Articles on Earth’s climate system, cloud formation, albedo, feedback loops & tipping points. Learn about changing El Nino/La Nina weather patterns, plus climate adaptation, green infrastructure, sponge cities, and much more.

Madden–Julian Oscillation storm clouds off Fiji

Madden-Julian Oscillation Explained

The Madden-Julian Oscillation (MJO) is a tropical weather cycle that moves eastwards around the globe with a life-span of about 30-60 days. Usually, it appears over the western Indian Ocean, before moving east across the Indo-Pacific Maritime Continent and into the warmer waters of the Western Pacific Ocean – a journey which takes about a month – bringing with it heavy rainfall and strong winds. As it moves, it affects meteorological conditions in several different parts of the globe.

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el nino storm wave enters woman's house, California

What is the El Niño-Southern Oscillation?

How Does the El Niño-Southern Oscillation weather system work? How does it affect global weather? How do oceanographers distinguish El Niño from La Niña? Is the system affected by climate change? What are the economic effects? We provide all the answers.

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Climate Tipping Point Miami Beach Rising Sea Level

Climate Tipping Points

We look at 8 major climate tipping points: the Antarctic ice sheet, the Amazon rainforest, deep-water currents, permafrost, the Greenland ice cap, ecological shifts in the taiga, coral reefs and “Hothouse Earth”.

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Heat Stress from Heatwave Pakistan

Heatwaves: An Effect of Global Warming

What Causes Heatwaves? What are the health effects of extreme heat? What are urban heat islands? How does heat affect crops? How hot will heatwaves become? How to adapt to extreme temperatures? We answer these questions and more.

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Extreme weather events - chasing a tornado in Wyoming

Extreme Weather Events

We investigate to what extent global warming affects extreme weather events, such as droughts, heatwaves, marine heatwaves, floods, hurricanes or other meteorological events. Are they becoming more frequent and/or more severe?

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Stadtschwamm, Germany, Green Roofs

Sponge Cities – A Solution To Urban Flooding?

As global warming intensifies, the world is getting warmer and wetter. Flood control is therefore becoming a much higher priority, especially for low-lying cities. Hence the emergence of a new urban planning concept: the “sponge city”. How do sponge cities prevent urban flooding? What are their main features? We explain all you need to know.

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Climate Adaptation: Low Lying Coastal Homes

What Is Climate Change Adaptation?

The new phrase “climate change adaptation” is used by scientists to describe actions designed to cushion the effects of global warming. It’s not about preventing or limiting climate change, it’s simply about coping with its consequences. In this article we explain all you need to know, including how the United Nations is dealing with the issue.

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How Clouds Affect Climate Change

How Do Clouds Affect Climate?

Clouds are a highly complex feature of our climate set-up. They exert both a warming and a cooling effect on the surface of the planet. We explain the different types and their overall effect on climate change. We also look at a new way of measuring cloud properties from space and outline a new theory that predicts the disintegration of clouds.

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Climate Science Guide

Climate Science: A Simple Guide

Climate science looks at long term weather patterns that have established themselves now, or will do in the future. Its cousin, paleoclimatology, looks at ancient climates. In this article we take a quick look at how climate data is collected, how the data is modelled using computers, and how the climate denial movement rejects mainstream climate science.

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Climate Forcings: Sun Reflects Off Snow

Climate Forcings and Drivers

We begin with ‘Earth’s Energy Budget’ and radiative equilibrium, before explaining ‘radiative forcings’ – the primary causes of climate change – as well as ‘climate drivers’ and ‘climate feedbacks’. We also ask: how high will radiative forcing be in the future? and examine the representative concentration pathways” (RCPs) produced by the IPCC.

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Permafrost Melting in Siberian Tundra

What Are Climate Feedbacks?

Climate feedbacks are processes or mechanisms that either amplify or diminish the effects of climate forcings. We examine the 11 main climate feedbacks involving water vapor, ice albedo, rainforest drying, methane release, decomposition, clouds, black carbon albedo and more. We also distinguish climate tipping points.

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Earths Climate System Explained

Earth’s Climate System: How Does It Work?

Earth’s climate system is a complex series of processes involving the different physical parts of the planet and the biogeochemical networks that support them. We explain the role of deep-water circulation, polar ice, lithification, and the biosphere. We also explain the external forcings that affect the climate system as well as the impact of global warming.

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Albedo Effect: Artic Water and Ice

What Is Albedo Effect?

The term “albedo” refers to how much sunlight is reflected back into space by a body or surface (snow, seawater, forests etc). We examine the albedo of the most common surfaces and explain how they affect Earth’s temperature and global warming.

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What Are Climate Models?

We look at the various types of computer-based climate models that allow us to understand complex climatic processes and to make forecasts about future climate over long time periods. We assess the accuracy of projections made by certain models.

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Information & Facts about Climate

• The difference between climate and weather is time. Weather is the rain which falls over a weekend. Climate is weather averaged over a much longer period of time (at least 30 years). Normally, climate takes centuries to change. However, the climate change we are experiencing today is happening much faster, which is why it is so unnatural.

• 19 out of the 20 warmest years all have occurred since 2001. 

• About 70 percent of Earth’s surface is covered by clouds at any given time. It's cloudier over sea than land. 

• Heatwaves are becoming more frequent. In the 1960s, most major cities in the United States experienced heatwaves twice a year. Now, it is 6 times a year.

• Sometimes climate variability is triggered not by global warming but by regional weather cycles, like the El Niño–Southern oscillation (ENSO), the Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD), the Madden–Julian oscillation (MJO), the Northern Annular Mode (NAM) and the North Atlantic oscillation. However, even here, the extent of the variation can be influenced by climate change.

• Warm air holds more moisture. In fact, air holds about 7 percent more moisture for every 1°C rise in temperature. So, if Planet Earth heats up by 4°C, there will be around 28 percent more water vapor in the atmosphere. In other words, expect lots more rain.

• According to the United Nations Environment Programme the cost of the changes needed to adapt to a warming world is around US$ 140 billion per year. That's roughly 2 percent of global GDP.

• Climate feedbacks are mechanisms that amplify or reduce global warming. A good illustration of a positive feedback are forest fires. High temperature dries out the forest, creating tinderbox conditions. Lightning then ignites the dry forest biomass which burns down a wide expanse of forest, sending a plume of CO2 into the atmosphere. This CO2 causes more heat to be trapped in the atmosphere causing more global warming, which dries out the forest even more, and so on.