Module Overview

Are humans mostly responsible for recent changes in climate?

For the past 8,000 years, the ice cores of Antarctica and Greenland indicate that Earth’s climate has been unusually stable. Yet global climate has changed several times in Earth’s geological history, sometimes at a relatively abrupt rate, as shown by the Greenland ice core data.

In the module, Energy: The Driver of Climate, you balanced Earth’s annual energy budget by adding or subtracting the processes that cause the average amount of energy gained by Earth to equal the average amount of energy lost by Earth. In the module, Temperature Over Time, you compared temperature trends over different time scales and regions.

In this module, you will learn about climate forcings. Climate forcings are any factors that cause a change to Earth’s energy balance, which will ultimately lead to a change in global mean temperature (GMT) and global climate.

When you complete this module, you will be able to

  • Explain natural causes of global climate change.
  • Trace the flow of carbon through the carbon cycle.
  • Explain the natural and human-related processes that cause increases and decreases in the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
  • Explain how patterns (or fingerprints) can be used to identify the source of recent climate change.
  • Explain the trends in carbon dioxide concentration over different time scales.
  • Compare the changes in carbon dioxide and temperature over different time scales.
  • Compare the changes in carbon dioxide concentration to changes in greenhouse gas emissions over the past 130 years.
  • Compare climate models of observed temperature changes due to natural causes to those that include both natural and anthropogenic (human) causes.
  • Describe the types of feedbacks (or processes) that amplify and reduce the changes in climate.