Portal:Global warming

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Global warming

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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

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Sand Mountain Little Sahara Utah.jpg
Credit: Mike Scalora

A view of Sand Mountain campground from the side of Sand Mountain at Little Sahara Recreation Area in Utah. The Little Sahara sand dunes are remnants of a large river delta formed by the Sevier River from about 12,500 to 20,000 years ago. The river emptied into ancient Lake Bonneville near the present day mouth of Leamington Canyon. After Lake Bonneville receded, winds transported the sand from the river delta to the current location. The dunes are still moving 5 to 9 feet (1.5 to 3 m) per year. The area is home to typical Great Basin desert wildlife including mule deer, pronghorn antelope, snakes, lizards and birds of prey. Great horned owls make their home among juniper trees in the Rockwell Natural Area.

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The greenhouse effect is a process by which thermal radiation from a planetary surface is absorbed by atmospheric greenhouse gases, and is re-radiated in all directions. Since part of this re-radiation is back towards the surface, energy is transferred to the surface and the lower atmosphere. As a result, the average surface temperature is higher than it would be if direct heating by solar radiation were the only warming mechanism.

Solar radiation at the high frequencies of visible light passes through the atmosphere to warm the planetary surface, which then emits this energy at the lower frequencies of infrared thermal radiation. Infrared radiation is absorbed by greenhouse gases, which in turn re-radiate much of the energy to the surface and lower atmosphere. The mechanism is named after the effect of solar radiation passing through glass and warming a greenhouse, but the way it retains heat is fundamentally different as a greenhouse works by reducing airflow, isolating the warm air inside the structure so that heat is not lost by convection.

Strengthening of the greenhouse effect through human activities is known as the enhanced (or anthropogenic) greenhouse effect. This increase in radiative forcing from human activity is attributable mainly to increased atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) levels. CO2 is produced by fossil fuel burning and other activities such as cement production and tropical deforestation. The current observed amount of CO2 exceeds the geological record maxima (~300 ppm) from ice core data. The effect of combustion-produced carbon dioxide on the global climate, a special case of the greenhouse effect first described in 1896 by Svante Arrhenius, has also been called the Callendar effect.

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Al gore presentation.jpg
Pictured left: Al Gore's speech on Global Warming at the University of Miami BankUnited Center, February 28, 2007.

Albert Arnold "Al" Gore, Jr. (born March 31, 1948) served as the 45th Vice President of the United States (1993–2001), under President Bill Clinton. He was the Democratic Party's nominee for President in the 2000 U.S. presidential election. Gore is currently an author and environmental activist. He has founded a number of non-profit organizations, including the Alliance for Climate Protection, and has received a Nobel Peace Prize for his work in climate change activism.

In his senior year at Harvard University, he took a class with oceanographer and global warming theorist Roger Revelle, who sparked Gore's interest in global warming and other environmental issues. After joining the U.S. House of Representatives, Gore held the first congressional hearings on the climate change, and co-sponsor[ed] hearings on toxic waste and global warming. Gore was known as one of the Atari Democrats, later called the "Democrats' Greens: politicians who see issues like clean air, clean water and global warming as the key to future victories for their party.

Gore wrote the book An Inconvenient Truth: The Planetary Emergency of Global Warming and What We Can Do About It, which won a Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album in 2009. An Inconvenient Truth is a 2006 documentary film directed by Davis Guggenheim about Al Gore's campaign to educate citizens about global warming via a comprehensive slide show that, by his own estimate, Gore has given more than a thousand times. Our Choice is a 2009 book written by Gore, originally titled, which followed the An Inconvenient Truth... (book). All profits of the book (printed on 100% recycled paper) go to the Alliance for Climate Protection, which Gore founded in 2006.

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Glaciercrevasse.jpg
Credit: North Cascade Glacier Climate Project

Measuring snowpack in a crevasse on the Easton Glacier, North Cascades, USA. The two-dimensional nature of the annual layers is apparent. Crucial to the survival of a glacier is its mass balance, the difference between accumulation and ablation (melting and sublimation). Climate change may cause variations in both temperature and snowfall, causing changes in mass balance.

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...that global warming millions of years ago put seas in a spin? The circulation of the deep oceans reversed abruptly some 55 million years ago, according to a study of fossilized sea creatures. This rings alarm bells about today's climate change, because the reversal coincided with a period of global warming driven by greenhouse gases." Article on Nature News
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