Climate is the long-term prevailing pattern of temperature, precipitation and other weather variables at a given location. Climate includes conditions in the atmosphere and ocean, and is often described in terms of the intensity, frequency and duration of severe and non-severe weather events. Throughout Earth’s history, indications of climate change have been recorded in fossils and ice core samples.

Climate change can result in extended periods of heat and drought at one extreme and prolonged glaciations at the other. Current patterns in climate data show that the planet’s global surface temperature is rising due to a dramatic increase in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere over past two centuries.

The Chesapeake Bay is one of the most vulnerable regions in the nation to the effects of climate change. Some effects—like rising seas, warming water temperatures and prolonged periods of extreme weather—have already been observed in the region. Other impacts include a rise in coastal flooding and shoreline erosion and changes in wildlife abundance and migration patterns.

To combat climate change in the Bay watershed, consider lowering air pollution by walking, biking or taking public transportation when possible; or using electric or manual lawn mowers and yard tools instead of gas-powered machines. Understanding climatic processes and the resulting impacts of a changing climate are important as every living organism on Earth is affected by it.