Climate Change Glossary

AGW

Abbreviation for “anthropogenic global warming”.

aerosols

Airborne particulates such as soot, dust, and sulfates emitted by some aspects of industrialization.

albedo

The measure of an object’s reflectivity. The higher the reflectivity, the higher the relative albedo. Light objects which reflect light have a higher albedo than dark objects which absorb light.

anthropogenic

Of, relating to, or resulting from the influence of human beings on nature. Anthropogenic global warming (AGW) refers to mankind’s influence on rising temperatures, as opposed to natural variations.

Anthropocene

Term used by some scientists to refer to the current geologic era where mankind has notably influenced the natural world on a global scale.

climate

The historical record and description of average daily and in seasonal weather events that help describe a region. Statistics are generally drawn over several decades.

El Niño

Name given to short term conditions of ocean and wind currents around the equatorial Pacific Ocean. These conditions vary in severity and duration (generally spanning months) and can significantly impact global climate conditions over their lifespan, generally resulting in warming. It’s opposite in conditions is referred to as La Niña.

feedback

A secondary forcing triggered by a primary forcing. Feedbacks can be either “positive” or “negative”. Positive feedbacks reinforce the influence of the primary forcing. Negative feedbacks operate in opposition to the influence of the primary forcing. An example of a positive feedback would be the exposure of ocean water by melting ice. As ocean water has a lower albedo than ice, exposed water leads to more heating which leads to more melting ice, and so on. An example of a negative feedback would be cloud formation. As heating adds water vapor to the atmosphere, more cloud cover is generated. As clouds can reflect incident light before reaching the Earth’s surface, they can lead to cooling.

fracking

An abbreviated term for “hydraulic fracturing”, a process used in natural gas drilling where massive quantities of water, mixed with drilling chemicals and sand, are injected at high pressure into underground rock formations generating cracks that release natural gas trapped in those formations

Galactic cosmic rays

High-energy charged particles that enter the solar system from the outside. They are composed of protons, electrons, and fully ionized nuclei of light elements.

GCR

Galactic cosmic ray.

ice sheet

A dome-shaped mass of glacier ice that covers surrounding terrain and is greater than 50,000 square kilometers (12 million acres) (e.g., the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets) (Ref. National Sea & Ice Data Center).

ice shelf

Portion of an ice sheet that spreads out over water (Ref. NSIDC).

La Niña

Name given to short term conditions of ocean and wind currents around the equatorial Pacific Ocean. These conditions vary in severity and duration (generally spanning months) and can significantly impact global climate conditions over their lifespan, generally resulting in cooling. It’s opposite in conditions is referred to as El Niño.

Milankovitch cycles

General term used in reference to variations in the the cycles of the Earth’s orbit around the Sun.

moulin

A narrow, tubular chute, hole or crevasse worn in glacial ice by surface water, which carries water from the surface to the base far below.

sink

A process that removes an element from a system. Plants remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through respiration. As a result, plants are carbon sinks.

tipping point

A point in a system beyond which change is self-sustaining. A tipping point in the Earth’s climate would be a point beyond which feedback mechanisms take control.

urban heat island

Term used in reference to increased temperatures found locally around urban centers as a result of buildings, infrastructure, and industrialization.

weather

The state of the atmosphere at a specific time and with respect to its effect on life and human activities. It is the short term variations of the atmosphere, as opposed to the long term, or climatic, changes.

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173 professional scientific organizations (and counting) around the world acknowledge the global impact of rising emissions of greenhouse gases from human activities

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Climate Change Indicators Climate Change Indicators NASA GISS - Global Annual Mean Surface Air Temperature ChangeGlobal Temperature Sea level change from 1993 to the present day Global Sea Level Northern Hemisphere Sea Ice Anomaly, 1979-Present Arctic Ice Melt Glacial Retreat, 1980-2010 Glacial Retreat Atmospheric CO2 Concentrations, Mauna Loa Atmospheric CO2 Level
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