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A characteristic or feature of a plant or animal that helps it survive, adaptations evolve over long time periods e.g. birds that become flightles


Caused by people e.g. ocean acidification is caused by people increasing carbon dioxide emissions since the industrial revolutions


The air around us


The range or variety of living things in a particular area


A person who studies living things


The part of the Earth system to do with all living things

braided river

A type of river that form a network of many branches within a channel. They occur only where a very specific combination of climate and geology allows rivers to form ever-changing and highly dynamic ‘braided’ channels across a wide gravelly riverbed. They have steep gradients and fast flows.


A natural chemical element found in all living, or once living things

carbon cycle

Just as the "water cycle" describes the transfer of water molecules between rivers, oceans, land and the atmosphere, the "carbon cycle" refers to the flow of carbon through different parts of the Earth system – including the air and the bodies of plants and animals

carbon dioxide

When a carbon atom joins with two oxygen atoms, a lot of carbon dioxide comes from burning things containing carbon

chemical compounds

Molecules made up of different types of atoms bonded together


The average weather over many years

climate change

Rapid change in climate due to human activity (mainly burning fossil fuels) increasing heat trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere

climate model

A computer model used to predict future climate change and the impacts of these changes


All the living things in a particular area


The process of changing water from a gas to a liquid is called condensation


One of the seven large areas of land on earth


The frozen part of the Earth system. Where water is in solid form, including sea ice, lake ice, river ice, snow cover, glaciers, ice caps, ice sheets, and frozen ground (there is overlap between the cryosphere and hydrosphere which includes all water on the Earth's surface)


This is all the living (e.g. animals, plants) and non-living (e.g. light, water) things within a particular area


A native species found nowhere else in the world


The process of changing water from a liquid to a gas is called evaporation

fluorinated gases

Man-made gases containing fluorine that can stay in the atmosphere for centuries and contribute to a global greenhouse effect.


When a plant or animal or parts of a plant or animal are preserved in rocks


A river of ice

glacial recession

When a glacier shrinks as melting exceeds the amount of snow that accumulates

global cooling

When the average temperature on earth naturally falls

global warming

When the average temperature on earth naturally rises

greenhouse effect

The way the earth is warmed by its atmosphere

greenhouse gases

Gases which trap heat in the Earth's atmosphere


Amount of moisture in the air described as a percentage


All the waters on the Earth's surface, such as lakes and seas


An explanation of why things happen that can be tested by scientists

Ice Age

A period when the earth's climate is colder

ice sheet

A large area of ice formed when glaciers join together

ice shelf

A large area of floating ice, formed when glaciers flow out to sea


Part of a glacier or ice shelf that has broken off and floated away

Industrial Revolution

A period when the invention of machines led to a rapid increase in industry in Britain in the late 1700s


The solid rocky layer covering the surface of the Earth including the crust and upper mantle


The quantity of matter contained in an object


Anything that takes up space and has mass - everything around us


A person who studies the atmosphere and especially the weather


To do with the atmosphere, especially weather


A greenhouse gas CH4 produced from the breakdown of once living things


an organism too small to see with the naked eye


A group of atoms bonded together

nitrous oxide

Sometimes called laughing gas, a greenhouse gas produced by bacteria and by people through agriculture

ocean acidification

The lowering of the pH of the oceans due to their absorbtion of carbon dioxide

ocean current

Large flows of water in the oceans


A living thing


A gas made up of three oxygen atoms which is naturally present in the upper atmosphere, it helps protect Earth from harmful UV radiation


A very small amount of something, or the smallest possible part of something


A measure of how acidic (or alkaline) a substance is


The process that plants carry out to harness the sun's energy and carbon dioxide to make sugars for food


The force of something upon a surface eg air pressure is the force or weight of air above a particular point on the Earth's surface

pressure ridge

A fold or buckle in ice, often where ice collides with land


Energy that comes from a source and travels through some material or space. Light, heat and sound are forms of radiation


The amount of salt in sea water

sea ice

Sea ice is formed on the ocean surface when the water temperature falls to –2 degrees Celsius. It floats because it is less dense than sea water

solar activity

activity on the sun's surface such as flares and sunspots


darker, cooler areas on the sun's surface


Day to day changes in the atmosphere