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What Is Climate Change?
May 14, 2014
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To learn about climate change, you first must know what climate is.

What Is Climate? How Is It Different From Weather?
You might know what weather is. Weather is the changes we see and feel outside from day to day. It might rain one day and be sunny the next. Sometimes it is cold. Sometimes it is hot. Weather also changes from place to place. People in one place might be wearing shorts and playing outside. At the same time, people far away might be shoveling snow.

Climate is the usual weather of a place. Climate can be different for different seasons. A place might be mostly warm and dry in the summer. The same place may be cool and wet in the winter. Different places can have different climates. You might live where it snows all the time. And some people live where it is always warm enough to swim outside!

There's also Earth's climate. Earth's climate is what you get when you combine all the climates around the world together.

What Is Climate Change?
Climate change is a change in the usual weather found in a place. This could be a change in how much rain a place usually gets in a year. Or it could be a change in a place's usual temperature for a month or season.

Climate change is also a change in Earth's climate. This could be a change in Earth's usual temperature. Or it could be a change in where rain and snow usually fall on Earth.

Weather can change in just a few hours. Climate takes hundreds or even millions of years to change.
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Is Earth's Climate Changing?
Earth's climate is always changing. There have been times when Earth's climate has been warmer than it is now. There have been times when it has been cooler. These times can last thousands or millions of years.

People who study Earth see that Earth's climate is getting warmer. Earth's temperature has gone up about one degree Fahrenheit in the last 100 years. This may not seem like much. But small changes in Earth's temperature can have big effects.

Some effects are already happening. Warming of Earth's climate has caused some snow and ice to melt. The warming also has caused oceans to rise. And it has changed the timing of when certain plants grow.

What Is Causing Earth's Climate to Change?
Many things can cause climate to change all on its own. Earth's distance from the sun can change. The sun can send out more or less energy. Oceans can change. When a volcano erupts, it can change our climate.

Most scientists say that humans can change climate too. People drive cars. People heat and cool their houses. People cook food. All those things take energy. One way we get energy is by burning coal, oil and gas. Burning these things puts gases into the air. The gases cause the air to heat up. This can change the climate of a place. It also can change Earth's climate.

What Might Happen to Earth's Climate?
Scientists think that Earth's temperature will keep going up for the next 100 years. This would cause more snow and ice to melt. Oceans would rise higher. Some places would get hotter. Other places might have colder winters with more snow. Some places might get more rain. Other places might get less rain. Some places might have stronger hurricanes.
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How Does NASA Study Climate Change?
Some NASA satellites look at Earth's land, air, water and ice. Other tools look at the sun and the energy it sends out. Together, these are important for learning about Earth's climate. Using all these tools can help scientists learn how climate might change.

What Can You Do to Help?
Scientists think we can do things to stop the climate from changing as much. You can help by using less energy and water. Turn off lights and TVs when you leave a room. Turn off the water when brushing your teeth. You also can help by planting trees.

Another way to help is by learning about Earth. The more you know about Earth, the more you can help solve climate problems.

More About Climate Change:
› Climate Kids   →


Read What Are Climate and Climate Change? Grades 5-8

Return to Homework Topics Grades K-4

Dan Stillman/Institute for Global Environmental Strategies
JoCasta Green/NASA Educational Technology Services

 

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A rocky and dry desert landscape
Do you know the difference between weather and climate?
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NASA
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Dark smoke rises from a factory smokestack
Burning coal, oil and gas to create energy releases gases into the air.
Image Credit: 
NASA
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Artist's concept of satellites scanning Earth from orbit
Many NASA satellites study Earth and its climate.
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NASA
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Page Last Updated: May 14th, 2014
Page Editor: NASA Administrator