planet?

I wake up in the morning optimistic, and usually after dinner, sometime in the evening, I still get kind of sapped by what I’ve learned during the day. But then I always stumble on something that feels like … I’m not even sure hope is the right word ... that feels like a source of possibility for the human species.

The thing that makes us feel so frustrated sometimes is the diversity of our reactions, the inability to have everyone feel the way we do about something that we feel is important. But that diversity, I think in a way, is actually a good thing. If we all marched in one direction, that would probably get us in trouble—if we all pursued nuclear, if we all pursued renewables, we would be less likely to get anywhere.

The hardest thing about climate change is that it’s so big in timescale and geographic scale. The good thing about climate change is that it’s so big and diverse that everyone can do something to play a role and tweak trajectories toward more positive outcomes.

This interview was edited for length and clarity.

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News | June 24, 2010

Just 5 questions: weather vs. climate.

Weather and climate are easily confused but they're not the same ... they operate on different timescales.

Weather and climate are easily confused but they're not the same ... they operate on different timescales.

Interview by Erik Conway, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

We all know smokers who live into their eighties, and health nuts who drop dead in their forties. Most people understand and accept anomalies in fields like health care and economics, and we need to do the same with climate issues. - Dr. Eric Fetzer

Dr. Eric Fetzer is a scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. He works on NASA’s AIRS mission, recently named the “best new tool for climate science.” Since its launch in 2002, AIRS has made pioneering new greenhouse gas measurements and improved weather forecasts and hurricane predictions.

1. What’s the difference between climate and weather?

There’s no clear difference, but the generally accepted distinction is made on monthly timescales. Weather describes how the atmosphere behaves over weeks or less. Climate is how it behaves over time periods of about a month or longer. So climate refers to seasonal and longer periods, out to centuries and millennia.

2. This past winter was an especially cold and snowy one for parts of the US, Europe and elsewhere. Surely such cold weather flies in the face of global warming?

The important thing to remember is that global warming is a fairly small effect on top of large temperature variability across the world. Let’s say we expect a 1°F (0.6°C) warming. The temperature on the East Coast of the United States varies by up to 20°F (11°C) over a year. So typical weather events can easily overwhelm the slow, small signature of global warming.

Also, global warming is expected to cause more extreme weather events, and that includes cold ones. A simple example is in South Florida. The mangrove line there has retreated southward by about 100 miles (160 kilometers) since the mid-1970s. Mangrove trees don’t tolerate frost, and the number of very cold events in Florida has been increasing. Last winter Florida experienced one of the worst cold snaps on record. Yet we know, from the data, that the Earth has warmed on average since the mid-1970s.

We all know smokers who live into their eighties, and health nuts who drop dead in their forties, but these examples are not taken seriously in discussion of health issues. Most people understand and accept anomalies in fields like health care and economics, and we need to do the same with climate issues.

3. In your view, what’s the most compelling piece of evidence for global warming?

The strongest evidence, I believe, is in the ocean. We know that the sea level has risen. Part of that sea level rise is from melting ice caps and part of it is from thermal expansion [when seawater heats up, it expands and takes up more space]. The ocean is a giant heat ”sink”, or absorber, and what we’re seeing is a slow increase in the heat content of the ocean. It’s literally a measure of the amount of heat the climate system holds. These changes in ocean heat content are unprecedented in the past ten thousand years. At the same time, climate warming from greenhouse gases is at its highest levels in [at least] 800,000 years.

4. How is climate change affecting the weather, and why?

The largest weather changes are being seen in precipitation patterns, especially at very high latitudes. Alaska has been experiencing winter rainfall where it has never been recorded before. Similarly, the lowest temperatures at high latitudes are increasing. Such weather changes are expected from basic atmospheric physics, and provide one of many lines of evidence showing that increased carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are warming our climate.

5. Will it be hotter or colder in the future? More wet or more dry?

On average, it’ll be warmer. For those of us living in Los Angeles, our climate will become like that of northern Baja California in Mexico. The wet/dry question is more difficult. The expectation is that Los Angeles will become more like Ensenada in Baja California, which is drier. Overall, dry parts of the tropics and subtropics are expected to become drier. But other places will become wetter, notably at higher latitudes. For example, areas such as Buffalo in New York will see an increase in “lake-effect snow” — a winter scenario where cold air moves over a lake of warmer water, causing clouds to build over the lake that then turn into intense local snowstorms as they move downwind. More lake-effect snow will mean Buffalo becomes ‘wetter’ even though much of what falls won’t melt until spring.

If you want to invest in global warming, buy wheat futures in southern Canada or southern Russia. That’s where it will become warmer and wetter. It will be better wheat country than it is today.

  • What's the Difference Between Weather and Climate?
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  • Published: 13 January 2021

Reflections on weather and climate research

  • Wenjia Cai   ORCID: orcid.org/0000-0002-4436-512X 1 ,
  • Christa Clapp   ORCID: orcid.org/0000-0002-7510-6921 2 ,
  • Indrani Das   ORCID: orcid.org/0000-0002-8919-0693 3 ,
  • Sarah Perkins-Kirkpatrick   ORCID: orcid.org/0000-0001-9443-4915 4 ,
  • Adelle Thomas   ORCID: orcid.org/0000-0002-0407-2891 5 , 6 &
  • Jessica E. Tierney   ORCID: orcid.org/0000-0002-9080-9289 7  

Nature Reviews Earth & Environment volume  2 ,  pages 9–14 ( 2021 ) Cite this article

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  • Climate-change impacts
  • Climate-change mitigation
  • Climate sciences
  • Cryospheric science
  • Palaeoclimate

To celebrate the first anniversary of Nature Reviews Earth & Environment , we asked six researchers investigating weather and climate to outline notable developments within their discipline and provide thoughts on important work yet to be done.

Broadly, what are some of the key advances and exciting future prospects in your discipline within weather and climate research ?

Wenjia Cai. To date, countries and cities that account for more than half of global GDP have set or intended to set carbon neutrality goals, leading to a vast amount of literature focused on the impacts of different carbon mitigation pathways. Of this booming research area, distinct progress has been made in incorporating additional dimensions to the impacts, improving analysis resolution and developing solution-oriented results.

Traditionally, research in mitigation impacts was very much focused on understanding the technical or macroeconomic costs. Such a narrow focus, however, is no longer satisfactory. Instead, thanks to interdisciplinary research and advances in integrated assessment models with multiple modules, great attempts have been made to assess the multiple dimensions of mitigation impacts, including environmental, ecological, employment, health, equity and other social costs 1 . In this way, research can compare and select a specific carbon mitigation pathway that does not conflict with other sustainable development goals.

Studies within the field of mitigation impacts are also usually focused on global or national scales, or, at best, at provincial scales with sectoral details. However, to achieve a just transition, provincial-level and sectoral-level results are not enough. Owing partially to the emergence of multi-source data and big data, researchers are now zooming in to explore the distributional effects. For example, there are capabilities to assess how mitigation impacts are distributed among different regions or even emission sources, and between groups with different age, income, gender, race and educational backgrounds. With this knowledge, policymakers can more effectively choose a carbon mitigation pathway that rectifies structural inequalities and addresses factors that privilege some while disadvantaging others.

Although most current studies can identify benefits and trade-offs for the predefined carbon mitigation pathways, they are usually powerless when faced with the ‘now what’ question raised by the policymakers. That is, most studies cannot provide practical solutions and quantitative suggestions on how to maximize the benefits and reduce the trade-offs. Therefore, due to the policy need, incorporating these impacts analyses into policymaking has become a new area of considerable growth. Such studies can take the two-way interactions between pathways and impacts into consideration and help identify a solution with the least social cost or the most social benefit.

Despite these advances, we should not forget the original intentions of analysing carbon mitigation pathways — that is, to push for early and adequate climate action. Have we achieved this intention after decades of development in economics of climate change? Yes and no. Yes because an increasing number of countries are making pledges for carbon neutrality by around the 2050s. No because global greenhouse gas emissions in the last decade are still rising at a rate of 1.5% per year, contrasting to the 7.6% annual average reduction rate required by the 1.5 °C target. Although COVID-19 puts most economies on pause and gives them a chance to choose a green recovery, we still see many recovery plans highly associated with fossil fuels. Why is the gap widening between the reality and the target? From my perspective, it is because the academic efforts to date still fail to solve the temporal and spatial mismatch problem that has long been embedded in the impacts analyses of addressing climate change.

In particular, early and adequate actions imply getting over the reluctance to transform business and life today and, yet, the benefits, or the avoided damages, are usually expected in the far future, at the risk of being free-ridden by someone in other regions. For policymakers who look no further ahead than the next election, those huge benefits can be easily ignored if not cashable within their political term.

Therefore, it is important to further specify the temporal and spatial details of the impacts of different carbon mitigation pathways. To be clearer, the academic community needs to better explore the short-term (or even immediate) and local mitigation impacts 2 . For example, the newly built renewable energy power plants are becoming cheaper than new coal or gas-fuelled power plants, even when the environmental externalities from coal and gas are excluded 3 . This cost competitiveness will push for spontaneous decarbonization of the power system today, reduce the energy cost of the whole economy and spare money for extra investment and consumption. Moreover, the better air quality brought by renewable energy would reduce the local health burden immediately and improve human well-being and labour productivity. Both of the above-mentioned effects would contribute to short-term local economic growth, which is the eternal pursuit of local policymakers around the world. Cases like these should become an important supplement to existing studies.

Christa Clapp. Just three years ago, researchers were lamenting the scarcity of journal articles on climate finance, and investors were being urged by non-governmental organizations and student protestors to consider the moral imperative of divesting from fossil fuels 4 . That has now changed. We have new journals and special issues, university courses and programmes dedicated to sustainable finance, a shift in the discourse from a moral imperative to risk-framing, and companies answering questions related to the climate, environment and sustainable development goals from active investors.

As awareness of climate change has increased in the financial sector, research has expanded to understand investors’ motivations for acting on climate risk, assess the willingness of investors to pay a premium for green-labelled financial products, quantify the investments required to transition to a low-carbon economy and recognize stranded assets resulting from a transition to higher carbon prices.

However, the research community is still catching up to the change in pace of the financial sector, and far greater understanding is required in the environmental impacts of finance. In particular, there remains very little interdisciplinary research on how financial regulations and investment decisions can impact the climate, vital for understanding how the financial sector can support the transition to a low-carbon and climate-resilient economy. This imbalance may arise, in part, from a lack of data, but is also undoubtedly linked to research silos, specifically, financial implications being separate from environmental studies. Future efforts are required to break down these silos, particularly given that crossover between finance, environmental science and policy is increasingly required to influence sustainable development decisions.

The recent growth in voluntary and regulatory initiatives for climate risk disclosure can provide increased transparency to investors, but to make an environmental impact, the disclosed information needs to be analysed, compared and incorporated into financial decisions. The European Union Taxonomy tool on sustainable finance aims to facilitate disclosure (including on the energy efficiency of new buildings), yet, cannot fully substitute for environmental regulations, such as stricter building codes or stronger carbon pricing mechanisms. However, there is very little research on the market implications and environmental impacts of climate risk disclosure regulation. For instance, what is the expected impact on financial markets, and, ultimately, on the environment, of the EU directive to large companies on ‘non-financial’ reporting of climate risk?

To meet these growing demands on climate risk disclosure, investors are asking questions about how to align investment portfolios comprised of a range of diverse companies with the Paris Agreement. Decision-makers in the financial sector today face a confusing array of climate risk information, either reported in an inconsistent manner by companies themselves or wrapped up in aggregated environmental, social and corporate governance scores. There are many new tools for assessing risk, but these generally lack transparency on methods and data 5 . At the firm level, the IPCC and the International Energy Agency have a whole new customer base for their climate and energy scenarios. Yet, being focused on mid-century or end-of-century trajectories, existing scenarios are ill-suited to guide very-near-term risk-based investment decisions, presenting challenges for debt decisions with a 3–5-year time frame.

At the macro level, central banks are increasingly concerned about financial instability and macroeconomic impacts of climate risk resulting from tightening carbon prices or increasing damage costs from flooding, fires and other extreme events. Explorations on potential instability require coordination across financial and climate change modelling and research communities. Indeed, the Network of Central Banks and Supervisors for Greening the Financial System (NGFS) calls for increased risk disclosure from financial institutions. However, with 37 different case studies of environmental risk analysis showcased by the NGFS, all with different scope and perspective, the overall effect could be described as scattershot 6 .

These challenges in assessing market and system impacts and improving climate risk data for financial decisions highlight that sustainable finance is a rich field for further research. In the coming years, researchers in the fields of finance, climate science and policy must further integrate interdisciplinary perspectives to bring new insights to the burgeoning field of sustainable finance, in particular, to understand how financial sector regulations and initiatives can support, or hinder, climate action.

Indrani Das. Some of the most compelling science questions in glaciology have focused on West Antarctica, including the inherent instability and potential irreversible retreat of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS).

Driving advances in such questions has been enormous progress in satellite and airborne technologies, making it possible to monitor ice sheets and their floating extensions — ice shelves — on a continental scale, and ice elevation on a global scale, all with better accuracy. The combined data from NASA’s ICESat and ICESat-2, for example, have shown that the WAIS contributed ~7.5 mm of sea level equivalent during 2003–2019 (ref. 7 ). In addition, multiple national and international satellites with various sensors are now collecting critical ice-sheet-wide parameters, including ice surface elevation, ice surface velocity, surface melt features and albedo, and gravimetric ice mass change, shaping our fundamental knowledge of dominant processes impacting ice sheet mass balance and ice dynamics required to improve projections of sea level rise.

Where satellite technology does not exist, airborne surveys have been conducted to further understanding. NASA’s Operation IceBridge, a major airborne mission, recently concluded after surveying both poles for a decade. IceBridge provided measurements of critical parameters such as ice surface elevation changes from laser altimetry; ice thickness, bedrock topography and snow accumulation rates from ice-penetrating radars; and bathymetry using gravimeters. These critical remote sensing datasets are used in continental-scale ice sheet and ocean models, in the evaluation of regional climate models, and to better understand how ice sheets and ice shelves interact with the warming atmosphere and the ocean.

In addition to data advances, progress has been made in understanding the potential instability of West Antarctica. The WAIS is considered to be fundamentally unstable because it is situated on a reverse-sloping (sloping inland) bed located largely below sea level. The grounding line of the WAIS — that is, the region where the ice sheet loses contact with the bedrock and starts to float, forming an ice shelf — is theoretically susceptible to runaway retreat via a process called marine ice sheet instability 8 (MISI). MISI progresses when the grounding line retreats on a reverse bed slope where ice is progressively thicker. Any further retreat on this slope always produces a progressively larger ice flux because of increased ice thickness and because ice starts to move faster to counter the increased mass loss. This process, although may be initially triggered by climate, can become irreversible because of the positive feedback between ice dynamics and mass balance. Indeed, the IPCC Special Report on the Ocean and the Cryosphere suggests that rapid ice loss from glacier acceleration in the Amundsen Sea could indicate the onset of MISI, but that observational records are too limited to assess the irreversibility 9 .

In the meantime, studies have now clearly demonstrated that ocean-induced basal melt is responsible for faster grounding line retreats and rapid thinning of ice shelves in the warmer Amundsen Sea sector of the WAIS. This thinning includes the large, fast-moving and fast-changing Thwaites Glacier and its equally impressive neighbour, the Pine Island Glacier. The warm circumpolar deep water from the Amundsen Sea thins their ice shelves, transports heat to their grounding lines and carves melt channels underneath their ice shelves. Surface-melt-induced ice shelf hydrofracture, subglacial hydrology and bed conditions impact the mass loss but are harder to constrain. In addition, poorly understood theories need to be tested for their feasibility, such as the marine ice cliff instability. The ice shelf of Thwaites Glacier, in particular, has suffered extensive damage from basal melting, crevassing and calving of icebergs. If Thwaites Glacier retreats completely, it may cause structural damage to the nearby areas too. This area holds enough water to raise the sea level by ~3 m, although complete retreat may take a few centuries based on our current understanding of important processes that govern the mass loss 10 . However, because of the interrelations and feedbacks between some of the processes, it is often challenging to isolate the main drivers of mass loss.

Sustained observations, both remote sensing and field-based, are, therefore, crucial to improve our understanding of the hierarchy of physical processes and for their accurate parameterization in the continental-scale ice sheet models to identify the main drivers of change and improve projections of sea level rise. Ongoing international observation and modelling efforts such as the International Thwaites Glacier Collaboration are a good step forward. Integrating high-resolution observations with Earth system models that accurately represent dominant physical processes is critical for improving projections of sea level rise, as is evaluating these models against further observations. However, as ice sheets are continually evolving in response to climate, this task is not trivial and requires huge coordinated efforts. We are experiencing climate change right now. Therefore, continued science activities should also progress together with coastal planning and management to effectively mitigate the impacts of climate change and sea level rise.

Sarah Perkins-Kirkpatrick. Over the last two decades, we have endured a litany of high-impact extreme events across the globe. Catastrophic wildfires have simultaneously raged over North America and Australia. Heatwaves have collectively caused tens of thousands of deaths over Europe, India and Pakistan. Severe hurricanes have ravaged communities spanning the USA to the Philippines. And new types of extremes, such as marine heatwaves, have been discovered, along with their devastating impacts on marine ecosystems.

It is not a stretch to say that our scientific understanding of climate and weather extremes has exploded over recent years. A notable facilitator of this expansion is the availability of data at spatial and temporal scales on which many (though not all) extreme events occur. Observations, reanalyses and climate models, for instance, now readily encapsulate daily or sub-daily timescales, a marked development since pre-CMIP3. In a similar manner, the increased spatial resolution of models and observational products has allowed for a better understanding of how extremes are changing, as well as the physical mechanisms underpinning them. For example, finer-scale regional models have more realistic representations of tropical cyclones compared with global climate models. Moreover, models that simulate the type and persistence of blocking highs associated with heatwaves also provide better representations of heatwaves themselves. It is a certainty that accessibility to high-resolution spatio-temporal data has been fundamental in allowing scientists to categorize, measure, detect changes in and understand the drivers of many types of climate and weather extremes.

However, whilst high-resolution data are necessary for improving our understanding of extremes, it is not sufficient. Extremes, by their definition, are rare events, and, thus, adequate sampling is critical. Large, multi-member climate model ensembles have helped to address this undersampling and have been key in demonstrating the important role internal climate variability has on extremes 11 . Indeed, trends in extremes can differ greatly even in the same climate model, where otherwise identical realizations have miniscule changes in their initial conditions, suggesting the crucial importance of the timing and periodicity of variability phases on the overall detected signal. Such findings are not possible in smaller samples of extreme events — inclusive of observations — where only one representation of a plausible temporal pattern of variability is present.

Moreover, we have now reached a point where increasing resolution is no longer enough to advance our understanding of extreme events. For example, simply increasing the resolution of contemporary CMIP6 climate models does not improve the simulation of precipitation extremes 12 . Whilst high(er) resolution data were, therefore, initially critical in adequately detecting extremes in climate models, the inclusion of key physical processes and their exchanges is now equally important in understanding how extreme events evolve, decay, interact and change over decadal or longer timescales. Appropriately developing fine-scale physics in a climate model is a monumental task, further compounded by access to adequate computational resources and the number of climate models that require this improvement. These roadblocks are likely impediments on further leaps in advancing knowledge of climate extremes that will exist for some time yet.

Detection and attribution research is another noteworthy advance, quantifying the role of anthropogenic climate change behind extreme events. This field has rapidly advanced over the last 15 years, supported by robust statistical methods and advances in high-resolution and larger sample sizes of model data. However, assessments of how anthropogenic climate change has altered the frequency and/or intensity of a specific (perhaps record-breaking) event, or driven long-term changes in that event for a particular region, are only as good as the model(s) employed. For example, if a model cannot adequately simulate a known physical mechanism of an extreme, then it is very unlikely to simulate how climate change affects that mechanism, and, thus, the corresponding extreme in the attribution assessment. Attribution assessments are undoubtedly powerful tools and an extraordinary development, but could also benefit from increasing process-scale understanding of extremes within climate models in the future.

A new era of climate extremes is now emerging, with black-swan events in the form of wildfires, heatwaves (marine and atmospheric), tropical cyclones, droughts and floods occurring over many parts of the globe. Compound extremes are also being recognized, where different extreme events closely occur together in time and/or space 13 . If we are to adapt to, and effectively mitigate, anthropogenic climate change, we must advance our understanding of these types of extremes — and soon — as it is changes in extremes that have the most devastating impacts. While climate model resources will continue to be useful to study changes in extreme events, we require a major development in the understanding and modelling of physical mechanisms on a scale similar to the availability of daily data in the mid-2000s to obtain anything more than an incremental advance over the next 15 years.

Adelle Thomas. Several recent notable advances have been apparent within climate adaptation research, expanding understanding of how societies are adapting, the limits of adaptation, as well as loss and damage. Early research, for example, largely focused on theoretical ideologies and justifying the need for adaptation on top of mitigation. More recently, however, there has been a concentration of literature that explores the lived experiences of adaptation in different contexts and scales, increasing and diversifying the evidence base on how societies are responding to climate risks. For instance, the recent growth of research on community-based adaptation stems from acknowledgement of the importance of harnessing local knowledge and increasing local adaptive capacities to address the impacts of climate change 14 .

The expanding adaptation literature has also supported key advances in recognizing the limits of adaptation. Recent empirical studies have built on prior theories of potential tipping points and boundaries of adaptation to show how specific communities and ecosystems are already experiencing adaptation limits. For example, small-scale farmers are finding that existing adaptation strategies are insufficient to prevent loss of crops and are, therefore, shifting to different livelihoods as a result. Analysis of the constraints and limits to adaptation echoes the early period of adaptation research when there was an assumption that successful mitigation would negate the need for adaptation. We now increasingly understand that there are limits to the ability of adaptation to reduce climate risk and that, despite adaptive efforts, climate impacts still remain.

Moreover, loss and damage literature has broadened, spanning analysis of the many conceptualizations of what the term encompasses, to acknowledgement of the importance of the non-economic negative impacts of climate change (such as loss of sense of place and damage to culturally and spiritually significant landscapes). Indeed, the importance of loss and damage in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) spurred inclusion of this research for the first time in the IPCC in the SR1.5 (ref. 15 ). The increasing evidence base on loss and damage responds to calls from particularly vulnerable nations and communities that are already experiencing impacts of climate change despite adaptive efforts.

These advances point to the need for a focus on transformation in future adaptation research, particularly as it becomes increasingly evident that small-scale and incremental adaptation measures currently being planned and implemented are insufficient to prevent climate risks. Although the IPCC SR1.5 underscored the necessity of widespread and unprecedented levels of both mitigation and adaptation to address the challenges of climate change, there is still limited research on these topics. Research that explores transformational adaptation possibilities and modalities for a range of actors reflecting different contexts and scales, and also how actors must collaborate to facilitate transformation, is desperately needed.

However, when considering future prospects for adaptation research, the events of 2020 cannot be ignored. The COVID-19 pandemic has had significant effects on all of us, including those that are already most vulnerable to climate change. Research plans have been cancelled or postponed, and modalities that have served more qualitative adaptation research in the past — such as in-person interviews and focus groups — are increasingly unfeasible. The global Black Lives Matter movement brought to the fore long-standing systemic and institutionalized racism that is present not only in the United States but in many nations around the world. Such racial injustice has resulted not only in the deaths of black people as a result of police brutality but also in the increased vulnerability of black people and other communities of colour to the impacts of climate change. Systemic racism also results in the marginalization of black climate experts, who face additional burdens of operating within unjust structures. These events signal the need for more inclusive, equitable and innovative approaches to adaptation research moving forward.

There is, thus, also a need for transformation in our approaches to adaptation research. We must look at our own roles in economic and social power relations that have historically been unjust and act to facilitate change. How can we contribute to closing the research gap of studies that originate from the Global South and that consist not only of case studies but also of contributions to and critiques of adaptation theory 16 ? How can we bolster the sparse literature that includes or even centres racial disparities that are present in adaptation processes? How can we support development of truly transformational adaptation that does not reinforce existing unjust structures but also transforms underlying systems that have led to existing inequalities? How can we conduct meaningful research to enact change when modalities are restricted? These are big questions and there are no easy fixes. Simple steps such as being more inclusive of locally based researchers, working with civil society organizations and developing community science approaches to more actively engage and work with at-risk communities are a start to addressing issues of justice, as well as to developing innovative research processes. Continuing and expanding such measures even when the pandemic is a memory and the racial justice protests are no longer in the media is critical to transform the practice of adaptation research to be more inclusive, just and innovative.

Jessica E. Tierney. Atmospheric CO 2 levels now exceed 400 ppm — a value that the Earth has not experienced in 3 million years — and most of this rise occurred in the last 60 years. As a palaeoclimatologist, this is frightening. The rate of anthropogenic carbon emissions is higher than any known event in geological history. We are already seeing the impacts unfold, right before our eyes: melting ice, rising sea level, more acidic oceans.

Where are we headed in the future? We know that a high-CO 2 world is a warmer world, but how much warmer will it get? Climate model projections diverge on this because models have different sensitivities to rising CO 2 . Many of the new models participating in the CMIP6, which will guide the next IPCC assessment, have high climate sensitivity, meaning that they predict a large warming by the end of the century. How do we know whether this is realistic? And, beyond temperature changes, what about the water cycle? How will regional water availability change in a warmer world? Even with all of the improvements that have been made regarding the representation of land and atmospheric processes, climate models still disagree about both the sign and the magnitude of precipitation change in most regions across Earth.

In my view, the past is the key to the future. As we seek to narrow projections of future change, there is a renewed role for palaeoclimate studies to understand what is possible. Past climates can be used to constrain climate sensitivity, study what happens during extreme CO 2 emissions, understand regional-scale and seasonal-scale changes in the water cycle, and determine the response of the cryosphere 17 . In particular, ancient warm climates — such as the Pliocene (3 million years ago), the Eocene (50 million years ago) and the middle Cretaceous (90 million years ago) — offer key opportunities to study what happens to the Earth in a high-CO 2 world.

While constraining metrics like Earth’s climate sensitivity and the strength of climatic feedbacks has long been a fundamental goal of palaeoclimatology, a number of recent advances in both palaeoclimate modelling and reconstruction techniques have allowed for a firmer connection to form between studies of past and future climate. As a community, we are developing more quantitative methods to rigorously represent uncertainty, such as using Bayesian inference, and we are starting to adapt spatio-temporal reconstruction techniques like data assimilation for use in palaeoclimates 18 . We are also seeing increasing efforts to collate, synthesize and analyse large datasets from key intervals in time, like the Last Glacial Maximum (the coldest climate of at least the last 100 million years) 18 and the early Eocene ‘greenhouse’ (50 million years ago) 19 . In addition to serving as ‘targets’ for climate models to be tested against, temperature and CO 2 data from these time periods can be used to constrain climate sensitivity in radically altered climates. Encouragingly, palaeoclimate information tends to suggest values around 3–4 °C that have long been the climate community’s ‘best guess’ 18 , 19 . On the flip side, we are discovering that Earth system models with a sensitivity above 5 °C per doubling of CO 2 (of which there are several in CMIP6) fail to simulate past climates, producing results that are either too cold or too hot because they are too sensitive to CO 2 (ref. 20 ). Unfortunately, these studies tend to happen after the climate model development phase, rather than during it. Palaeoclimatologists are trying to encourage modern climate researchers to involve us in the model development phase and benchmark the models against palaeoclimates. In this way, we can avoid using models to predict future climate that cannot predict the past (which, arguably, are not trustworthy, especially under high-emissions scenarios) and narrow projections.

The water cycle is the new frontier for palaeoclimatology. Tree rings have given us an amazing view of regional drought changes over the last few thousand years, but, before that, our understanding gets hazy. In particular, we do not yet have a good handle on what happens to regional patterns of precipitation in warm climates. While there is a long-held view that high CO 2 causes “wet regions to get wetter and dry regions to get drier”, we know from theory that this maxim does not really hold over land. In the subtropics in particular, we need to consider changes in the seasonal cycle in rainfall and how the monsoon systems respond to warmer temperatures. The palaeoclimate evidence that is out there already is intriguing. For example, the presence of ancient lake basins in the region where I live (the south-west USA) that date to the Pliocene suggests that, somewhat counter-intuitively, the south-west region was wetter in this warmer world. I am confident that, with more study — using both on-the-ground data and climate model simulations — we can get a better view of what happens to the regional water cycle in warm climates and that this will be key to understanding future water availability.

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Acknowledgements

S.P.-K. is supported by Australian Research Council grant number FT170100106. I.D. acknowledges the G. Unger Vetlesen Foundation.

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Ministry of Education Key Laboratory for Earth System Modelling, Department of Earth System Science, Tsinghua University, Beijing, China

Center for International Climate Research (CICERO), Oslo, Norway

Christa Clapp

Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University, Palisades, NY, USA

Indrani Das

Climate Change Research Centre, University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW, Australia

Sarah Perkins-Kirkpatrick

Climate Analytics, Berlin, Germany

Adelle Thomas

Climate Change Adaptation and Resilience Research Centre, University of The Bahamas, Nassau, Bahamas

Department of Geosciences, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ, USA

Jessica E. Tierney

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Contributions

Wenjia Cai is an Associate Professor of Global Change Economics in the Department of Earth System Science, Tsinghua University, Beijing, China. Her research interest is the evaluation of climate mitigation’s impacts on environment and health. She is the co-director of the Lancet Countdown Regional Centre for Asia and leads the China report of the Lancet Countdown on health and climate change. She was a member of the Chinese delegation to the UN climate negotiations.

Christa Clapp leads the climate finance work at CICERO and is a co-founder and managing partner of CICERO Shades of Green Ltd., a subsidiary of the research institute that is a global leader in green ratings for bonds. She is a Lead Author for the IPCC 6th assessment report on finance and investment.

Indrani Das is an Associate Research Professor at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University, USA. As a glaciologist and climate scientist, her research uses remote sensing observations and ice sheet modelling to understand the evolving ice sheets, ice shelves and their interactions with the ocean and the atmosphere. Indrani is a strong proponent of STEM education and science communication.

Sarah Perkins-Kirkpatrick is a Senior Lecturer/ARC Future Fellow at the Climate Change Research Centre, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia. As a Climate Scientist specializing in extreme events, her expertise focuses on heatwaves — how to measure them, how they have changed, how they will change — and employing detection and attribution methods to understand how climate change is influencing heatwaves and their impacts.

Adelle Thomas is a Senior Research Associate with Climate Analytics and Director of the Climate Change Adaptation and Resilience Research Centre at the University of The Bahamas. As a human-environment geographer, her expertise centres on adaptation, limits to adaptation, and loss and damage, particularly in the small-island developing-state context. She is a Lead Author for the IPCC 6th assessment report on limits to adaptation and was a Lead Author for the IPCC SR1.5.

Jessica E. Tierney is an Associate Professor in the Department of Geosciences at the University of Arizona. Her research focuses on using geochemical, statistical and modelling techniques to reconstruct past climate changes in order to better understand our future. She is a Lead Author in Working Group I for the upcoming IPCC AR6 assessment report.

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Correspondence to Wenjia Cai , Christa Clapp , Indrani Das , Sarah Perkins-Kirkpatrick , Adelle Thomas or Jessica E. Tierney .

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Cai, W., Clapp, C., Das, I. et al. Reflections on weather and climate research. Nat Rev Earth Environ 2 , 9–14 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s43017-020-00123-x

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Accepted : 20 November 2020

Published : 13 January 2021

Issue Date : January 2021

DOI : https://doi.org/10.1038/s43017-020-00123-x

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essay of climate and weather

Climate Change Essay for Students and Children

500+ words climate change essay.

Climate change refers to the change in the environmental conditions of the earth. This happens due to many internal and external factors. The climatic change has become a global concern over the last few decades. Besides, these climatic changes affect life on the earth in various ways. These climatic changes are having various impacts on the ecosystem and ecology. Due to these changes, a number of species of plants and animals have gone extinct.

essay of climate and weather

When Did it Start?

The climate started changing a long time ago due to human activities but we came to know about it in the last century. During the last century, we started noticing the climatic change and its effect on human life. We started researching on climate change and came to know that the earth temperature is rising due to a phenomenon called the greenhouse effect. The warming up of earth surface causes many ozone depletion, affect our agriculture , water supply, transportation, and several other problems.

Reason Of Climate Change

Although there are hundreds of reason for the climatic change we are only going to discuss the natural and manmade (human) reasons.

Get the huge list of more than 500 Essay Topics and Ideas

Natural Reasons

These include volcanic eruption , solar radiation, tectonic plate movement, orbital variations. Due to these activities, the geographical condition of an area become quite harmful for life to survive. Also, these activities raise the temperature of the earth to a great extent causing an imbalance in nature.

Human Reasons

Man due to his need and greed has done many activities that not only harm the environment but himself too. Many plant and animal species go extinct due to human activity. Human activities that harm the climate include deforestation, using fossil fuel , industrial waste , a different type of pollution and many more. All these things damage the climate and ecosystem very badly. And many species of animals and birds got extinct or on a verge of extinction due to hunting.

Effects Of Climatic Change

These climatic changes have a negative impact on the environment. The ocean level is rising, glaciers are melting, CO2 in the air is increasing, forest and wildlife are declining, and water life is also getting disturbed due to climatic changes. Apart from that, it is calculated that if this change keeps on going then many species of plants and animals will get extinct. And there will be a heavy loss to the environment.

What will be Future?

If we do not do anything and things continue to go on like right now then a day in future will come when humans will become extinct from the surface of the earth. But instead of neglecting these problems we start acting on then we can save the earth and our future.

essay of climate and weather

Although humans mistake has caused great damage to the climate and ecosystem. But, it is not late to start again and try to undo what we have done until now to damage the environment. And if every human start contributing to the environment then we can be sure of our existence in the future.

{ “@context”: “https://schema.org”, “@type”: “FAQPage”, “mainEntity”: [ { “@type”: “Question”, “name”: “What is climate change and how it affects humans?”, “acceptedAnswer”: { “@type”: “Answer”, “text”: “Climate change is a phenomenon that happens because of human and natural reasons. And it is one of the most serious problems that not only affect the environment but also human beings. It affects human in several ways but in simple language, we can say that it causes many diseases and disasters that destroy life on earth.” } }, { “@type”: “Question”, “name”: “Can we stop these climatic changes?”, “acceptedAnswer”: { “@type”: “Answer”, “text”: “Yes, we can stop these climatic changes but for that, every one of us has to come forward and has to adapt ways that can reduce and control our bad habits that affect the environment. We have to the initiative and make everyone aware of the climatic changes.” } } ] }

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Essay on Climate Change

Climate Change Essay - The globe is growing increasingly sensitive to climate change. It is currently a serious worldwide concern. The term "Climate Change" describes changes to the earth's climate. It explains the atmospheric changes that have occurred across time, spanning from decades to millions of years. Here are some sample essays on climate change.

100 Words Essay on Climate Change

200 words essay on climate change, 500 words essay on climate change.

Essay on Climate Change

The climatic conditions on Earth are changing due to climate change. Several internal and external variables, such as solar radiation, variations in the Earth's orbit, volcanic eruptions, plate tectonics, etc., are to blame for this.

There are strategies for climate change reduction. If not implemented, the weather might get worse, there might be water scarcity, there could be lower agricultural output, and it might affect people's ability to make a living. In order to breathe clean air and drink pure water, you must concentrate on limiting human activity. These are the simple measures that may be taken to safeguard the environment and its resources.

The climate of the Earth has changed significantly over time. While some of these changes were brought on by natural events like volcanic eruptions, floods, forest fires, etc., many of the changes were brought on by human activity. The burning of fossil fuels, domesticating livestock, and other human activities produce a significant quantity of greenhouse gases. This results in an increase of greenhouse effect and global warming which are the major causes for climate change.

Reasons of Climate Change

Some of the reasons of climate change are:

Deforestation

Excessive use of fossil fuels

Water and soil pollution

Plastic and other non biodegradable waste

Wildlife and nature extinction

Consequences of Climate Change

All kinds of life on earth will be affected by climate change if it continues to change at the same pace. The earth's temperature will increase, the monsoon patterns will shift, the sea level will rise, and there will be more frequent storms, volcano eruptions, and other natural calamities. The earth's biological and ecological equilibrium will be disturbed. Humans won't be able to access clean water or air to breathe when the environment becomes contaminated. The end of life on this earth is imminent. To reduce the issue of climate change, we need to bring social awareness along with strict measures to protect and preserve the natural environment.

A shift in the world's climatic pattern is referred to as climate change. Over the centuries, the climate pattern of our planet has undergone modifications. The amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has significantly grown.

When Did Climate Change Begin

It is possible to see signs of climate change as early as the beginning of the industrial revolution. The pace at which the manufacturers produced things on a large scale required a significant amount of raw materials. Since the raw materials being transformed into finished products now have such huge potential for profit, these business models have spread quickly over the world. Hazardous substances and chemicals build up in the environment as a result of company emissions and waste disposal.

Although climate change is a natural occurrence, it is evident that human activity is turning into the primary cause of the current climate change situation. The major cause is the growing population. Natural resources are utilised more and more as a result of the population's fast growth placing a heavy burden on the available resources. Over time, as more and more products and services are created, pollution will eventually increase.

Causes of Climate Change

There are a number of factors that have contributed towards weather change in the past and continue to do so. Let us look at a few:

Solar Radiation |The climate of earth is determined by how quickly the sun's energy is absorbed and distributed throughout space. This energy is transmitted throughout the world by the winds, ocean currents etc which affects the climatic conditions of the world. Changes in solar intensity have an effect on the world's climate.

Deforestation | The atmosphere's carbon dioxide is stored by trees. As a result of their destruction, carbon dioxide builds up more quickly since there are no trees to absorb it. Additionally, trees release the carbon they stored when we burn them.

Agriculture | Many kinds of greenhouse gases are released into the atmosphere by growing crops and raising livestock. Animals, for instance, create methane, a greenhouse gas that is 30 times more potent than carbon dioxide. The nitrous oxide used in fertilisers is roughly 300 times more strong than carbon dioxide.

How to Prevent Climate Change

We need to look out for drastic steps to stop climate change since it is affecting the resources and life on our planet. We can stop climate change if the right solutions are put in place. Here are some strategies for reducing climate change:

Raising public awareness of climate change

Prohibiting tree-cutting and deforestation.

Ensure the surroundings are clean.

Refrain from using chemical fertilisers.

Water and other natural resource waste should be reduced.

Protect the animals and plants.

Purchase energy-efficient goods and equipment.

Increase the number of trees in the neighbourhood and its surroundings.

Follow the law and safeguard the environment's resources.

Reduce the amount of energy you use.

During the last few decades especially, climate change has grown to be of concern. Global concern has been raised over changes in the Earth's climatic pattern. The causes of climate change are numerous, as well as the effects of it and it is our responsibility as inhabitants of this planet to look after its well being and leave it in a better condition for future generations.

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Essay on Climate Change: Check Samples in 100, 250 Words

essay of climate and weather

  • Updated on  
  • Sep 21, 2023

essay of climate and weather

Writing an essay on climate change is crucial to raise awareness and advocate for action. The world is facing environmental challenges, so in a situation like this such essay topics can serve as s platform to discuss the causes, effects, and solutions to this pressing issue. They offer an opportunity to engage readers in understanding the urgency of mitigating climate change for the sake of our planet’s future.

Must Read: Essay On Environment  

Table of Contents

  • 1 What Is Climate Change?
  • 2 What are the Causes of Climate Change?
  • 3 What are the effects of Climate Change?
  • 4 How to fight climate change?
  • 5 Essay On Climate Change in 100 Words
  • 6 Climate Change Sample Essay 250 Words

What Is Climate Change?

Climate change is the significant variation of average weather conditions becoming, for example, warmer, wetter, or drier—over several decades or longer. It may be natural or anthropogenic. However, in recent times, it’s been in the top headlines due to escalations caused by human interference.

What are the Causes of Climate Change?

Obama at the First Session of COP21 rightly quoted “We are the first generation to feel the impact of climate change, and the last generation that can do something about it.”.Identifying the causes of climate change is the first step to take in our fight against climate change. Below stated are some of the causes of climate change:

  • Greenhouse Gas Emissions: Mainly from burning fossil fuels (coal, oil, and natural gas) for energy and transportation.
  • Deforestation: The cutting down of trees reduces the planet’s capacity to absorb carbon dioxide.
  • Industrial Processes: Certain manufacturing activities release potent greenhouse gases.
  • Agriculture: Livestock and rice cultivation emit methane, a potent greenhouse gas.

What are the effects of Climate Change?

Climate change poses a huge risk to almost all life forms on Earth. The effects of climate change are listed below:

  • Global Warming: Increased temperatures due to trapped heat from greenhouse gases.
  • Melting Ice and Rising Sea Levels: Ice caps and glaciers melt, causing oceans to rise.
  • Extreme Weather Events: More frequent and severe hurricanes, droughts, and wildfires.
  • Ocean Acidification: Oceans absorb excess CO2, leading to more acidic waters harming marine life.
  • Disrupted Ecosystems: Shifting climate patterns disrupt habitats and threaten biodiversity.
  • Food and Water Scarcity: Altered weather affects crop yields and strains water resources.
  • Human Health Risks: Heat-related illnesses and the spread of diseases.
  • Economic Impact: Damage to infrastructure and increased disaster-related costs.
  • Migration and Conflict: Climate-induced displacement and resource competition.

How to fight climate change?

‘Climate change is a terrible problem, and it absolutely needs to be solved. It deserves to be a huge priority,’ says Bill Gates. The below points highlight key actions to combat climate change effectively.

  • Energy Efficiency: Improve energy efficiency in all sectors.
  • Protect Forests: Stop deforestation and promote reforestation.
  • Sustainable Agriculture: Adopt eco-friendly farming practices.
  • Advocacy: Raise awareness and advocate for climate-friendly policies.
  • Innovation: Invest in green technologies and research.
  • Government Policies: Enforce climate-friendly regulations and targets.
  • Corporate Responsibility: Encourage sustainable business practices.
  • Individual Action: Reduce personal carbon footprint and inspire others.

Essay On Climate Change in 100 Words

Climate change refers to long-term alterations in Earth’s climate patterns, primarily driven by human activities, such as burning fossil fuels and deforestation, which release greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. These gases trap heat, leading to global warming. The consequences of climate change are widespread and devastating. Rising temperatures cause polar ice caps to melt, contributing to sea level rise and threatening coastal communities. Extreme weather events, like hurricanes and wildfires, become more frequent and severe, endangering lives and livelihoods. Additionally, shifts in weather patterns can disrupt agriculture, leading to food shortages. To combat climate change, global cooperation, renewable energy adoption, and sustainable practices are crucial for a more sustainable future.

Must Read: Essay On Global Warming

Climate Change Sample Essay 250 Words

Climate change represents a pressing global challenge that demands immediate attention and concerted efforts. Human activities, primarily the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation, have significantly increased the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. This results in a greenhouse effect, trapping heat and leading to a rise in global temperatures, commonly referred to as global warming.

The consequences of climate change are far-reaching and profound. Rising sea levels threaten coastal communities, displacing millions and endangering vital infrastructure. Extreme weather events, such as hurricanes, droughts, and wildfires, have become more frequent and severe, causing devastating economic and human losses. Disrupted ecosystems affect biodiversity and the availability of vital resources, from clean water to agricultural yields.

Moreover, climate change has serious implications for food and water security. Changing weather patterns disrupt traditional farming practices and strain freshwater resources, potentially leading to conflicts over access to essential commodities.

Addressing climate change necessitates a multifaceted approach. First, countries must reduce their greenhouse gas emissions through the transition to renewable energy sources, increased energy efficiency, and reforestation efforts. International cooperation is crucial to set emission reduction targets and hold nations accountable for meeting them.

In conclusion, climate change is a global crisis with profound and immediate consequences. Urgent action is needed to mitigate its impacts and secure a sustainable future for our planet. By reducing emissions and implementing adaptation strategies, we can protect vulnerable communities, preserve ecosystems, and ensure a livable planet for future generations. The time to act is now.

Climate change refers to long-term shifts in Earth’s climate patterns, primarily driven by human activities like burning fossil fuels and deforestation.

Five key causes of climate change include excessive greenhouse gas emissions from human activities, notably burning fossil fuels and deforestation. 

We hope this blog gave you an idea about how to write and present an essay on climate change that puts forth your opinions. The skill of writing an essay comes in handy when appearing for standardized language tests. Thinking of taking one soon? Leverage Edu provides the best online test prep for the same via Leverage Live . Register today to know more!

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Climate Change Essay

500+ words essay on climate change.

Climate change is a major global challenge today, and the world is becoming more vulnerable to this change. Climate change refers to the changes in Earth’s climate condition. It describes the changes in the atmosphere which have taken place over a period ranging from decades to millions of years. A recent report from the United Nations predicted that the average global temperature could increase by 6˚ Celsius at the end of the century. Climate change has an adverse effect on the environment and ecosystem. With the help of this essay, students will get to know the causes and effects of climate change and possible solutions. Also, they will be able to write essays on similar topics and can boost their writing skills.

What Causes Climate Change?

The Earth’s climate has always changed and evolved. Some of these changes have been due to natural causes such as volcanic eruptions, floods, forest fires etc., but quite a few of them are due to human activities. Human activities such as deforestation, burning fossil fuels, farming livestock etc., generate an enormous amount of greenhouse gases. This results in the greenhouse effect and global warming which are the major causes of climate change.

Effects of Climate Change

If the current situation of climate change continues in a similar manner, then it will impact all forms of life on the earth. The earth’s temperature will rise, the monsoon patterns will change, sea levels will rise, and storms, volcanic eruptions and natural disasters will occur frequently. The biological and ecological balance of the earth will get disturbed. The environment will get polluted and humans will not be able to get fresh air to breathe and fresh water to drink. Life on earth will come to an end.

Steps to be Taken to Reduce Climate Change

The Government of India has taken many measures to improve the dire situation of Climate Change. The Ministry of Environment and Forests is the nodal agency for climate change issues in India. It has initiated several climate-friendly measures, particularly in the area of renewable energy. India took several steps and policy initiatives to create awareness about climate change and help capacity building for adaptation measures. It has initiated a “Green India” programme under which various trees are planted to make the forest land more green and fertile.

We need to follow the path of sustainable development to effectively address the concerns of climate change. We need to minimise the use of fossil fuels, which is the major cause of global warming. We must adopt alternative sources of energy, such as hydropower, solar and wind energy to make a progressive transition to clean energy. Mahatma Gandhi said that “Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s need, but not any man’s greed”. With this view, we must remodel our outlook and achieve the goal of sustainable development. By adopting clean technologies, equitable distribution of resources and addressing the issues of equity and justice, we can make our developmental process more harmonious with nature.

We hope students liked this essay on Climate Change and gathered useful information on this topic so that they can write essays in their own words. To get more study material related to the CBSE, ICSE, State Board and Competitive exams, keep visiting the BYJU’S website.

Frequently Asked Questions on climate change Essay

What are the reasons for climate change.

1. Deforestation 2. Excessive usage of fossil fuels 3. Water, Soil pollution 4. Plastic and other non-biodegradable waste 5. Wildlife and nature extinction

How can we save this climate change situation?

1. Avoid over usage of natural resources 2. Do not use or buy items made from animals 3. Avoid plastic usage and pollution

Are there any natural causes for climate change?

Yes, some of the natural causes for climate change are: 1. Solar variations 2. Volcanic eruption and tsunamis 3. Earth’s orbital changes

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What’s The Difference Between Weather vs. Climate?

  • What Does Weather Mean?
  • What Does Climate Mean?
  • Using Weather Vs. Climate

“Climate is what we expect, weather is what we get.” This pithy quote by famed science fiction author Robert A. Heinlein (among earlier variations) nicely frames the basic difference between climate and weather : climate refers to average, long-term conditions, while weather refers to specific, short-term conditions.

Of course, it’s more complicated than that.

We talk a lot about climate these days, especially in the context of climate change . The distinction between climate and weather can be especially confusing when extreme cold weather events like blizzards or record low temperatures are falsely presented as evidence that global warming isn’t real.

This is one of the reasons behind the shift toward use of the term climate change, which better reflects a situation that may seem counterintuitive—a change in climate involving an overall warming of the average temperature can lead to an increase in extreme weather events, including, in some cases, extreme cold weather.

To shed some light on the confusion that clouds the complex relationship between weather and climate , we need to go into more detail.

⚡ Quick summary: Weather refers to short-term atmospheric conditions—the temperature and precipitation on a certain day, for example. Climate refers to the average atmospheric conditions that prevail in a given region over a long period of time—whether a place is generally cold and wet or hot and dry, for example.

What does weather mean?

Weather is “the state of the atmosphere with respect to wind, temperature, cloudiness, moisture, pressure, etc.” So, in other words, weather is how the atmosphere is acting—Is it hot? Is it cold? Is it raining or super dry? Is the sun out or are there clouds?

So, you might open up the weather forecast for the day and discover that it’s going to be rainy and cold. Or you might say something like, We had some really hot weather yesterday. People love talking about the weather because it affects our lives each and every day.

Meteorology is popularly defined as the study of weather , and the weatherperson who delivers the weather forecasts on your local TV station is often referred to as a meteorologist . But meteorology also includes the study of climate and the relationship between the two—you can’t properly understand weather without understanding climate.

What else does weather mean?

As a verb, weather can mean to expose something to harsh conditions (such as by placing it outside, in the weather ), often in order to change it in some way, as in We need to weather this leather to soften it. It can also mean to endure a storm or, more metaphorically, a negative or dangerous situation, as in We will simply have to weather the recession.

Whether or not you know the many meanings of weather , you should definitely educate yourself on these extreme weather words.

Where does the word weather come from?

Weather comes from the Old English weder, which is related to words for weather in other Germanic languages. The word weather ultimately shares the same root with the word wind , so wind and weather come from the same source!

What does climate mean?

Climate is “the composite or generally prevailing weather conditions of a region, as temperature, air pressure, humidity, precipitation, sunshine, cloudiness, and winds, throughout the year, averaged over a series of years.” This is generally understood to mean 30 years or more.

In other words, climate involves the atmospheric conditions that prevail in general in a region, not just the atmospheric conditions messing with your commute today. A place could have a cold, rainy climate (like the United Kingdom), or a hot, sunny, dry climate (like Egypt). The UK could have hot, sunny weather for a stretch, but that wouldn’t change the fact that its climate is overall usually pretty cold and rainy. Likewise, the weather in Egypt could occasionally be cold and rainy, but that doesn’t change the fact that it has a hot and dry climate.

Although climate classification systems vary, Earth’s climates are often classified into five general types: tropical, dry, temperate, continental, and polar.

  • Tropical climates are hot, humid, and extremely rainy. Examples: the Amazon rainforest, Thailand, Nigeria.
  • Dry climates are desertlike, getting very little precipitation. Examples: Arizona, the Australian Outback, most of Saudi Arabia.
  • Temperate climates have mild winters and hot, wet, and often stormy summers. Examples: a large part of the US (including much of the Southeast and Midwest), New Zealand, parts of China.
  • Continental climates have warm or cool summers and cold (sometimes very cold) winters. Examples: some northern parts of the US, parts of Canada and Russia.
  • Polar climates are cold all year around, and extremely cold in the winter. Examples: Antarctica, parts of Alaska, parts of Siberia.

Of course, not every place on Earth will fit neatly into one of these categories—some locations have a climate that’s specific to that place due to a number of unique factors.

A person who studies the climate is called a climatologist . Instead of focusing on short-term weather patterns and forecasting, a climatologist is interested in weather patterns spanning long periods of time, often decades and longer. People sometimes try to point to a sequence of cold weather as proof that climate change isn’t gradually affecting temperatures. But climatologists know that warming related to climate change occurs over many, many years, and involves the average temperature of a region. Climatologists study these slow, gradual changes—not the change in weather between one week and the next (though an increase in the frequency of extreme weather events can often be traced back to a changing climate).

What else does climate mean?

Metaphorically, climate can also mean the general (nonliteral) atmosphere or attitude of a place or situation, as in the phrase political climate. You might say something like, “The climate in the office worsened after the layoffs.”

A not-so-commonly used adjective form of climate is climatic , meaning “related to climate.” Don’t confuse it with climactic , which means “related to a climax .”

Take this moment to learn more about the differences between climatic and climactic !

Where does the word climate come from?

Climate entered the English language in the 1300s. It ultimately comes, via Latin, from the Greek klī́ma, meaning “slope.” This makes sense, since the “slope” or tilt of Earth contributes to different climate conditions at different latitudes.

How to use weather vs. climate

Ultimately, both weather and climate are about atmospheric conditions like temperature, precipitation, amount of sun, and other factors. But they differ in scale. Weather involves the atmospheric conditions and changes we experience in the short term, on a daily basis. Rain today, sun tomorrow, and snow next month—that’s weather. Climate involves long-term, average atmospheric conditions in a particular place. Is the place where you live consistently rainy and cool? Is it always 72 degrees and sunny? That’s climate.

So, when you’re making small talk about whether it’s rainy or sunny that day, you’re discussing the weather. If you’re complaining that it’s always way too hot where you live, all year round, you’re discussing your regional climate.

Changes to climate —even an average temperature rise of a few degrees—alter the weather patterns that we’re accustomed to. These changes may be subtle in some places while producing more drastic effects elsewhere. But because climate shapes weather in complex ways, these changes might not always be the ones we expect.

Global climate change is leading to overall average warmer temperatures, even in cold climates. This doesn’t mean that winter weather in Minnesota will become mild overnight. In fact, blizzards may become more intense due to the fact that higher temperatures allow the atmosphere to hold more moisture, which eventually falls as precipitation—including snow, under the right conditions. More extreme and more frequent storms, floods, and droughts are some examples of weather events that are being fueled by a change in climate.

Examples of weather and climate used in a sentence

Check out some examples of how to use weather vs. climate below.

  • This week’s hot weather has brought people out to the pool in droves.
  • I’ve always wanted to live in a place with a sunny climate !
  • Although we live in a hot climate , a freak blizzard brought a couple of days of snowy weather.
  • Our humid climate means we have damp, rainy weather most days.

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Learn the most up-to-date words on climate change so you never get caught in the storm unprepared.

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NASA and IBM Research Apply AI to Weather and Climate

A collaboration involving NASA and IBM Research has led to the development of a new artificial intelligence (AI) foundation model for weather and climate: Prithvi-weather-climate (Prithvi is the Sanskrit name for Earth). The model is pre-trained on 40 years of weather and climate data from NASA's Modern-Era Retrospective analysis for Research and Applications, Version 2 ( MERRA-2 ), and fills a need to infuse AI and machine learning (ML) methods into weather and climate applications, such as storm tracking, forecasting, and historical analysis.

In keeping with NASA's open science policies , Prithvi-weather-climate will be openly available. The model and the code will be released later in 2024 through Hugging Face , a public repository for open-source ML models.

Global map with colors indicating temperature, with red indicating warm areas and purple/blue indicating cool areas

The Role of Foundation Models

Using AI to sift through data to find solutions requires not only massive amounts of data, but also large amounts of time. As noted by IBM Research, the next stage in AI model development is to create models pre-trained on a broad set of unlabeled data that can be used as the foundation for different tasks that require minimal fine-tuning. These are called foundation models, or FMs.

FMs are the basis for enabling AI and ML systems to ingest large amounts of data and generate results based on associations among the data. They serve as a baseline from which scientists can develop a diverse set of applications that can result in powerful and efficient solutions. Once an FM is created, it can be trained on a small amount of data to perform a specific task.

But creating and pre-training FMs still requires lots of data. When it comes to addressing the need for massive amounts openly available Earth science data, NASA's Earth Science Data Systems ( ESDS ) Program is a logical source. The more than 100 petabytes (PB) of data the program distributes openly and without restriction is the secret sauce that helps make open-source Earth science-based FM development possible. This combination of open NASA Earth science data and IBM Research's state-of-the-art computational power led to the groundbreaking work using NASA Harmonized Landsat and Sentinel-2 ( HLS ) data to create the Prithvi Geospatial FM , the first open-source geospatial FM, in 2023. Prithvi-weather-climate builds on this achievement.

"Foundation models offer amazing prospects for expanding the use of NASA’s vast archive of Earth observations," says NASA Earth Data Officer Katie Baynes. "The Prithvi-weather-climate model holds promise to advance our understanding of atmospheric dynamics and developing new applications. We're excited to see how the community can leverage this work to enhance resilience to climate and weather-related hazards."

Creating Prithvi-weather-climate

Outside image of people standing in front of a stone wall during daytime

Work on Prithvi-weather-climate began in September 2023 with a workshop at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, AL. Marshall is the home of NASA's Interagency Implementation and Advanced Concepts Team ( IMPACT ), a NASA ESDS element charged with expanding the use of NASA Earth observation data through innovation, partnerships, and technology—including the application of AI to these data. 

"This model is part of our overall strategy to openly and collaboratively develop a family of AI foundation models to support NASA's science mission goals," says IMPACT Manager Dr. Rahul Ramachandran. "These models will augment our capabilities to draw insights from our vast archives of Earth observations."

Joining the IMPACT and IBM Research teams in developing Prithvi-weather-climate were participants from NASA Headquarters, NASA's Global Modeling and Assimilation Office ( GMAO ), NASA's Center for Climate Simulation ( NCCS ), the NASA Advanced Supercomputing ( NAS ) Facility, Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), and NVIDIA Corporation. Several universities engaged in various aspects of AI or large-scale computing and weather/climate science participated as well, including the University of Alabama in Huntsville, Colorado State University, and Stanford University.

The focus of the Marshall workshop was to plan the next six to eight months of work necessary to develop and pre-train the model. It was decided that the FM would contain parameters such as wind speed and direction, air temperature, specific humidity, cloud mass variables, and longwave and shortwave radiation variables. To be valuable to the broader science community, the team agreed that the focus should not be on forecasting; rather, the FM should enable many different types of downstream science applications.

Map of western Africa with red, purple, and green colors indicating transport of dust off the coast of Africa and across the Atlantic Ocean.

The foundation of Prithvi-weather-climate is 40 years of MERRA-2 data. MERRA-2 is the first long-term global reanalysis to assimilate space-based observations of aerosols and represent their interactions with other physical processes in the climate system. These data are available through NASA's Earthdata Search . MERRA-2 was created by NASA's GMAO to replace and enhance the original MERRA and to sustain GMAO's commitment to having an ongoing near real-time climate analysis.

"With the Prithvi-weather-climate FM, NASA and IBM have led the creation of a unique AI representation of all knowledge available in 40 years' worth of MERRA-2 data," says Dr. Juan Bernabé-Moreno, director of IBM Research Europe and IBM’s accelerated discovery lead for climate and sustainability. "The IBM-NASA collaboration highlights how open-source technologies are essential to advancing crucial research into areas such as climate change. By merging IBM's foundation model technology with NASA's deep expertise and specialized climate datasets, we've developed flexible, reusable AI systems for broader use."

Applications to Science and Society

The Prithvi-weather-climate FM has broad applications for both science and society.

From a scientific and research standpoint, the model has been fine-tuned to increase the resolution of long-term climate models by a factor of 12x, a process known as "downscaling." Using an AI model in this context avoids the high costs associated with the conventional approach using high performance computing (HPC). The FM also improves the use of AI for better representation of small-scale physical processes in numerical weather and climate models. Through the insertion of tokens in the model at wind turbine locations, Prithvi-weather-climate can generate targeted forecasts using hyper-localized, asset-specific observations, further improving the accuracy of short to medium-range forecasts.

The application of AI to weather and climate data also can lead to improvements in public safety. Uses being developed by the research team for Prithvi-weather-climate include more precise hurricane track and intensity forecasts along with better seasonal precipitation forecasting. As the model continues to be trained, future applications include the detection and prediction of severe weather patterns, more detailed wildfire behavior forecasts, finer turbulence detection and prediction, urban heatwave prediction, and improved solar radiation assessment.

"Our ambition is to accelerate and advance the impact of NASA's Earth science to meet this moment of changing climate for the benefit of all humankind," says Dr. Karen St. Germain, director of NASA's Earth Science Division. "The [NASA/IBM Research] foundation model for weather and climate will enable this Earth Science to Action strategy."

Meet the Team

Along with the participants noted in the Creating Prithvi-weather-climate section, the development of the FM was accomplished by a diverse team with deep experience representing varied aspects of AI and ML.

  • Building an AI Foundation Model for Weather and Climate
  • NASA, IBM Research Release New AI Foundation Model for Weather, Climate Forecasts
  • IBM and NASA are building an AI foundation model for weather and climate
  • Blog: Environmental analysis made easier with IBM’s Geospatial Studio
  • Mukkavilli, S.K., et al. (2023). AI Foundation Models for Weather and Climate: Applications, Design, and Implementation. Cornell University arXiv. doi:10.48550/arXiv.2309.10808
  • Gelaro, R., et al. (2017). The Modern-Era Retrospective Analysis for Research and Applications, Version 2 (MERRA-2). Journal of Climate, 30(14): 5419-5414. doi:10.1175%2FJCLI-D-16-0758.1

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Climate Change Added a Month’s Worth of Extra-Hot Days in Past Year

Since last May, the average person experienced 26 more days of abnormal warmth than they would have without global warming, a new analysis found.

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A woman wearing a patterned scarf and green pants sits on a hospital bed while connected to an IV stand.

By Raymond Zhong

Over the past year of record-shattering warmth, the average person on Earth experienced 26 more days of abnormally high temperatures than they otherwise would have, were it not for human-induced climate change, scientists said Tuesday.

The past 12 months have been the planet’s hottest ever measured, and the burning of fossil fuels, which has added huge amounts of heat-trapping gases to the atmosphere, is a major reason. Nearly 80 percent of the world’s population experienced at least 31 days of atypical warmth since last May as a result of human-caused warming, the researchers’ analysis found.

Hypothetically, had we not heated the globe to its current state , the number of unusually warm days would have been far fewer, the scientists estimated, using mathematical modeling of the global climate.

The precise difference varies place to place. In some countries, it is just two or three weeks, the researchers found. In others, including Colombia, Indonesia and Rwanda, the difference is upward of 120 days.

“That’s a lot of toll that we’ve imposed on people,” said one of the researchers who conducted the new analysis, Andrew Pershing, the vice president for science at Climate Central, a nonprofit research and news organization based in Princeton, N.J., adding, “It’s a lot of toll that we’ve imposed on nature.” In parts of South America and Africa, he said, it amounts to “120 days that just wouldn’t be there without climate change.”

Currently, the world’s climate is shifting toward the La Niña phase of the cyclical pattern known as the El Niño-Southern Oscillation. This typically portends cooler temperatures on average. Even so, the recent heat could have reverberating effects on weather and storms in some places for months to come. Forecasters expect this year’s Atlantic hurricane season to be extraordinarily active, in part because the ocean waters where storms form have been off-the-charts warm.

The analysis issued Tuesday was a collaboration between several groups: Climate Central, the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre and World Weather Attribution, a scientific initiative that examines extreme weather episodes. The report’s authors considered a given day’s temperature to be abnormally high in a particular location if it exceeded 90 percent of the daily temperatures recorded there between 1991 and 2020.

The average American experienced 39 days of such temperatures as a result of climate change since last May, the report found. That’s 19 more days than in a hypothetical world without human-caused warming. In some states, including Arizona and New Mexico in the Southwest and Washington and Oregon in the Northwest, the difference is 30 days or more, a full extra month.

The scientists also tallied up how many extreme heat waves the planet had experienced since last May. They defined these as episodes of unseasonable warmth across a large area, lasting three or more days, with significant loss of life or disruption to infrastructure and industry.

In total, the researchers identified 76 such episodes over the past year, affecting 90 countries, on every continent except Antarctica. There was the punishing hot spell in India last spring. There was the extreme heat that worsened wildfires and strained power grids in North America, Europe and East Asia last summer. And, already this year, there has been excessive warmth from Africa to the Middle East to Southeast Asia .

Raymond Zhong reports on climate and environmental issues for The Times. More about Raymond Zhong

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Over the past year of record-shattering warmth, the average person on Earth experienced 26 more days of abnormally high temperatures  than they otherwise would have, were it not for human-induced climate change, scientists said.

The Biden administration laid out for the first time a set of broad government guidelines around the use of carbon offsets  in an attempt to shore up confidence in a method for tackling global warming that has faced growing criticism.

A group of health experts, economists and U.S. government lawyers are working to address a growing crisis: people dying on the job from extreme heat. They face big hurdles .

Adopting Orphaned Oil Wells:  Students, nonprofit groups and others are fund-raising to cap highly polluting oil and gas wells  abandoned by industry.

Struggling N.Y.C. Neighborhoods:  New data projects are linking social issues with global warming. Here’s what that means for five communities in New York .

Biden Environmental Rules:  The Biden administration has rushed to finalize 10 major environmental regulations  to meet its self-imposed spring deadline.

F.A.Q.:  Have questions about climate change? We’ve got answers .

Climate Change: Causes and Effects Cause and Effect Essay

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Climate is a term used to denote the patterns of weather occurring in particular regions of the globe. Climate change denotes the long-term changes in weather patterns over extended time periods. In modern times, the term has been used to describe the rapid climatic changes as a result of global warming.

Climate change thus denotes fluctuations in the statistical properties of weather patterns when considered over periods longer than 10 years. As such, short fluctuations such as El-Niño, cannot be considered as climate change. There is a general consensus amongst the scientific community that the current increase in climate change is mainly due to human factors and the result of this climate change might have catastrophic consequences.

There are mainly two factors that influence climate change: Natural and human factors. First, under natural causes variations in the radiation outputs of the sun has been found to have a considerable effect on the earth’s climatic conditions.

According to scientists, solar output variation of 1% per century would result in a variation of the earth’s average temperature ranging between 0.5 and 1.0 0 Celsius (USNAS). Solar output causes surface heat fluctuations due to changes in heat absorption and radiation by the earth surface. Secondly, volcanic eruptions have been linked to climate changes. Volcanic eruptions of sufficient magnitude have the ability to alter the climate system of the whole world.

Volcanic ashes, dust and gases released during volcanic eruptions creates a blanket that obstructs solar radiation from the sun thus reducing the earth’s surface temperatures. The last important natural factor is orbital variations. Orbital variations lead to changes in the levels of solar radiation reaching the earth mainly due to the position of the sun and the distance between the earth and the sun during each particular orbital cycle.

During the 19 th century, the industrial revolution commenced resulting in the extensive use of fossil fuel for energy purposes. The industrial revolution also resulted in human migration from rural areas to cities with people looking for a better life. Land that was previously filled with vegetation was now cleared to make room for buildings and roads.

Natural resources were extensively consumed for industries, construction and transport. As a result, the levels of atmospheric greenhouse gases increased considerably. Greenhouse gases are an integral part of the earth’s climatic system as they help in warming up the earth’s surface. The increased emission of greenhouse gases (especially carbon dioxide) has led to the accelerated warming of the earth’s surface (global warming).

Methane, emitted from oil drilling, waste dumps and landfills, is also another important greenhouse gas whose content has been continually increasing. The extensive use of fertilizer has also led to the rise in nitrous oxide emission, another important greenhouse gas. These are all responsible for global warming and the subsequent climate change.

Scientists from around the world have identified several impacts of climate change. First, climate change has resulted in the gradual increase in ocean levels (Trenberth, 244). This has mainly been attributed to expansion of warmer ocean water and the melting of polar glacier ice. Rising sea waters affects coral reefs, coastal communities and wetlands mainly through flooding and encroachment of the sea into dry land. Changes in climate have also led to changes in weather patterns.

The rise in surface temperatures has resulted into heavy rainfalls that cause flooding in many areas of the world. Increase in surface temperatures has also resulted into severe and prolonged drought in other parts of the world. Climate change has also resulted in the increase of occurrence and magnitude of extreme climatic events such as tsunamis and hurricanes. Changes in climate lead to changes in ocean currents which might result in the occurrence of such events.

Over the course of earth’s history, various instances of climate changes have occurred some more extensive than others e.g. the ice age. However, during the turn of the 20 th century, it has been noted that the rate of climate change has been increasing. Many scientists believe that this increase is mainly due to pollution of the air and the environment due to human activities e.g. industrialization and deforestation. Climate change has had several impacts on the earth’s weather system.

The increase in natural disasters such as cyclones, hurricanes and typhoons can be attributed to global warming. In order to mitigate the effects of climate change, it is important for people to realize the part they play in climate change and take effective measures. Various governments and institutions have instituted greenhouse emission restrictions in order to address this issue.

Campaigns aimed at educating individuals on the appropriate strategies in reducing greenhouse emissions have also been instituted. We are all part of the world and it is in our best interest to undertake all necessary measures to curb climate change.

Works Cited

Trenberth, Kevin. IPCC Fourth Assessment Report . New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 2007

United States National Academy of Sciences (USNAS). “Understanding and Responding to Climate Change”. 2008. Web.

  • Volcanic Eruption in the "Threatened" Footage
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  • Volcanism Role on the Earth’s Climate
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Why this summer might bring the wildest weather yet

El niño has been rough. its departure could be even rougher..

a grey sky backdrops rows of palm trees buffeted by wind while a car with headlights on drives by

Summers keep getting hotter , and the consequences are impossible to miss: In the summer of 2023, the Northern Hemisphere experienced its hottest season in 2,000 years . Canada’s deadliest wildfires on record bathed skylines in smoke from Minnesota to New York. In Texas and Arizona , hundreds of people lost their lives to heat, and in Vermont , flash floods caused damages equivalent to those from a hurricane. 

Forecasts suggest that this year’s upcoming “danger season” has its own catastrophes in store. On May 23, scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced that the 2024 Atlantic hurricane season could be the most prolific yet . A week earlier, they released a seasonal map predicting blistering temperatures across almost the entire country . 

One driving force behind these projections are the alternating Pacific Ocean climate patterns known as El Niño and La Niña, which can create huge shifts in temperature and precipitation across the North and South American continents. After almost a year of El Niño, La Niña is expected to take the reins sometime during the upcoming summer months. As climate change cooks the planet and the Pacific shifts between these two cyclical forces, experts say the conditions could be ripe for more extreme weather events. “We’ve always had this pattern of El Niño, La Niña. Now it’s happening on top of a warmer world,” said Zeke Hausfather, a climate scientist at Berkeley Earth, an environmental data science nonprofit. “We need to be ready for the types of extremes that have not been tested in the past.”

During an El Niño, shifting trade winds allow a thick layer of warm surface water to form in the Pacific Ocean, which, in turn, transfers a huge amount of heat into the atmosphere. La Niña, the opposite cycle, brings back cooler ocean waters. But swinging between the two can also raise thermostats: Summers between the phases have higher-than-average temperatures . According to Hausfather, a single year of El Niño brings the same heat that roughly a decade of human-caused warming can permanently add to the planet. “I think it gives us a little sneak peek of what’s in store,” he said.

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essay of climate and weather

Since the World Meteorological Organization declared the start of the current El Niño on July 4, 2023, it’s been almost a year straight of record-breaking temperatures . According to the National Centers for Environmental Information, there’s a 61 percent chance that this year could be even hotter than the last, spelling danger for areas prone to deadly heat waves during the summer months. An estimated 2,300 people in the U.S. died due to heat-related illnesses in 2023, and researchers say the real number is probably higher .

All this heat has also settled into the oceans, creating more than a year of super-hot surface temperatures and bleaching more than half of the planet’s coral reefs . It also provides potential fuel for hurricanes, which form as energy is sucked up vertically into the atmosphere. Normally, trade winds scatter heat and humidity across the water’s surface and prevent these forces from building up in one place. But during La Niña, cooler temperatures in the Pacific Ocean weaken high-altitude winds in the Atlantic that would normally break up storms, allowing hurricanes to more readily form . 

“When that pattern in the Pacific sets up, it changes wind patterns around the world,” said Matthew Rosencrans, a lead forecaster at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center. “When it’s strong, it can be the dominant signal on the entire planet.”

This year’s forecast is especially dangerous, as a likely swift midsummer transition to La Niña could combine with all that simmering ocean water. NOAA forecasters expect these conditions to brew at least 17 storms big enough to get a name, roughly half of which could be hurricanes. Even a hurricane with relatively low wind speeds can dump enough water to cause catastrophic flooding hundreds of miles inland .

“It’s important to think of climate change as making things worse,” said Andrew Dessler, climate scientist at Texas A&M University. Although human-caused warming won’t directly increase the frequency of hurricanes, he said, it can make them more destructive . “It’s a question of how much worse it’s going to get,” he said. 

Over the past 10 months, El Niño helped create blistering temperatures in some parts of the United States, drying out the land. Drought-stricken areas are more vulnerable to severe flooding , as periods without precipitation mean rainfall is likely to be more intense when it finally arrives, and soils may be too dry to soak up water. As desiccated land and soaring temperatures dry out vegetation, the stage is set for wildfires.

While the National Interagency Fire Center expects lower than average odds of a big blaze in California this year, in part due to El Niño bringing unusually high rainfall to the state, other places may not be so lucky. The agency’s seasonal wildfire risk map highlights Hawaiʻi, which suffered the country’s deadliest inferno partly as a result of a persistent drought in Maui last August. Canada, which also experienced its worst fire season last summer, could be in for more trouble following its warmest ever winter. This May, smoke from hundreds of wildfires in Alberta and British Columbia had already begun to seep across the Canadian border into Midwestern states. 

“We are exiting the climate of the 20th century, and we’re entering a new climate of the 21st century,” Dessler said. Unfortunately, our cities were built for a range of temperatures and weather conditions that don’t exist anymore.

To get ready for hurricanes, Rosencrans said people who live in states along the Gulf Coast and Atlantic Ocean should go to government disaster preparedness websites to find disaster kit checklists and advice about forming an emergency plan. “Thinking about it now, rather than when the storm is bearing down on you, is going to save you a ton of time, energy, and stress,” he said.

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U.S. climate outlook for June 2024

I know I sound like a broken record, but May was again a warmer-than-normal month for large parts of the United States, particularly from the Rockies eastward. In fact, the temperature pattern was quite similar to March, with near- and below-normal temperatures generally observed from the Rockies to the West Coast. And not surprisingly, temperatures this spring were also above-average east of the Rockies and normal to below-normal to the west. Beneficial rains fell across parts of the central and eastern parts of the nation during May, with the amount of drought decreasing in these regions.

With summer beginning, will temperatures remain above-average? Will beneficial rains continue to fall in the important growing regions of the nation? This is what NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center (CPC) thinks will happen during June.

Temperature outlook June 2024

The temperature outlook for June 2024, showing where the average temperature is favored to be much warmer than average (orange and red), near average (gray), or much cooler than average (blues). Darker colors mean higher chances, not more extreme temperatures. White areas mean that there are equal chances for a warm, cool, or near-average June.  Much warmer  or  much cooler than average  means "in the upper or lower third" of June temperatures from 1991-2020. For more details on how to interpret these maps, read our explainer  Understanding NOAA's monthly climate outlooks.

On May 31, CPC released its updated monthly climate outlooks for temperature, precipitation, and drought across the United States for June 2024. The temperature outlook favors well above average temperatures across much of the central and western parts of the nation, along the Gulf Coast to Florida, around the Great Lakes, and in the Northeast, with no tilt in odds toward a category over the remainder of the country. The precipitation outlook favors well above average precipitation across parts of the south-central and southeastern U.S., western Washington, and in the Northeast, and well below average precipitation favored in the Northern Rockies and Northern Plains.

Precipitation outlook June 2024

The precipitation outlook for June 2024, showing where the average precipitation (rain and snow) is favored to be much higher than average (greens), near average (gray), or much lower than average (browns). Darker colors mean higher chances, not more extreme precipitation departures. White areas mean that there are equal chances for a wet, dry, or near-average June.  Much higher  or  much lower than average  means "in the upper or lower third" of June precipitation amounts from 1991-2020. For more details on how to interpret these maps, read our explainer  Understanding NOAA's monthly climate outlooks.

In addition to drilling down into the specifics about the outlooks and their basis, I’ll also discuss the current state of drought, changes in drought during May, and changes we expect to see during June. And the broken record continues here, with my monthly reminder to the reader that the colors on the temperature and precipitation outlook maps only provide information about the most likely outcome, but other outcomes are still possible, although less likely to occur. More details about interpreting the outlooks can be found here .

The updated outlooks were produced considering the Week 1 forecast from the Weather Prediction Center (WPC), and CPC’s own Week 2 and Week 3-4 outlooks. Other tools that forecasters examined this month were longer-range forecast models such as the Global Ensemble Forecast System (GEFS), the Climate Forecast System (CFSv2), and products derived from these models. And as the transition of El Niño to neutral is imminent , El Niño was not a factor in the June outlooks. Finally, observed soil moisture was considered for these outlooks, as extremes in soil moisture (both wet and dry) can influence temperatures during the spring and summer.

Temperature outlook favors change in the pattern

The June temperature outlook favors a change from the May (and March) temperature pattern, with elevated odds for well above average temperatures across much of the western and central parts of the nation. There is more uncertainty in the East, although above-average temperatures are still favored in the Northeast and along the Gulf Coast and Florida. The region most likely to be warmer than average extends from southern Texas northward through much of the Southwest into the central and northern Rockies, where odds exceed 50%. No areas are favored to be colder than average, with equal chance odds (1/3 chance of below-, near-, and above-average) found in the Ohio and Tennessee Valleys eastward to the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast.

Sub-seasonal model guidance (the GEFS and CFSv2 models mentioned above) favors mean ridging (where the jet stream is shifted north of normal) over the west-central country in early and mid-June. This ridging elevates odds for warmer than normal conditions for the first half of June for much of this area, as does dry soil moisture conditions currently observed in parts of the Pacific Northwest, northern Rockies, Southwest, and southern High Plains. Subtropical ridging along the southern tier of the U.S. supports elevated odds for above-normal temperatures for the southern Plains, along the Gulf Coast, and in the Southeast. Meanwhile, model guidance during the short and sub-seasonal range supports above-average temperatures throughout the Great Lakes and Northeast regions.

Precipitation outlook is more questionable

As is often the case, forecast coverage in the precipitation outlook is less cohesive than in the temperature outlook. The only region favored to have below-average precipitation is in the northern Rockies and northern High Plains, where the aforementioned strong ridging favored throughout most of the month should limit precipitation. The ridge does favor a downstream (further east) trough (where the jet stream is shifted south of normal and contributes to unsettled weather) from the Southern Plains eastward into the Southeast, which elevates the odds for a wetter-than-normal June in that region.

High odds for above-average precipitation is forecast for a small region in the far Pacific Northwest, where large rainfall amounts are predicted during the first week of June. Finally, forecast troughing (jet stream shifted south of normal) around the Great Lakes favors unsettled conditions downstream, resulting in a tilt in the odds in the Northeast towards above-average.

U. S. Drought area decreases during May

Beneficial rains across the middle and eastern parts of the nation during May resulted in the total amount of drought across the continuous United States decreasing from 18% at the end of April to about 12.5%. This is the lowest amount of drought coverage across the contiguous U. S. since spring 2020.  The percent of the country in the two most intense categories (D3-D4, representing extreme and exceptional drought) remained at less than 1%, also the lowest amount since April 2020. 

Drought Monitor end of May 2024

Drought conditions across the contiguous United States as of May 28, 2024. Extreme (red) and exceptional (dark red) drought was present in relatively small parts of New Mexico, Texas, Kansas, and Idaho, less than 1% of the country. Map by NOAA Climate.gov, based on data provided by the U.S. Drought Monitor project . 

Regionally, drought improvement was recorded in most regions of the country, with significant improvement found in the northern and central Great Plains (2-3 classes). In particular, improvement over Iowa was such that none of the state was in drought at the end of May, the first time that has occurred since the end of June 2020. Drought removal also occurred over large parts of Minnesota and northeastern North Dakota. In contrast, drought degradation was more pronounced over Florida, where drought developed and worsened up to 2 classes. Some limited degradation (1-2 classes) was also recorded in southern Texas, around the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles, and in Washington state.   

Drought outlook tilts toward persistence and development

The drought outlook for June predicts drought persistence for most regions of the nation currently in drought. In addition, development is favored in significant parts in south Texas, the Southwest, and in the northern Rockies. With antecedent dryness and below-normal snowpack, drought is likely to develop in the northern Rockies, as excessive heat and below-normal rainfall is favored in much of this region, especially early in the month. Drought persistence and development in south Texas and in the Southwest is also likely, with conditions currently drier than average, and expectations of above-average temperatures as we head into the warmest time of year.

Drought Outlook June 2024

U.S. map of predicted drought changes or persistence in June 2024. Some areas of new drought are forecast to develop across parts of the northern Rockies, Southwest and southern Texas. Drought is forecast to continue or worsen across portions of Florida, the Southwest, central Great Plains and northern Rockies. Drought improvement and removal is likely across areas of Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas. NOAA Climate.gov map, based on data from the Climate Prediction Center.

In contrast, drought improvement and some removal is likely in parts of Nebraska, Kansas, and Oklahoma, as favorable precipitation outlooks during the first half of June is combined with heavy rainfall that fell at the end of May.

To read the entire discussion of the monthly climate outlooks from the Climate Prediction Center, check out their  website.

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