Climate Change v. Global Warming: Same thing?

Climate Change and Global Warming are often used interchangeably, which can lead to some confusion in the argument about what is happening to our world. First let’s get Climate Change right: some argue that Climate Change is not happening.  The reality is the climate has been changing since Earth was formed billions of years ago. Everybody’s seen Ice Age right? Changes in climate can be warming, cooling, getting wetter or dryer… but that happens every year doesn’t it? Close, but not quite. The changes that we see day-to-day, week-to-week, and season-to-season are weather. The overall, cumulative weather patterns determine climate. Let’s take North Carolina for example, just this week we had highs of sunshine and 70 and then bam! snow’s in the forecast, that’s weather. If you take all of the wonky NC weather and average it over a period of years we get about the same rainfall, warm and cold days, etc. All of that data would determine NC’s climate. It’s like asking someone in New York and someone in Florida whether NC was warmer or colder than their State. On a given day the measured temperature could vary, but overall the Floridian would say NC is colder and the New Yorker would say that NC is warmer. The climate of New York is colder than NC’s climate, and the opposite is true for Florida. Okay, so everybody’s got that? That means that Climate Change would be like North Carolina’s climate warming so that it would feel like we lived in Florida (great huh?)floridaweather

… or cooling so that we would feel like we lived in NY (then we North Carolinians would have to learn how to drive in snow, yikes!).

nyweather

Then there’s Global Warming which, as the name implies, means that the world as a whole is getting warmer (the North Carolina feels like Florida scenario). This is the phenomenon that has been causing all of the scientific, political, and environmental hullaballoo. The history of Global Warming has been controversial but scientists eventually came to the conclusion that Global Warming was indeed happening, and fast too. The impacts of Global Warming are widespread and can be both beneficial and disastrous. As I mentioned before, NC may feel like Florida… so Florida would feel like what? Costa Rica maybe. Okay, still pretty good, we get a tropical vacation spot much closer to home.

Brazil

Rainforest dry seasons are getting longer, hotter, and more flammable

What about Costa Rica? It would get even hotter, probably a lot drier too, so what would happen to all of the plant life that needs significant rainfall? What happens to the animals that live in those rainforests? What about the people that need those plants and animals to survive?

You can see that Global Warming can get pretty complicated, and that’s not even factoring in the causes. And, of course, scientists are still fighting about Global Warming as a whole; the question of  “is it happening?” has re-emerged and uncertainty about the effects is widespread. I’m going to try to cover the basics and the widely accepted what’s, where’s, why’s, and who dunnit’s first. We’ll be getting into some history, astronomy, meteorology, oceanography, and (of course) marine biology. Then I’ll give you guys some of the juicy stuff: fights, current research, and cute animals!

What are some things that you would like to hear about?

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