Scientific dissemination articles


Francés, G., Mena, A. & Diz, P. – Marine Geoscience department and faculty of Marine Science, University of Vigo , SPAIN

pp. 20-46   |  Article Number: 2

Published Online: June, 2018


Global climate is the result of a complex interaction of different variables of the climate system, made up by atmosphere, hydrosphere, geosphere, cryosphere and biosphere. These elements are suffering alterations through time that lead to many climate changes along history, and these changes can be differences of extension, frequency and range. The causes of these changes can be external (changes in the terrestrial orbit or in solar activity) and internal (changes in atmospheric composition, oceanic currents, continental and oceanic distribution…). In comparison to natural climate changes, anthropogenic factors are influencing current climate change much faster than natural changes at a rate unprecedented in the history of Earth. To compare the anthropogenic influence and predict how the climate will evolve in the near future, we have to understand the inherent variability of the system (i.e. how the climate changed before there were human activities). This requires a good knowledge of the natural climate change mechanisms, together with their rate of change and effects (both regionally and globally). Paleoclimatic data offers information about greater ranges of time than those from instrumental data, which are affected by anthropic and natural factors, and which are too scarce to make it possible to understand how climate variability works. In this chapter, the evolution of the climate in our planet is presented at different scales with the aim of getting a better approach to the natural variability of the current climate change process. Firstly, historical climate evolution is described, focusing on pre-Cenozoic glaciations and their possible causes. A special focus on the Quaternary era is given with the aim of explaining the factors that determined the climate variability that characterizes this period. To be more specific, two time scales are studied: climate changes from glacial to interglacial that are associated with astronomic factors (millenary scale), and abrupt changes that took place during the last climate cycle (sub millenary scale). Finally, the climate variability during the Holocene and its influence on societies and civilizations, including Anthropocene, is studied.

This scientific article was prepared as the basis for pedagogical material which is being developed by the EduCO2cean project team. The magazine articles are not intended for use as teaching material in their own right.


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