Renewable Energy Glossary

At we like to simplify life for businesses and individuals. Sometimes energy terminology seems like a foreign language. To help out we put together a renewable energy dictionary that hopefully can help you find what various terms mean. 

Abrupt Climate Change is a significant change that happens to a climate and causes quick or stong affects suddenly (during a decade for example).

Adaptation is when we try to prepare or adjust different systems (human or natural) to fit the new environment that is changing. This way, possible damage can be moderated.

Adaptive Capacity is used to describe a certain ability that systems have which helps it to adapt to the potential harm that climate change may cause. This ability can help the system to see new opportunities and predict the outcomes.

Aerosols are tiny liquid droplets that are able to reflect or absorb (variable to the composition) sunlight while floating in the atmosphere.

Afforestation is an act where new forests are planted on lands that have never had forests before.

Albedo is a percentage amount that tells how much solar radiation a surface or object reflects.

Alternative energy is the energy that is obtained from sources that are not traditional. For example, solar, wind, compressed natural gas, and hydroelectric are all alternative energies.

Annex is, in this case, Annex I that was included by a group of countries to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. It includes all countries in the Organization of Economic Co-operation and Development. It was modified in 1998 and the countries that use Annex I are committed to returning to the greenhouse gas emission to the level of 1990 by the year 2000. In fact, the countries that aren’t part of this, are called Non-Annex I countries.

Anthropogenic is the result of human activities or made by a human. The context often includes emissions that human activities produce.

The atmosphere describes the gases that surround earth in layers. Oxygen (20.9% volume mixing ratio), nitrogen (78.1% volume mixing ratio), helium, various trace gases like argon (0.93% volume mixing ratio), ozone, and greenhouse gases that are radiatively active like carbon dioxide (0.035% volume mixing ratio) are the main things that the dry atmosphere consists of. Also, the atmosphere contains includes water vapor (usually 1% volume mixing ratio but the amount is variable). In addition to these, aerosols and clouds are also part of the atmosphere.

Atmospheric lifetime is the time that molecules averagely stay in the atmosphere. After this, they are removed by the cause of deposition or chemical reaction. Normally, in case a certain amount of a compound gets into the atmosphere at a certain time, almost 35 percent of this particular amount will stay in the atmosphere even after the end of the atmospheric lifetime of this compound. This fraction will keep decreasing exponentially. As a result, almost 15 percent of the amount will stay after two atmospheric lifetimes have passed, etc. There are compounds, most commonly carbon dioxide, that have even more complex lifecycles. A simple exponential equation doesn't define the atmospheric lifetime of them. The lifetimes of greenhouse gas can vary between just a few years to even thousands of years.

Biofuels are either liquid or gas fuels that have been made from plant materials. The materials can include railroad ties, peat, wood, wood sludge, wood waste, wood liquors, spent sulfite liquors, straw, tall oil, fish oil, tires, agricultural waste, waste alcohol, municipal solid waste, sludge waste, ethanol blended with motor gasoline, and other waste.

The biogeochemical cycle is the movement of key chemical constituents that are essential to life (nitrogen, carbon, phosphorus, oxygen) through the Earth system.

Biomass is the different materials that are biological in origin. The list includes organic materials from below ground to above that are either dead or living. For example, grasses, crops, trees, roots, tree litter, animals, and animal waste.

Biosphere is the area surrounding the earth that is home to living organisms and the ecosystems they live in. It includes the terrestrial and marine biosphere and the atmosphere. Dead organic matter stays part of the Biosphere, like litter, soil or detritus.

Black Carbon Aerosol is a component of PM (particulate matter). It develops from the incomplete incineration of biomass, bio- and fossil fuels. It has a strong light- absorption and is emitted into the atmosphere in the form of fine particles.

Borehole is hole drilled into the ice for the collection of geophysical data. For climate research the ice samples collected are used to research the atmosphere in the past.

The Carbon Cycle is the circulation of carbon in the atmosphere, terrestrial biosphere, oceans, and sediments. The Ocean contains the majority, but most of its carbon is not involved in the annual rapid exchange between the mentioned main four reservoirs, mainly the atmosphere. The reservoirs are connected via carbon exchange ways, which consist of different biological, geological, physical and chemical processes.

Carbon Dioxide is a naturally occuring gas. It is the main human caused greenhouse gas, since it is also a byproduct when burning biomass, fossil fuels, and numerous industrial processes. Due to its damaging of the Earth's Ozone Shell, affecting the planet's radiative balance, it is used as a comparison for other greenhouse gases. It is listed with a Global warming potential of 1.

The Carbon Dioxide Equivalent is a metric measure for greenhouse gases. It compares their GWP (Global Warming Potential) caused by their emissions. They are conventionally described as MMTCO2Eq (million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents). When multiplying the tons of gas with their GWP, you can calculate the Carbon Dioxide Equivalent.

Carbon Dioxide Fertilization describes the effect on plants fertility of different CO2 Levels in the atmosphere. Each Type of Plant is affected differently, influenced by their Photosynthesis- mechanism.

 The carbon Footprint of a person measures their emission of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere per Year. It can also be calculated for Families, buildings, businesses and organisations. A Carbon Footprint includes directly emitted gas by a person, like car fuel, and those necessary for creating a good the person consumes or uses.

Carbon Sequestration or Carbon Terrestrial describes the process of trees and plants absorbing carbon dioxide. They save the Carbon inside them and release the oxygen stored in the gas. Geologic sequestration involves injecting Carbon Dioxide via Carbon Sequestration underground where it is stored permanently. This Process is called Carbon Capture and Sequestration (CCS).

Carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) is a three- step- process that reduces the carbon dioxide emissions from power plants that are fuel- or gas- fired regardless whether they are old or new through technology. It also applies to other industrial processes and stationary sources that cause carbon dioxide emissions. The steps necessary include capture of carbon dioxide, its transport (typically compressed and via pipeline), and permanent storage. Storage can be underground through injection and geologic sequestration, or in the pores of rock.

Chlorofluorocarbons (CFC) are gases not destroyed in the lower atmosphere and can destroy the Ozone layer in the upper atmosphere and therefore covered in the 1987 Montreal protocol. They were used for aerosol propellants, air conditioning, packaging refrigeration, insulation, or solvents. Other gas- compounds replaced them, namely hydrochlorofluorocarbons which were also covered under the Montreal Protocol. The Kyoto Protocol covered hydrofluorocarbons, all of them being greenhouse gases.

Climate can be defined from the more plain “average weather” to the statistical recording of relevant quantities over a time period ranging from months to millenia. TheWMO (World Meteorological Organisation) focuses on the last 3 decades and defines a classic period as such. The quantities recorded usually are surface variables like wind, temperature, and precipitation. The wider definition of climate describes the state of the climate system.

Climate Change is the difference in climate lasting for a long- term period. It includes all measures used for climate, like wind and wind patterns, temperature and precipitation. The time period usually refers to several decades.

Climate Feedback describes actions taken to impact Climate Change and the Process of doing so.

Climate Lag describes changes in the Climate system that take a longer period of time to change. The ocean's slow warming is one Example, since it needs a lot of time to warm up as an effect to the chance of radiation caused by higher levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

The Climate Model is a representation of the interplay of atmosphere, ice, land surface and oceans. Models range in scope and detail.

Climate Sensitivity in equilibrium describes generally the equilibrium change in surface air temperature after a shift in radiation (Unit: Degrees Celsius per Watts per square meter). More precisely, the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) defines the equilibrium climate change sensitivity as the mentioned equilibrium change in surface temperature after the CO2 Concentration in the atmosphere doubles. With a Climate Model called the Coupled General Circulation Model the equilibrium climate sensitivity can be calculated through long simulations. To avoid this requirement, one can use the effective climate sensitivity, a similar measure can be achieved by calculating the output under the assumption of developing non- equilibrium conditions. It is used to determine the intensity of feedbacks at a specific time and may vary with climate state and climate history.

The Climate System and its variations are the result of biosphere, lithosphere, cryosphere, hydrosphere and atmosphere.

Coal Mine Methane gets set free from coal seams while coal mining. It is a a subset of coalbed methane.

Coalbed Methane, or virgin coalbed methane/ coal seam gas is methane stored in coal seams.

Co- benefit describes the positive effects of implemented policies that curb climate change that, at the same time, also have other advantages. The stopping of climate change is usually not the only reason for the policies implementation, therefore creating a Co- Benefit.

Concentration is the quota of a certain chemical in a defined volume of any Medium. Examples are air, soil, or water.

A Conference of the Parties describes the leading body of the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change). In 1995, the Conventions first meeting was held in Berlin, Germany, and by now more than 180 Countries ratified it, joining their annual meeting. Implementations of the Convention are implemented and promoted by the COP. Existing Commitments get periodically reviewed to ensure their matching with the conventions objectives and esure the incorporation of climate change programs and new scientific research.

Coral Bleaching is the process of a Coral Colony turning white. This is the result of environmental stress on zooxanthellae, microscopic algae, that live in a symbiotic relationship with polyps, the algaes host organismus.

The Cryosphere includes frozen water in different forms, from permafrost, snow,  and floating ice to glaciers. It is one of the interlinked spheres of the earth's system. Volume fluctuations affect the oceans sea level and have a direct effect on the biosphere and atmosphere.

Deforestation describes processes and practises that result in forested areas turning into non- forest areas. This process releases the carbon dioxide contained in the forest due to the woods  burning or decomposition. The removed trees also can no longer practise photosynthesis and filter the atmosphere's Carbon dioxide. Both of these factors cause an overall increase of Carbon Dioxide in the atmosphere.

Desertification is the degradation of land from climatic variations, human activities and various other reasons. This usually happens in dry sub- humid, semi- arid and arid areas. The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) issued a a definition for land degradation: in the mentioned areas, a reduction or loss of economic or biological productivity and complexity of woodlands, forests, pasture, range, irrigated cropland or rain- fed cropland.

This is the result of processes including human activities and habitation patterns. Exampels of such would be a decline in biological, chemical, economical and physical features of the soil, erosion caused by water or wind, and permanent loss of the natural vegetation.

Dryland Farming is an agricultural approach for dry areas. Techniques include choosing selected seeds adapted to the specific area and the saving of moisture in the soil.

Eccentricity describes the departure from a perfect circle of earth's orbit while rotating around the sun.

An Ecosystem includes all living and non- living elements in a natural unit, if they interact and cause a stable system through their exchange of materials in a cyclic pattern.

El Niño is an oceanic event, where warm water flows along the coast of Peru and Ecuador periodically. It is linked to tropical surface pressure patterns, disruptions in local fishery and the southern oscillation (circulation of the Indian and Pacific Ocean). This also leads to the phenomenon's name, El Niño- Southern oscillation.

El Niño is characterized by a weakening of prevailing trade winds, while its equatorial opponent strengthens. This results in the cold waters of Peru being overlays by now east flowing warm surface waters from Indonesia, causing changes in surface temperature, wind and precipitation patterns in all of the pacific.

The Opposite Counterpart of El Niño is called La Niña.

Emissions are substances that were and are released into the atmosphere, usually in the form of gas.

An Emissions Factor is a standart rate of emissions per unit of activity, assigning a unique value. It is used for the scaling of emissions in regards to activity data.

Energy Efficiency means offering the same service while needing less energy.

ENERGY STAR is a Environmental Protection Agency. It is a voluntary program that supports individuals and corporations or small businesses in finding a solution for saving money and protecting the climate at the same time with energy efficiency.

The enhanced greenhouse effect is the human- caused inctrease of the natural greenhouse effect. Manmade added greenhouse gases, such as Methane and CO2, result in the warming of earth.

Enteric Fermentation is largely produced by cattle, the livestock which causes the most methane- release due to their digestion. A third of all agricultural emissions are Enteric Fermentation.

Evaporation describes the change from vapor to gas or liquid of water.

Evapotranspiration describes the transpiration and evaporation from the surface and vegetation of the earth.

Feedback Mechanisms can result in positive or negative Feedback due to their impact on a process of either increasing or decreasing it. The ice- albedo Feedback is an example of positive feedback.

Fluorinated Gases are synthetically produced greenhouse gases that get emitted through various industrial processes. Examples are hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, and sulfur hexafluoride. Ozone- dezimizing substances like halons, hydrochlorofluorocarbons, and chlorofluorocarbons can occasionally be substituted by them and can be found in fire extinguishers, coolants, solvents, foaming agents and others. They have a high Global Warming Potential and therefore are counted to the High GWP gases, but are emitted in rather small quantities compared to Methane or Carbon Dioxide.

Fluorocarbons often contain bromine, chlorine, hydrogen or other elements and are compounds of Carbon- fluorines. Examples of Fluorocarbons are perfluorocarbons (PFCs), chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), and hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs).

A Forcing Mechanism alters the climate system's energy balance in a process of changing the relation of earth's outgoing infrared radiation and incoming solar radiation. An example of such a mechanism would be enhancement of the natural greenhouse effect through greenhouse- gas- emissions, volcanic eruptions and solar irradiance.

Fossil Fuels are coal, crude oil, heavy oils, or natural gas. They are created by exposure or heat in millions of Years on organic materials like decayed plants and animals.

Fuel Switching describes changing a fuel type for another. In the context of climate change, fuel switching usually implies switching to an option that produces lower emissions. An Example would be natural gas as a substitute for coal.

The General Circulation Model (GCM) is a simulation of climate change induces by humans. They are highly complex three- dimensional computer models and depict events on a global scale and represent land surface, temperatures and atmosphere. Affects displayed in the model include greenhouse gas concentrations, clouds, solar heating, vapor, ice, ocean temperatures, and the reflective and absorptive properties of atmospheric water vapor.

The Geosphere describes the earth's crust beneath oceans and the continental one. It is made of rock layers, sediments and soils.

A Glacier is a mass of ice build by an accumulation of snowfall over multiple years with at least 0,1km² land coverage. It shows movement due to gravity and constant growth from the top, and it can terminate in water or land. The Ice of glaciers saves the largest freshwater resource in the world, and they can be found everywhere except in Australia.

The Global Average Temperature is the surface temperature of earth estimated for the entire planet.

Global Warming is a global average temperature increase near earth's surface. It is recent and currently ongoing.

Global Warming Potential is the measure used to describe a gas's potential to absorb energy over time, usually 100 Years, in comparison to carbon dioxide.

The Greenhouse effect takes place near Earths surface in the atmosphere, where heat gets trapped and then builds up. This heat can get reradiated back the the surface of the planet, when getting trapped and absorbed in Carbon Dioxide, Ozone, Water Vapor and others. When greenhouse gases rise in concentration, rises of the average temperature will follow.

Greenhouse gases are defined by their radiation absorption in the earth's atmosphere. Examples of greenhouse gases are ozone, hydrochlorofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, carbon dioxide, sulfur hexafluoride, chlorofluorocarbons, hydrofluorocarbons, nitrous oxide and methane.

Habitat Fragmentation describes the process of an original habitat being fragmented and separated into smaller habitats that are isolated from each other.

Halocarbons are bromine, chlorine or carbon and fluorine containing compounds and able to act as strong greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The depletion of the earths ozone layer is also partially due to the halocarbons containing bromine and chlorine.

A Heat Island can be found in Urban Surroundings and is characterized by temperatures above the average non- urban area. The replacement of land and vegetation with Roads, Buildings and other infrastructure results in the area saving a higher amount of solar energy is the reason for this development.

Heat Waves are a combination of high heat and often humidity over a longer period of time.

Hydrocarbons are components of fossil fuels and contain only carbon and hydrogen.

Hydrochlorofluorocarbons are made of fluorine, hydrogen, chlorine and carbon atoms. Less ozone destroying than CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons), they were introduced as a their replacement for a certain time.  Hydrochlorofluorocarbons are greenhouse gases.

Hydrofluorocarbons are used as the replacement of many ozone- destroying substances and are only made of carbon, hydrogen and fluorine atoms. Emitted in Industrial Processes, they are also used in manufactoring and for personal and commercial needs. Even though they do not harm the Ozone- layer, they still have high Global Warming Potentials with 140 (HFC-152a) at lowest and 11,700 (HFC-23) at highest.

The hydrologic cycle describes the circuit of water that has a major influence on clouds, snow and ice, soil moisture, surface vegetation and many others. The process begins with evaporation, then the transport of vapor, followed by condensation and precipitation and of course the flow of water from continents to oceans. The hydrologic cycle also is a main source of heat transportation, from 25% up to 30%, mainly from equatorial to polar areas in the mid- latitudes of the planet.

The Hydrosphere is the part of the climate system that comprises the surface- and subterranean water. This includes underground water, oceans, rivers, seas, freshwater lakes and others.

An Ice Core gets used for research purposes and is usually cylindrical due to it being drilled out of ice sheets and glaciers. On them, climate patterns from the past can be studied. Air can be found trapped in them, and with chemical analysis the concentration of gases like carbon dioxide in the air at the time this part of ice froze can be estimated. Analysis on the actual ice can give a suggestion on historic temperatures.

Indirect Emissions do not occur where a resource is used, but at the origin of the resource. An Example for this would be a house using electricity produced at a power plant.

The Industrial Revolution took place in mid- 18th century England, taking over Europe and other countries shortly after. It was characterized by industrial growth and hughe economic and social consequences. The increased emission due to combustion of fossil fuels began here.

Infrared Radiation can be perceived as heat. It is composed of light with wavelengths longer than those of red light that makes up the visible part of the light spectrum, yet shorter than microwave radiation.  Terrestrial long- wave radiation is emitted by the atmosphere, clouds and earth's surface, while the sun's radiation is mostly short- waved due to its temperature.

The Intergovernmental Panel on climate Change (IPCC) is tasked with collecting and assessing all relevant information published from a scientific or technological perspective regarding climate change. It was founded in 1988 by the World Meteorological Organization and the United Nations Environment Programme. Hundreds of Scientists from all over the world are involved in this task and their work prepared and helped the global understanding of the effects and causes of climate change. The IPCCs capacity of research and reporting is so broad it is internationally recognized as the go- to advisory board for governments in climate- change related topics.One Example of its influence is the Method for conducting the emissions of greenhouse gases for every country, that was internationally accepted.

Inundation is the process of a landmass being submerged under water, typically in coastal regions.

A Landfill is a waste disposal on Land. It is usually made of thin, compacted layers of waste that are separated by soil.

A Latitude lies in reference to the equator, designated at Zero Degrees, on the Northern or Southern Hemisphere. Equator, Northern and Southern Latitude are parallel and circle the globe. The North Pole is at 90 degrees to the Northern Latitude, the South Pole at 90 degrees to the Southern Latitude.

A Least Developed Country is, determined by the United Nations, a Nation with exceptionally low economic and socio economic development and low human resources.

Longwave Radiation is emitted in wavelengths above 4 micrometers. It is similar to the radiation emitted by earth and atmosphere. Terms used to describe Longwave radiation range from “Terrestrial radiation” to “Infrared Radiation”, but are considered rather imprecise.

Megacities are cities that surpass 10 Million inhabitants.

Methane is a greenhouse gas and a hydrocarbon, with global warming potential that surpasses that of carbon dioxide 25 times. It is produced when decomposition happens under exclusion of oxygen, called anaerobic. This could be in animal digestion, incomplete fossil fuel combustion, decomposition of waste in landfills, decomposition of animal wastes, coal production, and the production and distribution of natural gas and petroleum. The IPCC's Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) published the mentioned GWP.

A Metric Ton is an internationally used measurement. It gets used for greenhouse gas emission. 1.1. Short tons or 2205 lbs equal 1 metric ton.

Mitigation is the intervention of humans to reduce their impact on the climate system. Reducing greenhouse gases is one of the main goals.

Mount Pinatubo is a volcano that erupted in 1991. It is located in the Phillipine Islands and its outbreak masked the warming that occurred starting in the 1980s by cooling down the planet from 1992 until 1994.The eruption blocked some solar radiation from reaching the atmosphere of earth because of the emitted sulfate aerosol and other particulate.

Municipal Solid Waste is waste that can be found in municipal landfills and is made of mostly residential solid waste. It also includes some non- toxic or hazardous industrial, commercial or institutional wastes.

Natural Gases can be found in underground depositis and consist mostly of methane (50- 90 percent) and of compounds like heavier gaseous hydrocarbon like butane (C4H10) or propane (C3H8).

Natural Variability describes the variations of climate in the mean state and other statistics, from the extremes to standard derivations. This includes all space and time scales beyond single weather events. Events like El Niño are internal causes for change in the Natural Variability, while changes through external events include the output of the sun or volcanic eruptions.

The Nitrogen Cycle describes the natural occurring circulation of nitrogen from microorganisms, animals, plants and atmosphere. During the cycle, nitrogen takes a variety  of forms, like nitrogen oxides (NOx) or nitrous oxide (N2O).

Nitrogen Oxides are gases that consist of a varying number of oxygen molecules and nitrogen. They are emitted by power stations and vehicles. Nitrogen Oxides are considered pollutants, since they can partially cause the formation of smog (photochemical ozone), which can affect visibility and health.

Nitrous Oxide has a GWP 298 times that of CO2 making it a powerful greenhouse gas. The gas can be emitted naturally and through humans. The Natural emissions are mainly from the oceans and soil, where bacteria break down nitrogen. Artificial emissions are mainly caused by cultivation practices like biomass burning, nitric acid production, fossil fuel combustion, and use of fertilizers. It can be removed from the atmosphere when ultraviolet radiation from the stratosphere destroys it. Certain bacteria in soil can also consume Nitrous Oxide.

The IPCC's Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) published the mentioned GWP.

Non-Methane Volatile Organic Compounds take part in photochemical reactions in the atmosphere apart from methane. They are organic.

Ocean Acidification describes a measurable increase in acidity (ocean ph- levels shrink) caused by growing concentrations of carbon dioxide in the water. This process can cause calification reduction of organisms that are calcifying, like crustaceans, mollusks,  corals, and algae.

Oxidizing describes the chemical reaction of any substance with oxygen and its transformation caused by this.

Ozone is a triatomic oxygen (O3) and a gaseous component of the atmosphere. It is created in photochemical reactions in the earth's troposphere from natural gases and photochemical smog, which is produced by humans. It acts as a greenhouse gas and tropospheric ozone can be harmful to many organisms when its concentration is high enough. Another origin of Ozone lies in the stratosphere, where it is created by ultraviolet radiation emitted by the sun reacting with molecular oxygen (O2). The so created stratospheric ozone highly impacts the radiative balance in the Stratosphere. If the concentration of Ozone in the stratosphere is declining, partially induced by climate change caused chemical reactions, ultraviolet B- radiation near ground would increase dramatically.

Ozone Depleting Substances are human- made compounds that are capable of depleting the ozone in the stratosphere. Typically called ODSs, they include bromofluorocarbons (halons), chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs),  carbon tetrachloride, methyl bromide, hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), and methyl chloroform.

The Ozone Layer starts about 15km over the earth's surface and thins out towards the upper atmosphere about 50 km up. It is made of ozone that shields the earth from ultraviolet radiation from the sun, preventing it from harming earth. 10 parts per million by volume are the highest natural concentration of ozone and can be found in the stratosphere at about 25km height. The concentration gets affected by the seasons through stratospheric circulation, and volcanoes and solar flares are natural events impacting strongly as well. However, man- made changes are the greatest concern for the ozone layer.

Ozone Precursors are chemical compounds that can form ozone under solar radiation in the troposphere in combination with other chemical compounds. Ozone Precursors include methane, carbon monoxide, non-methane hydrocarbons, or nitrogen oxides.

Particulate matter can be pieces of dust, mists, soot, fumes or aerosols. They occur in very small pieces and in liquid or solid aggregate states. In the way they combine with other particles and their physical characteristics build a portion of the earth's feedback system.

Parts per Billions describes the amount of parts of a certain chemical that can be found in a liquid, solid or gas mixture of one Billion Parts.

Parts per Million by Volume describes the amount of parts of a certain chemical that can be found in a liquid, solid or gas mixture of one Million Parts.

Parts per Trillion describe the amount of parts of a certain chemical that can be found in a liquid, solid or gas mixture of one Trillion Parts.

Perfluorocarbons are composed only of fluorine and carbon. This family of chemicals, mainlyCF4 and C2F6, was part of the replacement for ozone depleting substances and introduced alongside hydrofluorocarbons. PFCs are also used for industrial processes and can be emitted by such as a by- product. PFCs are not considered dangerous for the ozone layer in the stratosphere, however the family does have some powerful greenhouse gases like C2F6 with a GWP of 12,200 or CF4 with a GWP of 7,390. All of these chemicals are human- made, exept for CF4 which can be emitted naturally in small quantities. The IPCC's Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) published the mentioned GWP.

Permafrost is ground with a temperature consistently below 0ºC and therefore permanently frozen.

Phenology describes the study of a natural event's timing, influenced by change in climate. Examples for this are animal migrations and flower blooms. Phenological events are under the influence of humidity, temperature, including light, rainfall and other climate factors.

Photosynthesis is performed by plants and describes the process in which they emitt O2 from CO2 they take from air or water (in form of bicarbonate) in order to produce carbohydrates. In response to different CO2 concentrations, plants have different strategies for photosynthesis.

Precession is the fluctuation of the earths axis compared to the level of the solar system over the course of thousands of years.

Radiation describes the energy transfer that takes place through particles or electromagnetic waves when an object absorbs them.

Radiative Forcing is used to measure a change in the earths energy balance by a certain factor, like land use changes, aerosol or greenhouse gases.

Recycling describes the reusing of a certain resource and the process of achieving reusability. This includes the collection and the reprocessing, like the melting of collected aluminium cans to make new aluminium products.

Reflectivity is a term for the reflection of ultraviolet, infrared and visible wavelengths of a material's surface.

Reforestation is the process of replanting trees on an area that was a former forest, but has been cleared to be used for another purpose.

The relative sea level rise describes a rise in water levels at a certain location of the ocean under consideration of sea level rises and local uplift or subsidence. With a vertical datum scientists measure the relative sea level rise in relation to the land. However, over time the datum may also change in height.

Renewable energy gets produced from resources that renew themselves naturally. Examples include hydro, solar, biomass, geothermal,wind, ocean thermal, or wave and tidal action.

Residence Time describes the amount of time a molecule or individual atom spends in a reservoir. A greenhouse gases residence time describes the time their molecules on average spend in the atmosphere. Apart from carbon dioxide and methane, a gases residency time to their atmospheric lifetime.

Resilience describes the capacity of a society or government to shield, protect, respond and recover their environment, social well-being and economy from threats of all kinds through preparation and  anticipation.

Respiration is an organism's process of releasing energy and consuming O2 while converting organic matter to CO2.

Salt Water Intrusion describes the advance of oceans salt water typically in estuarine and coastal regions while replacing ground- or fresh water. This is possible due to salt waters higher density.

Scenarios are plausible descriptions of future developments. Typically simplified, they take internally consistent as well as coherent assumptions into consideration when analysing key relationships and driving relationships relevant for the scenario.

Sea surface temperature gets measured by drifters, buoys and ships and describes how warm or cold the water several feet from the ocean's surface down has.

Sensitivity describes a systems susceptibility to change or climate variability adversely as well as beneficially. Indirect effects include sea level rise causing change in flooding of coastal regions, while direct effects include harvest in- or decreases in response to change of the temperature.

A Short Ton is the United States common measurement for a ton and equals 0.907 metric tons or 2,000 lbs.

Sink is the word used for any removal of an aerosol, a greenhouse gas or a precursor of such from the atmosphere. This can happen  though a variety of activities, mechanisms or processes.

A Snowpack describes slow- melting snow that accumulates in seasonal patterns.

Soil Carbon can be found in the terrestrial biosphere- part of the carbon cycle, of which it is a main component. Historic climate variables determine the amount of carbon in the soil, since soil carbon is dependent on past vegetations cover and productivity.

Solar Radiation, also short- wave radiation, gets emitted by the sun. The sun's temperature determines the radiation wavelength.

Storm Surge is the difference between the average sea level at a specific point and the sea level recorded during a cyclone, hurricane or intense storm causing a temporary rise in sea level.

The Stratosphere is located between the troposphere and the mesosphere, and is a part of the atmosphere. The Stratosphere's lower boundary varies between up to 15km in height at the equator and 8km of height at the poles. The upper boundary can be found around 50km up. In the Stratosphere temperatures usually increase towards the upper boundary due to the ozone absorbing solar radiation. In the lower stratosphere, can temperature change in response to altitude and decrease, rise or be isothermal.

For Stratospheric Ozone see Ozone layer.

Streamflow describes the cubic feet of water flowing per second (ft3/sec) over a fixed point and a designated time period.

Subsiding describes Earth's crust settling downwards in relation to its surroundings.

Sulfate Aerosols can be found in the atmosphere and consist of sulfur- compounds formed by an interaction of sulfur dioxide and sulfur trioxide. They are a particulate matter and get emitted into the earth's atmosphere by volcanic eruptions (like Mt. Pinatubo) or burning of fossil fuels. Sulfate aerosols have the attribute of negative radiative forcing, reflecting solar radiation away, and can therefore lower the earth's temperature. Sulfate Aerosols and the effects they cause are incorporated into General Circulation Models to make their predictions more accurate.

Sulfur Hexafluoride is one of the stronger greenhouse gases that can be dissolved easily in alcohol and ether, and not so easy in water. Its prime use lies in distribution systems, as a dielectric for electronics and in electrical transmission. The IPCC's Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) published the GWP of SF6 as 22,800.

A Teragram is equal  to 1 million (106) metric tons or 1 trillion (1012) grams.

Thermal Expansion is caused by warming water and describes a decrease in density and rise in volume. If for example the oceans temperature rises, they also expand in volume and rise the overall sea level.

Thermohaline Circulation describes the massive oceanwide circulation of water caused by different concentrations of salt and temperature, which is driven by density. The net poleward transport of heat in the North Atlantic is an example for this, the thermohaline circulation here is caused by  cold deep water flowing south and warm surface water flowing north. In high latitudes, the surface water can sink in the sinking region located there.

Trace Gases can be found in the earth's atmosphere, but are very rare. 99 percent of the atmosphere is made of  argon, oxygen, and nitrogen, and the others are considered trace gases. They include water vapor, carbon dioxide, ammonia, ozone, methane, and oxides of nitrogen. The effects they have on climate and weather are enorm, considering their small part in overall volume.

The Troposphere is the lower part of the atmosphere, and where clouds and all phenomena of “weather” are localized. Its upper border lies about 10km above the earth's surface, ranging from up to 16km in tropical areas to 9km in high latitudes. Its temperature decreases with height.

For Tropospheric Ozone, see Ozone.

For Tropospheric Ozone Precursors, see Ozone Precursors.

The Tundra can be found in sub- Arctic and Arctic regions, and has very low temperatures combined with very short vegetative seasons. It is generally treeless and has a slightly undulating or level  plain.

Ultraviolet Radiation is just beyond the visible light spectrum, and its energy range lies directly behind violet. It only makes up  about 5 percent of the overall radiation emitted by the sun, yet for the mesosphere and stratosphere it is the main energy source. Therefore, ultraviolet radiation plays a key role in chemical composition and the energy balance. The earth's atmosphere blocks out most of all ultraviolet radiation, but the one that still gets through aids in the plants process of photosynthesis and in humans vitamin D production. When subjected to too much, ultraviolet radiation can burn vegetation, cause skin burns, cataracts, and skin cancer.

The United Nations FRamework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is tasked with channelling all international efforts to fight climate change and sets the necessary framework. 

The Convention views the climate system as a universal resource that has to be protected from emissions of greenhouse gases and other industrial effects. With 189 countries having ratified it, the convention has almost worldwide membership.

Countries that ratified the Convention agree to:

  • Information about greenhouse gases, national policies and practices are shared and gathered
  • To address greenhouse gas emissions and prepare for expected consequences, national strategies, technical and financial support are agreed upon
  • Preparation for climate change effects is done cooperatively

On March 21, 1994 the Convention was implemented.

Vulnerability describes the degree to which a system can tolerate or not tolerate the effects of climate change, from climate extremes to variability. Vulnerability focuses on a system's adaptive capacity and  sensitivity, and takes into account the kind, rate, and magnitude of climate variation it has to face.

Wastewater is water full with suspended or dissolved disposable materials.

Water Vapor is a greenhouse gas, very abundant, and the gaseous form of the atmospheric water. The natural greenhouse effect is highly dependent on it. Human Interaction is not directly increasing its concentration, however water vapor also has a part in the increased greenhouse effect by having positive water vapor feedback as a result of the warming of the atmosphere. Trough the building of clouds water vapor also has influence over the global temperature. With higher temperatures through greenhouse emissions, more vapor creates more clouds, resulting in an increase of water droplets, ice and precipitation in the atmosphere.

Weather describes the condition of the atmosphere at any location over any given time period. Magnitudes like cloudiness, temperature, atmospheric pressure, humidity, precipitation and wind are used for its description. Weather is typically very flexible and inconsistent  on a seasonal, daily or hourly basis. The Common description of climate is usually “average weather”, while per definition it is the statistical data from all weather phenomenons over varying periods of time, from millions of Years over millennia to just the past months. The WMO (World Meteorological Organization) set a classic recording period with 30 Years, in which mostly wind, precipitation and temperature, so- called surface variables, are collected and analyzed. A more broad definition of the term “Climate” involves a description of the climate system in a statistical sense. A common way of differentiation lies in climate being the expected (Rain in Spring) and weather being the actual Event (a rainstorm).

100- Year Flood Levels are so high and rare, they have a likelihood of only occuring once every century.