Earth has warmed by about 1 over the past 100 years. But why? And how? Well, scientists are not exactly sure. The Earth could be getting warmer on its own, but many of the world's leading climate scientists think that things people do are helping to make the Earth warmer.
Climate Change: Climate is the long-term average of a region's weather events lumped together. For example, it's possible that a winter day in Buffalo, New York, could be sunny and mild, but the average weather - the climate - tells us that Buffalo's winters will mainly be cold and include snow and rain. Climate change represents a change in these long-term weather patterns. They can become warmer or colder. Annual amounts of rainfall or snowfall can increase or decrease.
Global Warming: Global warming refers to an average increase in the Earth's temperature, which in turn causes changes in climate. A warmer Earth may lead to changes in rainfall patterns, a rise in sea level, and a wide range of impacts on plants, wildlife, and humans. When scientists talk about the issue of climate change, their concern is about global warming caused by human activities.
Weather is all around us. Weather may be one of the first things you notice after you wake up. Chances are, if it is cold and snowing, you'll wear a jacket when you go outside. If it's hot and sunny, you may wear shorts.
Sounds pretty simple, right? But what about climate? How is it different from weather? And what is weather, exactly?
Weather describes whatever is happening outdoors in a given place at a given time. Weather is what happens from minute to minute. The weather can change a lot within a very short time. For example, it may rain for an hour and then become sunny and clear. Weather is what we hear about on the television news every night. Weather includes daily changes in precipitation, barometric pressure, temperature, and wind conditions in a given location. What is your weather like today?
Climate describes the total of all weather occurring over a period of years in a given place. This includes average weather conditions, regular weather sequences (like winter, spring, summer, and fall), and special weather events (like tornadoes and floods). Climate tells us what it's usually like in the place where you live. San Diego is known as having a mild climate, New Orleans a humid climate, Buffalo a snowy climate, and Seattle a rainy climate. How would you describe the climate where you live?
The greenhouse effect is the rise in temperature that the Earth experiences because certain gases in the atmosphere (water vapor, carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, and methane, for example) trap energy from the sun. Without these gases, heat would escape back into space and Earth"s average temperature would be about 60ºF colder. Because of how they warm our world, these gases are referred to as greenhouse gases.
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