Climate Knowledge Base

Welcome to our Climate Knowledge Base – easy to digest climate information and resources at a glance.

Climate Dictionary

A glossary of common climate terms.  Great for understanding concepts and scientific terminology in brief.

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Climate Statistics

Tables for useful climate statistics like Climate Model Emissions Scenarios (Representative Concentration Pathways), Greenhouse Gas Global Warming Potentials (100-year time horizon) and others.

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Climate Formulas

A selection of formulas used in climate science like Greenhouse Gas Forcing Approximation, Climate Sensitivity Parameter and Peng Carbon Cycle Model.

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Climate Resources

Our favourite websites, statistical dashboards and data visualisations, essays, podcasts and books.

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Climate Dictionary of Terms

Adaptation – Adjustments in natural or human systems in response to actual or expected climate change impacts, to moderate harm or exploit beneficial opportunities.

Aerosols – Microscopic solid or liquid particles suspended in the atmosphere, which can influence the climate directly by absorbing or scattering radiation.

Albedo – The fraction of solar radiation reflected from a surface. Higher albedo leads to more cooling as sunlight is reflected back into space.

Anthropogenic – Caused or influenced by human activities. Anthropogenic factors like burning fossil fuels and deforestation are the primary drivers of climate change.

Atmosphere – The gaseous envelope surrounding the Earth, composed of layers like the troposphere, stratosphere, etc.

Biodiversity – The variety of plant and animal life in an environment. Climate change is a major threat to global biodiversity.

Black Carbon – Particulate matter formed by the incomplete combustion of fossil fuels and biomass. It contributes to climate change and air pollution.

Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) – Technologies for capturing waste carbon dioxide from large sources and depositing it underground to prevent release to the atmosphere.

Carbon Cycle – The cyclical exchange of carbon between the atmosphere, oceans, soil, plants and animals on Earth through chemical and biological processes.

Carbon Dioxide (CO2) – A naturally occurring greenhouse gas, also a by-product of burning fossil fuels and biomass, deforestation, etc.

Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR) – Geoengineering methods that remove carbon dioxide gas from the atmosphere through enhanced carbon sinks or direct capture and storage technologies.

Carbon Footprint – The total amount of greenhouse gas emissions caused directly and indirectly by an individual, organization, product or activity.

Carbon Offset – A reduction in emissions to compensate for emissions made elsewhere, such as by funding renewable energy projects or forest protection programs.

Carbon Sequestration – The capture and long-term storage of atmospheric carbon dioxide, typically through natural processes like photosynthesis or underground reservoir injection.

Carbon Sink – A reservoir that accumulates and stores carbon, such as forests, oceans or the lithosphere, helping offset emissions elsewhere.

Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) – Synthetic compounds once used as refrigerants and aerosol propellants that damaged the ozone layer when released into the atmosphere.

Climate – The long-term pattern of weather conditions for a region, typically described in terms of temperature, precipitation, humidity, etc.

Climate Change – A statistically significant change in measures of climate lasting decades or longer, caused by natural or anthropogenic factors.

Climate Feedback – A process that can amplify or dampen an initial change in the climate system through a cyclical series of causes and effects.

Climate Model – A computer simulation that draws on fundamental physics, chemistry and biology to project future climate conditions under different scenarios.

Climate Sensitivity – The amount of global temperature rise expected from a doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide levels compared to pre-industrial times.

Climate Variability – Natural variations in average state of the climate over comparable time periods, without human influences.

Deforestation – The permanent removal of forests and replacement with non-forest uses like agriculture, urban areas, etc.

Desertification – The process by which fertile land becomes desert due to climate change, deforestation, drought, or improper agriculture.

Drought – A prolonged period of abnormally low rainfall, leading to water shortages.

Ecosystem – A biological community of interacting organisms and their physical environment.

Emissions – The production and release of pollutants into the environment, like greenhouse gases from industry.

Feedback Loop – A situation where two processes influence each other with the output from one process serving as input for the other, potentially amplifying an initial change. Example: Warming temperatures causing more permafrost melt, releasing methane, a potent greenhouse gas.

Fluorinated Gases (F-gases) – A group of synthetic greenhouse gases like hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), sulfur hexafluoride (SF6) emitted from industrial processes. They are very long-lived in the atmosphere.

Fossil Fuels – Hydrocarbons like coal, oil and natural gas formed from the decay of prehistoric organisms, which release carbon dioxide when burned as an energy source.

Geoengineering – Theoretical approaches aimed at intentionally modifying the climate system to counteract global warming through techniques like carbon removal or solar radiation management.

Global Dimming – Reduction in amount of sunlight reaching Earth’s surface due to air pollution particles reflecting sunlight back into space.

Global Warming – The overall increase in planetary temperatures caused by the enhanced greenhouse effect trapping heat. One of the major aspects of climate change.

Greenhouse Effect – The trapping of outgoing infrared radiation by atmospheric greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and methane, warming the planet’s surface.

Greenhouse Gas (GHG) – Any gaseous compound that absorbs and emits radiation within the thermal infrared range, contributing to the greenhouse effect. Examples are carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide.

Heat Wave – An extended period of excessively hot weather compared to normal conditions for an area.

Ice Age – A period of long-term reduction in global temperatures and expansion of continental ice sheets.

Ice Core – A cylindrical sample of glacial ice drilled from ice sheets or glaciers, preserving historical climate data in its layered ice.

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) – The United Nations body that assesses the science related to climate change to inform policy.

Jet Stream – Powerful high-altitude air currents that circulate from west to east, around high and low pressure areas. Climate change may be impacting jet stream patterns.

Kyoto Protocol – An international agreement adopted in 1997 that set binding emissions reduction targets for developed nations in an effort to address climate change.

Landslide – The downward movement of a mass of rock, soil, artificial debris or a combination, often triggered by events like heavy rains, earthquakes, or human modification.

Methane (CH4) – A potent greenhouse gas, the primary component of natural gas, also emitted from agriculture, landfills and extraction of fossil fuels.

Mitigation – Actions taken to reduce or prevent greenhouse gas emissions and limit future climate change impacts. Examples are switching to renewable energy sources.

Net Zero Emissions – Cutting greenhouse gas emissions to as close to zero as possible, with any remaining emissions re-absorbed from the atmosphere, for example through carbon sinks.

Nitrous Oxide (N2O) – A potent greenhouse gas produced by agricultural practices, industrial processes, and fossil fuel combustion. It has a global warming potential 298 times higher than carbon dioxide.

Ocean Acidification – Increased acidity of ocean water caused by heightened absorption of atmospheric carbon dioxide, affecting marine ecosystems.

Ozone (O3) – A gas naturally present in the upper atmosphere that absorbs harmful ultraviolet radiation. Can also be a pollutant when concentrated in the lower atmosphere.

Paleoclimate – The study of prehistoric climates based on evidence from tree rings, ice cores, ocean sediments and other geological data.

Permafrost – Thick subsurface soil that remains frozen year-round, found in Arctic regions. Thawing permafrost releases methane, a potent greenhouse gas.

Photosynthesis – The process by which plants use sunlight, water and carbon dioxide to produce oxygen and energy for growth.

Radiative Forcing – The difference between sunlight absorbed by Earth and energy radiated back to space, disrupted by greenhouse gas levels.

Reforestation – Replanting trees on land that was historically forested but had been converted for other uses.

Renewable Energy – Energy collected from naturally replenished sources like sunlight, wind, water flows, geothermal heat and biomass.

Sea Level Rise – An increase in ocean levels caused by melting glaciers and ice sheets, and expansion of warmer seawater.

Solar Radiation – Ultraviolet, visible and near-infrared radiation emitted from the Sun’s surface.

Solar Radiation Modification (SRM) – A type of geoengineering that attempts to reflect a fraction of sunlight back into space to reduce global temperatures and formation of greenhouse gases.

Tipping Point – A critical threshold beyond which a system reorganizes into a new state, like polar ice sheet collapse.

Tornado – A violently rotating column of air extending between a thunderstorm and the ground, capable of immense destruction.

Urban Heat Island – The phenomenon where cities experience much warmer temperatures than nearby rural areas due to human activities and lack of shade.

Vector-Borne Diseases – Illnesses spread by insects or other organisms whose behaviour and populations may be impacted by climate changes.

Vulnerability – The degree to which a system is susceptible to and unable to cope with the adverse effects of climate change.

Weather – The state of the atmosphere at a given time and place, in terms of variables like temperature, precipitation, wind, etc.

Wildfire – An uncontrolled fire that burns vegetation in rural or wilderness areas, often caused by lightning or human carelessness.

Wind Power – Using the kinetic energy of moving air to generate mechanical/electrical power through wind turbines.

Xeriscaping – Landscaping that reduces need for irrigation by using drought-tolerant plants and minimizing evaporation.

Year-to-Year Variability – Fluctuations in meteorological variables like temperature and precipitation from one year to the next.

Zero Emissions – The full elimination of greenhouse gas emissions from a particular process, product or activity.

Climate Statistics Tables

Greenhouse Gas Global Warming Potentials (100-year time horizon)

Greenhouse GasChemical Formula100-year GWP
Carbon DioxideCO21
MethaneCH428
Nitrous OxideN2O265
Hydrofluorocarbons  
HFC-23CHF312,400
HFC-134aCH2FCF31,300
Perfluorocarbons  
PerfluoromethaneCF46,630
PerfluoroethaneC2F611,100
Sulfur HexafluorideSF623,500

Climate Model Emissions Scenarios (Representative Concentration Pathways)

ScenarioRadiative Forcing in 2100 (W/m2)CO2 eq Concentration in 2100 (ppm)Temperature Increase in 2100 (°C)
RCP 2.62.64901.0
RCP 4.54.56501.8
RCP 6.06.08502.2
RCP 8.58.513703.7

Historic Carbon Dioxide Levels (ppm)

Time PeriodValue
800,000 Years Ago180-300
20,000 Years Ago180
Pre-Industrial (1750)278
2022419

Equilibrium Climate Sensitivity Estimates (°C)

IPCC ReportLikely Range
AR6 (2021)2.5 – 4.0
AR5 (2013)1.5 – 4.5
AR4 (2007)2.0 – 4.5

Global Temperature Change By Scenario (°C)

YearRCP2.6RCP4.5RCP6.0RCP8.5
2046-20651.01.41.32.0
2081-21001.01.82.23.7

Sea Level Rise Projections (meters)

Scenario2046-20652081-21002100
RCP2.60.240.300.44
RCP4.50.260.380.63
RCP6.00.250.380.63
RCP8.50.300.550.84

Arctic Sea Ice Extent Projections (million km2)

Month1986-20052081-2100 RCP2.62081-2100 RCP8.5
September6.54.00.9
February15.215.69.2

Fraction of Emissions Remaining in Atmosphere

Time HorizonFraction
20 years0.62
100 years0.22
500 years0.15

Atmospheric CO2 Concentration (ppm)

YearValue
1960317
2022419
2100 (RCP8.5)936

Glacier Mass Balance (mm water equivalent per year)

Region1971-19881989-20042005-2015
Alaska-190 ± 100-630 ± 230-770 ± 210
Arctic Canada -283 ± 92-301 ± 116
Russian Arctic-20 ± 40-5 ± 30-136 ± 68
Antarctica+32 ± 12-53 ± 29-155 ± 109
Greenland Periphery -204 ± 104-276 ± 147

Solar Radiation Management Scenarios

StrategyForcing (W/m2)Side Effects
Stratospheric Aerosol Injection-1 to -5Ozone loss, warming stratosphere
Marine Cloud Brightening-1 to -5Effects on ocean ecology unknown
Cirrus Cloud Thinning-0.5 to -2Changes precipitation patterns

Lightning Strike Density (Flashes/km2/year)

RegionValue
Central U.S.10-20
Southeast U.S.20-40
Lake Maracaibo, Venezuela200+
Global Average3

Climate Calculation Formulas

Radiative Forcing Formula

ΔF = α * ln(C/C0)

Calculates the change in radiative forcing (ΔF) based on the change in atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations from the pre-industrial level C0 to the current level C. α is the radiative efficiency parameter.

Global Warming Potential (GWP) Formula

GWPx = ∫(axCx)dt / ∫(arCr)dt

Calculates the time-integrated global warming potential of an emission of 1kg of gas x relative to 1kg of the reference gas r (typically CO2).

Antarctic Amplification Formula

SA = 1.35 * (ΔTS + Δ(DDFΔTs))

This estimates the surface air temperature amplification (SA) over Antarctica relative to the global mean temperature change (ΔTS) by factoring in changes in atmospheric downward longwave radiation (ΔDDF).

Climate Sensitivity Parameter Formula

λ = (ΔF – ΔR) / ΔTS

The climate sensitivity parameter (λ) relates the change in surface temperature (ΔTS) to the net radiative forcing (ΔF – ΔR) imposed on the planet.

Heat Content Change Formula

ΔOHC = ρCp ∫∫∫V ΔΘ dV

Calculates the change in ocean heat content (ΔOHC) by integrating temperature changes (ΔΘ) over the volume (V) and applying density (ρ) and specific heat capacity (Cp).

Basal Melt Rate Formula

Mbase = (Qgeo/Lf) + (Qfric/(ρiLf))

Estimates glacier/ice sheet basal melt rates from a combination of geothermal heat flux (Qgeo), frictional heat (Qfric), latent heat of fusion (Lf) and ice density (ρi).

Clausius-Clapeyron Relation Formula

des/dT = Les/(RvT2)

Quantifies how atmospheric moisture content (es) increases with temperature (T) based on the latent heat of vaporization (Les) and gas constants.

Peng Carbon Cycle Model Formula

dC/dt = βP – αC

Models the rate of atmospheric CO2 accumulation (dC/dt) as a function of anthropogenic emissions (βP) and natural sinks proportional to excess CO2 (-αC).

Moist Adiabatic Lapse Rate Formula

Γ = (g/cp) * (1 + (L*w)/(RT))

Calculates the rate of temperature decrease (Γ) with altitude for a rising air parcel, factoring in moisture content (w), latent heat of vaporization (L), gas constant (R) and other variables.

Diffusion Equation Formula

∂C/∂t = D*(∂2C/∂x2 + ∂2C/∂y2 + ∂2C/∂z2)

Describes how the concentration (C) of an atmospheric species changes over time due to diffusion processes in the x, y, z directions, based on the diffusion coefficient (D).

Arrhenius Equation Formula

k = A * e(-Ea/RT)

Gives the temperature dependence of the rate constant (k) of a chemical reaction based on the exponential factor of activation energy (Ea) divided by temperature (T).

Malthus Population Growth Model Formula

dN/dt = r*N * (1 – N/K)

Models population growth rate (dN/dt) as a function of intrinsic growth rate (r), current population (N) and carrying capacity (K).

Revelle Factor

R = [ΔC/C] / [Δ(pCO2)/pCO2]

Quantifies the resistance of the ocean to absorbing excess atmospheric CO2, based on changes in dissolved inorganic carbon and pCO2.

Greenhouse Gas Forcing Approximation Formula

F = α*ln(C/C0)

Simplified equation to calculate the radiative forcing (F) from a greenhouse gas based on its current concentration (C) versus pre-industrial level (C0).

Climate Resources

Climate dashboards and resources

Climate Change Tracker

First up, we have the Climate Change Tracker (https://climatechangetracker.org/global-warming). This nifty website provides up-to-date information on global temperature changes, greenhouse gas emissions, and other key climate indicators. It’s like having a finger on the pulse of our planet’s vital signs.

One of the things I love about this resource is how user-friendly it is. You don’t need a PhD in climatology to understand the data they present. They break it down in a way that’s accessible to everyone, which is super important if we want to raise awareness and get people engaged.

NASA Vital Signs of the Planet

Next on our list is the NASA Vital Signs of the Planet (https://climate.nasa.gov/vital-signs/). This is like the ultimate climate data playground, brought to you by the experts at NASA. They cover everything from global temperatures and sea levels to ice sheets and atmospheric gases.

What makes this source so valuable is the sheer breadth and depth of information they provide. You can dive deep into specific topics or get a high-level overview of the state of our planet’s climate. Plus, they have some seriously cool visualizations and interactive tools that make the data come alive.

NOAA Climate.gov

Moving on, we have the NOAA Climate.gov (https://www.climate.gov/). This is a one-stop shop for all things climate, run by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). They’ve got data galore, but they also offer news, articles, and educational resources to help you make sense of it all.

One of the standout features of this website is their “Climate at a Glance” section, which provides quick snapshots of key climate indicators like temperature, precipitation, and drought conditions. It’s perfect for those times when you need the cliff notes version of what’s going on with our planet’s climate.

World Bank Climate Change Knowledge Portal

Last but not least, we’ve got the World Bank Climate Change Knowledge Portal (https://climateknowledgeportal.worldbank.org/). This powerful tool is all about helping countries and communities assess their climate risks and opportunities.

What sets this one apart is its focus on local and regional data. You can zoom in on specific countries or regions and access all sorts of climate projections and impact data tailored to those areas. This kind of localized information is absolutely crucial for effective adaptation and resilience planning.

Climate podcasts

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Climate books

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Climate courses

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