All animal life depends first and foremost on a satisfactory climate to survive. We live in the Cenozoic age marked by the greatest biodiversity ever. It is the age of mammals, vast forests, birds and flowering plants that developed out of the age of the dinosaurs that ended 65 million years ago. We all depend on the limited range or stability of climate that we, evolved under to survive and prosper.
DEFINITION:Climate is weather over a long period of time.
The average weather conditions of a region over a designated time - 30 years by the World Meteorological Organization. However we need to think in terms of hundreds of thousands of years to understand climate.
Climate is global, regional and even local. Global climate is the average of the climates in all regions over decades (at a minimum. )
'The meteorological conditions, including temperature, precipitation, and wind, that characteristically prevail in a particular region.' WMO
The scientific definition of the climate includes all the major natural factors and climate components that determine the state of the climate.
We now know that this is a co-evolving planet. Species ecosytems (life) and climate have all co-evolved together over ages of time. This process depends on unimaginable ages of time.
The planet's climate swings in and out of ice ages. We now know from the ice cores that it is the concentrations of atmospheric carbon dioxide and methane that act as the thermostat of the planet's climate.
Industrial (fossil fueled) civilization is pouring carbon into the atmosphere at a rate thousands of faster than has ever happened to planet Earth.
We are now rapidly altering the climate that we and our primate ancestors have evolved in.
We are creating a wrecked planet that will be hostile to our descendants.
We are very lucky because we were born on the Goldilocks planet. It is one life's miracles that Earth is not too cold like Mars nor too hot like Venus, but just right for life.
Earth has a climate that supports a great diversity of life. We are very lucky because we were born at the time of the greatest diversity and abundance of life on Earth.
We are also very lucky that the climate is so predictably moderate at this time (past 10,000 years) that agriculture is so successful.
We have the climate to thanks for all this good fortune.
All life on Earth depends on the stability of the planet's climate for survival.
The climate system of our planet is made up primarily by the vast size of two systems- the atmosphere and the oceans. Planet Earth remember is mainly water. We inhabit the Water planet we call Earth. The oceans ultimately control the climate.
Next in line of importance comes the remaining great forests of the planet the largest being the far northern Boreal forest and the Amazon. The Boreal in fact stores far more carbon than the Amazon.
The essential scientific characteristic of the planet's climate system is great inertia or very long lag times in response to a change. After all Water planet Earth is a mighty big place to change. The useful simple analogy is the response of a super tanker to changing course/ slowing down/stopping.
Species and climate have evolved together
This UNEP illustration shows three main energy balance factors:
- solar energy in,
- atmospheric chemistry (greenhouse gases),
- albedo cooling sends solar energy back out.
Wind and ocean circulations are the result of energy differences between the poles and the tropics.
Greenhouse gases are special because their atomic structure makes them become energized when in the atmosphere by the radiant energy of the Earth. Greenhouse gases are very powerful heat energy radiators.
Even though CO2 and methane are trace gases present as minute concentrations in the atmosphere they swing the temperature of the planet in and out of ice ages.
Carbon dioxide exerts a great influence over the climate because it is so long lasting in the atmosphere radiating heat energy constantly. Twenty per cent of all CO2 emitted lasts in the atmosphere for 1000 years.
Climate and weather are the result of energy
affecting the planet.
Click on image to enlarge
We experience climate and weather as energy:
heat energy, wind energy and hydrological (water) energy.
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Climate determines survival
What is climate? The physiology of planet Earth that sustains all life.
- Energy balance of Earth
- Co evolution of species ecosystems and climate.
- Climate system components
- Components in action on climate
- History of climate from hundreds to millions of years.