Earth’s Climate System

Global-scale observations of the Earth’s climate system (including temperature, precipitation, and other parameters) started in the mid-19th century. Modern observational techniques include both direct measurements at the ground and remote-sensing measurements from satellites.

Ancient climates (paleoclimates) have been reconstructed as far back as hundreds of thousands of years by studying ice cores, tree rings, and seafloor sediments. Together, these reliable detecting methods provide a comprehensive view of the changes in our climate system.

Many countries have space programs that monitor climate change. In the US, NASA also maintains a fleet of Earth science spacecraft and instruments in orbit studying all aspects of the Earth system (oceans, land, atmosphere, biosphere, cryosphere), with more planned for launch in the next few years.Earth's Climate System

NASA’s breakthrough program on climate science enhances the ability of the international scientific community to advance integrated Earth system science using space-based observations on a global scale.

Understanding the Earth’s climate system can help researchers and scientists make connections that determine whether a region is prone to monsoons or droughts, summertime thunderstorms or giant winter blizzards, melting heatwaves or intense cold snaps.

‘Global warming’ is already having an impact on the world. Warming air and oceans have begun amplifying storms, changing precipitation patterns, and contributing to the rise in sea levels.

Satellite data shows that each year the area of Arctic sea ice is shrinking, with larger decreases every summer. The average rate of Arctic ice loss since 2000 is about four times higher than the rate seen in the 1990’s.

From archiving massive amounts of climate data to publishing studies on the impacts of greenhouse gas emissions, scientists from across the world are studying climate science.

Data from the GRACE and ICESat missions and from spaceborne radar show unexpectedly rapid changes in the Earth’s great ice sheets.

NASA’s Earth Observing System’s weather instruments have demonstrated significant improvements in global forecasting.

Powerful equipment used in weather instruments, satellites, earth and sea floor exploratory instrumentation all require a precision lens to capture and video the changes to our climate. When you work with us to develop such types of cameras and equipment, you can guarantee that the lens we craft will supersede your expectations.

These capabilities — nearly 30 years of satellite-based solar and atmospheric temperature data — helped the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concluded that “Most of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations.” The IPCC defines climate change as “a change in the state of the climate that can be identified by changes in the mean and/or the variability of its properties, and that persists for an extended period, typically decades or longer.”

A region’s climate is characterized by both the average and the extremes in its weather conditions, including temperature and precipitation. For example, climate change is evidenced in a clear trend of increasing or decreasing temperatures over hundreds or tens of thousands of years and an increase in intensity and frequency of severe storm events. These changes are very different from normal day-to-day variations in the weather.

But there’s still a lot to learn about what the consequences will be. How much warmer will it get? How will sea level rise progress? The scientists and engineers at NASA, along with other government agencies across the globe, will help answer these and other critical questions in the future.

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