Climate change, global warming and greenhouse gases | NIWA
Addresssing climate change What can you do? Carbon dioxide emissions through burning fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas and peat. Emissions through land use changes such as deforestation, reforestation, urbanization, desertification,. Over very long geological time periods, they release carbon dioxide from the Earth's crust and mantle, counteracting the uptake by sedimentary rocks and other geological carbon dioxide sinks. The US Geological Survey estimates are that volcanic emissions are at a much lower level than the effects of current human activities, which generate — times the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by volcanoes.
Slight variations in Earth's motion lead to changes in the seasonal distribution of sunlight reaching the Earth's surface and how it is distributed across the globe. There is very little change to the area-averaged annually averaged sunshine; but there can be strong changes in the geographical and seasonal distribution. The three types of kinematic change are variations in Earth's eccentricity , changes in the tilt angle of Earth's axis of rotation , and precession of Earth's axis.
Combined together, these produce Milankovitch cycles which affect climate and are notable for their correlation to glacial and interglacial periods ,  their correlation with the advance and retreat of the Sahara ,  and for their appearance in the stratigraphic record. The IPCC notes that Milankovitch cycles drove the ice age cycles, CO 2 followed temperature change "with a lag of some hundreds of years", and that as a feedback amplified temperature change.
Upon seawater temperature change, the solubility of CO 2 in the oceans changed, as well as other factors affecting air-sea CO 2 exchange. The Sun is the predominant source of energy input to the Earth's climate system. Other sources include geothermal energy from the Earth's core, tidal energy from the Moon and heat from the decay of radioactive compounds.
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Both long- and short-term variations in solar intensity are known to affect global climate. However, there is evidence for the presence of water on the early Earth, in the Hadean   and Archean   eons, leading to what is known as the faint young Sun paradox. The Great Oxygenation Event —oxygenation of the atmosphere around 2. Over the next five billion years from the present, the Sun's ultimate death as it becomes a red giant and then a white dwarf will have large effects on climate, with the red giant phase possibly ending any life on Earth that survives until that time.
Solar output varies on shorter time scales, including the year solar cycle  and longer-term modulations. The eruptions considered to be large enough to affect the Earth's climate on a scale of more than 1 year are the ones that inject over , tons of SO 2 into the stratosphere. Although volcanoes are technically part of the lithosphere, which itself is part of the climate system, the IPCC explicitly defines volcanism as an external forcing agent.
Notable eruptions in the historical records are the eruption of Mount Pinatubo in which lowered global temperatures by about 0. However, because smaller eruptions occur at a much higher frequency, they too significantly affect Earth's atmosphere.
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Seismic monitoring maps current and future trends in volcanic activities, and tries to develop early warning systems. In climate modelling the aim is to study the physical mechanisms and feedbacks of volcanic forcing. Over the course of millions of years, the motion of tectonic plates reconfigures global land and ocean areas and generates topography. This can affect both global and local patterns of climate and atmosphere-ocean circulation. The position of the continents determines the geometry of the oceans and therefore influences patterns of ocean circulation. The locations of the seas are important in controlling the transfer of heat and moisture across the globe, and therefore, in determining global climate.
A recent example of tectonic control on ocean circulation is the formation of the Isthmus of Panama about 5 million years ago, which shut off direct mixing between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. This strongly affected the ocean dynamics of what is now the Gulf Stream and may have led to Northern Hemisphere ice cover.
The size of continents is also important. Because of the stabilizing effect of the oceans on temperature, yearly temperature variations are generally lower in coastal areas than they are inland. A larger supercontinent will therefore have more area in which climate is strongly seasonal than will several smaller continents or islands. In , it was postulated that ionized particles known as cosmic rays could impact cloud cover and thereby the climate. As the sun shields the earth from these particles, changes in solar activity were hypothesized to influence climate indirectly as well.
Evidence exists that the Chicxulub asteroid impact some 66 million years ago had severely affected the Earth's climate. The recovery time for this event took more than 30 years. Paleoclimatology is the study of changes in climate taken on the scale of the entire history of Earth. It uses a variety of proxy methods from the Earth and life sciences to obtain data previously preserved within things such as rocks , sediments , ice sheets , tree rings , corals , shells , and microfossils.
It then uses the records to determine the past states of the Earth 's various climate regions and its atmospheric system. Notable climate events known to paleoclimatology are provided in this list of periods and events in climate history. Historical climatology is the study of historical changes in climate and their effect on human history and development.
The primary sources include written records such as sagas , chronicles , maps and local history literature as well as pictorial representations such as paintings , drawings and even rock art. Climate change in the recent past may be detected by corresponding changes in settlement and agricultural patterns.
Climate change effects have been linked to the rise  and also the collapse of various civilizations. All elements of the climate systems portray changes as a consequence of climate change. Evidence for climatic change is taken from a variety of sources that can be used to reconstruct past climates.
Reasonably complete global records of surface temperature are available beginning from the mid-late 19th century. For earlier periods, most of the evidence is indirect—climatic changes are inferred from changes in proxies , indicators that reflect climate, such as vegetation , ice cores ,  dendrochronology , sea level change , and glacial geology. The instrumental temperature record from surface stations was supplemented by radiosonde balloons , extensive atmospheric monitoring by the midth century, and, from the s on, with global satellite data as well.
Taking the record as a whole, most of the 20th century had been unprecedentedly warm, while the 19th and 17th centuries were quite cool. Analysis of ice in a core drilled from an ice sheet such as the Antarctic ice sheet , can be used to show a link between temperature and global sea level variations.
The air trapped in bubbles in the ice can also reveal the CO 2 variations of the atmosphere from the distant past, well before modern environmental influences. The study of these ice cores has been a significant indicator of the changes in CO 2 over many millennia, and continues to provide valuable information about the differences between ancient and modern atmospheric conditions. Climatological temperatures substantially affect cloud cover and precipitation.
At lower temperatures, air can hold less water vapour, which can lead to decreased precipitation. Cloud formation is not only influenced by how much water is in the air and the temperature, but also by the amount of aerosols in the air such as dust. Satellite cloud and precipitation data has been available since the s. Global sea level change for much of the last century has generally been estimated using tide gauge measurements collated over long periods of time to give a long-term average.
More recently, altimeter measurements—in combination with accurately determined satellite orbits—have provided an improved measurement of global sea level change. The predominant dating methods used are uranium series and radiocarbon , with cosmogenic radionuclides being sometimes used to date terraces that have experienced relative sea level fall. Glaciers are considered among the most sensitive indicators of climate change.
As temperatures warm, glaciers retreat unless snow precipitation increases to make up for the additional melt; the converse is also true. Glaciers grow and shrink due both to natural variability and external forcings. Variability in temperature, precipitation, and englacial and subglacial hydrology can strongly determine the evolution of a glacier in a particular season. The most significant climate processes since the middle to late Pliocene approximately 3 million years ago are the glacial and interglacial cycles.
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The present interglacial period the Holocene has lasted about 11, years. Other changes, including Heinrich events , Dansgaard—Oeschger events and the Younger Dryas , however, illustrate how glacial variations may also influence climate without the orbital forcing.
Glaciers leave behind moraines that contain a wealth of material—including organic matter, quartz, and potassium that may be dated—recording the periods in which a glacier advanced and retreated.
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Similarly, by tephrochronological techniques, the lack of glacier cover can be identified by the presence of soil or volcanic tephra horizons whose date of deposit may also be ascertained. From satellite data and aerial photographs, glaciers worldwide have been found to be shrinking significantly   Data from NASA 's Grace satellites show that the land ice sheets in both Antarctica upper chart and Greenland lower have been losing mass since Both ice sheets have seen an acceleration of ice mass loss since Sea ice plays an important role in Earth's climate as it affects the total amount of sunlight that is reflected away from the Earth.
The decline in Arctic sea ice, both in extent and thickness, over the last several decades is further evidence for rapid climate change. It covers millions of square kilometers in the polar regions, varying with the seasons. In the Arctic , some sea ice remains year after year, whereas almost all Southern Ocean or Antarctic sea ice melts away and reforms annually. Satellite observations show that Arctic sea ice is now declining at a rate of A change in the type, distribution and coverage of vegetation may occur given a change in the climate.
Some changes in climate may result in increased precipitation and warmth, resulting in improved plant growth and the subsequent sequestration of airborne CO 2. The effects are expected to affect the rate of many natural cycles like plant litter decomposition rates. Conversely, cold will cause plant bio-cycles to lag. Larger, faster or more radical changes, however, may result in vegetation stress, rapid plant loss and desertification in certain circumstances. At this time vast rainforests covered the equatorial region of Europe and America.
Climate change devastated these tropical rainforests, abruptly fragmenting the habitat into isolated 'islands' and causing the extinction of many plant and animal species. This branch of climate science is called dendroclimatology , and is one of the many ways they research climate trends prior to written records. Palynology is the study of contemporary and fossil palynomorphs , including pollen. Palynology is used to infer the geographical distribution of plant species, which vary under different climate conditions. Different groups of plants have pollen with distinctive shapes and surface textures, and since the outer surface of pollen is composed of a very resilient material, they resist decay.
Changes in the type of pollen found in different layers of sediment in lakes, bogs, or river deltas indicate changes in plant communities. These changes are often a sign of a changing climate. Remains of beetles are common in freshwater and land sediments. Different species of beetles tend to be found under different climatic conditions. Given the extensive lineage of beetles whose genetic makeup has not altered significantly over the millennia, knowledge of the present climatic range of the different species, and the age of the sediments in which remains are found, past climatic conditions may be inferred.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. For current warming of the Earth's climate system due to human activities, see Global warming. For the study of past climate change, see Paleoclimatology. For temperatures on the longest time scales, see Geologic temperature record. For a list of most climate-related pages, see Index of climate change articles. Change in the statistical distribution of weather patterns for an extended period. This section needs expansion.
You can help by adding to it. March See also: Attribution of recent climate change. See also: Thermohaline circulation. Main article: Global warming.
Milankovitch cycles from , years ago in the past to , years in the future. Variations in CO 2 , temperature and dust from the Vostok ice core over the last , years. Main article: Milankovitch cycles. Main article: Solar variation. Main article: Plate tectonics. See also: Cloud and Precipitation. See also: Sea level rise. See also: Arctic sea ice decline and Climate change in the Arctic.
Advancing the Science of Climate Change. Washington, D. Archived from the original on 29 May Such conclusions and theories are then regarded as settled facts. This is the case for the conclusions that the Earth system is warming and that much of this warming is very likely due to human activities. The International Encyclopedia of Geography. Retrieved 16 May Bibcode : Natur.
Animals, particularly livestock like sheep and cattle , produce methane, a greenhouse gas. When livestock are grazed at a large scale, as in Australia, the amount of methane produced is a big contributor to global warming. Some fertilisers that farmers use also release nitrous oxide, which is another greenhouse gas. Use different stock feeds can help to reduce farming's contribution to climate change.
Projections for Australia's NRM regions.
Find out more Earth Hour is a great home-grown success story: an Aussie campaign designed to draw attention to tackling global warming and get people talking about Calculate your ecological footprint and find out how you can contribute to the conservation of the environment with WWF Australia. Visit Us today! Donate Adopt. Burning fossil fuels When we burn fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas to create electricity or power our cars, we release CO 2 pollution into the atmosphere.
Solutions: Reducing the amount of electricity generated from coal and gas Increasing the amount of electricity from clean, renewable energy sources like solar and wind Join the movement for stronger action on climate change and urge key Australian politicians to get us back on track to meeting our Paris Agreement targets.
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