What is Climate Change?

For weeks after Hurricane Sandy, maintenance work areas at Gateway's Sandy Hook Unit could only be accessed by boat.
For weeks after Hurricane Sandy, maintenance work areas at Gateway's Sandy Hook Unit could only be accessed by boat.


Climate change has many symptoms

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, climate change is "any significant change in the measures of climate lasting for an extended period of time." These changes are being observed in the present day and can affect weather patterns, such as rainfall amounts or temperature differences, storm systems and weather events such as droughts and floods. Phenomenae such as rising level sea levels are also attributed to climate change as temperature fluctuations melt glaciers, and an increasing number of severe storms erode shorelines.


How do we know that climate change is happening?

The science is increasingly clear that climate change is real. National Park Service scientists contribute to this data as we record changes at our own parks.

The image shows data culled from a tide gauge near Sandy Hook, New Jersey. It shows that since 1930, the average sea level has risen by a full foot. Though there have been some periods of time in which the average sea level would decrease, the trend over the past 80 years is clearly one of increase. It is expected that seas will rise another meter (approximately three feet) in the next 100-150 years. But we cannot wait. Gateway is one of the parks that is involved with making changes now.

SLR - Sandy Hook NJ
Changes in mean sea level from 1930 to 2010, with projections. The graph's scale is, on the left, 0.25 feet per gridline, and on the left, 0.25 meters per ever three and a half grid lines.

NOAA; Rutgers University


The image below presents data about changes in annual global temperature from the National Climate Data Center (NCDC). The years range from 1880 to 2010. Like the previous graph, it shows periods of time with a decreasing difference in average temperature, yet the overall trend is one of increasing temperature. The earth is warming and sea levels are rising, thus the climate is changing. But what happens as a result of such changes is not as clear.

Change in Global Temp - NCDC
The years on the bottom span from 1880 to 2010, with each vertical grid line representing a 0.1 degree Celsius difference in temperature from the average over those 130 years.

NCDC; Rutgers University

Last updated: June 19, 2015

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