What does “Climate Change” Really Mean?

With the Northbrook Sustainability Study and Survey in the works, understanding climate change is important.  Many people do not understand what the terms global warming and climate change really mean.

Many people argue that there is no global warming as evidenced by the polar vortexes we have been experiencing during our winters here in Chicagoland.  However, in truth, our polar vortexes are the result of global warming.  Global warming is one aspect of climate change and there is a difference between local weather and global climate as affected by climate change.

Climate change is a long-term shift in average weather patterns, either globally or regionally. Climate change has occurred many times in Earth’s history, and for many reasons; however, scientists everywhere agree the changes occurring today are due to human activity and are occurring much more quickly than the natural climate variations of the past. Our climate throughout the world is warming.

According to NASA, today’s global warming is primarily caused by the greenhouse gases released by people burning fossil fuels. Increased greenhouse gases cause world-wide warming temperatures, even when the weather of one particular month in one particular location does not seem any warmer.  For example, warming temperatures are melting Arctic sea ice, changing the temperatures in the oceans.  NASA feels a significant problem is caused by water vapors evaporating from these warming oceans.  These vapors are both a strong greenhouse gas and also put more moisture into the atmosphere.  More moisture in the atmosphere causes heavy erratic weather throughout the world.

Now getting back to our own polar vortex weather.  When the temperatures in the Arctic increase, global warming, that creates a change in the jet stream which creates our weather.  The jet stream, which typically runs west to east, circles around the warmer temperatures and turns north to south bringing us polar temperatures.  Thus, global warming creates sub-zero weather here in Chicagoland.

This is just the tip of the iceberg on the issue, or what is left of the iceberg after global warming.  Hopefully, these few words help to explain what is meant by climate change and global warming, and how that differs from every day weather.