Atlantic: One of the world’s five oceans, it is second in size only to the Pacific. It separates Europe and Africa to the east from North and South America to the west.
atmosphere: The envelope of gases surrounding Earth, another planet or a moon.
carbon: A chemical element that is the physical basis of all life on Earth. It is an important part of coal, limestone and petroleum. (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.
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.
coauthor: One of a group (two or more people) who together had prepared a written work, such as a book, report or research paper. Not all coauthors may have contributed equally.
commercial: An adjective for something that is ready for sale or already being sold. Commercial goods are those caught or produced for others, and not solely for personal consumption.
crustaceans: Hard-shelled water-dwelling animals including lobsters, crabs and shrimp.
daunting: A description for something that is intimidating and which seems hard to imagine in detail such that you can figure out how to cope with, master or achieve it.
develop: (n. development) To emerge or to make come into being, either naturally or through human intervention, such as by manufacturing.
DNA: (short for deoxyribonucleic acid) A long, double-stranded and spiral-shaped molecule inside most living cells that carries genetic instructions. It is built on a backbone of phosphorus, oxygen, and carbon atoms. In all living things, from plants and animals to microbes, these instructions tell cells which molecules to make.
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.
extinction: The permanent loss of a species, family or larger group of organisms.
fossil fuel: Any fuel — such as coal, petroleum (crude oil) or natural gas — that has developed within the Earth over millions of years from the decayed remains of bacteria, plants or animals.
greenhouse gases: Gases that contribute to the greenhouse effect by absorbing heat. Carbon dioxide and methane are two examples of such gases.
Greenland: The world’s largest island, Greenland sits between the Arctic Ocean and North Atlantic. In June 2009, Greenland became an independent nation. Ice covers roughly 80 percent of Greenland. Indeed, the Greenland ice sheet is the world’s largest. If its frozen water were to melt, it could raise sea levels around the world by 6 meters (about 20 feet). Although this is the 12th biggest nation (based on surface area), Greenland averages the fewest people per unit of its surface area.
habitat: The area or natural environment in which an animal or plant normally lives, such as a desert, coral reef or freshwater lake. A habitat can be home to thousands of different species.
Iceland: A largely arctic nation in the North Atlantic, sitting between Greenland and the western edge of Northern Europe. Its volcanic island was settled between the late 800s and 1100 by immigrants from Norway and Celtic lands.
indigenous: Native to some region. (in anthropology) An adjective (and capitalized) for people that have lived for eons in some region, developing a culture that reflects the resources, climate and ecosystems of that place.
marine mammal: Any of many types of mammals that spend most of its life in the ocean environment. These include whales and dolphins, walruses and sea lions, seals and sea otters, manatees and dugongs — even polar bears.
microbe: Short for microorganism. A living thing that is too small to see with the unaided eye, including bacteria, some fungi and many other organisms such as amoebas. Most consist of a single cell.
mineral: Crystal-forming substances that make up rock, such as quartz, apatite or various carbonates. Most rocks contain several different minerals mish-mashed together.
oceanographer: Someone who works in the branch of science that deals with the physical and biological properties and phenomena of the oceans.
plankton: (sing. plankter) Small organisms that largely drift or float in the sea. Depending on the species, plankton range from microscopic sizes to organisms about the size of a flea. Some are tiny animals. Others are plant-like organisms. Although an individual plankter is very small, these organisms often form massive colonies, numbering in the billions. The largest animal in the world, the blue whale, lives on plankton.
preindustrial: An adjective that refers to the period before societies had begun to industrialize, using machines and fossil fuels to build products, often with assembly lines or big teams of workers. In the United States, that period began in the mid- to late-1700s.
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.
sea: An ocean (or region that is part of an ocean). Unlike lakes and streams, seawater — or ocean water — is salty.
social: (adj.) Relating to gatherings of people; a term for animals (or people) that prefer to exist in groups. (noun) A gathering of people, for instance those who belong to a club or other organization, for the purpose of enjoying each other’s company.
species: A group of similar organisms capable of producing offspring that can survive and reproduce.
technology: The application of scientific knowledge for practical purposes, especially in industry — or the devices, processes and systems that result from those efforts.
treaty: A formal agreement that two or more sovereign powers (usually countries or tribal nations) have adopted, giving its provisions the force of law.
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