Toolkit: Big Picture Science

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Climate change is happening and it’s impacts are being seen in our national parks. The consensus among climate scientists is strong and human activities are perceived as being a primary global driver for the changes that are occurring. These key resources will provide a good basic background in big picture climate science.

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What's Really Warming the World?
This interactive chart displays findings from NASA to help explain why the Earth is warming. Is it the Earth's orbit? The Sun? Volcanoes? This chart demonstrates that only greenhouse gas emissions can account for the warming we're seeing today.
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Climate Science: What You Need to Know
This video explains - in just a few minutes - why we know climate change is happening and why we know humans are causing it. It may be worth watching a few times to capture the details and provides a great starting point to understanding the big picture of climate change science.
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Are National Parks Getting Warmer?
Climate change is ongoing across the national park system; an overwhelming majority of parks are already at the extreme warm end of their historical conditions. Here you can see the basic climate inventories featuring historical temperature and precipitation data of 289 national park units.
Recommended Resources
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This fantastic interactive website summarizes the 2014 National Climate Assessment report. Included is a general overview of climate change as well as regional climate change impacts and specific topics of interest. You can also download specific chapters of the assessment.
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The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change: 5th Assessment Report
This is an extensive document with both summary and technical sections that represent international perspectives. It presents information about what consensus exists amongst scientists and policy makers around the world. (Their synthesis reports are published every few years.)
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Climate Change: Evidence, Impacts, and Choices
The National Research Council of the National Academies of Science published this three-part climate guide. Part 1 lays out the evidence for climate change, Part 2 examines impacts, and Part 3 looks at ways we can take action to adapt and mitigate climate change.
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Climate Change: Evidence and Causes
This overview from the Royal Society and the U.S. National Academy of Sciences answers twenty commonly asked questions about climate change and provides an overview of basic climate science.
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Climate Literacy: The Essential Principles of Climate Science
This short guide presents information that is deemed important for individuals and communities to know and understand about Earth’s climate, impacts of climate change, and approaches to adaptation or mitigation. Principles in the guide can serve as discussion starters or launching points for scientific inquiry.
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USFS: Climate Change Science and Modeling
Looking for a one-stop shop to learn about the climate system, greenhouse gases, climate models, current climate change impacts, and future projections? This module from the U.S. Forest Service takes 20 minutes to complete and will bring you up to speed on what you need to know.
Other Agency Climate Change Websites
News and information about Earth’s changing climate featuring current data and visualizations.
NOAA's site integrates with their blog to share the latest climate news and information.
The Climate Change Resource Center hosts a library of climate resources, videos, and training.

The EPA provides a basic overview of climate science and includes a student guide.
Carbon Storage
Carbon Sequestration in the U.S. National Parks: A Value Beyond Visitation
This study looks at how much carbon is currently being stored in national park lands and projects a decline of carbon sequestration by 31% through 2050.

Climate Change Impacts and Carbon in U.S. National Parks [PDF]
This article on page 10 of Park Science reveals that 96% of the land administered by the NPS is located in areas of observed 20th century warming and provides an overview of the range of impacts being felt.

Last updated: August 12, 2019


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