Climate Science Academy

Accurate climate science information from leading climate scientists

Module A: How Scientists Know About Climate

Climate Literacy Essential Principle 5

Guiding Question

How do scientists know what has happened, is happening, or will happen to the Earth's climate?


Our understanding of the climate system is improved through observations, theoretical studies, and modeling.

The parts and processes of the climate system follow the same physical laws of the universe. Scientists have gained a solid understanding of the climate system and our knowledge improves as advamces in climate science research and modeling continue. The current climate change projections are reliable enough to help humans evaluate potential decisions and actions in response to climate change.

Learning & Teaching About Essential Principle 5 with the Climate Literacy & Energy Awareness Network (CLEAN)

Introduction to Climate Literacy Essential Principle 5 presented by Mark McCaffrey

Scientist Presentation

Walt Meier of the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) explains climate modeling. Climate models are complex mathematical representations of the Earth's climate system--interactions between the atmosphere, ocean, land, ice, and Sun.

Webinar with an Expert

Walt Meier presents “A brief introduction to modeling and observations of Arctic sea ice.” What role does sea ice cover play in Earth's climate system? What is the correlation between model predictions and actual observed records of sea ice cover?

Module A Quiz

Key concepts of Climate Literacy Essential Principle 5:

a. The components and processes of Earth's climate system are subject to the same physical laws as the rest of the universe.

b. Environmental observations are the foundation for understanding the climate system.

c. Observations, experiments, and theory are used to construct and refine computer models that represent the climate system and make predictions about its future behavior.

d. Our understanding of climate differs in important ways from our understanding of weather.

e. Scientists have conducted extensive research on the fundamental characteristics of the climate system and their understanding will continue to improve.

f. Through observations such as satellite monitoring, as well as theoretical studies and modeling, scientists have gained a solid understanding of the climate system.


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