Earth has warmed by about 1°F over the past 100 years. But why? And how? Well, scientists are not exactly sure. The Earth could be getting warmer on its own, but many of the world's leading climate scientists think that things people do are helping to make the Earth warmer.
The Greenhouse Effect: Scientists are sure about the greenhouse effect. They know that greenhouse gases make the Earth warmer by trapping energy in the atmosphere.
Climate Change: Climate is the long-term average of a region's weather events lumped together. For example, it's possible that a winter day in Buffalo, New York, could be sunny and mild, but the average weather - the climate - tells us that Buffalo's winters will mainly be cold and include snow and rain. Climate change represents a change in these long-term weather patterns. They can become warmer or colder. Annual amounts of rainfall or snowfall can increase or decrease.
Global Warming: Global warming refers to an average increase in the Earth's temperature, which in turn causes changes in climate. A warmer Earth may lead to changes in rainfall patterns, a rise in sea level, and a wide range of impacts on plants, wildlife, and humans. When scientists talk about the issue of climate change, their concern is about global warming caused by human activities.
Much of the information in this section (including text and images) has been sourced from the United States Environmental Protection Agency. Visit the EPA website to learn more.