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Graphs in the Coordinate Plane

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You're Getting Warmer
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Credit: Jayel Aheram
Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/aheram/2718432939/
License: CC BY-NC 3.0

You’ve probably heard that the Earth is getting warmer. But how do scientists know how fast the globe is warming and what’s causing temperatures to rise? To get an accurate picture of climate change, scientists must collect data from around the world. They graph temperatures on the coordinate plane so that they can more clearly see what’s going on.

Checks and Guesses

We’ve only been keeping accurate temperature records for a little over 100 years. But when scientists graph those temperatures, they can see a clear pattern. Temperatures began rising in the early 1900s and then stayed even for a while from the 1950s to the 1970s. In the 1980s, they took off again, and they haven’t stopped rising. In order to find possible causes for the climate change, scientists have compared their temperature graphs with graphs of other weather and environmental data. Some have noticed that as temperatures have risen, carbon dioxide (CO2) levels in the atmosphere have risen as well, leading them to believe that the increase in CO2 may be causing the higher temperatures through the greenhouse effect; certain gases known as "greenhouse gases" are responsible for trapping heat in the atmosphere, and CO2 is one of the primary greenhouse gases. Other scientists have studied changes in the ocean and patterns in the sun. Many politicians and environmental groups are now focused on limiting the CO2 that humans produce, because that’s the only variable we can control.

Credit: Roger469
Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Death_Valley,19820816,Desert,incoming_near_Shoshones.jpg
License: CC BY-NC 3.0

While the U.S. and many other countries around the world are taking steps to reduce their CO2 emissions, some nations are still producing more. For countries in the developing world, industrialization—which is often driven by fossil fuelsmeans a chance at better health and an improved standard of living. These countries do not yet have the resources to reduce their CO2 emissions, which means that we may not be able to stop climate change in the near future. Scientists are trying to predict the rate of climate change and determine the consequences of an increasingly warmer world on the planet and society.

See for yourself: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3GGLubUrCp8

Explore More

Learn more about the causes and effects of global warming and climate change with the links below. 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FlJ750FOyVY

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oJAbATJCugs

http://www.livescience.com/39250-global-warming-pacific-cooling.html

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