2018: Breathing Easy in a Changing Climate
CLIMATE CHANGE GLOSSARY:
- Weather: Atmospheric condition at any given time or place. It is measured in terms of such things as wind, temperature, humidity, atmospheric pressure, cloudiness, and precipitation. Climate in a narrow sense is usually defined as the “average weather”, or more rigorously, as the statistical description in terms of the mean and variability of relevant quantities over a period of time ranging from months to thousands or millions of years. A simple way of remembering the difference is that climate is what you expect (e.g. cold winters) and ‘weather’ is what you get (e.g. a blizzard).
- Climate: Climate in a narrow sense is usually defined as the “average weather,” or more rigorously, as the statistical description in terms of the mean and variability of relevant quantities over a period of time ranging from months to thousands of years.
- Climate change: Refers to any significant change in the measures of climate lasting for an extended period of time. In other words, climate change includes major changes in temperature, precipitation, or wind patterns, among others, that occur over several decades or longer.
- Global Warming: The recent and ongoing global average increase in temperature near the Earth’s surface.
- Heat Waves: A prolonged period of excessive heat, often combined with excessive humidity.
- Greenhouse Effect: Trapping and build-up of heat in the atmosphere (troposphere) near the Earth’s surface. Some of the heat flowing back toward space from the Earth’s surface is absorbed by water vapor, carbon dioxide, ozone, and several other gases in the atmosphere and then reradiated back toward the Earth’s surface. If the atmospheric concentrations of these greenhouse gases rise, the average temperature of the lower atmosphere will gradually increase.
- Greenhouse Gas (GHG): Any gas that absorbs infrared radiation in the atmosphere. Greenhouse gases include: carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, ozone, etc.
- Carbon Dioxide: A naturally occurring gas, and also a byproduct of burning fossil fuels and biomass, as well as land-use changes and other industrial processes. It is the principal human caused greenhouse gas that affects the Earth’s radiative balance.
- Methane (CH4): A hydrocarbon that is a greenhouse gas with a global warming potential most recently estimated at 25 times that of carbon dioxide (CO2). Methane is produced through decomposition of waste in landfills, animal digestion, decomposition of animal wastes, production and distribution of natural gas and petroleum, coal production, and incomplete fossil fuel combustion.
- Ozone: In the troposphere, it is created by photochemical reactions involving gases resulting both from natural sources and from human activities (photochemical smog). In high concentrations, tropospheric ozone can be harmful to a wide range of living organisms. Tropospheric ozone acts as a greenhouse gas. Stratospheric ozone plays a decisive role in the stratospheric radiative balance. Depletion of stratospheric ozone, due to chemical reactions that may be enhanced by climate change.
- Energy Efficiency: Using less energy to provide the same service.
- Renewable Energy: Energy resources that are naturally replenishing such as biomass, hydro, geothermal, solar, wind, ocean thermal, wave action, and tidal action.
- Vulnerability: The degree to which a system is susceptible to, or unable to cope with, adverse effects of climate change, including climate variability and extremes. Vulnerability is a function of the character, magnitude, and rate of climate variation to which a system is exposed; its sensitivity; and its adaptive capacity.
(Definitions from: “Glossary of Climate Change Terms,” Environmental Protection Agency)