SCIENCE & CLIMATE DEFINITIONS

What is Global Temperature?

Global temperature is an average of air temperature recordings from weather stations on land and sea as well as some satellite measurements.

Global surface temperature is responding to the greenhouse effect from greenhouse gas emissions. The atmosphere has warmed at an average rate of 0.15 degrees Fahrenheit per decade since 1901. Worldwide, 2006-2015 was the warmest decade on record since thermometer-based observations began nearly 150 years ago. Changes in Earth’s surface temperature can disrupt a wide range of natural processes, particularly if these changes occur more quickly than people, plants and animals can adapt.

Rising Temperatures …

  • contribute to heat waves and other extreme weather events that can cause illness and death
  • redefine where plants and animals can survive. Many organisms cannot relocate or adapt quickly enough when warm or cool conditions change their environment. Other organisms, like some viruses, thrive in the altered habitats and can spread.
  • contribute to extreme droughts and wildfires that may leave land unworkable or uninhabitable
  • melt glaciers and ice sheets and heats the ocean’s water. These responses cause sea level rise, when ocean water advances up shorelines and surges inland during storms.

Heat is now the top safety concern for agriculture workers

Our Future with Rising Temperatures

Many experts predict that the Earth’s surface temperature will rise at least 1 degree Fahrenheit, possibly much more, by the end of this century. Global temperatures will continue to rise until and beyond greenhouse gas emissions decline from development, especially in the industry and agriculture sectors.

Some areas around the globe are warming while others are cooling. The difference is because wind patterns and ocean currents, driven by global cycles, affect regions differently. For example, the United States has warmed a staggering 0.29 to 0.46 degree Fahrenheit per decade since 1979, faster than the global warming rate. The North, the West, and Alaska are currently warming more than other regions of the country.

Some changes and impacts resulting from rising temperatures cannot be reversed. But some of the most negative impacts can be reduced by decreasing greenhouse gas emissions.

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