• View of the Golden Gate Bridge, taken from the Marin Headlands, looking towards San Francisco at sunrise.

    Golden Gate

    National Recreation Area California

What is Climate Change?

The terms global warming and climate change are often used interchangeably, but the two phenomena are different.

Global warming is the rise in global mean temperature due to an increase of heat-trapping greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane in the atmosphere (see figure below). Based on surface and atmospheric temperatures from thousands of locations, and from satellites worldwide, scientists have determined that the global mean temperature has risen 0.8 degrees C, since 1880.

Climate change is a more general term that refers to changes in many climatic factors (such as temperature and precipitation) from the global to the local scale. These changes are happening in response to global warming and other factors at different rates and in different ways. For example on a large scale, the United States has become wetter over the 20th century, while the Sahel region of central Africa has become drier. In California, global warming and associated climate change is decreasing the Sierra snow pack and melting it sooner, causing water shortages across the state. Locally, the timing and amount of rainfall may change, potentially resulting in more frequent or heavier storms. This could lead to increased hillside erosion and flooding.
 
Greenhouse effect graphic
Left - Naturally occurring greenhouse gases—carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), and nitrous oxide (N2O)—normally trap some of the sun’s heat, keeping the planet from freezing.

Right - Human activities, such as the burning of fossil fuels, are increasing greenhouse gas levels, leading to an enhanced greenhouse effect. The result is global warming and unprecedented rates of climate change.
Will Elder, NPS
 
 

Did You Know?

Fort Baker hospital building

During the early 20th century, the army relied on standardized architectural plans to construct different types of buildings. That is why Fort Baker Building 533 and the Fort Mason GGNRA headquarters’ building look so similar: they were both constructed in 1902 as hospitals.