What changes our climate?
What's really changing the climate? This graph shows how different factors play a role in Earth's changing climate. Scientists have created many climate models that take into account many factors that can contribute climate change.
This data shows historical simulations, where scientists try to replicate temperature changes that have happened in the past based on historical measurements of these factors. The vertical axis is the difference in global average temperature relative to the 1850-1859 mean.
Use the buttons to select a source and see the effect it has on the climate.
Other Greenhouse Gases
Greenhouse gases (GHGs), such as carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and some halogenated compounds, absorb outgoing heat (infrared) energy from the earth, and cause the temperature of the atmosphere to increase.
This source does not include ozone, or GHGs from volcanic activity.
Aerosols are small particles that get suspended in the air. Aerosols can have warming or cooling effects, depending on what they're made of. Dark-coloured aerosols, such as black carbon, absorb solar radiation and cause warming, while light coloured aerosols, such as sulfate aerosols from coal burning, can reflect sunlight back into space and have a net cooling effect.
Deforestation not only destroys important sinks for atmospheric carbon dioxide, but also affects how much solar radiation is reflected back into space. Dark forests are being converted into lighter patches, which have a small net cooling effect on the climate.
Tropospheric ozone, a short-lived greenhouse gas, has increased in the past century because a variety of pollutants can react to form ozone close to the surface of the earth. In the higher stratospheric level of the atmosphere, ozone generates heat from several processes. Stratospheric ozone has been depleted by pollutants such as chloroflourocarbons (CFC), resulting in a net warming effect from changes in atmospheric ozone.
The amount of radiation given off by the sun can fluctuate, which can have effects on global temperature.
Volcanic activity can influence the climate because volcanic eruptions release both greenhouse gases that cause longer term warming and aerosols that reflect sunlight with a short term cooling effect.