Global Warming Glossary

Albedo - a fraction of light that is reflected by a body or surface. It is commonly used in astronomy to describe the reflective properties of planets, satellites, and asteroids. (Encyclopedia Britannica Online)

Carbon cycle - the biogeochemical cycle by which carbon is exchanged between the biosphere, geosphere, hydrosphere, and atmosphere of the Earth. (Wikipedia)

Global warming - an increase in the average temperature of the Earth's near-surface air and oceans since the mid-twentieth century, and its projected continuation. (Wikipedia)

Global warming potential (GWP) - a measure of how much a given mass of greenhouse gas is estimated to contribute to global warming. It is a relative scale which compares the gas in question to that of the same mass of carbon dioxide (whose GWP is 1 by definition). A GWP is calculated over a specific time interval and the value of this must be stated whenever a GWP is quoted or else the value is meaningless. (Wikipedia)

Greenhouse effect - the process in which the emission of infrared radiation by the atmosphere warms a planet's surface. (Wikipedia)

Greenhouse gas - the gas present in the atmosphere which reduces the loss of heat into space and therefore contributes to global temperatures through the greenhouse effect. (Wikipedia)

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) - s a scientific body tasked to evaluate the risk of climate change caused by human activity. The panel was established in 1988 by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), two organizations of the United Nations. (Wikipedia)

Kyoto Protocol - international treaty, named for the Japanese city in which it was adopted in December 1997, that aimed to reduce the emission of gases that contribute to global warming. (Encyclopedia Britannica Online)

Radiative forcing

Radiative forcing is the change in the amount of radiation that comes into, and goes out of, the Earth’s atmosphere. It is measured in Watts per square meter.

The base year for radiative forcing is 1750.

Positive forcing contributes to the warming of the Earth’s atmosphere. Greenhouse gases contribute to positive forcing.

Negative forcing contributes to the cooling of the Earth’s atmosphere. Aerosols contribute to negative forcing. (Encyclopedia Britannica Online)


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