Global Warming and Climate Change
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Water vapour is also an important greenhouse gas. The concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are increasing due to human activities. Data from ice cores show that during the 17th and 18th centuries the CH 4 concentration in the atmosphere was about 0. The current CH4 concentration is more than double that value, approximately ppb.
The increasing concentration of CO2 is caused by the burning of fossil fuels such as oil, gas and coal , and the destruction of forests. These activities release large amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere. The main natural source of CH4 is from wetlands.
Global warming - Wikipedia
A variety of other sources of CH4 result directly or indirectly from human activities, for example from ruminant animals, rice paddies, leakage from natural gas pipelines, and from the decay of rubbish in landfill sites. However, CH4 growth rates have declined since the s, potentially due to reduced gas pipeline leaks and the drying of wetlands. Increased amounts of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere will absorb more thermal radiation, and the Earth's surface and the lower atmosphere will warm.
This extra warming is called the enhanced greenhouse effect.
The ultimate objective of the Convention is:. The Kyoto Protocol commits us to returning our emissions of greenhouse gases back to levels, on average, over Important contributions that can be made by ordinary individuals are:. The greenhouse effect is a warming of the earth's surface and lower atmosphere caused by substances such as carbon dioxide and water vapour which let the sun's energy through to the ground but impede the passage of energy from the earth back into space.
Energy emitted from the sun "solar radiation" is concentrated in a region of short wavelengths including visible light. Much of the short wave solar radiation travels down through the Earth's atmosphere to the surface virtually unimpeded. Some of the solar radiation is reflected straight back into space by clouds and by the earth's surface.
Much of the solar radiation is absorbed at the earth's surface, causing the surface and the lower parts of the atmosphere to warm.
What is climate change?
The warmed Earth emits radiation upwards, just as a hot stove or bar heater radiates energy. The presence of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, however, changes the radiation balance. Heat radiation infra-red emitted by the Earth is concentrated at long wavelengths and is strongly absorbed by greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, such as water vapour, carbon dioxide and methane.
This is called the natural greenhouse effect. If extra amounts of greenhouse gases are added to the atmosphere, such as from human activities, then they will absorb more of the infra-red radiation. The Earth's surface and the lower atmosphere will warm further until a balance of incoming and outgoing radiation is reached again the emission of infra-red radiation increases as the temperature of the emitting body rises. Methane is a so-called greenhouse gas. Greenhouse gases impact the environment through warming the atmosphere.
The concentration of greenhouse gases has risen significantly in the past years, in part due to human activities. One of the biggest contributors to the atmospheric methane concentration is farmed livestock, especially cattle and sheep. These animals produce methane naturally as part of their digestive process, and belch it, especially while 'chewing the cud'. As the human population has grown, the number of farmed animals has increased markedly to meet the human demand for food through meat and dairy products. The links below provide graphs of recent trends in the most significant atmospheric greenhouse gases, namely carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide.
The 'Carbon dioxide exercise' provides questions for students relating to graphs showing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
Global Warming Impacts
Carbon dioxide exercise. The Greenhouse Effect: a New Zealand perspective on climate change. The above is an overview of the causes and results of the Greenhouse Effect, describing the major greenhouse gases, New Zealand's greenhouse gas emissions, atmospheric chemistry, clouds and climate change, and options for the future. More information on climate variability and change. More information on NIWA's greenhouse gas measurements.
Video series on climate change featuring leading climate scientist Dr. David Wratt. Jump to Navigation Skip to main content. Climate data and common terms explaining the causes and effects of climate change. The Baring Head Clean Air Monitoring Station which has been in operation for more than 30 years makes significant contributions to our global understanding of greenhouse gases, other trace gases and related species in air that is representative of the mid latitude southern hemisphere.
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It's reasonable to assume that changes in the Sun's energy output would cause the climate to change, since the Sun is the fundamental source of energy that drives our climate system. Indeed, studies show that solar variability has played a role in past climate changes. For example, a decrease in solar activity coupled with an increase in volcanic activity is thought to have helped trigger the Little Ice Age between approximately and , when Greenland cooled from to the s and glaciers advanced in the Alps.
But several lines of evidence show that current global warming cannot be explained by changes in energy from the Sun:. A simplified animation of the greenhouse effect. Not enough greenhouse effect: The planet Mars has a very thin atmosphere, nearly all carbon dioxide.
Because of the low atmospheric pressure, and with little to no methane or water vapor to reinforce the weak greenhouse effect, Mars has a largely frozen surface that shows no evidence of life. Too much greenhouse effect: The atmosphere of Venus, like Mars, is nearly all carbon dioxide.
But Venus has about , times as much carbon dioxide in its atmosphere as Earth and about 19, times as much as Mars does , producing a runaway greenhouse effect and a surface temperature hot enough to melt lead.
The above graph compares global surface temperature changes red line and the Sun's energy that Earth receives yellow line in watts units of energy per square meter since Eleven-year averages are used to reduce the year-to-year natural noise in the data, making the underlying trends more obvious. Over the same period, global temperature has risen markedly. It is therefore extremely unlikely that the Sun has caused the observed global temperature warming trend over the past half-century. Images of Change. Explore a stunning gallery of before-and-after images of Earth from land and space that reveal our home planet in a state of flux.
Climate Mobile Apps. Keep track of Earth's vital signs, see the planet in a state of flux and slow the pace of global warming with NASA's free mobile apps.