Question: When was global warming first discovered and how?

  1. Hi Lucia,

    Great question – that’s a really important thing to know about!

    In the 1800s, scientists started to look at whether gases could store heat. A British physicist called John Tyndall discovered that the earth’s atmosphere had a greenhouse effect which was completely natural. However, what his discovery didn’t prove was whether increases in carbon dioxide volumes were causing the climate to change, and as the others have mentioned, a lot of data collected over time was needed to prove this. Global temperature records started to be collected in the 1800s and by the 1930s it was clear that the earth was warming – but, as with all science, scientists needed to question whether this trend was real or just anomalous. Charles Keeling’s work was key to working this out, and his famous Keeling Curve shows carbon dioxide level cycles. And the rises were caused by burning fossil fuels, which made it easier to suggest the rise in temperatures. From the 1940s the climate cooled as small particles produced by pollution and volcanic activity had reflected the sun’s rays back into space, but this quickly changed by the 1970s and the temperature started to rise again.
    In 1986 another British scientist called Phil Jones plotted all the global temperature data collected from 1861 – 1984, and he proved that the earth’s climate had been warming since the Industrial Revolution. During the 1980s the warmest temperatures on record were recoded and 1988 and 1990 were the warmest years.
    In 1988 the UN set up the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and a report was issued in 1990. That report gets updated regularly and still is published today.

    If you have a look on this question page there’s some more explanations too 🙂

    How was global warming first discovered?


  2. Hi Lucia, good question and I think Rehemat has covered it quite well 🙂