Climate Science Academy

Accurate climate science information from leading climate scientists

Module C: Complex Interactions of Climate

Climate Literacy Essential Principle 2

Guiding Question

How do the non-living and living components of Earth impact climate?


Climate is regulated by complex interactions among components of the Earth system.

Earth's climate is influenced by intricate interactions between the Sun, clouds, ice, life, and especialy the ocean and atmosphere. Climate varies by region as a result of local differences in these interactions. Changes in any one of the climate system components can affect the balance of the whole Earth system. Closely observing and understanding existing climate conditions in a region is important in order to help identify impacts that may be happening now or in the future.

Learning & Teaching About Essential Principle 2 with the Climate Literacy & Energy Awareness Network (CLEAN)

Introduction to Climate Literacy Essential Principle 2 presented by Mark McCaffrey

Scientist Presentation

Amy Wagner of the University of Colorado Boulder explains paleoclimate evidence of abrupt climate change in Earth’s past. Models based on previous climate change events can help predict the impacts of abrupt climate change in the future.

Webinar with an Expert

Kathryn Boyd of Colorado State University presents “How does water affect the climate?” How does water vapor impact the effect and response of climate? What changes will likely occur in the Earth's water cycle due to global warming?

Module C Quiz

Key concepts Climate Literacy Essential Principle 2:

a. Earth's climate is influenced by interactions involving the Sun, ocean, atmosphere, clouds, ice, land, and life.

b. Covering 70% of Earth's surface, the ocean exerts a major control on climate by dominating Earth's energy and water cycles. It has the capacity to absorb large amounts of solar energy.

c. The amount of solar energy absorbed or radiated by Earth is modulated by the atmosphere and depends on its composition.

d. The abundance of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is controlled by biogeochemical cycles that continually move these components between their ocean, land, life, and atmosphere reservoirs.

e. Airborne particulates, called "aerosols," have a complex effect on Earth's energy balance: they can cause both cooling (by reflecting incoming sunlight back out to space) and warming (by absorbing and releasing heat energy in the atmosphere).

f. The interconnectedness of Earth's systems means that a significant change in any one component of the climate system can influence the equilibrium of the entire Earth system. 


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