Climate change impacts

Changes to water resources can have a big impact on people's lives. In some regions, particularly in the western United States, drought is an important factor affecting communities. Less snow accumulation in the mountains is important in the West and Alaska, where the snowpack stores water for later use. In the Midwest and northeastern states, the frequency of heavy downpours has increased. In many regions, floods and water quality problems are likely to be worse because of climate change.

Changes in water stress to U.S. watersheds in the next 50 years due to climate change.
Climate change to increase water stress
Few things are more important to human quality of life than easy access to clean water. Understanding how stressed U.S. watersheds have been…

Our food supply depends on climate and weather conditions. Although agricultural practices may be adaptable, changes like increased temperatures, water stress, diseases, and weather extremes create challenges for the farmers and ranchers who put food on our tables.

Human health is vulnerable to climate change. The changing environment is expected to cause more heat stress, an increase in waterborne diseases, poor air quality,  and diseases transmitted by insects and rodents. Extreme weather events can compound many of these health threats.

Observed trend in temperature from 1900 to 2012; yellow to red indicates warming, while shades of blue indicate cooling. Gray indicates areas for which there are no data. There are substantial regional variations in trends across the planet, though the overall trend is warming.
Does "global warming" mean it's warming everywhere?
Temperature trends across the entire globe aren’t uniform because of the diverse geography on our planet — oceans versus...

Ecosystems are also affected by climate change. Habitats are being modified, the timing of events such as flowering and egg laying are shifting, and species are altering their home ranges.

Changes are also occurring to the ocean. The ocean absorbs about 30% of the carbon dioxide that is released into the atmosphere from the burning of fossil fuels. As a result, the ocean is becoming more acidic, affecting marine life. Rising sea levels due to thermal expansion and melting land ice sheets and glaciers put coastal areas at greater risk of erosion and storm surge.

Ocean acidification makes it difficult for pteropods to form healthy, strong shells.
Ocean acidity dissolving tiny snails' protective shell
Fifty-three percent of all pteropods sampled in the coastal region using a fine mesh net had severely dissolved shells...


This collection provides teachers and students with opportunities to explore some of the environmental changes that are taking place. The Climate Literacy Principles, developed by NOAA and our partners, provide educators with a framework to help them use these lesson plans and other resources. New reports are being released by the multiple federal agencies tasked with studying and responding to climate change. The websites in the background section provide access to the latest scientific information available. In addition to these resources, NOAA offers professional development opportunities (including the Planet Stewards Program) about climate and other topics.


Updated February 2019