Global warming is the long-term heating of Earth’s climate system observed since the pre-industrial period (between 1850 and 1900) due to human activities, primarily fossil fuel burning, which increases heat-trapping greenhouse gas levels in Earth’s atmosphere. The term is frequently used interchangeably with the term climate change, though the latter refers to both human- and naturally produced warming and the effects it has on our planet. It is most commonly measured as the average increase in Earth’s global surface temperature.

Since the pre-industrial period, human activities are estimated to have increased Earth’s global average temperature by about 1 degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit), a number that is currently increasing by 0.2 degrees Celsius (0.36 degrees Fahrenheit) per decade. Most of the current warming trend is extremely likely (greater than 95 percent probability) the result of human activity since the 1950s and is proceeding at an unprecedented rate over decades to millennia.

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.