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2014 SkS Weekly News Roundup #22B

Posted on 31 May 2014 by John Hartz

Big waves bust up sea ice

Big ocean waves whipped up by storms hundreds or even thousands of miles away from Earth’s poles could play a bigger role in breaking up polar sea ice and thus contributing to its melt more than had been thought, a new study suggests.

The study, detailed in the May 29 issue of the journal Nature, found that these waves penetrate further into the fields of sea ice around Antarctica than current models would suggest, breaking up the ice well away from the edge of the ice. And previous studies have suggested that bigger waves might be more common near the ice edges at both poles as climate change alters wind patterns.

Incorporating this information into models could help scientists better predict the patterns of retreat and expansion seen in the sea ice in both Antarctica and the Arctic — patterns that are at least partly related to the effects of climate change — the researchers say. 

Big Waves Bust Up Sea Ice , May Be Playing Role in Melt by Andrea Thompson, Climate Central, May 28, 2014

Climate change doomed the Ancients

THIS month, a report issued by a prominent military advisory board concluded that climate change posed a serious threat to America’s national security.

The authors, 16 retired high-ranking officers, warned that droughts, rising seas and extreme weather events, among other environmental threats, were already causing global “instability and conflict.”

But Senator James M. Inhofe of Oklahoma, the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee and a stalwart believer that global warming is a “hoax,” dismissed the report as a publicity stunt.

Climate Change Doomed the Ancients, Op-ed by Eric H. Cline, New York Times, May 27, 2014

Cutting back on carbon

Next week the Environmental Protection Agency is expected to announce new rules designed to limit global warming. Although we don’t know the details yet, anti-environmental groups are already predicting vast costs and economic doom. Don’t believe them. Everything we know suggests that we can achieve large reductions in greenhouse gas emissions at little cost to the economy.

Just ask the United States Chamber of Commerce.

O.K., that’s not the message the Chamber of Commerce was trying to deliverin the report it put out Wednesday. It clearly meant to convey the impression that the E.P.A.’s new rules would wreak havoc. But if you focus on the report’s content rather than its rhetoric, you discover that despite the chamber’s best efforts to spin things — as I’ll explain later, the report almost surely overstates the real cost of climate protection — the numbers are remarkably small.

Cutting Back on Carbon, Op-ed by Paul Krugman, New York Times, May 29, 2014

Global warming vs. climate change

A newly released report out of Yale and George Mason University should be required reading for anyone attempting to write about the climate. Researchers examined the public reaction to two catch phrases many science writers use interchangeably: Global warming and climate change.

It’s not too surprising that the study revealed a much stronger, more emotional reaction to the phrase “global warming”. It’s a more pointed, more specific expression. Climate change is vague, nebulous, and carries a whiff of political correctness.  

Global warming vs. climate change. Study shows people care about one of these by Faye Flam, Knight Science Journalism Tracker, 

How Obama's EPA will cut coal pollution

Here's a primer on the EPA's upcoming rules for polluting power plants

How Obama's EPA Will Cut Coal Pollution by Tiffany Stecker and ClimateWire, Scientific American, May 30, 2014

How will El Nino impact weather patterns?

Confidence remains high that El Niño is developing and that this will impact global weather patterns during the upcoming year. For more information on what El Niño is, see my previous article.

However, there is uncertainty regarding just how strong El Niño will become later this year. 

The ultimate strength of El Niño is critical to forecasting the impact on our weather across Canada as we head into the fall and winter. As we look to the past, we can see that a weak to moderate El Niño often has the opposite impact on some regions compared to what we typically see from a strong El Niño.

How will El Nino impact weather patterns? by Dr. Doug Gillham, The Weather Network, May 28, 2014.

IPCC co-chairman says scientists being intimidated

Global warming deniers have been involved in a “concerted campaign to isolate individual scientists and destroy them,” according to one of the co-chairmen of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Prof Thomas Stocker, Swiss-born co-chairman of the panel’s working group on the scientific basis for climate change, said the campaign to undermine its fifth assessment report was led by “people and organisations with vested interests”.

Speaking to The Irish Times prior to giving a public lecture in Dublin, he said claims that there had been no global warming for 15 years were “quite a clever way to divert the attention of policymakers from the broader perspective of climate change”.

IPCC co-chairman says scientists being intimidated by climate change deniers by Frank McDonald, The Irish Times, May 29, 2014

Ocean acidification threatens marine ecosystems

Human activities - industry, transportation and energy production - release billions of tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year, which is gradually warming our planet and throwing off the balance of the climate. However, this carbon dioxide is also having an impact on the oceans, threatening marine ecosystems and possibly posing an even greater threat to us. 

Carbon dioxide (CO2) levels have risen dramatically since the Industrial Revolution. The atmosphere had an average of around 270 parts per million (ppm) back before then, and currently it's at just over 400 ppm and rising. The atmosphere isn't the only part of our planet that's seeing a rise in CO2 levels, though. A significant amount is dissolving into the oceans, and it's changing the chemistry of the marine environments. The chart below shows the rise in CO2 concentration in both the atmosphere, measured at Mauna Loa in Hawaii, and in the ocean at Ocean Station Aloha - a 10-km-radius patch of Pacific Ocean north of Hawaii - and the resulting impact on the ocean's pH levels:

Ocean acidification, global warming's 'evil twin', threatens marine ecosystems by Scott Sutherland, The Weather Network, May 28, 2014 

Richard Tol's attack on TCP has 'critical errors

One of the most consistent of all the attacks from climate science sceptics and deniers is the one which tries to convince the public that expert scientists are divided on the causes of climate change.

Those attacks have come from ideologically motivated think tanks and the fossil fuel industry, often working together. Only last week, the Wall Street Journal published a polemic to try and mislead the public that a consensus does not exist.

Richard Tol's Attack On 97 Percent Climate Change Consensus Study Has 'Critical Errors' by Graham Readfearn, DeSmog Blog, May 30, 2014

U.S. Bishops call for reduction on carbon pollution

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) called on the Environmental Protection Agency to combat climate change in a May 29 letter. It specifically focused on the issue of carbon pollution, particularly from power plants.

“The USCCB recognizes the importance of finding means to reduce carbon pollution,” said Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami. “These standards should protect the health and welfare of all people, especially children, the elderly, as well as poor and vulnerable communities, from harmful pollution emitted from power plants and from the impacts of climate change.”

Addressed to Gina McCarthy, the administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the letter emphasized the need for specific action on the issue. "We appreciate your commitment to address this urgent global challenge confronting the human family. The USCCB stands ready to work with you, the Administration, and members of Congress to ensure that measures necessary to address climate change both care for creation and protect 'the least of these.'"

U.S. Bishops Call For Reduction On Carbon Pollution by Yasmine Hafiz, The Huffington Post, May 30, 2014

U.S. industry gears up to fight Obama's climate change rules 

This summer is likely to see a series of attacks by industry opponents of a U.S. plan to curb carbon emissions from power plants in a bid to stir voter anger ahead of elections in November, when voters in states such as Kentucky and West Virginia may determine whether Democrats keep control of the Senate.

On Monday, the Environmental Protection Agency is expected to propose new rules to crack down on power plant emissions, part of President Barack Obama's efforts to combat global climate change. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce will release a report Wednesday analyzing the effect the yet-to-be-announced regulations will have on the economy.

U.S. Industry Gears Up To Fight Obama's Climate Change Rules by Roberta Rampton, Reuters/The Huffington Post, May 28, 2014

White House energy report omits Keystone, other controversial issues

A White House report on its energy policy Thursday stressed good news but omitted any discussion of controversial issues such as lifting a ban on oil exports, the long-delayed Keystone pipeline or growing concern about crude oil in railroad tank cars.

Coming days before a signature White House proposal to crack down on carbon emissions at power plants, the administration’s report card touting its “all of the above” energy strategy was sharply criticized by green groups. They complained that President Barack Obama tries to look tough on pollution while eroding that very effort by touting the record U.S. production of oil and natural gas.

“He’s trying to straddle the fence on this,” said Erich Pica, president of Friends of the Earth, one of several environmental groups unhappy with the Obama administration. “If he’s serious about climate change, he can’t have it both ways.”

White House energy report omits Keystone, other controversial issues by Kevin G. Hall, McClatchy Washington Bureau, May 29, 2014 

White House stresses widespread energy progress 

The White House has released a report charting progress on several energy fronts that is clearly aimed at setting the stage ahead of President Obama’s expected announcement next Monday of the first regulations restricting carbon dioxide from existing power plants. (It’s been a very long journey — abetted by an important Supreme Court decision, since President George W. Bush tried to restrict carbon dioxide from such plants and quickly reversed course.

One interesting facet of the report, “The All-Of-The-Above Energy Strategy as a Path to Sustainable Economic Growth,” is how much of the progress it describes — particularly in reductions of petroleum and coal use — came as a complete surprise. (Read “Why Energy Forecasting Goes Wildly Wrong,” a recent paper in the Journal of Energy Security, for some background on this consistent phenomenon.) Here’s one graph that shows how this works:

White House Stresses Widespread Energy Progress Ahead of New Climate Rule by Andrew Revkin, Dot Earth, New York Times, May 29, 2014

World on brink of Sixth Great Extinction

Species of plants and animals are becoming extinct at least 1,000 times faster than they did before humans arrived on the scene, and the world is on the brink of a sixth great extinction, a new study says.

The study looks at past and present rates of extinction and finds a lower rate in the past than scientists had thought. Species are now disappearing from Earth about 10 times faster than biologists had believed, said study lead author noted biologist Stuart Pimm of Duke University.

"We are on the verge of the sixth extinction," Pimm said from research at the Dry Tortugas. "Whether we avoid it or not will depend on our actions."

The work, published Thursday by the journal Science, was hailed as a landmark study by outside experts.

World On Brink Of Sixth Great Extinction, Species Disappearing Faster Than Ever Before by Seth Borenstein, AP/the Huffington Post, May 29, 2014

WSJ’s shameful climate denial: the scientific consensus is not a myth

97% of scientists agree that man-made climate change is happening, and a transparent Op-Ed fails to argue otherwise.

WSJ’s shameful climate denial: The scientific consensus is not a myth by Lindsay Abrams, Salon, May 28, 2014

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Comments 1 to 13:

  1. The link to "How will El Nino impact weather patterns?" returns a Not Found.

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    Moderator Response:

    [DB] Fixed; thanks!

  2. U.S. Bishops call for reduction on carbon pollution

    That news is a direct consequence of what Pope Francis said just a week ago: Causing Climate Change Is a "Sin", which itself should not be surprising to those who remember that Pope-emeritus Benedict expressed the same worry earlier.

    It's worth noting that traditionally catholic church was very conservative, taking new science very cautiously. This latest news, especially Francis' latest statement, leaves no question as to where they stand with their preachings.

    That leaves the conservative politicians in US and AUS on a very foolish position of not just science denial, but increasing alienation in their denial, as more and more influential organisations - traditional supporters - are not fooled anymore.

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  3. A bit of sad news from Auastralia. A bitter comment written by a young engineer who sees no future for himself is his home country:

    Science going back to dark ages

    I note that it was written n May 28 but published on 20140531, per the link format.

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  4. Regarding "Global warming vs. climate change"  by science journalist Faye Flam:

    Here is yet another article stimulated by the Yale publication that I have found objectionable and commented upon elsewhere in this prestigious blog. At least this time the author rightfully presses the responsibility of connotation upon journalists and not upon scientists.

    Now, based on the theme of Ms. Flam's missive, I wonder how the IPCC in 1988 settled on the name of their august panel. Was there a consensus some 25 years ago that rejected IPGW as the moniker of the most important international body for the future of earth? I'm sure that within the vast experience range of SKS commenters someone can provide interesting history about this divisive nomenclature.

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    Moderator Response:

    [JH] The all-volunteer SkS team has a lot on its platter right now. You can probably find the answer you are looking for by perusing Spencer Weart's History of Global Warming. Also take a look at Wikipedia's entry for the "IPCC."

  5. MThompson, I'd guess that the current name was settled on because the assessment targeted climate change and not simply the primary driver of that change--global warming.  The "IPCC" designation allows assessment of impacts and mitigation/adaptation. 

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  6. Can somebody provide Wallace S. Broecker's 1975 definition of "global warming" because the definition given by Yale University researcher Anthony Leiserowitz, PhD in subject social-science paper "Global warming refers to the increase in the Earth’s average surface temperature since the Industrial Revolution, primarily due to the emission of greenhouse gases from the burning of fossil fuels and land use change" is a poor definition which renders much of the sks discussions a bit silly, even the ones that are excellent on the real topic, tautological at best. I'm going to stop using the phrase "global warming" entirely and invent a sensible one for myself unless somebody can provide Wallace S. Broecker's 1975 definition and I find it workable for the science. Thanks.

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  7. @Moderator, #4.

    Spencer Weart's book is titled "The Discovery of Global Warming."

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    Moderator Response:

    [JH] My bad. Thank you,

  8. grindupBaker@6,

    NASA's definition:

    Global warming: the increase in Earth’s average surface temperature due to rising levels of greenhouse gases.

    (Broecker 1975) abstract:

    If man-made dust is unimportant as a major cause of climatic change, then a strong case can be made that the present cooling trend will, within a decade or so, give way to a pronounced warming induced by carbon dioxide. By analogy with similar events in the past, the natural climatic cooling which, since 1940, has more than compensated for the carbon dioxide effect, will soon bottom out. Once this happens, the exponential rise in the atmospheric carbon dioxide content will tend to become a significant factor and by early in the next century will have driven the mean planetary temperature beyond the limits experienced during the last 1000 years

    Note that (Leiserowitz 2014) definition questioned by yourself, agrees 100% with NASA's definitiond. So, do you implicitly argue that NASA's definiton is also "poor"? What do you find in Broecker's definition that makes it "better" than the other two ? Maybe a context "beyond the limits experienced during the last 1000 years"? Admittedly, a smart statement by Broecker, given it was written 22 years before (Mann et al 1997) - the hockey stick paper. But does the omition of that (now implicit in everybody's mind) context makes other definitions "poor"?

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  9. grindupBaker @6, Wally Broecker's 1975 article only includes the term "global warming" in the title, and as such contains no definition of global warming.  Further, the term was in use before 1975.  The earliest use I have found was in 1972 (used three times in the article, but again without definition).  However, I have no reason to think that was the earliest use.

    The IPCC does not have a definition of "global warming".  They do, however, define deglaciation as follows:

    "Deglaciation/glacial termination Transitions from full glacial conditions
    (ice age) to warm interglacials characterized by global warming
    and sea level rise due to change in continental ice volume."

    The warming in deglaciation is more strongly characterized by reduced albedo than by increased greenhouse forcing.  Given that, the use of the term here is inconsisent with the NASA definition.

    The WMO defines global warming as follows:

    "Global warming is an observed or projected increase in global average temperature."

    The EPA defines it as follows:

    "Global Warming
    The recent and ongoing global average increase in temperature near the Earths surface."

    This is again inconsistent with the IPCC usage in that it is restricted to recent warming.

    I consider the WMO definition to be best.  It does not seem redundant to me to talk about recent global warming (as it would be with the EPA definition).  Nor is it apparent that somebody claiming that the sun is the cause of recent global warming is contradicting themselves (as opposed to merely being in error) as they would be with the NASA definition.

    The problem arises, however, that meanings are defined by usage.  If the most common usage is of cases which are recent, and driven by anthropogenic green house gases, it is not clear the definition is not restricted to that use.  It may be that the NASA or EPA defenitions are good descriptive accounts of the common meaning of "global warming".  They are poor prescriptons for that meaning, however.  Further, they are poor descriptive defenitions of my usage (which may only mean that I am idiosyncratic), or that by the IPCC or WMO.

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  10. MThompson wrote:

    Now, based on the theme of Ms. Flam's missive, I wonder how the IPCC in 1988 settled on the name of their august panel. Was there a consensus some 25 years ago that rejected IPGW as the moniker of the most important international body for the future of earth? I'm sure that within the vast experience range of SKS commenters someone can provide interesting history about this divisive nomenclature.

    Personally, I have thought that "climate change" is better because it is the wider term, which is also probably part of the reason why they chose it.  In my view, the more important issues won't be heat waves but droughts and flooding.  Climate change is also wide enough to encompass ocean acidification, which has the same root cause and, like droughts, will greatly impact our ability to feed our people.  In fact, if we could do this over again, I would prefer the term "industrial climate disruption" as "industrial" is suggestive of both the cause and scale and "disruption" alludes to the how we are leaving the relatively stable Holocene Epoch, during which agriculture was developed and civilization flourished, for something that appears a great deal less stable.

    However, "global warming" appears to be the term that the public find it easier to grasp, perhaps because it is less abstract, something that they can more easily relate to the perceptual level.  It is a bit like communicating abstract ideas through metaphor, I suppose. And it is probably best to stick to one phrase or the other. Otherwise one is likely to confuse.

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    Moderator Response:

    [JH] Sicnetists typically use commonly accepted defintions of terms. "Climate change" and "Global warming" are no exceptions. The commonly accepted definitiobns of these two terms were developed by the IPCC and WMO. Those definitions are in the SkS Climate Science Glossary.   

  11. I noticed on the blog that Meteorologist Joe Bastardi (on 5-23-2014) claims that NOAA predicts above average sea ice extent for August.  Yet I cannot find this directly, except for cryptic links to plotted data, and NSIDC seems to be showing below average trends.  Given the skeptical/denier nature of WUWT I am not surprised, but was curious if anyone knows more about where JB got his data?

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  12. The moderator responded to 10:

    [JH] Sicnetists typically use commonly accepted defintions of terms. "Climate change" and "Global warming" are no exceptions. The commonly accepted definitions of these two terms were developed by the IPCC and WMO. Those definitions are in the SkS Climate Science Glossary.

    From the glossary:

    ... in its Article 1, defines climate change as: ‘a change of climate which is attributed directly or indirectly to human activity that alters the composition of the global atmosphere and which is in addition to natural climate variability observed over comparable time periods’. The UNFCCC thus makes a distinction between climate change attributable to human activities altering the atmospheric composition, and climate variability attributable to natural causes. See also Climate variability; Detection and Attribution.

    I would have assumed that "climate change" refers to a change in the "climate system that persists over an appropriate span of time". However, as such, I would not simply focus on the atmosphere or land or ocean surface, but the ocean at various depths, including temperature, circulation, salinity, and more broadly, chemistry. The chemistry would be particularly significant when it comes to the carbon cycle. And obviously, if you have a calcium carbonate shell, you might likewise be concerned with ocean acidity just as surely as you are with the temperature and salinity that also affect ocean circulation.

    As I understand the nature of definitions, oftentimes there will be broader and narrower definitions that make use of different criteria and consequently have either different ranges or domains of applicability, where context might suitably determine what distinctions become significant, and thus context may determine which definition is in use, or alternatively, one may use a more specific term to indicate which definition is in use. "Climate sensitivity" is one such term, where one could be referring to either the Charney Climate Sensitivity that includes only the fast feedbacks (e.g., water vapor, clouds, sea ice and changes to the lapse rate) or the Earth System Sensitivity that includes both fast and slow feedbacks (e.g., ice sheets and the elements of the carbon cycle).

    In my view, these are not different concepts but different yet closely related senses of the same concept. It becomes necessary to distinguish between them only once a distinction between fast and slow feedbacks is made.

    Similarly, under local thermodynamic equilibrium conditions it may make sense to speak of only temperature, but under non-local thermodynamic equilibrium conditions one distinguishes between the kinetic temperature of matter and the Maxwell temperature of radiation since they are no longer strongly coupled.  Moreover, under non-LTE conditions one may also distinguish between the temperatures of different quantum modes of molecular excitation due to the rate of collisions being insufficient to result in the equipartition of energy.

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  13. In reference to knaugle on entry 11, you might take a look at the National Snow and Ice Data Center figure 6b. This shows that 2014 Antarctic sea ice is well above the two sigma variation of historic data. It would not be at all surprising that this trend contiues through winter (southern hemisphere). I'm making no attempt to identify the verbatum data source Mr. Bastardi referenced, but his assertion is likely true. 

    Having said that, you must be admonished that increasing Antactic sea ice in itself is scant evidence of global warming, one way or the other. 

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