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Glossary

 
 

Aerosol
A collection of airborne solid or liquid particles, with a typical size between 0.01 and 10 micrometers (µm) and residing in the atmosphere for at least several hours. Aerosols may be of either natural or anthropogenic origin. Aerosols may influence climate in two ways: directly through scattering and absorbing radiation, and indirectly through acting as condensation nuclei for cloud formation or modifying the optical properties and lifetime of clouds.

Atmosphere
The gaseous envelope surrounding the Earth. The dry atmosphere consists almost entirely of nitrogen (78.1% volume mixing ratio) and oxygen (20.9% volume mixing ratio), together with a number of trace gases, such as argon (0.93% volume mixing ratio), helium, radiatively active greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide (0.035% volume mixing ratio), and ozone. In addition the atmosphere contains water vapor, whose amount is highly variable but typically 1% volume mixing ratio. The atmosphere also contains clouds and aerosols.

Biodiversity
The numbers and relative abundances of different genes (genetic diversity),
species, and ecosystems (communities) in a particular area.

Biosphere
The part of the Earth system comprising all ecosystems and living organisms, in the atmosphere, on land (terrestrial biosphere) or in the oceans (marine biosphere), including derived dead organic matter, such as litter, soil organic matter and oceanic detritus.

Climate Change
Climate change refers to any change in climate over time, whether due to natural variability or as a result of human activity. This usage differs from that in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which defi nes “climate change” as: “a change of climate which is attributed directly or indirectly to human activity that alters the composition of the global atmosphere and which is in addition to natural climate variability observed over comparable time periods”.

Carbon compensation or offsetting
The process by which an amount of greenhouse gas emissions equal to that
caused by a certain activity, e.g., a flight, is reduced, or offset, elsewhere.

Carbon Dioxide (CO2)
A naturally occurring gas, and also a by-product of burning fossil fuels and biomass, as well as land-use changes and other industrial processes. It is the principal anthropogenic greenhouse gas that affects the Earth's radiative balance. It is the reference gas against which other greenhouse gases are measured and therefore has a Global Warming Potential of 1.

Ecosystem
Any natural unit or entity including living and non-living parts that interact to produce a stable system through cyclic exchange of materials.

Emissions
The release of a substance (usually a gas when referring to the subject of climate change) into the atmosphere.

ENSO
El Niño – Southern Oscillation (ENSO) refers to widespread 2-7 year oscillations in atmospheric pressure, ocean temperatures and rainfall associated with El Niño (the warming of the oceans in the equatorial eastern and central Pacific) and its opposite, La Niña. Over much of Australia, La Niña brings above average rain, and El Niño brings drought. A common measure of ENSO is the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) which is the normalised mean sea level pressure difference between Tahiti and Darwin. The SOI is positive during La Niña events and negative during El Niño events.

Global Warming
Global warming is an average increase in the temperature of the atmosphere near the Earth's surface and in the troposphere, which can contribute to changes in global climate patterns. Global warming can occur from a variety of causes, both natural and human induced. In common usage, "global warming" often refers to the warming that can occur as a result of increased emissions of greenhouse gases from human activities.

Greenhouse effect
The natural greenhouse effect is the process where gases in the lower atmosphere such as carbon dioxide, methane and water vapour are warmed by radiation released by the Earth’s
surface after it has been warmed by solar energy. These gases then radiate heat back towards the ground—adding to the heat the ground receives from the Sun. Without the natural greenhouse effect the surface of the planet would be about 33 °C colder on average.

Greenhouse Gas (GHG)
Any gas that absorbs infrared radiation in the atmosphere. Greenhouse gases include, but are not limited to, water vapor, carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), ozone (O3 ), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), and sulfur hexafluoride (SF6).

Methane (CH4)
A greenhouse gas produced through processes including decomposition of landfill waste in the absence of oxygen, digestion in animals such as cattle, production of coal, natural gas and oil, and rice growing. Atmospheric methane concentrations have increased by 151% since the Industrial Revolution.

Mitigation
An anthropogenic intervention to reduce the output or enhance the sinks of
greenhouse gases.

Nitrogen Oxides (NOx)
Gases consisting of one molecule of nitrogen and varying numbers of oxygen molecules. Nitrogen oxides are produced in the emissions of vehicle exhausts and from power stations. In the atmosphere, nitrogen oxides can contribute to formation of photochemical ozone (smog), can impair visibility, and have health consequences; they are thus considered pollutants.

Ozone Layer
The layer of ozone that begins approximately 15 km above Earth and thins to an almost negligible amount at about 50 km, shields the Earth from harmful ultraviolet radiation from the sun. The highest natural concentration of ozone (approximately 10 parts per million by volume) occurs in the stratosphere at approximately 25 km above Earth. The stratospheric ozone concentration changes throughout the year as stratospheric circulation changes with the seasons. Natural events such as volcanoes and solar flares can produce changes in ozone concentration, but man-made changes are of the greatest concern.

Stratosphere
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.

Troposphere
The lowest part of the atmosphere from the surface to about 10 km in altitude in mid-latitudes (ranging from 9 km in high latitudes to 16 km in the tropics on average) where clouds and "weather" phenomena occur. In the troposphere temperatures generally decrease with height.

 


 
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