What is the difference between global warming and climate change?

Although people tend to use these terms interchangeably, global warming is just one aspect of climate change. “Global warming” refers to the rise in global temperatures due mainly to the increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. “Climate change” refers to the increasing changes in the measures of climate over a long period of time – including precipitation, temperature, and wind patterns.

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Does the USGS monitor global warming?

Not specifically. Our charge is to understand characteristics of the Earth, especially the Earth's surface, that affect our Nation's land, water, and biological resources. That includes quite a bit of environmental monitoring. Other agencies, especially NOAA and NASA, are specifically funded to monitor global temperature and atmospheric phenomena...

What is the difference between global warming and climate change?

Although people tend to use these terms interchangeably, global warming is just one aspect of climate change. “Global warming” refers to the rise in global temperatures due mainly to the increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. “Climate change” refers to the increasing changes in the measures of climate over a long period...

What are the long-term effects of climate change?

Scientists have predicted that long-term effects of climate change will include a decrease in sea ice and an increase in permafrost thawing, an increase in heat waves and heavy precipitation, and decreased water resources in semi-arid regions. Below are some of the regional impacts of global change forecast by the Intergovernmental Panel on...

How can climate change affect natural disasters?

With increasing global surface temperatures the possibility of more droughts and increased intensity of storms will likely occur. As more water vapor is evaporated into the atmosphere it becomes fuel for more powerful storms to develop. More heat in the atmosphere and warmer ocean surface temperatures can lead to increased wind speeds in tropical...

Why is climate change happening and what are the causes?

There are many “natural” and “anthropogenic” (human-induced) factors that contribute to climate change. Climate change has always happened on Earth, which is clearly seen in the geological record; it is the rapid rate and the magnitude of climate change occurring now that is of great concern worldwide. Greenhouse gases in the atmosphere absorb...

What is the difference between global warming and climate change?

Although people tend to use these terms interchangeably, global warming is just one aspect of climate change. “Global warming” refers to the rise in global temperatures due mainly to the increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. “Climate change” refers to the increasing changes in the measures of climate over a long period...

What are some of the signs of climate change?

• Temperatures are rising world-wide due to greenhouse gases trapping more heat in the atmosphere. • Droughts are becoming longer and more extreme around the world. • Tropical storms becoming more severe due to warmer ocean water temperatures. • As temperatures rise there is less snowpack in mountain ranges and polar areas and the snow melts...

How do changes in climate and land use relate to one another?

The link between land use and the climate is complex. First, land cover--as shaped by land use practices--affects the global concentration of greenhouse gases. Second, while land use change is an important driver of climate change, a changing climate can lead to changes in land use and land cover. For example, farmers might shift from their...

How do we know the climate is changing?

The scientific community is certain that the Earth's climate is changing because of the trends that we see in the instrumented climate record and the changes that have been observed in physical and biological systems. The instrumental record of climate change is derived from thousands of temperature and precipitation recording stations around the...

Will global warming produce more frequent and more intense wildfires?

There isn’t a direct relationship between climate change and fire, but researchers have found strong correlations between warm summer temperatures and large fire years, so there is general consensus that fire occurrence will increase with climate change. Hot, dry conditions, however, do not automatically mean fire—something needs to create the...

How does carbon get into the atmosphere?

Atmospheric carbon dioxide comes from two primary sources—natural and human activities. Natural sources of carbon dioxide include most animals, which exhale carbon dioxide as a waste product. Human activities that lead to carbon dioxide emissions come primarily from energy production, including burning coal, oil, or natural gas.

How much carbon dioxide does the United States and the World emit each year from energy sources?

The U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates that in 2017, the United States emitted 5.1 billion metric tons of energy-related carbon dioxide , while the global emissions of energy-related carbon dioxide totaled 32.5 billion metric tons.
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Date published: October 17, 2017

Future Temperature and Soil Moisture May Alter Location of Agricultural Regions

Future high temperature extremes and soil moisture conditions may cause some regions to become more suitable for rainfed, or non-irrigated, agriculture, while causing other areas to lose suitable farmland, according to a new U.S. Geological Survey study.  

Date published: January 25, 2017

Changes in Rainfall, Temperature Expected to Transform Coastal Wetlands This Century

Changes in rainfall and temperature are predicted to transform wetlands in the Gulf of Mexico and around the world within the century, a new study from the USGS and the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley concludes.

Date published: November 2, 2016

Walrus Sea-Ice Habitats Melting Away

Habitat for the Pacific walrus in the Chukchi Sea is disappearing from beneath them as the warming climate melts away Arctic sea ice in the spring, forcing the large mammals to “haul out” of the ocean and temporarily live on land.

Date published: July 22, 2016

Old Growth May Help Protect Northwest Birds from Warming Temperatures

Researchers are working to understand how to lessen the impacts of climate change on birds and other forest inhabitants.

Date published: October 26, 2015

Ancient Permafrost Quickly Transforms to Carbon Dioxide upon Thaw

Researchers from the U.S. Geological Survey and key academic partners have quantified how rapidly ancient permafrost decomposes upon thawing and how much carbon dioxide is produced in the process.

Attribution: Water Resources
Date published: April 8, 2015

Scientists Predict Gradual, Prolonged Permafrost Greenhouse Gas Emissions

A new scientific synthesis suggests a gradual, prolonged release of greenhouse gases from permafrost soils in Arctic and sub-Arctic regions, which may afford society more time to adapt to environmental changes, say scientists in a paper published in Nature today. 

Date published: December 4, 2014

Rare Insect Found Only in Glacier National Park Imperiled by Melting Glaciers

The persistence of an already rare aquatic insect, the western glacier stonefly, is being imperiled by the loss of glaciers and increased stream temperatures due to climate warming in mountain ecosystems, according to a new study released in Freshwater Science.

Date published: December 4, 2014

New Heights of Global Topographic Data Will Aid Climate Change Research

The U.S. Geological Survey announced today that improved global topographic (elevation) data are now publicly available for North and South America, Pacific Islands, and northern Europe. Similar data for most of Africa were previously released by USGS in September. 

Date published: October 24, 2012

Not-So-Permanent Permafrost

MENLO PARK, Calif. — As much as 44 billion tons of nitrogen and 850 billion tons of carbon stored in arctic permafrost, or frozen ground, could be released into the environment as the region begins to thaw over the next century as a result of a warmer planet according to a new study led by the U.S. Geological Survey.

Date published: May 24, 2010

Earlier Snowmelt in Colorado Linked to Warmer Air Temperatures and Decreasing Snowfall

Snow in the Colorado mountains is melting significantly earlier in the year, and the changes appear to be related to recent climate trends.

Date published: August 9, 1996

Glaciation, Permafrost and Climate: New Report Describes Diverse Alaskan Terrain

From glaciers and lava flats to white spruce woodlands and bog communities, a new U.S. Geological Survey report will aid scientists, managers and planners in organizing environmental data.

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Image: Two Swimming Polar Bears
March 14, 2016

Two Swimming Polar Bears

Data collected from long distance swims by Polar bears suggest that they do not stop to rest during their journey.

March 26, 2014

Polar Bear Research, B-Roll 1

Spring 2014. USGS scientists conduct a health evaluation of a young male polar bear in the Arctic as part of the annual southern Beaufort Sea population survey. The bear is sedated for approximately an hour while the team records a variety of measurements and collects key biological samples. The annual population survey has been conducted since the mid-1980's and helps

...
Attribution: Region 11: Alaska
November 15, 2012

PubTalk 11/2012 — Understanding Climate-Wildlife Relationships

-- are American pikas harbingers of changing conditions?

by USGS Research Ecologist Erik Beever

 

  • American pikas are denizens of rocky talus and lava-flow habitats in mountain ecosystems across western North America
  • Mountain environments, cauldrons of climatic harshness, exhibit sharp topographic, vegetative, and
...
Image: Collapse-scar bogs formed following permafrost thaw
September 1, 2012

Collapse-scar bogs formed following permafrost thaw

When permafrost thaws, the ground surface subsides and becomes inundated and the black spruce forest growing on the permafrost can no longer survive. Trees teetering and falling over in thawing permafrost are often referred to as "drunken trees." The black spruce forest is replaced by a saturated bog, dominated by sedges and mosses. This wholesale ecological transformation

...
July 19, 2012

Tracking Pacific Walrus: Expedition to the Shrinking Chukchi Sea Ice

Summer ice retreat in the Chukchi Sea between Alaska and Russia is a significant climate change impact affecting Pacific Walruses, which are being considered for listing as a threatened species. This twelve minute video follows walruses in their summer sea ice habitat and shows how USGS biologists use satellite radio tags to track their movements and behavior. The

...
March 25, 2010

PubTalk 3/2010 — Changing Times-- A Changing Planet!

Using phenology to take the pulse of our planet

By Jake F. Weltzin, Executive Director, USA National Phenology Network

  • Citizens, scientists and natural resources managers are teaming-up to track biological events and cycles responding to changing climate
  • Phenology is providing new insights into seasonal changes in
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video thumbnail: USGS Public Lecture Series: Climate Change 101
August 24, 2009

USGS Public Lecture Series: Climate Change 101

Climate change is an issue of increasing public concern because of its potential effects on land, water, and biological resources. In the next several years, the United States will be challenged to make management and policy decisions as well as develop adaptation and mitigation strategies that will require anticipating the effects of a changing climate and its impacts on

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Attribution:
USGS
August 6, 2009

The Cold Facts About Melting Glaciers

Most glaciers in Washington and Alaska are dramatically shrinking in response to a warming climate.

USGS scientist Edward Josberger discusses research from the past 50 years to measure changes in the mass (length and thickness) of three glaciers in Alaska and Washington. These are the longest such records in North America and among the longest in the world.

Image: Permafrost Erosion Measurement
August 6, 2008

Permafrost Erosion Measurement

USGS researcher Benjamin Jones measures erosion near a collapsed block of ice-rich permafrost along Alaska's Arctic coast.

A satellite tagged Pacific walrus on a piece of sea ice
November 30, 2000

A satellite tagged Pacific walrus on a piece of sea ice

A satellite tagged Pacific walrus on a piece of sea ice

Erosion and climate change along Alaska's Arctic Coast
December 31, 1969

Erosion and climate change along Alaska's Arctic Coast

Erosion and climate change along Alaska's Arctic Coast