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Overview: The Climate System


  1. Robert E. Dickinson

Published Online: 15 JUL 2005

DOI: 10.1002/047147844X.me2198

Water Encyclopedia

Water Encyclopedia

How to Cite

Dickinson, R. E. 2005. Overview: The Climate System. Water Encyclopedia. 4:179–183.

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 15 JUL 2005


The climate system consists of the atmosphere, cryosphere, oceans, and land interacting through physical, chemical, and biological processes. Key ingredients are the hydrological and energy exchanges between subsystems through radiative, convective, and fluid dynamical mechanisms. Climate involves changes on seasonal, year-to-year, and decadal or longer periods in contrast to day-to-day weather changes. However, extreme events and other statistical measures are as, or more, important than simple averages. Climate is seen to impact human activities most directly through the occurrence of extremes. The frequency of particular threshold extremes, as, for example, the number of days with maximum temperatures above 100°F, can change substantially with shifts in climate averages.


  • atmosphere;
  • energy balance;
  • atmospheric boundary layer;
  • atmospheric hydrological cycle;
  • stratosphere;
  • cryosphere