Climate change is a significant and lasting change in the statistical distribution of weather patterns over periods ranging from decades to millions of years. It may be a change in average weather conditions, or in the distribution of weather around the average conditions (i.e., more or fewer extreme weather events). Climate change is caused by factors that include oceanic processes (such as oceanic circulation), variations in solar radiation received by Earth, plate tectonics and volcanic eruptions, and human-induced alterations of the natural world; these latter effects are currently causing global warming, and "climate change" is often used to describe human-specific impacts.
Causes of climate change
You may have noticed something peculiar about South America and Africa on a map of the world - don't they seem to fit into each other like pieces in a jigsaw puzzle? About 200 million years ago they were joined together! Scientists believe that back then, the earth was not as we see it today, but the continents were all part of one large landmass. Proof of this comes from the similarity between plant and animal fossils and broad belts of rocks found on the eastern coastline of South America and western coastline of Africa, which are now widely separated by the Atlantic Ocean. The discovery of fossils of tropical plants (in the form of coal deposits) in Antarctica has led to the conclusion that this frozen land at some time in the past, must have been situated closer to the equator, where the climate was tropical, with swamps and plenty of lush vegetation. The continents that we are familiar with today were formed when the landmass began gradually drifting apart, millions of years back. This drift also had an impact on the climate because it changed the physical features of the landmass, their position and the position of water bodies. The separation of the landmasses changed the flow of ocean currents and winds, which affected the climate. This drift of the continents continues even today; the Himalayan range is rising by about 1 mm (millimeter) every year because the Indian land mass is moving towards the Asian land mass, slowly but steadily. Volcanoes
When a volcano erupts it throws out large volumes of sulphur dioxide (SO2), water vapor, dust, and ash into the atmosphere. Although the volcanic activity may last only a few days, yet the large volumes of gases and ash can influence climatic patterns for years. Millions of tons of sulphur dioxide gas can reach the upper levels of the atmosphere (called the stratosphere) from a major eruption. The gases and dust particles partially block the incoming rays of the sun, leading to cooling. Sulphur dioxide combines with water to form tiny droplets of sulphuric acid. These droplets are so small that many of them can stay aloft for several years.
The earth's tilt
The earth makes one full orbit around the sun each year. It is tilted at an angle of 23.5° to the perpendicular plane of its orbital path. For one half of the year when it is summer, the northern hemisphere tilts towards the sun. In the other half when it is winter, the earth is tilted away from the sun. If there was no tilt we would not have experienced seasons. Changes in the tilt of the earth can affect the severity of the seasons - more tilt means warmer summers and colder winters; less tilt means cooler summers and milder winters. The Earth's orbit is somewhat elliptical, which means that the distance between the earth and the Sun varies over the course of a year. We usually think of the earth's axis as being fixed, after all, it always seems to point toward Polaris (also known as the Pole Star and the North Star). Actually, it is not quite constant: the axis does move, at the rate of a little more than a half-degree each century. So Polaris has not always been, and will not always be, the star pointing to the North. When the pyramids were built, around...
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