In-Depth Climate Fact Sheets

Arctic Amplification Feedbacks and Links to Midlatitude Weather (December 2012)

The recent extreme winter weather in the populated eastern United States, given the last few decades of global warming, presents somewhat of a paradox without an understanding of the connection between Arctic conditions and midlatitude weather. Over the last few decades, the Arctic atmosphere has warmed at about twice the rate of the rest of the globe. This tendency for the North Polar region to exhibit accentuated responses to global temperature trends, the Arctic Amplification (AA), has likely been a common feature of Earth’s climate for millions of years. A closer look at the feedbacks that drive the AA help explain midlatitude winter weather variability.

Heliophysics and Space Weather (November 2012)

Earth’s atmosphere has weather, driven by temperature and pressure differences. But Earth also lies in the larger “atmosphere” of the Sun, the heliosphere, where it is subject to space weather, created by the movements of charged particles and magnetic fields. Probably the best known manifestations of space weather, the northern and southern lights, have dazzled peoples for millennia. But space weather can also have tangible and costly impacts on a modern civilization dependent upon digital, electromechanical and space borne technology. Learn more about what causes space weather and how it can impact you.

Climate and Wildfires in the West, Part 2: Responses to Climate Variability (September 2012)

While wildfire occurrence in the West is generally in equilibrium with the global climate ? more fires occur during periods with warmer global climates and fewer during cooler global climates ? an examination of the natural history of different life zones of the West shows how complex and unique any individual ecosystem’s response to global climate change can be.

Climate and Wildfires in the West, Part 1: Physical and Ecological Setting (August 2012)

The dry and warm conditions throughout much of the West have led to an active 2012 wildfire season, prompting many to discuss the linkages between climate and wildfire. The complexities of the ecosystems of the West, however, coupled with the complexity of the climate system, warrant careful and nuanced statements regarding these connections.

Earth’s Cloud Feedback (July 2012)

Clouds clearly play an important role in regulating Earth’s climate, yet the specifics of this role remain largely enigmatic. Some of the basics about the effects that different types of clouds have on Earth’s climate, however, are becoming clearer. Topics covered in this fact sheet include: How different cloud types at different layers of the atmosphere have different and sometimes opposing effects on Earth’s climate; the concepts of forcings and feedbacks,  the basic mechanisms behind the cloud feedback, and why it has proved particularly difficult for scientists to model; and how recently gathered data is being used to refine theoretical models on cloud formation.

Monitoring Essential Climate Variables (ECVs) (May 2012)

The 44 Essential Climate Variables (ECVs) are Earth’s “vital signs,” which the global geoscience community has established as priorities for monitoring the physical, chemical and biological components of the Earth.

Polar Climate Trends Review: The Antarctic (March 2012)

Polar Climate Trends Review: The Arctic (February 2012)

Earth’s two polar regions feature markedly different geographies and not surprisingly, respond differently to global change. While the ice around the South Pole (the Antarctic) has remained relatively stable over the past 40 years, the ice around the North Pole (the Arctic) has demonstrated dramatic responses to global temperature trends.

Winter Storm Track Variability in the Northern Hemisphere (December 2011)

The simplest definition of a storm track is a region where cyclones – swirling atmospheric eddies that average about 600 miles in diameter – travel frequently. During winter in the Northern Hemisphere midlatitudes, cyclones are an important component of day-to-day weather variability. In the broader climate system, cyclones are an important mechanism for distributing heat and moisture across latitudes from the tropics towards the poles, as well as from relatively warm ocean waters to the atmosphere during winter. This fact sheet discusses the primary source regions for Northern Hemisphere midlatitude cyclones and summarizes some focus areas in storm track research, including topography and Midwinter Storm Track Suppression, and global intensification of storm tracks.

Drought in North America (October 2011)

At the end of September 2011, about ten percent of the United States was in the worst category of drought What is drought and why does it happen? This fact sheet addresses these questions and identifies the general mechanisms that drive drought.

Ocean Ecosystems and Climate Change (September 2011)

This fact sheet provides information on specific climate related variables that impact marine life, and how this life responds.

Advances in Earth Observation Technology (April 2011)

Satellite technology has allowed for extraordinary advances in monitoring and understanding Earth’s dynamic climate. Read about a few recent developments likely to have significant impacts on climate change science.

Coring for Clues: Discovering Climates of the Past (Part 2) (March 2011)

This fact sheet continues the discussion begun in Part 1 of Coring for Clues by highlighting two locations where sediment cores have been particularly useful for paleoclimatology and briefly discussing three other proxy data types.

Coring for Clues: Discovering Climates of the Past (Part 1) (March 2011)

This fact sheet discusses some of the sources and analysis methods paleoclimatologists use to estimate what Earth’s climate was like prior to the current period of instrumental record.

Mid- to Long-Range Weather Forecasting and Winter Weather Prediction (December 2010)

This fact sheet discusses some of the key cycles used to predict America’s weather on time scales longer than a few days, focusing on winter weather prediction.

2010 Atlantic Hurricane Season Wrap-Up and Recent Research Developments (November 2010)

Read about how the 2010 Atlantic hurricane season stacked-up to seasonal outlooks issued in May, what forecasters look for when they issue outlooks, and what made the 2010 Atlantic hurricane season unique.

Climate, Weather and Energy Consumption (September 2010)

Learn how weather variables such as temperature, humidity, wind and cloud cover impact how much energy is needed to keep interior spaces lit and at comfortable temperatures.

Climate and America’s Freshwater (July 2010)

America’s diverse collection of aquatic systems are being affected by global climate trends. These trends have implications for the biological make-up of freshwater ecosystems, as well as water quality and supply.

Ecosystems, Elevation Gradients and Climate Trends (June 2010)

Life zones – areas with specific temperature and moisture conditions, along with plants and animals adapted to those conditions – change as Earth’s climate changes. The connection between changes in climate and changes in life zones is readily illustrated by ecosystem shifts in mountain areas.

Climate Change and Alpine Glaciers (April 2010)

What happens to Earth’s mountain glaciers has consequences for mountain ecosystems, freshwater resources for populations living at lower elevations, sea levels and mountain morphology. Understanding glacier dynamics and recent trends is crucial for understanding changes in the larger climate system.

Climate Variability and Renewable Energy Resources (March 2010)

Renewable sources are becoming a larger component of America’s energy supply. How much wind and solar power can be generated is variable and depends on the weather. Understanding how variations in weather and climate affect electricity generation will help investors and resource planners make more cost effective-decisions.

Tipping Elements and Feedbacks (February 2010)

Many of the large scale features that characterize Earth’s climate today, such as ice sheets, rainforests and wind regimes, are believed to have been in considerably different states tens to hundreds of thousands of years ago. This climate fact sheet discusses some of these changeable components, known as tipping elements

The El Nino-Southern Oscillation (January 2010)

This climate fact sheet provides information about ENSO and related concepts, including coupled systems, ocean-atmosphere interactions and interannual variability.

Climate and Winter Recreation (December 2009)

In this fact sheet, learn how weather and climate influence a 66 billion dollar ski industry that employs 600,000 Americans.

Satellites (November 2009)

Right now, hundreds of satellites are flying through the sky above us, taking measurements of the variables that control Earth’s weather. This fact sheet discusses the basic principles behind satellite-based remote sensing.

Climate and Bird Migration (October 2009)

Learn about how climate changes – such as temperature changes, decreasing snow cover and longer growing seasons – impact bird migration.

Modeling the Earth’s Climate (September 2009)

History and developments in climate modeling. Also read about types of climate models and the differences between weather and climate models.

Climate and Civilizations of the Past (August 2009)

Read about the integral role that climate change played in the development of large scale societies.

Mineral Dust and Climate (July 2009)

Learn about the origins, properties and effects of dust suspended in our atmosphere.

Oscillations and Teleconnections (June 2009)

Information on regular shifts in sea-surface temperature distributions, why these shifts occur, and how they affect your weather.

Paleoclimate: Precambrian Time (May 2009)

The world as we know it, with continents, an oxygen-rich atmosphere and multicellular organisms did not always exist. Learn more about the first four billion years of Earth’s history.

Regional Climate and Precipitation Trends (April 2009)

Learn about regional precipitation trends in the U.S., where there was a seven to 15 percent increase in total accumulated rainfall during the 20th century.

Paleoclimate: The Quaternary Period (March 2009)

This climate fact sheet continues with our theme of the evolution of Earth’s climate system, taking us to the modern world of glacial-interglacial cycles.

Paleoclimate: The Tertiary Period (February 2009)

This fact sheet chronicles the evolution of the Earth’s climate from the demise of the dinosaurs to the beginning of the last ice age.

Winter Storm Track Variability in the Northern Hemisphere (January 2009)

This fact sheet describes some of the latest research on storm tracks and the factors that control their strength and behavior

Using the Sedimentary Record to Understand Climates of the Past (December 2008)

Did you know that cycads and palm trees lived 53 million years ago in what is now Wyoming?  Or that pebbles on the ocean bottom have been used to reconstruct the extent of glaciers during the last ice age?  This is the first of a fact sheet series on paleoclimatology, the study of climate prior to the age of weather records.

Climate Change and the Amazon (November 2008)

Learn about the interactions between Earth’s climate and the Amazon Basin.

Climate Change and Atlantic Circulation (October 2008)

From affecting tropical storm behavior to rainfall patterns to extreme winter temperatures, what happens in the Atlantic Ocean can strongly influence North America’s weather.

Climate and America’s Public Lands (September 2008)

Case studies on climate-driven changes in Glacier National Park, the Boise River Watershed, and Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.

Climate and Ecosystems of the Far North (August 2008)

Information on climate-driven changes the Boreal Forest and Arctic Tundra regions

Agriculture (July 2008)

Describes how things like carbon dioxide concentrations, temperature increases, exteme rainfall events, etc. can impact crops and livestock.

Climate and Mosquitoes (June 2008)

Provides information on mosquito life-cycles, and how climate impacts mosquito populations and mosquito-borne diseases.

North American Wildlife (June 2008)

Information on how recent climate trends have affected North America’s wild animals.

Climate Cycles and Tropical Cyclones (May 2008)

A discussion of how natural climate cycles have likely influenced hurricane frequency and intensity over the past 5,000 years.

North American Terrestrial Ecosystems (May 2008)

Decribes how climate change can affect disturbance regimes, phenology, species composition, and cause life zone shifts.

Public Health (April 2008)

Explores how recent trends such as temperature extremes, longer growing seasons, and milder winters have impacted heat and cold related mortality, airborne allergens, and diseases.

Antarctica (March 2008)

A description of Antarctica’s regions, geologic history, interaction with global climate cycles, and recent trends in different segments of the Continent’s ice.

Drought (December 2007)

Discusses the climate variables that affect the occurrence of drought in the United States, which include the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation, the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, the El Niño Southern Oscillation cycle, and recent unidirectional climate trends.

Ocean Ecosystem Changes (November 2007)

Examples of how a general warming of ocean waters and changes in the behavior of ocean currents are affecting ocean food webs.

Weather Related Disasters (September 2007)

Information on how recent climate trends have affected the frequency and severity of weather related disasters.

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