Is our climate changing?

Human life spans, when compared to geologic time, are extremely brief, and so it is hard for us to imagine our planet's climate being much different than it is today. The fact is that over thousands and hundreds of thousands of years the Earth's climate has experienced wide fluctuations, ranging from the "snowball Earth" of about 635 million years ago to the extremely warm conditions (18°F, or about 8°C

How is climate change affecting geyser activity?

Geyser activity is affected by rainfall levels and the frequency of earthquakes. In Yellowstone National Park, which is home to about half of the world's 1,000 known geysers, rainfall feeds into the Madison River, which supplies geysers in the park with their water reserves. Less rainfall in times of drought translates into less pressure in the geysers' reservoirs, and leads to fewer eruptions. In a recent study of rainfall and climate in Yellowstone, it was found that the amount of water flowing down the Madison River has decreased by about 15 percent from the years 1998 through 2006.

This decrease in rainfall has been blamed on global warming, which has affected precipitation in the surrounding states of Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho. The study associated lower rainfalls with an increase in the intervals between eruptions of geysers. For example, Old Faithful used to erupt every 75 minutes, and in 2006 it was erupting every 91 minutes.

warmer, on average, than today) of a 100 million years ago when dinosaurs were flourishing. Over the millennia, there have been many periods of hot and cold. In the past, these have been caused by a variety of factors, ranging from volcanic activity to plate tectonics to the possibility of an asteroid crashing into the planet. Today, scientists fear we are undergoing a new and dramatic climactic change with one important difference: they believe humans are causing it.

What is paleoclimatology?

Paleoclimatology is a fascinating discipline that combines paleontology with climate studies. Understanding what the Earth's climate was like millions of years ago can prove very valuable in understanding today's weather. In addition, it's just plain cool to find out facts such as that dinosaurs once roamed Antarctica, tropical fruits used to grow in Oregon, and just 8,500 years ago the temperature in Greenland was about 10°F (5°C) warmer than it is today. Paleoclimatologists discover this information by examining animal and plant fossils, conducting ice core studies, and examining soils and rocks buried deep underground. Clues may be found in some of the most unlikely places. For instance, when ancient pine needles hoarded by rats 30,000 years ago were discovered, the composition of the plant matter was analyzed to learn what carbon dioxide levels were like back then.

Who is considered one of the most important pioneers in the study of climate change?

English meteorologist and climatologist Hubert Horace Lamb (1913-1997), who founded the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia in 1971, is considered by many to be the greatest climatologist of the twentieth century. He began his career as a weather forecaster for the Irish Meteorological Office and later was with the British Meteorological Office. While there, he participated in a Norwegian whaling expedition in Antarctica from 1946 to 1947. It was during this time in Antarctica that he began to study how the world's climate must have changed, and he pursued this subject after joining the Climatology Division of Britain's Meteorological Office in 1954. Using records there, he researched and published papers and books about how Great Britain's climate had changed noticeably since the middle of the nineteenth century.

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