Announcing the Skeptical Science Glossary

Skeptical Science is proud to announce the implementation of an interactive glossary.

We've long recognized the frustration that many readers might have, even those who are well educated in climate science, with the number of scientific terms and cryptic acronyms that come with virtually any Skeptical Science post.

The fact is that climate science is influenced by a wide variety of scientific disciplines, from atmospheric and ocean physics and chemistry, to marine and plant biology, statistics, computer science, and more.  Even an expert in one or several fields may be thrown off by an unfamiliar term from a less familiar field.

To help make sense of the terminology soup Skeptical Science has implemented an automated glossary system.  You will see some words, like "aerosols," and some acronyms, like "GCM," with a dotted underline.  If you roll over these terms with your mouse, a definition of the term will appear in the upper right hand corner of the screen. That definition will remain on your screen for a period of time before disappearing, or you can close it (or all open definitions) yourself.

A Sample Term Definition

Give it a try now...

Adiabatic process!

Cloud radiative forcing!

Bowen ratio!

Enkiastatic Biratio Coefficient!  Okay, I made that one up, so there's no definition for it.

HadAT2!  CH2O!  ADNET!   ICOADS!  Autotrophic respiration! PCMDI!

Where possible, definitions are taken from publicly available, authoritative sources, most notablly the IPCC AR4.  On occasion, Skeptical Science authors may add to or revise these definitions to make them more understandable to our readership.


You can tweak the settings for how the glossary works, as well as look up specific terms that perhaps do not appear in the current article (for instance, a term that appears in a definition itself).  At the bottom of the page, on the left, you will see a blue tab marked "Look Up a Term".  If you click on it a panel will expand at the bottom of the page for several options.

Within that panel you can check "beginner," "intermediate" and "advanced" to control the sorts of definitions that will automatically be linked by an article.  A "beginner" will be shown every possible definition, while "advanced" will be shown the least number of definitions ("beginner" and "intermediate" terms will not be underlined or automatically defined).  Use these settings to help reduce the clutter of glossary links on your screen.

You can also use the "Definition Life" drop down menu to determine how long a definition will remain on your screen.

Customizing your Term Lookups

More General Use

You can look up any specific term at any time by typing it into the "Term" box (and if you wish by selecting a proposed term from the drop down hints list that appears) and pressing the "Define" button.

Look up a specific term

Lastly, there is also a Climate Glossary menu option (under Resources) which will allow you to browse and investigate the entire glossary.

Glossary Menu Option

We hope this new facility is useful for everyone, and helps readers of all levels to better understand and absorb the science we present.

Feedback is of course welcome.

A Note on Content

As has already been noted, the current glossary has been populated with definitions taken from the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report.  In particular, all definitions are currently set as "Advanced."  As time goes on SkS authors will continue to go through the glossary, assigning more appropriate levels, clarifying definitions, and adding new terms.

Posted by Bob Lacatena on Sunday, 10 February, 2013

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