Climate Change Facts – 10 Facts about Climate Change
800 Million to 600 Million Years Ago the Earth Was Covered in Ice
The most basic of all climate change facts is that climate change is a long-term change in the weather. Climate change is more than simply one unusually warm year, or a few years without snow. Climate change occurs when there are considerable changes to weather patterns over the course of several decades or more.
Some examples of climate change in the past include global warming and Ice Ages. Ice Ages were long periods of colder weather in the Earth’s history. When we think of climate change facts, we often concentrate on changes in temperature.
When an Ice Age occurs on Earth, the temperature on Earth is far colder than normal. When this happens, ice and glaciers expand from the poles of the Earth, covering land and water in layers of ice. This is why we call these periods Ice Ages. The most severe Ice Age was some time between 800 million and 600 million years ago. It was so cold on Earth that ice sheets reached from the poles all the way to the equator!
When we talk about climate change facts, we are talking about weather changes on a massive scale. Could you imagine the entire Earth covered in ice?!back to menu ↑
The Earth is Currently in an Ice Age Over 2.5 Million Years Long
This is one of the most shocking of climate change facts. When the Earth is not experiencing an Ice Age, there is no ice at the poles. Currently there is ice at the poles on Earth, so we are still in an Ice Age.
The current Ice Age is called the Pliocene-Quaternary glaciation, and started over 2.5 million years ago! Smaller cycles of heating and cooling also occur, and cause glaciers and ice sheets to retreat and advance within the larger time period of Ice Ages. These are called interglacial and glacial periods. These periods last from 40,000 to 100,000 years.
Currently, we are in an interglacial period where the sheets of ice on Earth have largely retreated to the poles. The last glacial period ended about 10,000 years ago. Glacial and interglacial periods are still part of climate change. However, Ice Ages occur over a much longer period of time. The interglacial period we are currently in is called the Holocene.back to menu ↑
40,000 Year Cycles in the Earth’s Position Cause Climate Change
The main force behind climate change for the history of the Earth has been solar energy. The amount of solar energy that reaches the Earth from the Sun can have a huge impact on weather patterns. The relative position of the Earth in relation to the Sun is the main cause of climate change.
The orbit of Earth is not perfect, and varies over time. These differences in Earth’s orbit mean that the Earth is closer and farther away to the Sun at various times in specific cycles; that is, closer and farther away in cycles other than the standard elliptical orbit that takes Earth around the Sun. These cycles are deviations from the standard orbit.
When Earth rotates, the spin is not perfect either — imagine a spinning top that wobbles over time. The differences in rotation include the tilt of Earth’s axis and how much it wobbles as it spins. These differences change the angle of the Earth in specific cycles.
The cycles for these changes in the Earth’s position occur over massive amounts of time. These cycles of changes in the Earth’s position don’t happen every few months – they occur every 20,000 to 40,000 years! The range of time depends on which change in the Earth’s position is being tracked.
An astronomer named Milutin Milanković predicted that these cycles of changes in the Earth’s position relative to the Sun would create cycles of massive climate change on Earth. Milanković was right, and this is one of the most important climate change facts we know. There is a great correlation between glacial and interglacial periods and the Milanković cycles, as they are called.
The Earth’s position determines how much solar energy it receives. This changes over time, creating cycles of more or less solar energy hitting the Earth. These differences occur over huge amounts of time. The result is periods of long-term warming and cooling. This is why climate change facts deal with prolonged changes in the weather.back to menu ↑
A Change in the Earth’s Temperature Has a Domino Effect on Weather
We know from our climate change facts that the position of the Earth relative to the Sun drives the cycles of climate change. The nature of these cycles is dictated by the amount of solar energy the Earth receives from the Sun. When more solar energy reaches the Earth, the Earth gets hotter.
When the Earth gets hotter, sea levels rise, and ocean currents change. Ocean currents are an important mechanism for driving global weather patterns. Changing ocean currents result in different patterns of storms and rainfall throughout the world.
A change in the Earth’s temperature has a kind of domino effect, with more changes to the weather following the change in temperature. During periods of extended cold, the Earth is generally drier, and sea levels are lower, as ice forms around the poles.back to menu ↑
800,000 Years Ago Plants Sucked All the C02 from the Atmosphere
When we think of plants and climate change facts, we generally think of the important role that plants play in removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Through the process of photosynthesis, plants use solar energy, carbon dioxide, and other nutrients, to grow and flower.
Plants convert carbon dioxide to oxygen. Carbon dioxide is one of the greenhouse gasses. When greenhouse gasses are present in the atmosphere, they prevent the solar energy from the Sun escaping. The right amount of greenhouse gasses is a good thing — they help keep the Earth warm. Too many greenhouse gasses, however, mean the Earth becomes too hot.
A little less than 50 million years ago, there was a massive event that ended a long period of global warming. Azolla plants began growing in incredible numbers in the Arctic Ocean. At the time, the Earth was not in an Ice Age, and there was no ice at the poles of the Earth. There was a lot of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere that contributed to the heat of the planet.
The Azolla plants grew in incredible numbers, and began to absorb the carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. After the plants grew, they would die and sink to the floor of the ocean trapping the carbon dioxide they pulled from the atmosphere. This occurred over a period of 800,000 years, and some scientists speculate it was these plants that transformed the Earth through climate change.
As a result of this climate change, the Earth has been cold ever since. It’s speculated that this resulted in the Earth having ice caps on both poles for the first time in the planet’s history. It’s amazing to think that plants could have been responsible for changing global weather so dramatically!
Perhaps the most ironic of climate change facts is that the Azolla plants that died and sunk to the bottom of the ocean may be a source of fossil fuel. Layers of fossilized plants eventually become the coal and oil that we burn for energy. Burning this coal and oil releases the carbon dioxide that was trapped by the plants, causing the Earth to warm again.back to menu ↑
The Sun Emitted 30% Less Energy 3 to 4 Billion Years Ago
We know from our climate change facts that the position of the Earth in relation to the Sun can cause climate change. The Sun can also cause climate change, regardless of the Earth’s relative position.
When we look at the Sun, we often think, “Wow, that’s bright!” While the Sun is always amazingly bright, lighting up the entire Solar System, there are variations in the amount and type of solar energy that the Sun outputs.
The Sun emitted 30% less energy three to four billion years ago than it does today. The increase of the Sun’s power was an instance of climate change that occurred over billions of years! The increase in the Sun’s power led to changes in the atmosphere of Earth, and the composition of life on Earth.
The early atmosphere of Earth and the early organisms, including single-celled organisms capable of photosynthesis, contributed to the climate change on Earth.
There are smaller cycles of solar energy that don’t last for billions of years. From 1550 to 1850, there was a general cooling trend on Earth, referred to as the Little Ice Age. It’s speculated that this was the result of a decrease in the solar energy from the Sun.back to menu ↑
Mount Pinatubo’s Eruption Cooled the Entire Earth by 1/2 a Degree
We know from our climate change facts that the position of the Earth relative to the Sun, and the Sun itself, can cause climate change. The Earth can also cause climate change, regardless of its position relative to the Sun.
We also know that the presence of gasses in the atmosphere can cause climate change. When volcanoes on Earth erupt, they release large amounts of sulfuric gas and dust into the atmosphere. This dust prevents solar energy from reaching the Earth and, as a result, the Earth cools.
The global temperature dropped by a half degree for three years from 1991, when Mount Pinatubo erupted, spewing gas and dust into the atmosphere. In 1815, the eruption of Mount Tambora, combined with a period of reduced solar energy output, resulted in The Year Without A Summer. Global temperatures fell so far that there were food shortages in the Northern Hemisphere!
Much larger eruptions in the Earth’s history have caused climate change that resulted in mass extinctions of life on Earth. It’s likely that volcanic eruptions combined with an asteroid impact resulted in the extinction of the dinosaurs. Volcanoes would have spewed large amounts of dust and gas into the atmosphere, contributing to climate change.back to menu ↑
Over 90% of Scientists Agree That Humans Cause Climate Change
This was once one of the climate change facts that was debated for a long time. Now, all the international scientific organizations, and over 90% of scientists, agree that humans are causing climate change.
This type of climate change is called anthropogenic climate change. By burning fossil fuels that release greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere, and killing plants and trees that absorb carbon dioxide, we are causing global warming.
It’s amazing that humankind has advanced to the point were we can impact the Earth with our activities on such a huge scale. However, one of the sad climate change facts is that we are not able to limit our activities to prevent climate change from having a negative impact on our lives and the lives of future generations.back to menu ↑
Greenhouse Gasses Change Ocean Temperatures and Currents
When we release carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere, we are creating a domino effect of climate change. Because more greenhouse gasses cause global warming, more greenhouse gasses also cause sea levels to rise as polar ice and glaciers melt.
The change in sea levels and ocean temperatures affect the ocean currents that control global weather. This, in turn, influences the amount and location of rainfall. Some areas will receive more rain as a result, while other parts of the planet will dry up as global weather patterns shift.back to menu ↑
Climate Change Costs the US Over $100 Billion Each Year
The changes to the environment as a result of climate change are obvious because climate change is a prolonged change in the weather patterns on Earth. One of the less obvious climate change facts is that climate change can also impact the economy.
Changing weather patterns mean that farmers have to contend with an increased number of instances of droughts or floods. As climate change impacts global weather, the best places for certain crops to be planted may no longer be in the geographical areas where they are grown now. This can lead to starvation or mass emigration of people from one area to another. The economic impact on the global food supply from climate change is huge.
Extreme weather that results from climate change also impacts the economy. The damage from storms caused by new weather patterns is a result of climate change. The cost of repairing the damage, and the associated loss of productivity, takes a toll on the economy.
We can’t ignore climate change facts. There are many things that contribute to climate change, from the position of the Earth and the Sun to the amount of solar energy. A small change in temperature can lead to dramatic changes in weather on Earth.
More large-scale changes in temperature on Earth have resulted in changes to the composition of the atmosphere and to the type of life on Earth. Climate change can cause mass extinctions, and many people believe the dinosaurs died as a result of climate change.
Facts about Climate Change Summary
Climate change facts teach us that we humans can also cause climate change. By burning fossil fuels, we are releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. This carbon dioxide was trapped by plants thousands and millions of years ago and led to the relatively cool Earth we have now.
By releasing this carbon dioxide, we are creating a greenhouse effect that is causing global warming. By using renewable energy sources and reducing the amount of energy we use, we can limit the amount of greenhouse gasses we generate. Climate change is a domino effect, and we must take every step we can to slow down the current climate change so that future generations have time to adapt to the changes in the Earth’s weather that have already begun.
The main concerns surrounding global warming are to do with anthropogenic climate change. This is climate change caused by human actions. When we burn fossil fuels, or perform other actions that release greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere, we are contributing to climate change and global warming.
By learning climate change facts, we can learn what steps we need to take to reduce the global warming caused by human actions. Teaching climate change facts to kids is a great way to get them interested in science and protecting the environment from an early age.