Climate Change Glossary
Word Definitions Related to
Climate Change and Global Warming
A plausible and often simplified description of how the future may develop, based on a coherent and internally consistent set of assumptions about driving forces and key relationships. Scenarios may be derived from projections, but are often based on additional information from other sources, sometimes combined with a “narrative storyline”. See also: SRES scenarios; Climate scenario; Emission scenarios.
Sea level alteration
A change in global average sea level brought about by volume changes in the world ocean. This may be caused by changes in water density or changes in the total mass of water.
Sea level rise
See: Relative Sea Level Secular Change; Thermal expansion.
Sea Level Secular Change (Relative)
Long term changes in relative sea level caused by either eustatic changes, e.g. brought about by thermal expansion, or changes in vertical land movements.
Common measurement for a ton in the United States. A short ton is equal to 2,000 lbs or 0.907 metric tons. See metric ton.
Significant wave height
The average height of the highest one-third of all sea waves occurring in a particular time period. This serves as an indicator of the characteristic size of the highest waves.
Any process, activity or mechanism which removes a greenhouse gas, an aerosol or a precursor of a greenhouse gas or aerosol from the atmosphere.
A major component of the terrestrial biosphere pool in the carbon cycle. The amount of carbon in the soil is a function of the historical vegetative cover and productivity, which in turn is dependent in part upon climatic variables.
Water stored in or at the land surface and available for evaporation.
Solar (“11 year”) cycle
A quasi-regular modulation of solar activity with varying amplitude and a period of between 9 and 13 years.
The Sun exhibits periods of high activity observed in numbers of sunspots, as well as radiative output, magnetic activity, and emission of high energy particles. These variations take place on a range of time-scales from millions of years to minutes. See: Solar cycle.
So·lar En·er·gy ['sO-l&r 'e-n&r-jE]. Also called solar radiation. Energy from the Sun. Also referred to as short-wave radiation. Of importance to the climate system, solar radiation includes ultraviolet radiation, visible radiation, and infrared radiation.
Radiation emitted by the Sun. It is also referred to as short-wave radiation. Solar radiation has a distinctive range of wavelengths (spectrum) determined by the temperature of the Sun. See ultraviolet radiation, infrared radiation, radiation.
Particles formed during the quenching of gases at the outer edge of flames of organic vapours, consisting predominantly of carbon, with lesser amounts of oxygen and hydrogen present as carboxyl and phenolic groups and exhibiting an imperfect graphitic structure. See: Black carbon; Charcoal.
Any process, activity or mechanism which releases a greenhouse gas, an aerosol or a precursor of a greenhouse gas or aerosol into the atmosphere.
Spatial and temporal scales
Climate may vary on a large range of spatial and temporal scales. Spatial scales may range from local (less than 100,000 km2), through regional (100,000 to 10 million km2) to continental (10 to 100 million km2). Temporal scales may range from seasonal to geological (up to hundreds of millions of years).
See spatial and termporal scales
SRES scenarios are emission scenarios developed by Nakic´enovic´ et al. (2000) and used, among others. The following terms are relevant for a better understanding of the structure and use of the set of SRES scenarios:
Scenarios that have a similar demographic, societal, economic and technical-change storyline. Four scenario families comprise the SRES scenario set: A1, A2, B1 and B2.
Scenarios within a family that reflect a consistent variation of the storyline. The A1 scenario family includes four groups designated as A1T, A1C, A1G and A1B that explore alternative structures of future energy systems. In the Summary for Policymakers of Nakic´enovic´ et al. (2000), the A1C and A1G groups have been combined into one ‘Fossil Intensive’ A1FI scenario group. The other three scenario families consist of one group each. The SRES scenario set reflected in the Summary for Policymakers of Nakic´enovic´ et al. (2000) thus consist of six distinct scenario groups, all of which are equally sound and together capture the range of uncertainties associated with driving forces and emissions.
A scenario that is illustrative for each of the six scenario groups reflected in the Summary for Policymakers of Nakic´enovic´ et al. (2000). They include four revised ‘scenario markers’ for the scenario groups A1B, A2, B1, B2, and two additional scenarios for the A1FI and A1T groups. All scenario groups are equally sound.
A scenario that was originally posted in draft form on the SRES website to represent a given scenario family. The choice of markers was based on which of the initial quantifications best reflected the storyline, and the features of specific models. Markers are no more likely than other scenarios, but are considered by the SRES writing team as illustrative of a particular storyline. They are included in revised form in Nakic´enovic´ et al. (2000). These scenarios have received the closest scrutiny of the entire writing team and via the SRES open process. Scenarios have also been selected to illustrate the other two scenario groups (see also ‘Scenario Group’ and ‘Illustrative Scenario’).
A narrative description of a scenario (or family of scenarios) highlighting the main scenario characteristics, relationships between key driving forces and the dynamics of their evolution.
Space in de graph depicting greenhouse gas emissions (tones per year) over the past century, between the trend line and the line representing stability at current levels.
The temporary increase, at a particular locality, in the height of the sea due to extreme meteorological conditions (low atmospheric pressure and/or strong winds). The storm surge is defined as being the excess above the level expected from the tidal variation alone at that time and place.
A qualitative description of a climate scenario based on extensive literature research and model results. This is often a quite simple description used to fill in policy makers on climate change developments.
Region of the atmosphere between the troposphere and mesosphere, having a lower boundary of approximately 8 km at the poles to 15 km at the equator and an upper boundary of approximately 50 km. Depending upon latitude and season, the temperature in the lower stratosphere can increase, be isothermal, or even decrease with altitude, but the temperature in the upper stratosphere generally increases with height due to absorption of solar radiation by ozone.
See ozone layer.
The volume of water that moves over a designated point over a fixed period of time. It is often expressed as cubic feet per second (ft3/sec).
Particulate matter that consists of compounds of sulfur formed by the interaction of sulfur dioxide and sulfur trioxide with other compounds in the atmosphere. Sulfate aerosols are injected into the atmosphere from the combustion of fossil fuels and the eruption of volcanoes like Mt. Pinatubo. Recent theory suggests that sulfate aerosols may lower the Earth's temperature by reflecting away solar radiation (negative radiative forcing). General Circulation Models which incorporate the effects of sulfate aerosols more accurately predict global temperature variations. See particulate matter, aerosol, General Circulation Models.
Sulfur Hexafluoride (SF6)
A colorless gas soluble in alcohol and ether, slightly soluble in water. A very powerful greenhouse gas used primarily in electrical transmission and distribution systems and as a dielectric in electronics. The global warming potential of SF6 is 22,200. This GWP is from the IPCC's Third Assessment Report (TAR). See Global Warming Potential.
Small dark areas on the Sun. The number of sunspots is higher during periods of high solar activity, and varies in particular with the solar cycle.
The degree to which a system is susceptible to, or unable to cope with, adverse effects of climate change, including climate variability and extremes. This is a function of the character, magnitude, and rate of climate change and variation to which a system is exposed, its sensitivity, and its adaptive capacity.