How the Climate System Works

Temperature extremes have been pretty unusual across the United States so far in 2014. Looking back over this time period quickly reveals at least part of what was going on: the polar jet stream got into a serious rut.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

  • James Roger Fleming presents a historical perspective on how our understanding of Earth's climate system developed through innovations and discoveries by pioneering scientists in the 1800s and 1900s who asked and answered fundamental questions about the causes and effects of global climate change.

     

  • Although they are related, meteorology and climatology have important differences, particularly in how scientists develop and use weather and climate models. What makes climatologists think they can project climate scenarios decades into the future when meteorologists cannot accurately predict weather more than two weeks in advance? This presentation by Wayne Higgins of NOAA's Climate Prediction Center clarifies the relationships and differences between weather and climate, as well as the differences between natural climate variability and human-induced climate change.

  • Humans currently release about 70 million tons of carbon dioxide every day into the atmosphere and about 20 million tons is being absorbed regularly by the oceans, causing the pH to drop.  Chris Sabine describes current and projected future impacts of this acidification on marine ecology.