Luke Hansford



🌱 Seedling2 min read

Factors that impact Earth's climate

  • Greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
  • Solar flux, i.e. changes in solar energy over time;
  • Changes in Earth's orbital cycle
  • Aerosols from volcanic and human activity.
  • Changes in land usage. This can impact the earth's albedo (reflectivity).

Measuring the health of Earth's climate

In relation to climate change, average temperature is the key metric used to assess Earth's climate health. On top of this, the Global Climate Observing System (GCOS) has identified 54 Essential Climate Variables (ECVs) that scientists use to better understand Earth’s climate. ECVs are "a physical, chemical or biological variable or a group of linked variables that critically contributes to the characterization of Earth’s climate".

Climate models are also helpful in predicting the future direction of the climate.

Measuring temperature

Measuring carbon dioxide

  • Carbon dioxide levels are measured by both ground-sites and satellites. Historical levels are measured by like at air bubbles trapped in ice cores (to up to 800,000 years back).
  • We started measuring carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere from the top of an extinct volcano in Hawaii in 1958. This resulted in the Keeling Curve. We now measure CO2 levels in the atmosphere at around 100 other sites around the world.
  • Researchers have even reconstructed CO2 levels from 66 million years ago by examining the chemical makeup of fossils of tiny marine organisms to understand ancient warming.

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