Evidence of global warming

Thermometer readings

On-going temperature recordings using thermometers have shown a clear warming of the Earth's temperature over the past few decades. By using this data, scientists have seen an average combined land and ocean surface temperature increase of 0.85°C since the end of the 19th century. In the northern hemisphere, the period between 1983 and 2012 was the warmest 30-year period of the last 1,400 years. The degree to which the climate warms in the future will depend on natural climate variability and the level of greenhouse gas emissions. If greenhouse gas emissions continue then average global temperatures will rise, however some regions such as the Arctic will warm faster than others.

Global average temperature has been gradually increasing over the past 150 years, from 13.5°C in the 1860s to 14.4°C in the 1990s.Global average temperatures have risen since 1860

Glacier retreat

Over the past 50 to 100 years, photographic evidence has shown that the world's glaciers have been melting, which has caused them to retreat. The Muir glacier has retreated over 50 km since observations began in 1893. The rise in global temperatures is causing glaciers to disappear and is increasing the melting of sea-ice in the Arctic. Artic sea-ice is disappearing at a rate of 10% every decade. The extent was the lowest in satellite records in 2012.

A view of Muir glacier, Alaska, in 1941 and 2004:

A photo of Muir glacier, Alaska, in 1941
A photo of Muir glacier, Alaska, in 2004

Ice cores

Scientists often use ice cores to detect changes in temperature. When snow falls it traps air into the ice. When scientists take a core of ice it reveals the carbon dioxide and methane concentrations at the time the snow fell. Scientists believe there is a close link between the amount of these greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and global temperatures. Layers of accumulation and melting in the ice can reveal the temperature of each year for the past 400,000 years. According to scientists studying the ice cores, there is clear evidence of a rapid increase in temperature these past decades.

Early spring

In recent years there have been signs of a seasonal shift - spring arrives earlier and winters tend to be less severe. These seasonal changes affect the nesting and migration patterns of wildlife.

Rising sea levels

Between 1901 and 2010, average global sea level rose by 0.19 metres.