By Katie Lambert and Sarah Gleim
The United Nations suggests that climate change is not just the defining issue of our time, but we are also at a defining moment in history. Weather patterns are changing and will threaten food production, and sea levels are rising and could cause catastrophic flooding across the globe. Countries must make drastic actions to avoid a future with irreversible damage to major ecosystems and planetary climate.
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By Mark Mancini
On Aug. 18, Iceland held a funeral for the first glacier lost to climate change. The deceased party was Okjökull, a historic body of ice that covered 14.6 square miles (38 square kilometers) in the Icelandic Highlands at the turn of the 20th century. But its glory days are long gone. In 2014, having dwindled to less than 1/15 its former size, Okjökull lost its status as an official glacier.
Climate and Weather<p>Before proceeding further, there's another bit of terminology that we probably should clear up. The <a href="https://science.howstuffworks.com/nature/climate-weather/atmospheric/weather-and-climate-whats-difference.htm" target="_blank">difference between climate and weather</a>. Weather is the short-term <a href="https://nsidc.org/cryosphere/arctic-meteorology/climate_vs_weather.html" target="_blank">state of the atmosphere</a> in a specific corner of the world. Humidity, temperature, wind speed, atmospheric pressure and visibility are all <a href="https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/noaa-n/climate/climate_weather.html" target="_blank">factors</a> that help dictate the weather at a particular moment in time.</p><p>In other words, weather doesn't last very long. It unfolds over the course of days, hours or even minutes. Therefore, it's liable to change quickly — which is why so many of us yearn for constant updates. Whenever you ask if your hometown is "supposed to get any rain" on a given day, you're inquiring about the weather.</p><p>Don't confuse weather with climate. The latter is far broader in scope. Basically, climate reflects an area's <em>long-term</em> weather averages and trends. Those are often established by <em>decades</em> (at least) of meticulous observation. Given the difference in scale, it makes sense that the climate is much <a href="https://www.ncei.noaa.gov/news/weather-vs-climate" target="_blank">slower to change</a> than the weather.</p><p>And yet changes do occur. Averaged together, all the world's regional climates form what scientists know as the "<a href="https://www.ncei.noaa.gov/news/weather-vs-climate" target="_blank">global climate</a>." This is liable to evolve and fluctuate over time — as are its regional components.</p>
So far, 2018 is the fourth hottest year on record. Higher than normal temperatures are shown in red and lower than normal temperatures are shown in blue.
Ralf Goebel / GEMA