adaptation An adjustment in natural or human systems to a new or changing environment. Adaptation to climate change refers to adjustments in natural or human systems in response to actual or expected climatic changes. aerosols Tiny bits of liquid or solid matter suspended in air. They come from natural sources such as erupting volcanoes and from waste gases emitted from automobiles, factories, and power plants. By reflecting sunlight, aerosols cool the climate and offset some of the warming caused by greenhouse gases.

albedo The relative reflectivity of a surface. A surface with high albedo reflects most of the light that shines on it and absorbs very little energy; a surface with a low albedo absorbs most of the light energy that shines on it and reflects very little.

altimeter A sensitive aneroid barometer that is graduated and calibrated, used chiefly for finding distance above sea level, terrain, or some other reference point. anemometer Any instrument for measuring the speed of wind. anthropogenic Made by people or resulting from human activities. This term is usually used in the context of emissions that are produced as a result of human activities. atmosphere The thin layer of gases that surround the Earth and allow living organisms to breathe. It reaches 400 miles (644 km) above the surface, but 80 percent is concentrated in the troposphere—the lower seven miles (11 km) above the Earth's surface. biodiversity Different plant and animal species. carbon A naturally abundant nonmetallic element that occurs in many inorganic and in all organic compounds.

carbon dioxide A colorless, odorless gas that passes out of the lungs during respiration. It is the primary greenhouse gas and causes the greatest amount of global warming.

carbon sink An area where large quantities of carbon are built up in the wood of trees, in calcium carbonate rocks, in animal species, in the ocean, or any other place where carbon is stored. These places act as reservoirs, keeping carbon out of the atmosphere.

climate The usual pattern of weather that is averaged over a long period of time.

climate model A quantitative way of representing the interactions of the atmosphere, oceans, land surface, and ice. Models can range from relatively simple to extremely complicated.

climatologist A scientist who studies the climate.

concentration The amount of a component in a given area or volume. In global warming, it is a measurement of how much of a particular gas is in the atmosphere compared to all of the gases in the atmosphere.

condense The process that changes a gas into a liquid.

cyclone A large-scale, atmospheric wind and pressure system characterized by low pressure at the center and circular wind motion, counterclockwise in the Northern Hemisphere, clockwise in the Southern Hemisphere.

deforestation The large-scale cutting of trees from a forested area, often leaving bare areas susceptible to erosion.

ecosystem A community of interacting organisms and their physical environment.

emissions The release of a substance (usually a gas when referring to the subject of climate change) into the atmosphere.

evaporation The process by which a liquid, such as water, is changed to a gas.

feedback A change caused by a process that, in turn, may influence that process. Some changes caused by global warming may hasten the process of warming (positive feedback); some may slow warming (negative feedback).

forcings Mechanisms that disrupt the global energy balance between incoming energy from the Sun and outgoing heat from the Earth.

By altering the global energy balance, such mechanisms force the climate to change. Today, anthropogenic greenhouse gases added to the atmosphere are forcing climate to change.

fossil fuel An energy source made from coal, oil, or natural gas. The burning of fossil fuels is one of the chief causes of global warming.

glacier A mass of ice formed by the buildup of snow over hundreds and thousands of years.

global dimming A reduction in the amount of the Sun's electromagnetic energy reaching the Earth's surface due to its blockage by particulate matter, clouds, and other opaque materials in the atmosphere.

global warming An increase in the temperature of the Earth's atmosphere, caused by the buildup of greenhouse gases. This is also referred to as the enhanced greenhouse effect caused by humans.

great ocean conveyor belt A global current system in the ocean that transports heat from one area to another.

greenhouse effect The natural trapping of heat energy by gases present in the atmosphere, such as CO2, methane, and water vapor. The trapped heat is then emitted as heat back to the Earth.

greenhouse gas A gas that traps heat in the atmosphere and keeps the Earth warm enough to allow life to exist.

Gulf Stream A warm current that flows from the Gulf of Mexico across the Atlantic Ocean to northern Europe. It is largely responsible for Europe's milder climate.

hydrologic cycle The natural sequence through which water passes into the atmosphere as water vapor, precipitates to earth in liquid or solid form, and ultimately returns to the atmosphere through evaporation.

Industrial Revolution The period during which industry developed rapidly as a result of advances in technology. This took place in Britain during the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

infrared The invisible heat radiation that is emitted by the Sun and by virtually every warm substance or object on Earth.

interdecadal A time period that occurs within a decade's time.

IPCC Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. This is an organization consisting of 2,500 scientists that assesses information in the scientific and technical literature related to the issue of climate change. The IPCC was established jointly by the United Nations Environment Programme and the World Meteorological Organization in 1988.

jet stream A strong ribbon of horizontal wind that is found about 6 to 10 miles (10-16 km) above the ground in the area between the troposphere, the lower layer of the atmosphere, and the stratosphere above it.

Keeling Curve A famous curve showing increasing CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere which was set up by Dr. Charles David Keeling of Scripps Institution of Oceanography at Mauna Loa in Hawaii, it illustrate the steady rise in CO2 concentrations since 1958.

Maunder minimum The period of reduced solar activity lasting through the 1600s and 1700s.

methane A colorless, odorless, flammable gas that is the major ingredient of natural gas. Methane is produced wherever decay occurs and little or no oxygen is present.

multidecadal A time span over several decades, such as 50 to 80 years.

nitrous oxide A heat-absorbing gas in the Earth's atmosphere. Nitrous oxide is emitted from nitrogen-based fertilizers.

parts per million (ppm) The number of parts of a chemical found in one million parts of a particular gas, liquid, or solid.

permafrost Permanently frozen ground in the Arctic. As global warming increases, this ground is melting.

photosynthesis The process by which plants make food using light energy, carbon dioxide, and water.

protocol The terms of a treaty that have been agreed to and signed by all parties.

proxies Methods of determining values such as temperatures and rainfall by using substitutes, which give indirect measurements. Tree rings serve as proxies for determining rainfall abundance.

radiation The particles or waves of energy.

renewable Something that can be replaced or regrown, such as trees, or a source of energy that never runs out, such as solar energy, wind energy, or geothermal energy. resources The raw materials from the Earth that are used by humans to make useful things. rotation The movement or path of the Earth, turning on its axis. satellite Any small object that orbits a larger one. Artificial satellites carry instruments for scientific study and communication. Imagery taken from satellites is used to monitor aspects of global warming such as glacier retreat, ice cap melting, desertification, erosion, hurricane damage, and flooding. Sea surface temperatures and measurements are also obtained from man-made satellites in orbit around the Earth. simulation A computer model of a process that is based on actual facts. The model attempts to mimic, or replicate, actual physical processes.

stratosphere The layer of the atmosphere just above the troposphere.

It extends 7.5 miles (12 km) to an average of 31 miles (50 km). subsidence To sink to a lower level, such as the ground. temperate An area that has a mild climate and different seasons. thermal Something that relates to heat.

trade winds Winds that blow steadily from east to west and toward the equator. The trade winds are caused by hot air rising at the equator, with cool air moving in to take its place from the north and from the south. The winds are deflected westward because of the Earth's west-to-east rotation. tropical A region that is hot and often wet (humid). These areas are located around the Earth's equator. tropical storm A cyclonic storm having winds ranging from approximately 30 to 75 miles (48-121 kilometers) per hour.

tundra A vast treeless plain in the Arctic with a marshy surface covering a permafrost layer.

upwelling The process by which warm, less-dense surface water is drawn away from along a shore by offshore currents and replaced by cold, denser water brought up from the subsurface.

weather The conditions of the atmosphere at a particular time and place. Weather includes such measurements as temperature, precipitation, air pressure, and wind speed and direction. weathering The progression of breaking down rocks and natural materials on the Earth's surface through physical and chemical processes.

westerlies A semipermanent belt of westerly winds that prevails at latitudes lying between the tropical and polar regions of the Earth.

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