Introduction: Background: Looking Ahead
Background: Looking Ahead
The extremely complex interactions between human activity and natural forces—such as air masses, winds, ocean currents, evaporation, and precipitation—mean that researchers from many fields must pool their efforts to understand how the climate is reacting to changes. But this complexity also means that predicting what the climate will be like in 50 or 100 years is one of the most challenging problems in science.
Some of the projected changes—such as a few degrees of temperature change—may seem small compared to the temperatures changes seen over daily and seasonal cycles. But while short-term temperatures fluctuate over a wide range, global average temperatures are generally very stable. Indeed, during the last Ice Age (about 20,000 years ago), the average global temperature was only about 5ºC (9ºF) cooler than it is today.
The other pages in this section will give you a sense of what scientists are learning about our climate's future.