Recent Climate Variations and Possible Anthropogenic Causes

After having considered long-term variations in the Earth's climate, we will now turn to more recent changes of climatic parameters. However, before addressing these issues, we will briefly review the factors controlling climate at high northern latitudes. Climate variability in general is primarily driven by changes in the energy balance, the trace gas balance, and the hydrological cycle. As far as the Arctic is concerned, the energy balance in the Arctic is strongly influenced by the extreme seasonality of solar radiation with continuous sunshine in summer and near absence of sunshine in winter. The Arctic can either be a source or a sink of trace gases, depending on ambient conditions. The hydrological cycle is governed by exchange processes involving water in the frozen, liquid, and vaporous state.

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