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Global Climate Change Definition Sheet

To adjust to changes in environmental variables.

The responsive adjustment of a sense organ (as the eye) to varying conditions; the process of adapting to something (such as environmental conditions).

Having to do with man, or caused by humans.

The area in which all air exists; this sphere contains all of the gases that surround the earth.

A property of ecosystems related to the number of different plant and animal species they contain.

Scientific study of the interactions among the biological, geological, and chemical systems of Earth, including the cycling of matter and energy through them; biogeochemical (adverb).

The amount of living matter (as in a unit area or volume of habitat)

Major division of the ecological communities on Earth characterized by the plant and animal life of that region.

The area in which all living things exist; this sphere includes all of the microorganisms, plants, and animals of Earth, even humans.

Relating to or located in northern or and mountainous parts of the northern hemisphere

Carbon sink
A place where carbon accumulates and is stored. For example, plants and trees are carbon sinks; they accumulate carbon dioxide during the process of photosynthesis and store it in their tissues as carbohydrates and other organic compounds.

Carbon source
A place where carbon is produced or released. For example, plants release carbon in the form of carbon dioxide when their tissues are broken down during combustion. In addition, cars release carbon dioxide as they burn gasoline, and power plants release carbon dioxide when they burn fossil fuels to generate electricity.

Chlorofluorocarbon (CFC)
Anthropogenic aerosol compound containing chlorine, fluorine, and carbon that is used in propellants, refrigerants, and solvents; freon.

Long-term pattern of weather that characterizes a region.

2 Sequestration
The process of removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and making it unavailable for release back to the air.

The sum total of earth's fresh water supply that is locked up in frozen forms including polar ice, mountain glaciers, permafrost and snow.

An area of low-pressure often associated with stormy weather.

The removal of trees from a previously pristine area, generally by logging to obtain lumber products.

Communities of plants, animals and bacteria, generally composed of producers, consumers and decomposers, that share a common physical and chemical environment.

Substance that is released or discharged, usually into the air; emit (verb).

Enhanced Oil and Gas Recovery (EOR) (EGR)
In some cases, production from an oil reservoir can be enhanced by pumping CO
2 gas into the reservoir to push out the product, which is called enhanced oil recovery (EOR). This can also be done in natural gas reservoirs, in which case the process is called enhanced gas recovery (EGR).

Eustatic Sea Level Change
Changes in sea level caused by changes in the water volume of the world's oceans, such as those brought about by the formation or melting of mountain glaciers and polar ice caps.

The movement of gaseous water (water vapor) from the Earth's surface to the atmosphere; evaporate (verb).

Fixation of carbon
Another name for the photosynthetic process, whereby carbon is removed from the air and "fixed" or incorporated into plant tissues.

A shorthand term for the "fixation of carbon," which is the process by which plants remove CO
2 from the air and incorporate it into their tissues.

Food chain
A sequence of organisms in an ecosystem in which each member feeds on the member below it.

Fossil fuels
Deposits of organic matter that have been altered over geologic time (since the Earth's formation) and can be burned for energy; for example, coal, crude oil, and natural gas.

Global carbon cycle
The cyclical movement of carbon within the biosphere. Carbon is primarily removed from the air by plants during photosynthesis and by dissolving in bodies of water. Carbon is generally returned to the air via biological respiration, decomposition of organic matter, volcanic activity, and society's industrial activities, including the combustion of fossil fuels.

Global climate change
A change in the long-term weather patterns that are characteristic of regions of the world.

Greenhouse gas (ghg)
Gases such as water vapor, carbon dioxide and methane that are relatively transparent to the short wavelength solar radiation that emanates from the sun but that are fairly opaque to the longer wavelength thermal radiation that emanates from the surface of a planet.  Other greenhouse gases include Nitrous oxide, HFC's, SF
6 and CFC's but will not be covered in depth in this unit.

A tropical cyclone with winds in excess of 64 knots (74 mph).

An organic chemical compound consisting only of carbon and hydrogen atoms in the gaseous, liquid or solid phase. (Greek hydor, water + Latin, carbo, charcoal).

The area in which water exists; for the purpose of this module, this sphere includes all liquid water on Earth, such as rivers, lakes and oceans, all frozen waters such as glaciers, icebergs, and polar icecaps, and all water vapor.

A supposition or idea about something. In the scientific realm, it generally relates to physical or chemical interactions among various entities of nature.

Ice age
A period of extensive glaciation over large portions of earth's continents accompanied by reduced global temperature and changes in atmospheric circulation.

An immediate underlying concern applied to a specific situation or issue that usually reflects a person's personal interest or motivation.  Competing interests result from a difference in perspective and motivation. 

Isostatic Sea Level Change
Changes in sea level caused by the rising or falling of various portions of the earth's crust.

To act in such a way as to cause an offense to seem less serious.  Related to climate change, mitigation refers to actions that reduce greenhouse gas emissions at their source or actions that remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.

Particulate matter
Small particles of matter such as dust and soot that are suspended in the air.

Parts per million (ppm)
Unit of measure most often used to describe the amount of a particular gas or compound in the air or water; it is the proportion of the number of molecules of the gas or compound out of a million (1,000,000,000) molecules of air or water.

The process by which plants use sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide to produce their food.
Planetary degassing
Any process that results in the escape of volatile substances from the crust of a planet. An example is the release of CO
2 to earth's atmosphere via volcanoes.

Plate tectonics
A theory explaining the present and past locations of continents due to massive crustal movement.

Preferred Action
What the stakeholder thinks should be done about the specific issue; what action, if any, the stakeholder says should be taken.

The movement of liquid or solid water (rain, sleet, snow, etc.) from the atmosphere to the Earth's surface; precipitate (verb).

Precipitation Efficiency
The efficiency with which atmospheric moisture is converted to precipitation, often described as the ratio of precipitation to total available moisture.

Proxy data
Data obtained from objects that are sensitive to climatic phenomena. Some examples are tree ring widths, ice cores, pollen deposits, glacier lengths and deep sea sediments. Analyses of such data can be used to provide estimates of past climate conditions, such as temperature, precipitation, or wind speed.

Shade-intolerant species
Plants that typically grow in places that receive lots of direct sunlight. They generally have high relative growth rates, highly-regulated stomata and thin leaves.

Shade-tolerant species
Plants that typically grow in places that receive less than full sunlight, such as the lower levels of a forest. They generally have low relative growth rates, open stomata and thick densely-packed leaves.

Those individuals, groups, organizations and/or institutions who have a role in the problem and/or its solution and a stake in the outcome.

Of or relating to land as distinct from air or water

Having to do with elevation or "lay of the land," i.e., surface features

Urban heat island
A region of warmer air temperature (relative to the surrounding countryside) in a metropolitan area. Urban heat islands have been documented to exist in cities with as few as a thousand inhabitants.

Those processes collectively that result in the formation of volcanoes and their products.

Short-term (daily) changes in temperature, wind, and/or precipitation in a region

Definitions modified from and

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