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Evidence for Climate Change

One of the main topics in GCSE Geography is climate change, or global warming. This is one of four quizzes on the subject and it looks specifically at the evidence for the theory of global warming.

How can you measure sea level change? Imagine you are standing at the beach with a ruler. The waves come in and out changing the sea level there over seconds. Each day the tidal cycle changes the sea level and that changes during the lunar cycle. Even If you can prove that the sea level has changed - is it really the sea level changing, or is the land rising or falling?

New technologies, including satellites, are allowing scientists to measure the small changes that show that the world's climate is altering faster than ever before. The main areas of evidence that you need to be aware of include sea level rise, global temperature rise, warming oceans, shrinking ice sheets, declining Artic sea ice, glacial retreat, extreme events, ocean acidification and decreased snow cover.

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Scientists have been aware that CO2 is a cause of global warming since the mid-1800s, but it’s taken over 150 years for governments to come together to start tackling the issues caused by the uncontrolled release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Whilst you might read information that disagrees with this, and be told that climate change is a myth, the majority of scientists agree that anthropogenic, or man-made, climate change is occurring. Using computer models scientists are able to predict what is happening and what the future holds with a reasonable degree of certainty.

The evidence for climate change is overwhelming. The massive amounts of data that can be gathered from monitoring stations, satellites, and even data from ships and mobile data gathering sensors are building up a clearer picture regarding where our climate is at present and where it’s going.

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  1. What is the evidence that anthropogenic (man-made) causes are behind the rise in CO2 levels?
    For the past 60 or so years the trend in the graph has been an almost vertical rise in the amount of carbon in the atmosphere
  2. What is the evidence for climate change from glaciers and ice sheets?
    Ice sheets are melting at an alarming rate. Greenland loses around 250 - 300 cubic kilometres of ice per year
  3. How might scientists monitor snow coverage?
    NASA's Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer collects data on the snow coverage from the Terra satellite
  4. What part of the planet absorbs most of the temperature increase?
    The oceans are warming. Whilst the average rise is only very slight, it shows that the trend is that everything is getting warmer
  5. The Earth's oceans are becoming more acidic. How have human actions caused this?
    The amount of carbon (in the form of carbon dioxide) being absorbed by the upper layers of the ocean has increased by an estimated 2 billion tons per year
  6. Extreme events are an obvious source of evidence for climate change. In terms of warmest summers on record what has been the trend in the twenty-first century?
    Since 1981 twenty of the warmest years on record have occurred and ten of the warmest years on record occurred between 2002 and 2014
  7. The extent and thickness of the Artic sea ice is reducing each year. But what other technique can be used on the ice to gather evidence for climate change?
    Ice cores can be used to show the amount of snow fall and the trapped air bubbles can be used to measure the atmospheric content going back thousands of years
  8. Solar output is the amount of energy given off by the Sun. From 2007-2009 the solar output declined so much that this period is known as a solar minimum. What happened to the Earth's surface temperatures during this time?
    Even during the solar minimum, average global surface temperatures continued to rise, demonstrating the insulating effects of the greenhouse gases
  9. How much have sea levels risen in the past 100 years?
    Whilst 17cm might not sound like much, it's double the rise of the previous century
  10. Why can't NASA's Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer collect data on the snow coverage at the poles during their respective winters?
    The lack of light means that for part of the year there is no way to gather the data on the poles, but at present scientists can still be sure that there is plenty of snow on the poles during the depths of winter

Author: Ruth M

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