Science & Technology in Action

16th Edition

GIS and the changing climate

Ordnance Survey Ireland

Agricultural Science
Politics & Society
This lesson deals with the vital contribution of the OSi Geographical information System (GIS) and its related geospatial information to the process of climate change analysis. It outlines the causes of climate change and the reasons why such change is now considered to be a serious challenge to the global future. The relevance of geospatial data is emphasised.

Available downloads

The full lessons along with a supporting toolkit are available in three different formats, A4, A3 and as a Powerpoint deck.

Lesson excerpt

The changing climate

It is generally agreed that we are currently approaching very serious changes in temperatures and weather patterns. This lesson outlines the causes of such climate change and emphasises the role of Geographical Information Systems (GIS) in providing the data required to analyse the current situation and plan for the future.

What causes it?

Energy comes to the earth from the sun by means of solar radiation. Energy is also emitted from the earth into space, mainly by infrared radiation. If these flows of energy, into and from the earth, are not reasonably balanced, the temperature of the earth will change and this will result in a changing climate. For example, if the earth receives more heat than it emits, the temperature of the earth’s surface rises. This is precisely what has been happening for years and is now reaching critical levels.

What causes the energy imbalance?

Not all the radiation from the earth reaches space. Some is absorbed and then emitted by gases in the atmosphere. These gases, mainly carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), and ozone (O3) are known as greenhouse gases. Water vapour (H2O) also behaves like a greenhouse gas. Some of this re-emitted radiation goes back to earth. As the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere increases, less of the earth’s radiation reaches space. As a result, the earth radiates less energy than it receives, leading to an increase in temperature. This process is generally known as global warming.

Why do greenhouse gases increase?

There is overwhelming evidence indicating that the majority of the warming over the last one hundred or so years is due to increased amounts of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. This is mainly due to human activity, including the widespread use of fossil fuels by industry and households.

True or False?

  1. The weather is always changing and there’s no need for concern. false
  2. Fossil fuels are a serious contributor to global warming. true
  3. Melting glaciers have been proven to have minimum impact on ocean levels. false
  4. A small global temperature such as 1.5° has little effect on the weather. false
  5. Global warming could bring poverty to thousands of communities. true
  6. A global temperature increase of 1° in one year proves that serious climate change is occurring. false
  7. The results of climate change can be accurately described by geospatial data. true
  8. Geographic Information Systems (GIS) are not useful tools for climate change analysis. false
  9. OSi’s well known data storage system is called Prime2. true
  10. Most climate change scientists do not believe that geospatial analysis improves the accuracy of forecasts. false