adaptation: (in climate studies) The development of new programs, processes, policies and structures to make communities and their inhabitants better able to head off — or at least withstand — the dangerous impacts of a warming climate. Those impacts may include drought, flooding, wildfires, extreme heat and extreme storms.
aquatic: An adjective that refers to water.
biodiversity: (short for biological diversity) The number and variety of species found within a localized geographic region.
carbon: A chemical element that is the physical basis of all life on Earth. Carbon exists freely as graphite and diamond. It is an important part of coal, limestone and petroleum, and is capable of self-bonding, chemically, to form an enormous number of chemically, biologically and commercially important molecules. (in climate studies) The term carbon sometimes will be used almost interchangeably with carbon dioxide to connote the potential impacts that some action, product, policy or process may have on long-term atmospheric warming.
carbon dioxide: (or CO2) A colorless, odorless gas produced by all animals when the oxygen they inhale reacts with the carbon-rich foods that they’ve eaten. Carbon dioxide also is released when organic matter burns (including fossil fuels like oil or gas). Carbon dioxide acts as a greenhouse gas, trapping heat in Earth’s atmosphere. Plants convert carbon dioxide into oxygen during photosynthesis, the process they use to make their own food.
climate: The weather conditions that typically exist in one area, in general, or over a long period.
climate change: Long-term, significant change in the climate of Earth. It can happen naturally or in response to human activities, including the burning of fossil fuels and clearing of forests.
coral: Marine animals that often produce a hard and stony exoskeleton and tend to live on reefs (the exoskeletons of dead ancestor corals).
crop: (in agriculture) A type of plant grown intentionally grown and nurtured by farmers, such as corn, coffee or tomatoes. Or the term could apply to the part of the plant harvested and sold by farmers.
develop: To emerge or to make come into being, either naturally or through human intervention, such as by manufacturing.
ecosystem: A group of interacting living organisms — including microorganisms, plants and animals — and their physical environment within a particular climate. Examples include tropical reefs, rainforests, alpine meadows and polar tundra. The term can also be applied to elements that make up some an artificial environment, such as a company, classroom or the internet.
environment: The sum of all of the things that exist around some organism or the process and the condition those things create. Environment may refer to the weather and ecosystem in which some animal lives, or, perhaps, the temperature and humidity (or even the placement of things in the vicinity of an item of interest).
extinction: The permanent loss of a species, family or larger group of organisms.
greenhouse gases: Gases that contribute to the greenhouse effect by absorbing heat. Carbon dioxide and methane are two examples of such gases.
ice sheet: A broad blanket of ice, often kilometers deep. Ice sheets currently cover most of Antarctica. An ice sheet also blankets most of Greenland. During the last glaciation, ice sheets also covered much of North America and Europe.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: (or NOAA) A science agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce. Initially established in 1807 under another name (The Survey of the Coast), this agency focuses on understanding and preserving ocean resources, including fisheries, protecting marine mammals (from seals to whales), studying the seafloor and probing the upper atmosphere.
policy: A plan, stated guidelines or agreed-upon rules of action to apply in certain specific circumstances. For instance, a school could have a policy on when to permit snow days or how many excused absences it would allow a student in a given year.
population: (in biology) A group of individuals (belonging to the same species) that lives in a given area.
rain garden: A shallow basin planted with grasses and other plants that can tolerate both dry periods and times when their roots are submerged in water. Rain gardens help to slow the movement of water, so that it can soak into the ground, instead of running off into storm sewers.
range: The full extent or distribution of something. For instance, a plant or animal’s range is the area over which it naturally exists.
rebuttal: An argument that refutes or contradicts some statement.
resident: Some member of a community of organisms that lives in a particular place. (Antonym: visitor)
risk: The chance or mathematical likelihood that some bad thing might happen. For instance, exposure to radiation poses a risk of cancer. Or the hazard — or peril — itself. (For instance: Among cancer risks that the people faced were radiation and drinking water tainted with arsenic.)
sea level: The overall level of the ocean over the entire globe when all tides and other short-term changes are averaged out.
species: A group of similar organisms capable of producing offspring that can survive and reproduce.
system: A network of parts that together work to achieve some function. For instance, the blood, vessels and heart are primary components of the human body’s circulatory system. Similarly, trains, platforms, tracks, roadway signals and overpasses are among the potential components of a nation’s railway system. System can even be applied to the processes or ideas that are part of some method or ordered set of procedures for getting a task done.
trajectory: The path taken by a projectile moving through space and time, or the direction that a trend is taking over time.
urban: Of or related to cities, especially densely populated ones or regions where lots of traffic and industrial activity occurs. The development or buildup of urban areas is a phenomenon known as urbanization.
vector: (in medicine) An organism that can spread disease, such as by transmitting a germ from one host to another.
waste: Any materials that are left over from biological or other systems that have no value, so they can be disposed of as trash or recycled for some new use.
weather: Conditions in the atmosphere at a localized place and a particular time. It is usually described in terms of particular features, such as air pressure, humidity, moisture, any precipitation (rain, snow or ice), temperature and wind speed. Weather constitutes the actual conditions that occur at any time and place. It’s different from climate, which is a description of the conditions that tend to occur in some general region during a particular month or season.