Climate Connections
Making Sense of Seasonal Observations

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Click to see how climate change is predicted to affect arctic sea ice.
What do scientists know about climate change?

  Things are changing.

  • Earth’s climate has changed naturally, but over a very long period of time. The recent changes to our climate are happening much faster than historical changes.
  • In the past 100 years, the rate of global temperature change has been far more rapid than at any other time in the last 10,000 years!

  It's about trapped gas!

  • Greenhouse gases (e.g., water vapor and carbon dioxide) warm Earth’s atmosphere by trapping the heat of the sun close to the earth like a blanket. This is called the greenhouse effect. Think how hot it gets in a car parked outside on sunny day. We couldn’t survive without this warmth!
  • Greenhouse gases are formed naturally and through human activity. The amount of carbon dioxide gas in the atmosphere has been increasing dramatically since humans started burning fossil fuels (gas, coal, and oil).

  Earth is warming.

  • Planet Earth is heating up, especially in the north. During the past few decades, annual average temperatures in the Arctic have increased at almost twice the rate as in the rest of the world.
  • The top 10 warmest years since 1860, when records were first kept, have all occurred since 1990.
  • The average global temperature increased 1 degree F during the last century. It’s predicted to rise at least another 3.2 to 7.2 degrees this century.
  • Our warming global climate is likely to trigger more extreme weather, such as storms, floods, and droughts, in different regions.
  • A few degrees could matter! In the last ice age, the world was only about 12 degrees F cooler than it is today. This difference in temperature caused huge areas of the world to be covered by ice. Some animal species disappeared completely.

  Kids can make a difference!
  The most important steps involve using less energy from gas, coal, oil, and electricity and cutting back on things that require energy to produce. For instance,

  • Turn off lights and use compact fluorescent bulbs.
  • Drive less, bike or walk more.
  • Turn down the heat.
  • Recycle and use recycled materials.
  • Eat foods grown closer to home. These don't have to be shipped long distances.
  • Avoid excess packaging.
  • Talk to friends, families, and teachers about climate change. Persuade them to shift some of their habits.
  • Plant habitats for wildlife. Include native trees and shrubs.