Climate indicators

Climate observations or indicators can help you to understand the past climate and climate changes, helping you to think about how those changes may affect your organisation or business.

National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has developed a series of interactive maps and graphs to describe the global climate and how it has changed over time. They focus on 5 key climate indicators:

  • carbon dioxide concentration
  • global surface temperature
  • Arctic sea ice
  • land ice
  • sea level

The underlying data comes from NOAA (National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration) and NASA, and displays results that are consistent with datasets from other global climate centres.

The European Environment Agency (EEA) holds a database of climate indicators for Europe, with images, key messages and links to datasets for a range of subjects.

The Indicators of Climate Change in the UK website shows how climate, environmental, social and economic indicators, such as frequency of flooding, crop yields and wildlife activities have varied in recent years. Although this was last updated in 2004, it is still a useful resource.

Recent climate trends

Average global temperature and sea level have risen since the late 19th century, and at an increased rate over the past few decades.

  • Each of the last three decades has been successively warmer than any decade since 1850. In the Northern Hemisphere, 1983 to 2012 was likely to be the warmest 30-year period of the last 1400 years (IPCC Fifth Assessment Report, 2013).
  • Human influence on the climate system is clear (IPCC Fifth Assessment Report, 2013).
  • The rate of sea level rise since the mid-19th century has been larger than the average rate during the last two thousand years. Over the period 1901 to 2010, global average sea level rose by 0.19 m. (IPCC Fifth Assessment Report, 2013).