Evidence for climatic change is taken from a variety of sources that can be used to reconstruct past climates. Reasonably complete global records of surface temperature are available beginning from the mid-late 1800s. For earlier periods, most of the evidence is indirect—climatic changes are inferred from changes in indicators that reflect climate, such as vegetation, ice cores, dendrochronology, sea level change, and glacial geology.
Currently, we also map climate change through technologies such as the new NASA probe, Orbiting Carbon Observatory. The spacecraft will use three high-resolution spectrometers built to measure carbon dioxide and oxygen molecules in the Earth’s atmosphere based on the way those molecules absorb sunlight. That data will then be used to show the specific regions where natural and man-made sources are producing carbon dioxide as well as highlighting areas, called sinks, where oceans and plants are removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
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