What is Global Warming?

To understand global warming and its processes, it is necessary to understand the following key definitions:

  1. Global warming and climate change are terms used for the observed century-scale rise in the average temperature of the Earth's climate system and its related effects....Scientists are more than 95% certain that most of global warming is caused by increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases and other human caused (anthropogenic) activities." (from Wikipedia)

  2. Greenhouse gases (GHGs) are gases in the atmosphere that absorb and emit heat radiation within the thermal infrared range. The main greenhouse gases in the Earth's atmosphere arewater vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and ozone.

  3. The heat absorbing and emitting process of the greenhouse gases in our atmosphere are the fundamental cause of what is called the greenhouse effect. For two simple illustrations of the greenhouse effect, please go to: 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greenhouse_effect#/media/File:The_green_house_effect.svg

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greenhouse_effect#/media/File:Greenhouse_Effect.svg

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“The process and effects of global warming are a lot like a pressure cooker being heated on the stove.” --Lawrence Wollersheim

An easy way to understand what greenhouse gases are and do in the global warming process is to imagine a pressure cooker on the stove. First, imagine a pressure cooker filled with water with its lid secured.

Next, imagine that the top layers of the Earth's atmosphere act similarly to the lid on the pressure cooker--only instead of holding the hot water in the pressure cooker, it holds in the Earth's atmosphere.

Recall that a pressure cooker also has a control usually near the top to either hold the steam in or release it. Now imagine that within the earth's atmosphere all of the accumulating greenhouse gases like water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and ozone are like that control on the pressure cooker. This time, instead of holding in or releasing steam, their increasing or decreasing amounts act to hold in or release heat from the sun.

The sun is like the constant flame under the pressure cooker on the stove. Adding more carbon and methane pollution from our fossil fuel burning into the atmosphere helps trap even more heat within the pressure cooker. As you add heat, the water boils and churns in increasingly violent and unpredictable ways.

That “water” heating up inside your imaginary pressure cooker is what we are doing to our atmosphere. We are making our atmosphere hotter, more turbulent, and unpredictable because of the “boiling and churning” of the increasing heat energy trapped within.

Our local weather and global climate is agitated, whirled, and “boiled” with each increase of carbon and methane we add to the atmosphere. This also increases the unpredictability of the weather and climate, and dramatically affects the severity, scale, and frequency of storms, droughts, and extreme temperatures.

That may not be a perfect metaphor scientifically, but it does provide a simple way to visualize our weather and climate as they are steadily heated by the processes of global warming.

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The critical definition of irreversible global warming 

There is one more definition anyone concerned about global warming should know. Irreversible global warming (aka runaway climate change or runaway global warming) is hypothesized to follow a tipping point in the climate system once accumulated global warming initiates a reinforcing positive feedback loop.

This is then thought to cause the global climate to rapidly change (destabilize) until it reaches a new stable state at a new level and range of temperature. This new stable state and new level and range of global temperature within the global climate may stay in that new condition for hundreds or thousands of years or, remain that way permanently. Those are the changes and context implied when the word irreversible is added to global warming.

Astronomers use the expression runaway greenhouse effect which describes the worst state of irreversible global warming as the situation where the climate deviates and destabilizes catastrophically and permanently from its original state—as happened on Venus, causing Venus to lose its complete atmosphere out into space. (From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Runaway_climate_change )

Astronomers use the expression runaway greenhouse effect to describe the situation where the climate deviates catastrophically and permanently from the original state—as happened on Venus, causing Venus to lose its atmosphere. (From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Runaway_climate_change

There is much more information on our website about the global warming emergency. On this website you will also find accurate information for global warming and climate change causes, effects, solutions and dangerous tipping points. You will also find precise definitions for various kinds of global warming, climate change, and greenhouse gases. Please use the following key links below for that additional critical information to better understand escalating global warming, climate change and what they mean to your immediate future. 

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  • commented 2016-10-16 12:38:11 -0700
    Really excellent and clear information. Thanks!