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3: Climate Change

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    The climate of a region describes the average atmospheric conditions (temperature and precipitation) that region experiences and how much those conditions vary across seasons and years. Climate differs from weather in that weather is the atmospheric conditions at any given moment while climate is the long-term averages, patterns, or trends. To better understand the difference between climate and weather, imagine that you are planning an outdoor event to be held here in Davis. You might decide that July and August are not ideal for an outdoor event, since these months are usually very hot. You might also decide that December and January are not a good idea, since these months have the most rainfall in Davis. So perhaps you choose to hold the event in April predicting it will be not as hot as summer and not as rainy as winter. When you make this decision, you are thinking about climate. If you choose April 25th for the event, you cannot be certain that day will be cool and dry; however the climate of April in Davis suggests it is likely to be a good day for an outdoor event.

    • 3.1: Earth's Energy Budget
      To understand the global climate of Earth, it is important to understand the energy budget of the Earth, which drives the overall climate of the globe.
    • 3.2: The Greenhouse Effect
      The process by which the atmosphere absorbs the sun’s energy and prevents it from being radiated back out to space has often been compared to that of a greenhouse, leading to the nickname the greenhouse effect. It is the same process that occurs when you leave your car sitting in the sun with the windows rolled up.
    • 3.3: The Cryosphere
      Warming of the Earth’s surface poses a particular threat for the Earth’s ice systems including ice sheets, sea ice, permafrost (frozen ground), and glaciers.
    • 3.4: Sea Level Rise
      Sea level rise has been documented throughout the globe and is driven primarily by two factors: ice melt and warming.
    • 3.5: The Future
      With the data that have been gathered over the past 50-100 years on temperature, precipitation, ice melt, sea levels, and other factors related to climatic change, scientists can build models to represent the patterns that we have observed already and use these models to extrapolate predictions for what can be expected to occur in the near future.

    This page titled 3: Climate Change is shared under a CC BY-SA 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Laci M. Gerhart-Barley.

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