1 – Climate Science Basics

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Have you ever wondered what the difference between climate and weather is, or what the term climate change really means?

This week provides the tools to build the initial framework for understanding climate science.

Climate Basics

National Geographic: Causes & Effects

How We Discovered the Climate Problem

“In the 1820s Joseph Fourier – French mathematician, physicist, moderate revolutionary, and cravat-wearer – proposed an intellectual problem. The Earth, he declared, should be considerably colder…”

August 20, 2019 • Australian National University

Answers to Common Questions about the Science of Climate Change

“Just what is climate? Climate is commonly thought of as the expected weather conditions at a given location over time…”

Note: Read bold statements from pages 2-17, the remainder is optional.

2011 • U.S. National Academies of Science

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

“Every few years, the IPCC makes a survey of our current understanding of climate change, its risks, its impacts, and strategies for mitigation and adaptation based on the latest scientific literature…” 

2011 • University Center for Atmospheric Research

IPCC 5th Assessment Report Summary for Policymakers

“Human influence on the climate system is clear, and recent anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases are the highest in history. Recent climate changes have had widespread impacts on human and natural systems…”

Note: Read bold statements from pages 1-12, the remainder is optional.

2014 • University Center for Atmospheric Research

University of Queensland: Climate change vs. global warming


“Trends in climate can be caused by natural changes or variability in ocean currents, land use, solar radiation, or other factors. They can also be the result of manmade influences on climate…”

Accessed July 2020 • North Carolina Climate Office

National Geographic: Weather vs. climate

University of Queensland: Humans vs. Other Sources of Warming

Greenhouse Gases

Sources of Greenhouse Gases

“Carbon dioxide emissions, primarily from the combustion of fossil fuels, have risen dramatically since the start of the industrial revolution…”

2019 • Center for Climate and Energy Solutions

Scripps Oceanography: Keeling Curve Hits 415 ppm

NASA: A Year in the Life of Earth’s CO2

MinuteEarth: How do Greenhouse Gases Actually Work?

PBS: What Greenhouse Gas is the Worst?

Princeton: What’s the Unique Role of Methane in Climate Change?

Other Key Concepts

Earth’s Energy Balance

“Earth’s Energy balance describes how the incoming energy from the sun is used and returned to space. If incoming and outgoing energy are in balance, the earth’s temperature remains constant.”

Accessed June 2020 • North Carolina Climate Office


“Extremes of weather describe the range of possible weather and climate conditions that you can expect to encounter at your location. These can be expressed in a variety of ways, from the highest or lowest temperature ever reported at a site to a probability of occurrence for rare events like heavy rainstorms.”

Accessed June 2020 • North Carolina Climate Office

Vox: How a warmer Arctic could intensify extreme weather

We Need Courage, Not Hope to Face Climate Change

“As a climate scientist, I am often asked to talk about hope. Particularly in the current political climate, audiences want to be told that everything will be all right in the end. And, unfortunately, I have a deep-seated need to be liked and a natural tendency to optimism that leads me to accept more speaking invitations than is good for me.”

March 1, 2018 • On Being: Kate Marvel

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Optional Resources

Vital Signs of the Planet

“NASA is an expert in climate and Earth science. While its role is not to set climate policy or prescribe particular responses or solutions to climate change, its purview does include providing the robust scientific data needed to understand climate change and evaluating the impact of efforts to combat it…”

Continue reading at NASA

Climate Basics

“Here you’ll find the basics on climate science, key energy and emissions trends, extreme weather, and other climate impacts…”

Continue reading at Center for Climate and Energy Solutions

PODCAST: Climate Curiosities

“The podcast that connects you with climate science and policy experts to address some of the most common curiosities about climate change…”

Listen at Apple 

13 Misconceptions About Global Warming