Climate Change: Evidence and Causes Figure Gallery (Print-ready)

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Figure 1a. Earth’s global average surface temperature has risen as shown in this plot of combined land and ocean measurements from 1850 to 2012, derived from three independent analyses of the available data sets. The temperature changes are relative to the global average surface temperature of 1961−1990. Source: IPCC AR5, data from the HadCRUT4 dataset (black), UK Met Office Hadley Centre, the NCDC MLOST dataset (orange), US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the NASA GISS dataset (blue), US National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

Figure 1a.

Figure 1b. A large amount of observational evidence besides the temperature records shows that Earth’s climate is changing. For example, additional evidence of a warming trend can be found in the dramatic decrease in the extent of Arctic sea ice at its summer minimum (which occurs in September), decrease in spring snow cover in the Northern Hemisphere, increases in the global average upper ocean (upper 700 m or 2300 feet) heat content (shown relative to the 1955–2006 average), and in sea-level rise.  Source: NOAA climate.gov

Figure 1b.

Figure 2. Measurements of the Sun’s energy incident on Earth show no net increase in solar forcing during the past 30 years, and therefore this cannot be responsible for warming during that period. The data show only small periodic amplitude variations associated with the Sun’s 11-year cycle. Figure by Keith Shine. Source: TSI data from Physikalisch-Meteorologisches Observatorium Davos, Switzerland, adjusted down by 4.46 W m-2 to agree with the 2008 solar minimum data from Kopp and Lean, 2011; temperature data from the HadCRUT4 dataset, UK Met Office, Hadley Centre

Figure 2.

Figure 3. Data from ice cores have been used to reconstruct Antarctic temperatures and atmospheric CO2 concentrations over the past 800,000 years. Temperature is based on measurements of the isotopic content of water in the Dome C ice core. CO2 is measured in air trapped in ice, and is a composite of the Dome C and Vostok ice core. The current CO2 concentration (blue star) is from atmospheric measurements. The cyclical pattern of temperature variations constitutes the ice age/ interglacial cycles. During these cycles, changes in CO2 concentrations (in blue) track closely with changes in temperature (in red). As the record shows, the recent increase in atmospheric CO2 concentration is unprecedented in the past 800,000 years. Source: Figure by Jeremy Shakun, data from Lüthi et al., 2008 and Jouzel et al., 2007.

Figure 3.

Figure 4. As the climate system varies naturally from year to year and from decade to decade, reliable inferences about human-induced climate change must be made with a longer view, using multi-decadal and longer records. Calculating a ‘running average’ over these longer timescales allows one to more easily see long-term trends. For the global average temperature for the period 1850-2012 (using the data from the UK Met Office Hadley Centre relative to the 1961-90 average) the plots show: (top) the average and range of uncertainty for annually averaged data; (2nd plot) the temperature given for any date is the average for the ten years about that date; (3rd plot) the equivalent picture for 30-year; and (4th plot) the 60-year averages. Source: Met Office, based on the HadCRUT4 dataset from the Met Office and Climatic Research Unit (Morice et al., 2012).

Figure 4.

Figure 5. The Arctic summer sea ice extent in 2012, (measured in September) was a record low, shown (in white) compared to the median summer sea ice extent for 1979 to 2000 (in orange outline). In 2013, Arctic summer sea ice extent rebounded somewhat, but was still the sixth smallest extent on record.  Source: National Snow and Ice Data Center

Figure 5.

Figure 6. Observations show that the global average sea level has risen by about 20 cm (8 inches) since the late 19th century. Sea level is rising faster in recent decades; measurements from tide gauges (blue) and satellites (red) indicate that the best estimate for the average sea level rise over the last two decades is centred on 3.2 mm per year (0.12 inches per year). The shaded area represents the sea level uncertainty, which has decreased as the number of gauge sites used in the global averages and the number of data points have increased. Source: Shum and Kuo (2011)

Figure 6.

Figure 7. As CO2 in the air has increased, there has been an increase in the CO2 content of the surface ocean (upper box), and a decrease in the seawater pH (lower box). Source: adapted from Dore et al. (2009) and Bates et al. (2012).

Figure 7.

Figure 8. If emissions continue on their present trajectory, without either technological or regulatory abatement, then the best estimate is that global average temperature will warm a further 2.6 to 4.8 °C (4.7 to 8.6 °F) by the end of the century (right). The figure on left shows projected warming with very aggressive emissions reductions. The figures represent multi-model estimates of temperature averages for 2081-2100 compared to 1986–2005. Source: IPCC AR5

Figure 8.

Figure 9. If global emissions were to suddenly stop, it would take a long time for surface air temperatures and the ocean to begin to cool, because the excess CO2 in the atmosphere would remain there for a long time and would continue to exert a warming effect. Model projections show how atmospheric CO2 concentration (a), surface air temperature (b), and ocean thermal expansion (c) would respond following a scenario of business-as-usual emissions ceasing in 2300 (red), a scenario of aggressive emission reductions, falling close to zero 50 years from now (orange), and two intermediate emissions scenarios (green and blue). The small downward tick in temperature at 2300 is caused by the elimination of emissions of short-lived greenhouse gases, including methane. Source: Zickfeld et al., 2013

Figure 9.

Figure B1.  Greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, including water vapour, carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide, absorb heat energy and emit it in all directions (including downwards), keeping Earth’s surface and lower atmosphere warm. Adding more greenhouse gases to the atmosphere enhances the effect, making Earth’s surface and lower atmosphere even warmer. Image based on a figure from US EPA.

Figure B1.

Figure B2. Measurements of atmospheric CO2 since 1958 from the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii (black) and from the South Pole (red) show a steady annual increase in atmospheric CO2 concentration. (The measurements are made at remote places like those because they are not greatly influenced by local processes, so therefore are representative of the background atmosphere.) The small up and down saw-tooth pattern reflects seasonal changes in the release and uptake of CO2 by plants. Source: Scripps CO2 Program

Figure B2.

Figure B3. CO2 variations during the past 1,000 years, obtained from analysis of air trapped in an ice core extracted from Antarctica (red squares), show a sharp rise in atmospheric CO2 starting in the late 19th century. Modern atmospheric measurements from Mauna Loa are superimposed in blue. Source: figure by Eric Wolff, data from Etheridge et al., 1996; MacFarling Meure et al., 2006.

Figure B3.

Figure B4. Earth’s global average surface temperature has risen as shown in this plot of combined land and ocean measurements from 1850 to 2012, derived from three independent analyses of the available data sets. The top panel shows annual average values from the three analyses, and the bottom panel shows decadal average values, including the uncertainty range (grey bars) for the black (HadCRUT4) dataset. The temperature changes are relative to the global average surface temperature, averaged from 1961−1990. Source: IPCC AR5, data from the HadCRUT4 dataset (black), UK Met Office Hadley Centre, the NCDC MLOST dataset (orange), US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the NASA GISS dataset (blue), US National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

Figure B4.

Figure B5. The amount and rate of warming expected for the 21st century depends on the total amount of greenhouse gases that humankind emits. Models project the temperature increase for a business-as-usual emissions scenario (in red) and aggressive emission reductions, falling close to zero 50 years from now (in blue). Black is the modelled estimate of past warming. Each solid line represents the average of different model runs using the same emissions scenario, and the shaded areas provide a measure of the spread (one standard deviation) between the temperature changes projected by the different models. All data are relative to a reference period (set to zero) of 1986-2005. Source: IPCC AR5

Figure B5.