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Climate Change

Earth’s climate is naturally dynamic, but human activity is affecting it. Since the Industrial Revolution, we’ve gotten most of our energy from fossil fuels. Burning them releases gases, primarily carbon dioxide, that trap heat in the atmosphere. In the past 100 years, concentrations of this greenhouse gas have grown faster and higher than at any time in the past 850,000 years (and probably much longer), causing global average temperatures to rise. The evidence comes from abundant data collected by many sources over time. We can see it around us in the form of rising sea levels, melting polar ice caps and glaciers, changing ocean chemistry, and more severe heat waves, droughts, and storms. See a full list of Museum resources, programs, and content about climate change here.

Support for the development of Science Topics was generously provided by Sidney and Helaine Lerner, GRACE Communications Foundation.


Climate Change Circle of Consequences

"Greenhouse effect" and "global warming" are becoming household phrases but how, exactly, are they linked? Explore the interconnections and consequences of climate change. 

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What's the Big Idea About Climate Change?

Climate has changed throughout Earth's long history. But this time is different. Worldwide temperatures are rising higher and faster than anytime we know of in the past. And this time, human activities are causing it.


Rapid Change in a Warming World

Climate change isn’t always slow, small, and imperceptible in a human lifetime. One of the most important lessons from ice core analysis is that Earth’s climate in some places can also change rapidly and dramatically, such as a 15-degree temperature change in a decade. This, you’d notice.

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Keeling's Curve: The Story of CO2

Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was once misunderstood. Then, in 1958, a young geochemist named Charles (Dave) Keeling began to measure it regularly atop a massive Hawaiian volcano.

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Making Climate Change Personal

A new dance created specifically for the Milstein Hall of Ocean Life aims to bring the implications of climate disruption home.

SciCafe: Islands at the Edge

SciCafe: Islands at the Edge

Signs of climate change are hard to ignore when you live on an island that is being slowly overtaken by the ocean, as anthropologist Jenny Newell and Tina Stege discuss in this October 2014 program. 

Polar bear eating seal

Polar Bear Diet Changes As Sea Ice Melts

A series of papers published in 2014 by Museumscientists suggests that polar bears in the warming Arctic are turning to alternate food sources.

Earthquake Seismodome 2014

Glacial Earthquakes

The 2014 IRIS lecture looks at the factors behind the increase in earthquakes on ice sheets and glaciers since the 1990s.


Rethinking Home: Climate Change in NY and Samoa

In 2013-2014, Museum anthropologists brought groups of New Yorkers and Samoans together to share insights about the personal impacts of climate change. 

Arctic "greening"?

New Model Predicts Greener Arctic

A 2013 study by Museum scientists suggests rising temperatures will lead to massive “greening” of the Arctic by mid-century.  


Consequences of Climate Change

Potential consequences of climate change include loss of biodiversity, destruction of terrestrial ecosystems, spread of human infectious and respiratory diseases, changes in ocean chemistry that disrupt the marine food chain and destroy tropical coral reefs, extreme and unusual weather events, drought due to warming and changing weather patterns, and rising sea level.


NASA Earth Observatory: Natural Hazards—Hurricane Sandy

High-resolution pictures of the hurricane taken by different NASA satellites, with explanations of the images and the ways the data was captured.


Climate Change: The Threat to Life and A New Energy Future

Explore the science, history, and impact of climate change in this 2008 special exhibition. 

What Cause Climate and Climate Change?

What Causes Climate and Climate Change?

Learn about the difference between weather and climate, and find out about how climate has changed over time, in the Gottesman Hall of Planet Earth.

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Grace: Tracking Water from Space

See how fresh water is being redistributed across the continents over time, as measuring by a pair of NASA satellites that circumvent the globe.  


Intense Storms Have Become More Common

Rainstorms help sustain life on Earth by bringing much needed water. But there's a big difference between a restorative shower and an intense downpour that causes floods and landslides. As our planet continues to warm, intense and destructive storms are likely to become more and more frequent over many land regions. In fact, they already have.


Jim Hansen Video Interview

An interview with eminent climatologist James Hansen about the politicization of climate science, the challenge of educating the public, and his research priorities.


Atmospheric Circulation and Global Climate Change

We think of climate as a system. The parts of this system are the atmosphere, the ocean, the biosphere, the cryosphere, and the solid Earth. All these parts interact both chemically and physically to produce a climate that is both complex and dynamic but also characterized by long periods of stability.


Does a Warmer World Make Hurricanes Stronger?

Research suggests global warming isn't increasing the number of hurricanes, but is likely to increase their average strength. This video features Chris Landsea, Science and Operations Officer at NOAA's National Hurricane Center in Miami, Florida.


PETM: Unearthing Ancient Climate Change

Hot times in Earth's past may presage the future impact of global warming.

Museum Lectures

Islands in a Changing World: Resilience and Recovery

Conservation experts discuss rising sea levels and implications for islands, including the recovery of New York and surrounding areas after Hurricane Sandy, in this 2013 panel discussion.

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Arctic Sea Ice: The New Normal

This 2013 visualization shows recent, dramatic losses in sea ice in the Arctic as climate change progresses. 

Storing CO2 to Protect the Climate

Storing CO2 to Protect the Climate

What are humans to do with the billions of tons of carbon dioxide we release into the atmosphere? Find out new approaches to storing excess gas in this 2013 video.

Archived in Ice: Rescuing the Climate Record

Archived in Ice: Rescuing the Climate Record

Follow scientist-adventurer Lonnie Thompson to the 5,670-meter-high Quelccaya ice cap in the Peruvian Andes in this 2005 documentary about unravelling the past to predict the future of climate change. 

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