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    An Overview of Climate Processes

The various climate processes at different time scales interact with each other, resulting in a climate system rich in complexity. The figure below shows changes in Earth's climate at tectonic scales (over the past 300 million years,) orbital scales (over the past 3 million years,) glacial and millennial scales (over the past 50,000 years,) and centennial scales (the past 1000 years.) Note that minor changes in climate at shorter time scales are magnified from larger changes at longer time scales. Also note that the range of variability is less in the shorter time scales.

Also see Future Forecasts and What is Variability.

Global temperatures over varying time scales
Image from Ruddiman, 2001 used by permission of W. H. Freeman & Co.


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