What is Climate?
Climate is ‘the general weather in one place over a long period of time’. So it’s not what the weather is like today, it is the average weather conditions over a decades. Meteorologists (scientists who measure the weather) collect detailed information about the weather every day, often using high-tech satellite and computer systems. Hundreds of measurements are calculated and the results compared to previous readings.
From their readings, meteorologists have noticed that the world’s climate is getting warmer. But they also know that changes in the climate are nothing new. For example, 50 million years ago there was no ice at the Poles, but 18,000 years ago there was ice 2 miles thick in Scotland.
Have you heard of the Ice Age? Not the film, but the condition that the earth was in many thousands of years ago? Earth has been in and out of ice ages all through its billions of years of existence. Much of the planet was regularly covered in huge ice sheets and glaciers as the air temperatures plummeted then rose again, causing the ice to melt. This is one reason why the woolly mammoth is thought to have become extinct. Its habitat melted and it couldn’t survive in the warmer climate.
A fuss about nothing?
So why does it matter that climate change is happening again? Because it is happening more quickly now than ever. Humans are believed to be speeding up the rate at which the climate is getting warmer, and many plants and animals cannot adapt quickly enough to the changes in order to survive, like the poor old woolly mammoth.