Two terms – climate change and global warming – point to the same existential threat: Global temperatures have risen dramatically in about the past 150 years and scientists say they're on pace to radically alter life on Earth in coming decades.
Temperatures on our planet have fluctuated based on natural processes many times in the past, but experts say this extraordinary run of warming is different.
Global temperatures already have risen about 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit since about 1850, NASA says.
In the past, it took roughly thousands of years for global temperatures to change that much.
Such rapid change is alarming and is already disrupting the delicate balance of life on Earth.
The global warming trend comes as the human population exploded in recent centuries and technological advances spewed enormous amounts of chemicals and gases into the atmosphere. Some of them, called greenhouse gases, are excellent at trapping heat.
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Here's what to know about climate change:
Is climate change the same thing as global warming?
Yes and no.
The terms have different meanings, although they're often used interchangeably, according to NASA.
While the term "global warming" was used frequently in the past, the term "climate change" is used more often today because it includes the cascading consequences of rising temperatures occurring around the world – melting glaciers, rising seas, drought and more. "Global warming" refers more narrowly to the trend of rising temperatures.
What is causing climate change?
The Earth's climate changes through a variety of natural processes, but federal scientists say the rapid warming experienced recently is primarily caused by human activities that emit heat-trapping greenhouse gases.
That's why global efforts to fight climate change are so focused on eliminating the burning of fossil fuels, the most notable source of harmful greenhouse gases.
CLIMATE CHANGE CAUSES: Why scientists say humans are to blame.
What are 5 effects of climate change?
Drought: A "megadrought" in the West has been supercharged by warmer temperatures and a lack of rain.
Wildfires: Drought provides ideal conditions for wildfires. What's worse: Fires release massive amounts of greenhouse gases, which fuels more climate change.
Rain: A USA TODAY analysis of a century of precipitation data shows how, east of the Rockies, more rain is falling – and in more intense bursts.
Hurricanes: Evidence shows climate change is causing wetter hurricanes, but scientists say more data is needed before settling questions over future frequency.
EFFECTS OF CLIMATE CHANGE: How they disrupt our daily life, fuel disasters
What's the latest climate change news?
The nation's two federal agencies charged with weather and climate observations said in 2022:
Ocean heat reached a new high
Arctic sea ice was second lowest level ever recorded
Europe saw its second warmest year on record, but much of western Europe was the warmest ever
Contributing: Dinah Voyles Pulver
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Are climate change and global warming the same? Definitions explained.