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Climate Change: Is It Really Happening?

Updated on January 13, 2013

We hear the term "climate change" quite a bit these days. What exactly is it? What definitions are being used? What does this imply for humans on earth?

Does climate change have anything to do with:

  • Record frigid temperatures in China in 2013?
  • The non-characteristic timing and location of Hurricane Sandy?
  • The fact that 2012 was the warmest year ever according to the National Climatic Data Center?

Scientists are bringing forth stronger evidence than ever before to indicate that global climate change, and more specifically, global warming, is happening at alarming rates.

A Definition

According to the Department of Ecology in Washington State, "climate change" and "global warming" are two different things, although many people use the terms interchangeably.

  • Global warming causes climates to change. "Global warming" refers to rising global temperatures, while “climate change” includes other more specific kinds of changes, too. Warmer global temperatures in the atmosphere and oceans leads to climate changes affecting rainfall patterns, storms and droughts, growing seasons, humidity, and sea level. -

  • “Global warming” is planet-wide, “climate change” can refer to changes at the global, continental, regional and local levels. -

According to, climate change is:

  • a long-term change in the earth's climate, especially a change due to an increase in the average atmospheric temperature.

China's Record Low Temperatures

China is recording record low temperatures this winter (2012/2013). The average temperatures this winter have not been this low for over 40 years. What do record-low temperatures have to do with climate change when the change is supposedly warming the globe rather than freezing it? Chinese scientists are blaming the below-average temperatures on global warming. More specifically, it is the polar fronts caused by global warming that are the cause of the frigid temperatures.

Across China, the average temperature this winter, so far, has been 25.2 degrees Fahrenheit with the northwest region of the country averaging 4.5 degrees Fahrenheit so far. These temperatures are the lowest in 42 years.

The polar fronts affecting China are the result of the Arctic Polar Cap shrinking from global warming. Due to the overall warming of the ocean's waters, the Arctic Cap is melting, sending the polar fronts south into China. Atmospheric change over the years due to man-made pollutants has now caught up to us and is now affecting our overall temperatures.

Hurricane Sandy

Polar caps melting is directly related to overall ocean temperatures increasing over time due to climate change. With increasing overall temperatures comes rising sea levels. Less of the water is in ice form and more of it is liquid. The rising sea levels caused larger-than-normal storm surges in Hurricane Sandy's case when it hit the East Coast, specifically New York and New Jersey, on October 25, 2012.

Climatologists also believe that the air masses, which have also been changing due to global warming, caused Sandy to take a deadly turn toward land while it was brewing out at sea. Although climate change is not the cause of hurricanes, it is the cause of the increased intensity of the storms. Sandy's impact was much more severe because of the changing atmosphere and ocean temperatures.

What Do You Think?

Do You Believe in Climate Change?

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Overall Warming

According to scientists, 2012 was the warmest year ever recorded. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has officially declared 2012 the hottest year. It surpasses a record hit in 1998 by one degree, Fahrenheit. This is significant, as temperature changes from year to year are usually measured in tenths of degrees.

The year 2012, when divided by the seasons, will be noted as:

  • the fourth-warmest winter
  • the warmest spring
  • the second-warmest summer
  • a warmer-than-average fall

According to Jake Crouch, a climate scientist for NOAA, "Climate change has had a role in this." Even though there is no knowing, at this point, how much of the earth's increased warmth is from natural variations that occur and how much of it is exactly as a direct result of human negligence and pollution.

Awareness is Key

No matter what your opinion is of global warming and climate change, it is always good to be aware of what is going on. Scientists have data to back up their claims that some of the more recent weather-related phenomenon that we've seen around the world are directly a result of warming temperatures and changes in climate. Much of the change is stemming from the Arctic Polar Cap melting.

As inhabitants of this planet, we need to be more aware and take care in protecting the future of the Earth.


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    • gypsumgirl profile image

      gypsumgirl 5 years ago from Vail Valley, Colorado

      Watergeek: Thank you for your thoughts and input. I would agree that the natural cycle has been affected. I appreciate the explanation of weather extremes.

    • watergeek profile image

      watergeek 5 years ago from Pasadena CA

      I do agree with you, gypsumgirl, that the changes we're seeing in the weather are a reflection of climate change. And I believe that a related and unexamined issue is the polarization of the water cycle. Water stabilizes the earth's temperatures, and feeds trees and other plants that breathe carbon dioxide.

      Humans have been so busy grabbing whatever water we can find that we haven't paid attention to what we're doing to Nature's cycle. With the uncontrolled growth of cities and their unintentional effects, we have stopped rain from falling where it used to and blocked the earth from recharging itself where we've used up the water that was underground. This has polarized rainfall worldwide, so there are more intense floods in some areas and more intense droughts in others, i. e. extreme weather events.