Climate change basics: beyond global warming

A Moment of Science

Our planet is warming.

The data doesn’t lie- global temperatures have risen nearly 2 degrees since the late 19th century, a direct result of increased greenhouse gas emissions, mainly carbon dioxide, since the Industrial Revolution. These seemingly small changes to our average temperatures have and will continue to lead to significant  impacts for our weather, our ecosystems, and our communities. 


Let’s start with weather. Climate data supports that hotter and longer heat waves are becoming more common across the Earth and in the Lowcountry. Extended heat begets drought- which decimates crops and creates worsening conditions for wildfires, all of which has increased over the past 30 years.

The list goes on. Hurricanes are becoming stronger, wetter, more destructive, flooding more frequent, our weather, in general more extreme. 

These cascading impacts are a direct result of warming temperatures, and we’re not done yet as Earth’s atmosphere and oceans are linked- changes to one, changes to the other.


The ocean absorbs nearly a third of all carbon dioxide we emit through the burning of fossil fuels, but as a result it is becoming more acidic- wreaking havoc on marine ecosystems. Seawater isn’t just becoming more acidic, it’s becoming warmer too.

As water warms, it expands- raising global sea levels, add more water from melting glaciers and other ice on land and you get potentially life altering sea level rise for coastal communities. 



These numerous consequences of global warming are far reaching and often compound on one another.

Consider a hurricane, stronger due to increased heat & humidity in both the air and ocean, bringing a devastating storm surge to an area that has a higher mean water level due to sea level rise. 

Global warming and climate change are two sides of the same coin, with global warming explaining just one of the many problems that arise from climate change. Climate and weather are related as well, but as I’ll explain next week, confusion often arises from not knowing the difference between them. 

Storm Team 2 Meteorologist David Dickson

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