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What is climate change

Climate includes patterns of temperature, precipitation, humidity, wind and seasons. "Climate change" affects more than just a change in the weather, it refers to seasonal changes over a long period of time. These climate patterns play a fundamental role in shaping natural ecosystems, and the human economies and cultures that depend on them. Because so many systems are tied to climate, a change in climate can affect many related aspects of where and how people, plants and animals live, such as food production, availability and use of water, and health risks. For example, a change in the usual timing of rains or temperatures can affect when plants bloom and set fruit, when insects hatch or when streams are their fullest. This can affect historically synchronized pollination of crops, food for migrating birds, spawning of fish, water supplies for drinking and irrigation, forest health, and more. Some short-term climate variation is normal, but longer-term trends now indicate a changing climate. A year or two of an extreme change in temperature or other condition doesn’t mean a climate change trend has been "erased.‖ Worldwide, people are paying serious attention to climate change. In Washington state, climate change is already disrupting our environment, economy and communities. We can help slow it down, but we must take action now. Frequently Asked Questions:

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Are climate change and global warming the same thing? Why is climate change a concern? Is climate change really happening? What causes climate change and global warming? What are greenhouse gases and the greenhouse effect? How is weather different from climate? How is climate change different from ozone?

Are climate change and global warming the same thing?
Not exactly, but they’re closely related, and some people use the terms interchangeably. Global warming causes climates to change. "Global warming" refers to rising global temperatures, while ―climate change‖ includes other more specific kinds of changes, too. Warmer global temperatures in the atmosphere and

humidity. Also. For example. Other effects are also serious. ports and wastewater treatment plants). densely populated coastal communities and infrastructure that supports them would be affected (such as city buildings and homes. continental. locally and globally. while ―global warming‖ is planet-wide. Species. ―climate change‖ can refer to changes at the global. In flat terrain. cultures. A few areas might even get cooler rather than warmer. regional and local levels. In some places. Some would be flooded or more vulnerable to storm damage. Worldwide. Even seemingly less dramatic local changes in temperature. For more about how climate change could affect our state. Even though a warming trend is global. scientists from the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicted that warming oceans and melting glaciers due to global warming and climate change could cause sea levels to rise 7-23 inches by the year 2100.oceans leads to climate changes affecting rainfall patterns. different areas around the world will experience different specific changes in their climates. which will have unique impacts on their local plants. Climate change and its effects may be irreversible. click these links: back to top Is climate change really happening? . floods and/or drought could become more frequent and more severe. (Link to NOAA study 2009?) Life could become very difficult for some populations—plant. precipitation and soil moisture could severely impact many things important to human life and all life around us. and sea level. people are taking action because climate change has serious impacts. in 2007. the shoreline could move many miles inland. back to top Why is climate change a concern? All across the world and in our state. roads. including:        natural ecosystems agriculture and food supplies human health forestry water resources and availability energy use transportation Many people are concerned that we are losing time to make a difference. animals and people. growing seasons. animal and human. storms and droughts. resources and many lives could be lost.

the IPCC has noted many indications of climate change around the world: .5° F per decade in the first half of the 21st century.) The black line shows the annual changes. According to the Climate Impacts Group at the University of Washington.Yes. Even with variation over the years. the average annual temperature in the Pacific Northwest rose by 1. (January 11. The land-ocean temperature index combines data on air temperatures over land with data on sea surface temperatures. even several years of cooling doesn’t mean a long-term warming trend is over. Some cooler temperatures in recent years have prompted people to ask if there is now a global cooling trend. but as the graph shows. In February 2007. Source: NASA Goddard institute for Space Studies. the general trend is clearly upward. the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reported to the United Nations that the Earth’s climate system is undoubtedly getting warmer.5° F in the 20th century and is expected to rise 0. (―Mean‖ is the midpoint between the highest and lowest. 2008) Although specific. individual events can’t be directly linked to global warming. the red line tracks 5-year periods. The graph below shows the global annual temperature change since 1880.

There is new and stronger evidence that most of the warming over the last 50 years is due to human activities. 2007 . more heat is ―trapped‖ and global temperatures rise. Summary for Policy Makers. These contributions include increased levels of ―heat-trapping‖ gases (a. because climate change can be ―due to natural variability or as a result of human activity‖ (IPCC 2007) and because the climate system is very complex. Changing land use patterns contribute. Ice cores taken from deep in ancient ice of Antarctica show that carbon dioxide levels are higher now than at any time in the past 650. and other purposes. agriculture. When trees are cut down for development. We use coal. heat our homes. This causes significant changes in the timing and length of the seasons as well as the amount and frequency of precipitation. One of the biggest ways people contribute to greenhouse gases is by burning fossil fuels. especially in the tropics and subtropics References: Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis. In its 2007 report to the United Nations. power our factories. Summary for Policy Makers. oil. More carbon dioxide in the atmosphere means warming temperatures.     Retreating mountain glaciers on all continents Thinning ice caps in the Arctic and Antarctic Rising sea level – about 6-7 inches in the 20th century More frequent heavy precipitation events (rainstorms.000 years. As the levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases increase. and actually release carbon dioxide as they decay or burn. 2007 back to top What causes climate change and global warming? This question has been debated a lot. they’re no longer available to take carbon dioxide out of the air. and natural gas to generate electricity. and run our cars.a. too. Trees and other plants use carbon dioxide and give off oxygen. (IPCC 2007) References: Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis. the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concluded that it is more than 90 percent likely that the accelerated warming of the past 50-60 years is due to human contributions.k. ―greenhouse gases‖) such as carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere. floods or snowstorms) in many areas More intense and longer droughts over wider areas.

Water vapor is the most abundant greenhouse gas. gasoline. septic and sewer systems Agricultural practices.back to top What are greenhouse gases and the greenhouse effect? The greenhouse effect occurs as a result of greenhouse gases trapping the sun’s heat and keeping it close to the earth. human activities have increased their levels and added new ones. Greenhouse gases of concern include carbon dioxide. The earth’s natural greenhouse effect keeps it about 60 degrees warmer than it would be otherwise. nitrous oxide. similar to how a greenhouse keeps plants warm. gas and coal Industrial processes and mining Landfills. including fertilizer and manure management Land use practices. (NOAA) Although many ―greenhouse gases‖ occur naturally. hence the name. The ―greenhouse effect‖ refers to how gases in the earth’s atmosphere naturally keep the earth warm. a warming atmosphere can trigger changes in water vapor levels. including deforestation . Anyone who has parked a closed car in the sun for a few hours on a summer day has experienced something like the greenhouse effect. Scientists say that increased levels of these gases are contributing to climate change. (NOAA) Some examples of activities that contribute to greenhouse gas levels:      Burning fossil fuels – oil. However. but human activity isn’t considered a direct cause of changes in its concentration. This enables us to live comfortably on earth. methane. and fluorinated gases.

and season-to-season. a remaining few. Climate is the average weather for a particular region over a long time period. is the increase in the earth's average temperature due to the buildup of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere from human activities. on the other hand. San Diego is known to have a mild climate. sunshine and precipitation. cloudiness. and special weather events (like tornadoes and floods). The depletion of this ozone layer is due to man-made chemicals like chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). including the United States. This includes average weather conditions. is a different problem than the ozone hole. back to top How is climate change different from ozone? Climate change. Climate tells us what it's usually like in the place where you live. caused by global warming. Buffalo a snowy climate. Climate describes the total of all weather occurring over a long period of years in a given place. The ozone hole is a thinning of the stratosphere's ozone layer. summer. New Orleans a humid climate. Global warming. spring. atmospheric pressure. This problem is now slowly improving since countries around the world agreed to stop manufacturing and using CFCs. A simple way of remembering the difference is that 'climate' is what you expect (cool. and fall). It may rain for an hour and then become sunny and clear. home to over 66 million people. Weather is what we hear about on the television news every night. have committed to the Kyoto goals . wet winters) and 'weather' is what you get (a foggy morning with afternoon sunshine). Historically. have yet to ratify it. Global warming is causing climate change. The 1997 Kyoto Protocol was the initial effort to curb greenhouse gas production. Although many countries have agreed to the Kyoto Protocol. It includes wind. day-to-day. which is roughly 9 to 31 miles above the earth's surface. A thinner ozone layer lets more harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation reach the earth's surface. temperature. regular weather seasons (winter. However.back to top How is weather different from climate? Weather can change from hour-to-hour. more than 400 cities in the United States. an international agreement called the Montreal Protocol. humidity. and Seattle a rainy climate.

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