Global warming is the increase in the average temperature of the Earth's near-surface air and the oceans since the mid-twentieth century and its projected continuation. Global surface temperature increased 0.74 ± 0.18 °C (1.33 ± 0.32 °F) during the 100 years ending in 2005. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concludes that anthropogenic (human-sourced) greenhouse gases are responsible for most of the observed temperature increase since the middle of the twentieth century, and natural phenomena such as solar variation and volcanoes probably had a small warming effect from pre-industrial times to 1950 and a small cooling effect from 1950 onward. These basic conclusions have been endorsed by more than 40 scientific societies and academies of science, including all of the national academies of science of the major industrialized countries.
Climate model projections summarized in the latest IPCC report indicate that global surface temperature will probably rise a further 1.1 to 6.4 °C (2.0 to 11.5 °F) during the twenty-first century. The uncertainty in this estimate arises from the use of models with differing climate sensitivity, and the use of differing estimates of future greenhouse gas emissions. Some other uncertainties include how warming and related changes will vary from region to region around the globe. Although most studies focus on the period up to 2100, warming is expected to continue beyond 2100, even if emissions have stopped, because of the large heat capacity of the oceans and the lifespan of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
• 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
The Global Historical Climatology Network (GHCN) is one of the primary reference compilations of temperature data used for climatology, and is the foundation of the GISTEMP Temperature Record. This map shows the 7,280 fixed temperature stations in the GHCN catalog color coded by the length of the available record. Sites that are actively updated in the database (2,277) are marked as "active" and shown in large symbols, other sites are marked as "historical" and shown in small symbols. In some cases, the "historical" sites are still collecting data but due to reporting and data processing delays (of more than a decade in some cases) they do not contribute to current temperature estimates.
As is evident from this plot, the most densely instrumented portion of the globe is in the United States, while Antarctica is the most sparsely instrumented land area. Parts of the Pacific and other oceans are more isolated from fixed temperature stations, but this is supplemented by volunteer observing ships that record temperature information during their normal travels. This image shows 3,832 records longer than 50 years, 1,656 records longer than 100 years, and 226 records longer than 150 years. The longest record in the collection began in Berlin in 1701 and is still collected in the present day.
Pictured left: Per capita anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions by country for the year 2000 including land-use change.
A greenhouse gas is a gas in an atmosphere that absorbs and emits radiation within the thermal infrared range. This process is the fundamental cause of the greenhouse effect. The primary greenhouse gases in the Earth's atmosphere are water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and ozone. In the Solar System, the atmospheres of Venus, Mars, and Titan also contain gases that cause greenhouse effects. Greenhouse gases greatly affect the temperature of the Earth; without them, Earth's surface would be on average about 33 °C (59 °F) colder than at present.
Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, the burning of fossil fuels has contributed to the increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere from 280ppm to 390ppm, despite the uptake of a large portion of the emissions through various natural "sinks" involved in the carbon cycle. Anthropogenic (human-sourced) carbon dioxide (CO2 ) emissions come from combustion of carbonaceous fuels, principally wood, coal, oil, and natural gas.
Each gases' contribution to the greenhouse effect is affected by the characteristics of the gas, its abundance, and any indirect effects it may cause. For example, on a molecule-for-molecule basis the direct radiative effects of methane is about a 72 times stronger greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide over a 20 year time frame, but it is present in much smaller concentrations so that its total direct radiative effect is smaller. On the other hand, in addition to its direct radiative impact methane has a large indirect radiative effect because it contributes to ozone formation.
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.
Global vegetation – Food, fuel and shelter. Vegetation is one of the most important requirements for human populations around the world. Satellites monitor how "green" different parts of the planet are and how that greenness changes over time. These observations help scientists understand the influence of natural cycles, such as drought and pest outbreaks, on vegetation, as well as human influences, such as land-clearing and global warming.
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