Climate change is a long-term change in the average weather patterns that have come to define Earth’s local, regional and global climates. These changes have a broad range of observed effects that are synonymous with the term.
Changes observed in Earth’s climate since the early 20th century are primarily driven by human activities, particularly fossil fuel burning, which increases heat-trapping greenhouse gas levels in Earth’s atmosphere, raising Earth’s average surface temperature. These human-produced temperature increases are commonly referred to as global warming. Natural processes can also contribute to climate change, including internal variability (e.g., cyclical ocean patterns like El Niño, La Niña and the Pacific Decadal Oscillation) and external forcings (e.g., volcanic activity, changes in the Sun’s energy output, variations in Earth’s orbit).
Scientists use observations from the ground, air and space, along with theoretical models, to monitor and study past, present and future climate change. Climate data records provide evidence of climate change key indicators, such as global land and ocean temperature increases; rising sea levels; ice loss at Earth’s poles and in mountain glaciers; frequency and severity changes in extreme weather such as hurricanes, heatwaves, wildfires, droughts, floods and precipitation; and cloud and vegetation cover changes, to name but a few.
Find Out More: A Guide to NASA’s Global Climate Change Website
This website provides a high-level overview of some of the known causes, effects and indications of global climate change:
Evidence. Brief descriptions of some of the key scientific observations that our planet is undergoing abrupt climate change.
Causes. A concise discussion of the primary climate change causes on our planet.
Effects. A look at some of the likely future effects of climate change, including U.S. regional effects.
Vital Signs. Graphs and animated time series showing real-time climate change data, including atmospheric carbon dioxide, global temperature, sea ice extent and ice sheet volume.
Earth Minute. This fun video series explains various Earth science topics, including some climate change topics.
Other NASA Resources
Goddard Scientific Visualization Studio. An extensive collection of animated climate change and Earth science visualizations.
Sea Level Change Portal. NASA's portal for an in-depth look at the science behind sea level change.
NASA’s Earth Observatory. Satellite imagery, feature articles and scientific information about our home planet, with a focus on Earth’s climate and environmental change.