Glossary of Climate Change Terms

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All the recent talk about climate change can be very confusing to
someone who only knows that they need to have umbrellas ready when it
rains. Here is a glossary of terms commonly associated with climate

  • Aerosol: airborne solid or liquid particles that reside in the atmosphere for – at the very least – several hours; they absorb radiation and act as condensation nuclei for cloud formation.
  • Afforestation: planting new forests on land that did not originally contain forests.
  • Alternate Energy: energy derived from sources that are considered “non-traditional” i.e. solar energy, wind energy, etc.
  • Biomass: the total weight of organisms that can be supported at each level of the food chain; also refers to materials that are biological in origin such as trees, roots, crops, etc.
  • Biosphere: part of the Earth system that contains all living organisms and ecosystems (the atmosphere, the land and the oceans)
  • Carbon Cycle: all parts and fluxes of carbon. The cycle has four main reservoirs: the atmosphere, land, oceans, and sediments. It refers to the exchanges between them.
  • Carbon Dioxide: a naturally occurring gas that is also a by-product of fossil fuels. It’s the main component of greenhouse gases affecting the Earth’s climate.
  • Climate: the “average weather” of the planet, including measurements of precipitation, temperature, and wind. Also seen as the state of the climate system.
  • Climate change: refers to any change in the natural climate that is significant and lasts for extended periods of time (decades or longer)
  • Crysophere: one of the interrelated components of the Earth’s system, this refers to frozen water in the form snow,
    permafrost, glaciers, and frozen ice.
  • Deforestation: any process that results in the conversion of forested lands for non-forest uses. It’s considered to be one of the main causes of the Earth’s enhanced greenhouse gases.
  • Desertification: land degradation that occurs in sub-humid areas that are also arid or semi-arid.
  • Ecosystem: refers to any natural entity (living and non-living) that interacts with something else to produce a stable system or cycle.
  • Emissions: the release of any substance, usually harmful, into the atmosphere.
  • Enhanced Greenhouse Effect: concept that the natural greenhouse affect has been enhanced by the constant emission of
    greenhouse gases.
  •  Fluorocarbons: carbon-fluoride compounds that contain other elements like chlorine, bromine, and hydrogen.
  • Geosphere: refers to the layers of Earth’s crust that contain sediments and soil (includes underwater sediment as well).
  •  Global Warming: an average increase in the actual temperature of the atmosphere in the Earth’s surface and up into the troposphere that contributes to changes in the overall global temperature
  • Greenhouse Effect: the trapping and build-up of heat in the atmosphere near the Earth’s surface that affect the Earth’s overall temperature.
  • Hydrocarbons: substances that contain only carbon and hydrogen such as fossil fuels.
  • Landfill: land waste disposal site that is spread into layers, compacted, and covered with soil.
  • Natural Gas: underground deposits of gases that can be used as fuel sources.
  • Oxidize: to chemically change one substance by combining it with oxygen. Ozone Layer: layer of ozone that shields the Earth from harmful ultraviolet radiation from the sun. It’s currently being eroded.
  • Recycling: the collection and reprocessing of a resource so it can be reused.
  • Troposphere: lowest part of the atmosphere from the surface where clouds and “weather” phenomena occur.
  • Ultraviolet Radiation (UV): the energy range that plays a dominant role in energy balance and chemical composition.

Other Glossaries: