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{{hatnote|This page presents a general overview of Earth's climate system. An introduction to how Earth's climate can change is found at Climate change, and discussion of the current warming of the climate system is presented at global warming. For other uses of "climate", see Climate (disambiguation)}}(File:Köppen-Geiger Climate Classification Map (1980–2016) no borders.png|alt=Map of world dividing climate zones, largely influenced by latitude. The zones, going from the equator upward (and downward) are Tropical, Dry, Moderate, Continental and Polar. There are subzones within these zones.|thumb|upright=2|Worldwide Köppen climate classifications){{short description|Statistics of weather conditions in a given region over long periods}}{{atmospheric sciences}}{{Weather}}On Earth, interactions between the five parts of the climate system that produce daily weather and long-term averages of weather are called "climate".WEB, Planton, Serge (France; editor), Annex III. Glossary: IPCC – Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change,weblink 2013, PDF, IPCC Fifth Assessment Report, 1450, 25 July 2016,weblink" title="">weblink 2016-05-24, dead, WEB, Shepherd, Dr. J. Marshall, Shindell, Drew, O'Carroll, Cynthia M., What's the Difference Between Weather and Climate?,weblink 1 February 2005, NASA, 13 November 2015, Some of the meteorological variables that are commonly measured are temperature, humidity, atmospheric pressure, wind, and precipitation. The climate of a location is affected by its latitude, terrain, and altitude, as well as nearby water bodies and their currents.In a broader sense, the "climate" of a region is the general state of the climate system at that location at the current time.Climates can be classified according to the average and the typical ranges of different variables, most commonly temperature and precipitation. The most commonly used classification scheme was the Köppen climate classification. The Thornthwaite system,JOURNAL, 10.2307/210739,weblink C. W. Thornthwaite, An Approach Toward a Rational Classification of Climate, Geographical Review, 38, 1, 55–94, 1948, 210739, in use since 1948, incorporates evapotranspiration along with temperature and precipitation information and is used in studying biological diversity and how climate change affects it. The Bergeron and Spatial Synoptic Classification systems focus on the origin of air masses that define the climate of a region.Paleoclimatology is the study of ancient climates. Since direct observations of climate are not available before the 19th century, paleoclimates are inferred from proxy variables that include non-biotic evidence such as sediments found in lake beds and ice cores, and biotic evidence such as tree rings and coral. Climate models are mathematical models of past, present and future climates. Climate change may occur over long and short timescales from a variety of factors; recent warming is discussed in global warming. Global warming results in redistributions. For example, "a 3{{formatnum:}}°C change in mean annual temperature corresponds to a shift in isotherms of approximately 300–400 km in latitude (in the temperate zone) or 500 m in elevation. Therefore, species are expected to move upwards in elevation or towards the poles in latitude in response to shifting climate zones".BOOK, Biological consequences of globalwarming: is the signal already, Hughes, Lesley, 2000, 56, JOURNAL, Hughes, Leslie, Biological consequences of global warming: is the signal already apparent?,weblink 1 February 2000, Trends in Ecology and Evolution, 15, 2, 56–61, 10.1016/S0169-5347(99)01764-4, November 17, 2016,


(File:WorldMap cold hot.svg|thumb|Generalistic map of global temperature in simple warm and cold differential.)(File:WorldMap cold warm hot.svg|thumb|Same but in threefold levels of temperature differential.)Climate (from Ancient Greek klima, meaning inclination) is commonly defined as the weather averaged over a long period.ENCYCLOPEDIA, Climate, Glossary of Meteorology, American Meteorological Society,weblink 2008-05-14, The standard averaging period is 30 years,WEB,weblink Climate averages, 2008-05-17, Met Office, dead,weblink" title="">weblink 2008-07-06, but other periods may be used depending on the purpose. Climate also includes statistics other than the average, such as the magnitudes of day-to-day or year-to-year variations. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 2001 glossary definition is as follows:
Retrieved on 2007-06-01.}}
The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) describes climate "normals" as "reference points used by climatologists to compare current climatological trends to that of the past or what is considered 'normal'. A Normal is defined as the arithmetic average of a climate element (e.g. temperature) over a 30-year period. A 30 year period is used, as it is long enough to filter out any interannual variation or anomalies, but also short enough to be able to show longer climatic trends."WEB, Climate Data and Data Related Products, World Meteorological Organization,, dead, 1 October 2014, 1 September 2015, The WMO originated from the International Meteorological Organization which set up a technical commission for climatology in 1929. At its 1934 Wiesbaden meeting the technical commission designated the thirty-year period from 1901 to 1930 as the reference time frame for climatological standard normals. In 1982 the WMO agreed to update climate normals, and these were subsequently completed on the basis of climate data from 1 January 1961 to 31 December 1990.WEB, Commission For Climatology: Over Eighty Years of Service, 2011, World Meteorological Organization,, 6, 8, 10, 21, 26, 1 September 2015, The difference between climate and weather is usefully summarized by the popular phrase "Climate is what you expect, weather is what you get."National Weather Service Office Tucson, Arizona. Main page. Retrieved on 2007-06-01. Over historical time spans there are a number of nearly constant variables that determine climate, including latitude, altitude, proportion of land to water, and proximity to oceans and mountains. These change only over periods of millions of years due to processes such as plate tectonics. Other climate determinants are more dynamic: the thermohaline circulation of the ocean leads to a 5 Â°C (9 Â°F) warming of the northern Atlantic Ocean compared to other ocean basins.Stefan Rahmstorf The Thermohaline Ocean Circulation: A Brief Fact Sheet. Retrieved on 2008-05-02. Other ocean currents redistribute heat between land and water on a more regional scale. The density and type of vegetation coverage affects solar heat absorption,Gertjan de Werk and Karel Mulder. Heat Absorption Cooling For Sustainable Air Conditioning of Households. {{webarchive|url= |date=2008-05-27 }} Retrieved on 2008-05-02. water retention, and rainfall on a regional level. Alterations in the quantity of atmospheric greenhouse gases determines the amount of solar energy retained by the planet, leading to global warming or global cooling. The variables which determine climate are numerous and the interactions complex, but there is general agreement that the broad outlines are understood, at least insofar as the determinants of historical climate change are concerned.JOURNAL, Ledley, T.S., 1999, Climate change and greenhouse gases, Eos (journal), EOS, 80, 39, 453,weblink 2008-05-17, 10.1029/99EO00325, Sundquist, E. T., Schwartz, S. E., Hall, D. K., Fellows, J. D., Killeen, T. L., 1999EOSTr..80Q.453L, 2060/19990109667,

Climate classification

There are several ways to classify climates into similar regimes. Originally, climes were defined in Ancient Greece to describe the weather depending upon a location's latitude. Modern climate classification methods can be broadly divided into genetic methods, which focus on the causes of climate, and empiric methods, which focus on the effects of climate. Examples of genetic classification include methods based on the relative frequency of different air mass types or locations within synoptic weather disturbances. Examples of empiric classifications include climate zones defined by plant hardiness,United States National Arboretum. USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map. {{Webarchive|url= |date=2012-07-04 }} Retrieved on 2008-03-09 evapotranspiration,ENCYCLOPEDIA, Thornthwaite Moisture Index, Glossary of Meteorology, American Meteorological Society,weblink 2008-05-21, or more generally the Köppen climate classification which was originally designed to identify the climates associated with certain biomes. A common shortcoming of these classification schemes is that they produce distinct boundaries between the zones they define, rather than the gradual transition of climate properties more common in nature.

Bergeron and Spatial Synoptic

The simplest classification is that involving air masses. The Bergeron classification is the most widely accepted form of air mass classification.BOOK,weblink Field behavior of chemical, biological, and radiological agents, Army, United States Dept of the, 1969, Dept. of Defense] Depts. of the Army and the Air Force, en, Air mass classification involves three letters. The first letter describes its moisture properties, with c used for continental air masses (dry) and m for maritime air masses (moist). The second letter describes the thermal characteristic of its source region: T for tropical, P for polar, A for Arctic or Antarctic, M for monsoon, E for equatorial, and S for superior air (dry air formed by significant downward motion in the atmosphere). The third letter is used to designate the stability of the atmosphere. If the air mass is colder than the ground below it, it is labeled k. If the air mass is warmer than the ground below it, it is labeled w.ENCYCLOPEDIA, Airmass Classification, Glossary of Meteorology, American Meteorological Society,weblink 2008-05-22, While air mass identification was originally used in weather forecasting during the 1950s, climatologists began to establish synoptic climatologies based on this idea in 1973.JOURNAL, Schwartz, M.D., 1995, Detecting Structural Climate Change: An Air Mass-Based Approach in the North Central United States, 1958–1992, Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 85, 3, 553–68, 10.1111/j.1467-8306.1995.tb01812.x, Based upon the Bergeron classification scheme is the Spatial Synoptic Classification system (SSC). There are six categories within the SSC scheme: Dry Polar (similar to continental polar), Dry Moderate (similar to maritime superior), Dry Tropical (similar to continental tropical), Moist Polar (similar to maritime polar), Moist Moderate (a hybrid between maritime polar and maritime tropical), and Moist Tropical (similar to maritime tropical, maritime monsoon, or maritime equatorial).Robert E. Davis, L. Sitka, D. M. Hondula, S. Gawtry, D. Knight, T. Lee, and J. Stenger. J1.10 A preliminary back-trajectory and air mass climatology for the Shenandoah Valley (Formerly J3.16 for Applied Climatology). Retrieved on 2008-05-21.


(File:MonthlyMeanT.gif|thumb|right|Monthly average surface temperatures from 1961–1990. This is an example of how climate varies with location and season)File:BlueMarble monthlies animation.gif|thumb|right|Monthly global images from NASA Earth Observatory (interactive SVG)The Köppen classification depends on average monthly values of temperature and precipitation. The most commonly used form of the Köppen classification has five primary types labeled A through E. These primary types are A) tropical, B) dry, C) mild mid-latitude, D) cold mid-latitude, and E) polar. The five primary classifications can be further divided into secondary classifications such as rainforest, monsoon, tropical savanna, humid subtropical, humid continental, oceanic climate, Mediterranean climate, desert, steppe, subarctic climate, tundra, and polar ice cap.Rainforests are characterized by high rainfall, with definitions setting minimum normal annual rainfall between {{convert|1750|mm|in}} and {{convert|2000|mm|in}}. Mean monthly temperatures exceed {{convert|18|C|F}} during all months of the year.Susan Woodward. Tropical Broadleaf Evergreen Forest: The Rainforest. {{webarchive|url= |date=2008-02-25 }} Retrieved on 2008-03-14.A monsoon is a seasonal prevailing wind which lasts for several months, ushering in a region's rainy season.ENCYCLOPEDIA, Monsoon, Glossary of Meteorology, American Meteorological Society,weblink 2008-05-14, Regions within North America, South America, Sub-Saharan Africa, Australia and East Asia are monsoon regimes.International Committee of the Third Workshop on Monsoons. The Global Monsoon System: Research and Forecast. {{Webarchive|url= |date=2008-04-08 }} Retrieved on 2008-03-16.(File:Globalcldfr amo 200207-201504 lrg.jpg|thumb|The world's cloudy and sunny spots. NASA Earth Observatory map using data collected between July 2002 and April 2015.WEB, The Bright Side of 13 Years of Clouds in 1 Map,weblink 2015-05-17, Brian, Central, )A tropical savanna is a grassland biome located in semiarid to semi-humid climate regions of subtropical and tropical latitudes, with average temperatures remain at or above {{convert|18|C|F}} year round and rainfall between {{convert|750|mm|in}} and {{convert|1270|mm|in}} a year. They are widespread on Africa, and are found in India, the northern parts of South America, Malaysia, and Australia.Susan Woodward. Tropical Savannas. {{webarchive|url= |date=2008-02-25 }} Retrieved on 2008-03-16.(File:5 11 15 Brian AquabyMonth.gif|thumb|Cloud cover by month for 2014. NASA Earth ObservatoryWEB, Cloud Fraction (1 month – Terra/MODIS) – NASA,weblink Cloud Fraction (1 month – Terra/MODIS) – NASA, 2015-05-18, WEB, The Bright Side of 13 Years of Clouds in 1 Map,weblink 2015-05-18, Brian, Central, )The humid subtropical climate zone where winter rainfall (and sometimes snowfall) is associated with large storms that the westerlies steer from west to east. Most summer rainfall occurs during thunderstorms and from occasional tropical cyclones.ENCYCLOPEDIA, Humid subtropical climate, Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica Online, 2008,weblink 2008-05-14, Humid subtropical climates lie on the east side of continents, roughly between latitudes 20° and 40° degrees away from the equator.Michael Ritter. Humid Subtropical Climate. {{webarchive |url= |date=October 14, 2008 }} Retrieved on 2008-03-16.File:Koppen World Map Dfa Dwa Dsa Dfb Dwb Dsb.png|thumb|right|Humid continental climate, worldworldA humid continental climate is marked by variable weather patterns and a large seasonal temperature variance. Places with more than three months of average daily temperatures above {{convert|10|C|F}} and a coldest month temperature below {{convert|-3|C|F}} and which do not meet the criteria for an arid or semiarid climate, are classified as continental.JOURNAL, Peel, M. C., Finlayson B. L., McMahon, T. A., yes, 2007, Updated world map of the Köppen-Geiger climate classification, Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 11, 1633–1644,weblink 10.5194/hess-11-1633-2007, 1027-5606, 5, An oceanic climate is typically found along the west coasts at the middle latitudes of all the world's continents, and in southeastern Australia, and is accompanied by plentiful precipitation year-round.Climate. Oceanic Climate. {{Webarchive|url= |date=2011-02-09 }} Retrieved on 2008-04-15.The Mediterranean climate regime resembles the climate of the lands in the Mediterranean Basin, parts of western North America, parts of Western and South Australia, in southwestern South Africa and in parts of central Chile. The climate is characterized by hot, dry summers and cool, wet winters.Michael Ritter. Mediterranean or Dry Summer Subtropical Climate. {{webarchive|url= |date=2009-08-05 }} Retrieved on 2008-04-15.A steppe is a dry grassland with an annual temperature range in the summer of up to {{convert|40|C|F}} and during the winter down to {{convert|-40|C|F}}.Blue Planet Biomes. Steppe Climate. {{Webarchive|url= |date=2008-04-22 }} Retrieved on 2008-04-15.A subarctic climate has little precipitation,Michael Ritter. Subarctic Climate. {{webarchive|url= |date=2008-05-25 }} Retrieved on 2008-04-16. and monthly temperatures which are above {{convert|10|C|F}} for one to three months of the year, with permafrost in large parts of the area due to the cold winters. Winters within subarctic climates usually include up to six months of temperatures averaging below {{convert|0|C|F}}.Susan Woodward. Taiga or Boreal Forest. {{webarchive|url= |date=2011-06-09 }} Retrieved on 2008-06-06.(File:800px-Map-Tundra.png|thumb|right|Map of arctic tundra)Tundra occurs in the far Northern Hemisphere, north of the taiga belt, including vast areas of northern Russia and Canada.WEB, The Tundra Biome, The World's Biomes,weblink 2006-03-05, A polar ice cap, or polar ice sheet, is a high-latitude region of a planet or moon that is covered in ice. Ice caps form because high-latitude regions receive less energy as solar radiation from the sun than equatorial regions, resulting in lower surface temperatures.Michael Ritter. Ice Cap Climate. {{webarchive|url= |date=2008-05-16 }} Retrieved on 2008-03-16.A desert is a landscape form or region that receives very little precipitation. Deserts usually have a large diurnal and seasonal temperature range, with high or low, depending on location daytime temperatures (in summer up to {{convert|45|°C|°F|disp=or}}), and low nighttime temperatures (in winter down to {{convert|0|°C|°F|disp=or}}) due to extremely low humidity. Many deserts are formed by rain shadows, as mountains block the path of moisture and precipitation to the desert.San Diego State University. Introduction to Arid Regions: A Self-Paced Tutorial. Retrieved on 2008-04-16. {{webarchive |url= |date=June 12, 2008 }}


{{See also|Microthermal|Mesothermal|Megathermal}}(File:MeanMonthlyP.gif|thumb|right|Precipitation by month)Devised by the American climatologist and geographer C. W. Thornthwaite, this climate classification method monitors the soil water budget using evapotranspiration.Glossary of Meteorology. Thornthwaite Moisture Index. Retrieved on 2008-05-21. It monitors the portion of total precipitation used to nourish vegetation over a certain area.ENCYCLOPEDIA, Moisture Index, Glossary of Meteorology, American Meteorological Society,weblink 2008-05-21, It uses indices such as a humidity index and an aridity index to determine an area's moisture regime based upon its average temperature, average rainfall, and average vegetation type.Eric Green. weblink" title="">Foundations of Expansive Clay Soil. Retrieved on 2008-05-21. The lower the value of the index in any given area, the drier the area is.The moisture classification includes climatic classes with descriptors such as hyperhumid, humid, subhumid, subarid, semi-arid (values of −20 to −40), and arid (values below −40).Istituto Agronomico per l'Otremare. 3 Land Resources. {{webarchive|url= |date=2008-03-20 }} Retrieved on 2008-05-21. Humid regions experience more precipitation than evaporation each year, while arid regions experience greater evaporation than precipitation on an annual basis. A total of 33 percent of the Earth's landmass is considered either arid or semi-arid, including southwest North America, southwest South America, most of northern and a small part of southern Africa, southwest and portions of eastern Asia, as well as much of Australia.BOOK, Fredlund, D.G., Rahardjo, H., 1993, Soil Mechanics for Unsaturated Soils, Wiley-Interscience,weblink 978-0-471-85008-3, 2008-05-21, 26543184, Studies suggest that precipitation effectiveness (PE) within the Thornthwaite moisture index is overestimated in the summer and underestimated in the winter. This index can be effectively used to determine the number of herbivore and mammal species numbers within a given area.JOURNAL, Hawkins, B.A., 2004, Does plant richness influence animal richness?: the mammals of Catalonia (NE Spain), Diversity & Distributions, 10, 4, 247–52,weblink 10.1111/j.1366-9516.2004.00085.x
last2 = Pausas, Juli G., The index is also used in studies of climate change.Gregory J. McCabe and David M. Wolock. Trends and temperature sensitivity of moisture conditions in the conterminous United States. Retrieved on 2008-05-21.Thermal classifications within the Thornthwaite scheme include microthermal, mesothermal, and megathermal regimes. A microthermal climate is one of low annual mean temperatures, generally between {{convert|0|C|F}} and {{convert|14|C|F}} which experiences short summers and has a potential evaporation between {{convert|14|cm|in}} and {{convert|43|cm|in}}.ENCYCLOPEDIA, Microthermal Climate, Glossary of Meteorology, American Meteorological Society,weblink 2008-05-21, A mesothermal climate lacks persistent heat or persistent cold, with potential evaporation between {{convert|57|cm|in}} and {{convert|114|cm|in}}.ENCYCLOPEDIA, Mesothermal Climate, Glossary of Meteorology, American Meteorological Society,weblink 2008-05-21, A megathermal climate is one with persistent high temperatures and abundant rainfall, with potential annual evaporation in excess of {{convert|114|cm|in}}.ENCYCLOPEDIA, Megathermal Climate, Glossary of Meteorology, American Meteorological Society,weblink 2008-05-21,



(File:Global Temperature Anomaly.svg|thumb|upright=1.45|Global mean surface temperature change since 1880. Source: NASA GISS ){{see also|Instrumental temperature record|Satellite temperature measurements}}Details of the modern climate record are known through the taking of measurements from such weather instruments as thermometers, barometers, and anemometers during the past few centuries. The instruments used to study weather over the modern time scale, their known error, their immediate environment, and their exposure have changed over the years, which must be considered when studying the climate of centuries past.Spencer Weart. The Modern Temperature Trend. Retrieved on 2007-06-01.


Paleoclimatology is the study of past climate over a great period of the Earth's history. It uses evidence from ice sheets, tree rings, sediments, coral, and rocks to determine the past state of the climate. It demonstrates periods of stability and periods of change and can indicate whether changes follow patterns such as regular cycles.National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. NOAA Paleoclimatology. Retrieved on 2007-06-01.

Climate change

File:Vostok Petit data.svg|thumb|right|Variations in CO2, temperature and dust from the Vostok ice core over the past 450,000 years]]{{see also|Climate change|Global warming|Temperature record|Attribution of recent climate change}}Climate change is the variation in global or regional climates over time. It reflects changes in the variability or average state of the atmosphere over time scales ranging from decades to millions of years. These changes can be caused by processes internal to the Earth, external forces (e.g. variations in sunlight intensity) or, more recently, human activities.Arctic Climatology and Meteorology. Climate change. {{webarchive|url= |date=2010-01-18 }} Retrieved on 2008-05-19.NEWS, Gillis, Justin, Short Answers to Hard Questions About Climate Change,weblink 28 November 2015, The New York Times, 29 November 2015, File:16-008-NASA-2015RecordWarmGlobalYearSince1880-20160120.png|thumb|left|upright=1.35|2015 – Warmest Global Year on Record (since 1880) – Colors indicate temperature anomalies (NASA/NOAA; 20 January 2016).WEB, Brown, Dwayne, Cabbage, Michael, McCarthy, Leslie, Norton, Karen, NASA, NOAA Analyses Reveal Record-Shattering Global Warm Temperatures in 2015,weblink 20 January 2016, NASANASAIn recent usage, especially in the context of environmental policy, the term "climate change" often refers only to changes in modern climate, including the rise in average surface temperature known as global warming. In some cases, the term is also used with a presumption of human causation, as in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The UNFCCC uses "climate variability" for non-human caused variations.WEB,weblink Glossary, Climate Change 2001: The Scientific Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Third Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 2008-05-22, 2001-01-20, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, dead,weblink" title="">weblink 2017-01-26, Earth has undergone periodic climate shifts in the past, including four major ice ages. These consisting of glacial periods where conditions are colder than normal, separated by interglacial periods. The accumulation of snow and ice during a glacial period increases the surface albedo, reflecting more of the Sun's energy into space and maintaining a lower atmospheric temperature. Increases in greenhouse gases, such as by volcanic activity, can increase the global temperature and produce an interglacial period. Suggested causes of ice age periods include the positions of the continents, variations in the Earth's orbit, changes in the solar output, and volcanism.Illinois State Museum (2002). Ice Ages. Retrieved on 2007-05-15.

Climate models

{{see also|Climate model|Climatology}}Climate models use quantitative methods to simulate the interactions of the atmosphere,Eric Maisonnave. Climate Variability. Retrieved on 2008-05-02. {{webarchive |url= |date=June 10, 2008 }} oceans, land surface and ice. They are used for a variety of purposes; from the study of the dynamics of the weather and climate system, to projections of future climate. All climate models balance, or very nearly balance, incoming energy as short wave (including visible) electromagnetic radiation to the earth with outgoing energy as long wave (infrared) electromagnetic radiation from the earth. Any imbalance results in a change in the average temperature of the earth.The most talked-about applications of these models in recent years have been their use to infer the consequences of increasing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, primarily carbon dioxide (see greenhouse gas). These models predict an upward trend in the global mean surface temperature, with the most rapid increase in temperature being projected for the higher latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere.Models can range from relatively simple to quite complex:
  • Simple radiant heat transfer model that treats the earth as a single point and averages outgoing energy
  • this can be expanded vertically (radiative-convective models), or horizontally
  • finally, (coupled) atmosphere–ocean–sea ice global climate models discretise and solve the full equations for mass and energy transfer and radiant Modelling the climate. {{webarchive|url= |date=2009-02-04 }} Retrieved on 2008-05-02.
Climate forecasting is used by some scientists to predict climate change. In 1997 the prediction division of the International Research Institute for Climate and Society at Columbia University began generating seasonal climate forecasts on a real-time basis. To produce these forecasts an extensive suite of forecasting tools was developed, including a multi-model ensemble approach that required thorough validation of each model's accuracy level in simulating interannual climate variabilityweblink{{dead link|date=July 2017 |bot=InternetArchiveBot |fix-attempted=yes }}

See also

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Further reading

External links

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