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A handy glos­sary of terms for un­der­stand­ing cli­mate change

GREEN­HOUSE GAS

A gas that traps heat in the at­mos­phere and keeps Earth warmer than it would oth­er­wise be, by ab­sorb­ing heat com­ing from the Earth’s sur­face. Ex­am­ples in­clude methane, ozone and car­bon diox­ide.

SU­PER­CON­TI­NENT 3

A vast land­mass made up of most of Earth’s con­ti­nen­tal blocks. Su­per­con­ti­nents have formed at least seven times in Earth’s history, the most re­cent be­ing the su­per­con­ti­nent of Pan­gaea, which started to break up around 180 mil­lion years ago.

4

RA­DIO­CAR­BON DAT­ING

A means of cal­cu­lat­ing the age of any­thing con­tain­ing car­bon by as­sess­ing the amount of ra­dioac­tive de­cay, de­vel­oped in the late 1940s.

TIP­PING POINT 5

An abrupt change in global cli­mate from one stable state to an­other. Some tip­ping points are thought to be ir­re­versible, com­pa­ra­ble to tip­ping over a glass of wine: stand­ing the glass back up won’t re­turn the wine back to the glass.

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