Global Warming

November 17, 2019

Global warming is the long-term rise in the average temperature of the Earth’s climate system. It is a major aspect of climate change, and has been demonstrated by direct temperature measurements and by measurements of various effects of the warming. The terms global warming and climate change are often used interchangeably.However, speaking more accurately, global warming denotes the mainly human-caused increase in global surface temperatures and its projected continuation,but climate change includes both global warming and its effects, such as changes in precipitation. While there have been prehistoric periods of global warming, many observed changes since the mid-20th century have been unprecedented over decades to millennia.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report concluded, “It is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century.” The largest human influence has been the emission of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide. Climate model projections summarized in the report indicated that during the 21st century the global surface temperature is likely to rise a further 0.3 to 1.7 °C (0.5 to 3.1 °F) in a moderate scenario, or as much as 2.6 to 4.8 °C (4.7 to 8.6 °F) in an extreme scenario, depending on the rate of future greenhouse gas emissions and on climate feedback effects. These findings have been recognized by the national science academies of the major industrialized nations and are not disputed by any scientific body of national or international standing.

The effects of global warming include rising sea levels, regional changes in precipitation, more frequent extreme weather events such as heat waves, and expansion of deserts. Ocean acidification is also caused by greenhouse gas emissions and is commonly grouped with these effects even though it is not driven by temperature. Surface temperature increases are greatest in the Arctic, which has contributed to the retreat of glaciers, permafrost, and sea ice. Overall, higher temperatures bring more rain and snowfall, but for some regions droughts and wildfires increase instead.Climate change threatens to diminish crop yields, harming food security, and rising sea levels may flood coastal infrastructure and force the abandonment of many coastal cities.Environmental impacts include the extinction or relocation of many species as their ecosystems change, most immediately the environments of coral reefs, mountains, and the Arctic.

Societal responses to global warming include mitigation by emissions reduction, adaptation to its effects, and possibly climate engineering. Countries work together on climate change under the umbrella of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which has near-universal membership. The ultimate goal of the convention is to “prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system”. Although the parties to the UNFCCC have agreed that deep cuts in emissions are required and that global warming should be limited to well below 2 °C (3.6 °F) in the  the Earth’s average surface temperature has already increased by about half this threshold and current pledges by countries to cut emissions are inadequate to limit future warming.


Observed temperature changes

Climate proxy records show that natural variations offset the early effects of the Industrial Revolution, so there was little net warming between the 18th century and the mid-19th century,when thermometer records began to provide global coverage. The IPCC has adopted the baseline reference period 1850–1900 as an approximation of pre-industrial global mean surface temperature.

Multiple independently produced instrumental datasets confirm that the 2009–2018 decade was 0.93 ± 0.07 °C warmer than the pre-industrial baseline (1850–1900).Currently, surface temperatures are rising by about 0.2 °C per decade. Since 1950, the number of cold days and nights have decreased, and the number of warm days and night have increased. Historical patterns of warming and cooling, like the Medieval Climate Anomaly and the Little Ice Age, were not as synchronous as current warming, but may have reached temperatures as high as those of the late-20th century in a limited set of regions.Past examples of climate change provide insight into modern climate change.

Although the most common measure of global warming is the increase in the near-surface atmospheric temperature, over 90% of the additional energy stored in the climate system over the last 50 years has warmed ocean water. The remainder of the additional energy has melted ice and warmed the continents and the atmosphere.

The warming evident in the instrumental temperature record is consistent with a wide range of observations, documented by many independent scientific groups; for example, in most continental regions the frequency and intensity of heavy precipitation has increased.Further examples include sea level rise, widespread melting of snow and land ice,increased heat content of the oceans, increased humidity, and the earlier timing of spring events, such as the flowering of plants.

Regional trends

Average annual temperature has risen faster on land than on the ice-free surface of the sea.
NASA animation of annual average temperature maps dating
from the late 1800’s to modern times.

Global warming refers to global averages, with the amount of warming varying by region. Since the pre-industrial period, global average land temperatures have increased almost twice as fast as global average temperatures. This is due to the larger heat capacity of oceans and because oceans lose more heat by evaporation. Patterns of warming are independent of the locations of greenhouse gas emissions because the gases persist long enough to diffuse across the planet; however, localized black carbon deposits on snow and ice do contribute to Arctic warming.

The Northern Hemisphere and North Pole have warmed much faster than the South Pole and Southern Hemisphere. The Northern Hemisphere not only has much more land, but the arrangement of land masses around the Arctic Ocean has resulted in the maximum surface area flipping from reflective snow and ice cover to ocean and land surfaces that absorb more sunlight and thus more heat. Arctic temperatures have increased and are predicted to continue to increase during this century at over twice the rate of the rest of the world. As the temperature difference between the Arctic and the equator decreases, ocean currents that are driven by that temperature difference, like the Gulf Stream, are weakening.  – Wikipedia source

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