May 30, 2014

What is Climate Change?

Hi, I’m Emerald Robinson, and in this “What is” video, we’re going to discuss the meaning of “climate change.”

Climate change is the change that occurs in the earth’s average weather over an extended period of time. This period of time can be fifty years, a thousand years, or millions of years. “Average weather” includes frequency of severe weather events, as well as average humidity, rainfall, and temperature.

In its 4.5 billion year history, the earth’s climate has undergone many changes. During the Pleistocene era, glaciers covered about 30% of the earth’s surface. This “ice age” ended about 18,000 years ago.

Since then, the earth’s temperature has been steadily warming. Over the last 100 years or so, it has increased more rapidly than ever before. This temperature spike coincides with the industrial revolution, the period in which humans started to burn large amounts of fossil fuels. Burning these fuels increases the concentration of carbon dioxide in the earth’s atmosphere.

This higher concentration causes carbon dioxide to act as a “greenhouse gas.” These gases act like glass in a greenhouse by trapping heat below the atmosphere. As a result, the average global temperature has risen by about 1.3 degrees Fahrenheit since the industrial revolution. This is what scientists call “global warming”. Though not the same thing as climate change, global warming is a major cause of it.

Even this slight temperature increase has resulted in changes in earth’s average weather. Scientists note that more precipitation has fallen across many regions of the globe, and believe that the increased number of strong hurricanes are linked to the rising ocean temperature. Scientists are not sure how much of an impact that these and other changes in climate will have on how we live, what we eat, and what the weather will be like – so they continue to study humans’ impact on Earth’s climate.

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