Without the greenhouse effect, Earth’s temperature would be below freezing. It is, in part, a natural process. However, Earth’s greenhouse effect is getting stronger as we add greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. That is warming the climate of our planet.
How has our knowledge about Earth's climate grown over time? Use our interactive timeline to explore important and interesting scientific milestones, including when carbon dioxide was first discovered and when we learned about the heat-trapping ability of gases.
The biosphere includes all life on our planet. Scientists study how biological processes, like photosynthesis, affect other parts of the Earth system. Humans are only a small fraction of Earth's biosphere, but our actions have a large impact.
When climate conditions, such as temperature and precipitation, vary from the expected averages this is called climate variability. Natural changes in the Earth system can cause climate variability, but scientists are concerned about climate variability resulting from human-caused climate change.
How has the geosphere impacted Earth’s climate? Typically, the geosphere reacts on geologic timescales, affecting climate slowly and over millions of years. However, the burning of fossil fuels over the last 150 years has sped the impact of the geosphere on climate.
To understand how and why the climate has changed in the past scientists study evidence such as ice cores, coral reefs, and more. Learn about different types of paleoclimate proxies and how they tell the story of Earth's past climate.
Climate change research involves numerous disciplines of Earth system science as well as technology, engineering, and programming. To have a complete picture of how the climate changes we rely on direct measurements, proxy data, and computer modeling.
Accounting for all the energy that enters and leaves the Earth system helps us understand how the planet maintains a habitable temperature. This accounting of energy is known as Earth’s radiation budget.