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Global warming is long-term rise in the average temperature of the Earth's climate system, an aspect of current climate change shown by temperature measurements and by multiple effects of the warming. The term commonly refers to the mainly human-caused increase in global surface temperatures and its projected continuation. In this context, the terms global warming and climate change are often used interchangeably, but climate change includes both global warming and its effects, such as changes in precipitation and impacts that differ by region. There were prehistoric periods of global warming, but observed changes since the mid-20th century have been much greater than those seen in previous records covering decades to thousands of years.

In 2013, 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. Read more...

Pictured left: 1999-2008 Mean temperatures: This figure shows the difference in instrumentally determined surface temperatures between the period January 1999 through December 2008 and "normal" temperatures at the same locations, defined to be the average over the interval January 1940 to December 1980. The average increase on this graph is 0.48 °C, and the widespread temperature increases are considered to be an aspect of global warming. Source: NASA

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NOAA sea level trend 1993 2010.png

Sea level trends between 1993 and 2010. Per the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), "The following maps provide estimates of sea level rise based on measurements from satellite radar altimeters. The local trends were estimated using data from TOPEX/Poseidon (T/P), Jason-1, and Jason-2, which have monitored the same ground track since 1992.

An inverted barometer has been applied. The estimates of sea level rise do not include glacial isostatic adjustment effects on the geoid, which are modeled to be +0.2 to +0.5 mm/year when globally averaged."

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Air pollution by industrial chimneys.jpg
Pictured left: Before flue gas desulfurization was installed, the emissions from this power plant in New Mexico contained excessive amounts of sulfur dioxide.

Air pollution is the introduction of chemicals, particulate matter, or biological materials that cause harm or discomfort to humans or other living organisms, or cause damage to the natural environment or built environment, into the atmosphere. The atmosphere is a complex dynamic natural gaseous system that is essential to support life on planet Earth. Stratospheric ozone depletion due to air pollution has long been recognized as a threat to human health as well as to the Earth's ecosystems. Indoor air pollution and urban air quality are listed as two of the world's worst pollution problems in the 2008 Blacksmith Institute World's Worst Polluted Places report.

A substance in the air that can cause harm to humans and the environment is known as an air pollutant. Pollutants can be in the form of solid particles, liquid droplets, or gases. In addition, they may be natural or man-made. Pollutants can be classified as primary or secondary. Usually, primary pollutants are directly emitted from a process, such as ash from a volcanic eruption, the carbon monoxide gas from a motor vehicle exhaust or sulfur dioxide released from factories. Secondary pollutants are not emitted directly. Rather, they form in the air when primary pollutants react or interact. An important example of a secondary pollutant is ground level ozone — one of the many secondary pollutants that make up photochemical smog. Some pollutants may be both primary and secondary: that is, they are both emitted directly and formed from other primary pollutants.


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James E. Hansen (born March 29, 1941) heads the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York City, a part of the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. He has held this position since 1981. He is also an adjunct professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Columbia University.

After graduate school, Hansen continued his work with radiative transfer models, attempting to understand the Venusian atmosphere. Later he applied and refined these models to understand the Earth's atmosphere, in particular, the effects that aerosols and trace gases have on Earth's climate. Hansen's development and use of global climate models has contributed to the further understanding of the Earth's climate.

Hansen has stated that one of his research interests is radiative transfer in planetary atmospheres, especially the interpretation of remote sensing of the Earth's atmosphere and surface from satellites. Because of the ability of satellites to monitor the entire globe, they may be one of the most effective ways to monitor and study global change. His other interests include the development of global circulation models to help understand the observed climate trends, and diagnosing human impacts on climate.

Hansen is best known for his research in the field of climatology, his testimony on climate change to congressional committees in 1988 that helped raise broad awareness of global warming, and his advocacy of action to avoid dangerous climate change. In recent years, Hansen has become an activist for action to mitigate the effects of climate change, which on a few occasions has led to his arrest. In 2009 his first book, Storms of My Grandchildren, was published.


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Impacts of Global Warming.png
Credit: GRID-Arendal

Graph summarizing some of the expected impacts of Global Warming according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Temperature deviations are from 1990 readings.

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MonthlyMeanT.gif
...that global warming of the average air temperature rose 0.74 ± 0.18 °C (1.3 ± 0.32 °F) during the past century?

(Pictured left: Animated global map of monthly long term mean surface air temperature (Mollweide projection))

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