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Understanding Recent Climate Change

Conservation biology 2010 v.24 no.1 pp. 10-17
Earth atmosphere, aerosols, atmospheric circulation, carbon dioxide, climate, environmental impact, gases, global warming, greenhouse effect, greenhouse gas emissions, humans, methane, oceans, surface temperature, Arctic region
The Earth's atmosphere has a natural greenhouse effect, without which the global mean surface temperature would be about 33 °C lower and life would not be possible. Human activities have increased atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, methane, and other gases in trace amounts. This has enhanced the greenhouse effect, resulting in surface warming. Were it not for the partly offsetting effects of increased aerosol concentrations, the increase in global mean surface temperature over the past 100 years would be larger than observed. Continued surface warming through the 21st century is inevitable and will likely have widespread ecological impacts. The magnitude and rate of warming for the global average will be largely dictated by the strength and direction of climate feedbacks, thermal inertia of the oceans, the rate of greenhouse gas emissions, and aerosol concentrations. Because of regional expressions of climate feedbacks, changes in atmospheric circulation, and a suite of other factors, the magnitude and rate of warming and changes in other key climate elements, such as precipitation, will not be uniform across the planet. For example, due to loss of its floating sea-ice cover, the Arctic will warm the most.