Global Warming Effects Around the World

Global Warming Glossary *


La Niña - See El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO).

Landfill - A landfill is a solid waste disposal site where waste is deposited below, at or above ground level. Limited to engineered sites with cover materials, controlled placement of waste and management of liquids and gases. It excludes uncontrolled waste disposal.

Landslide - A mass of material that has slipped downhill by gravity, often assisted by water when the material is saturated; the rapid movement of a mass of soil, rock or debris down a slope.

Land use and Land use change - Land use refers to the total of arrangements, activities and inputs undertaken in a certain land cover type (a set of human actions). The term land use is also used in the sense of the social and economic purposes for which land is managed (e.g., grazing, timber extraction and conservation). Land use change refers to a change in the use or management of land by humans, which may lead to a change in land cover. Land cover and land use change may have an impact on the surface albedo, evapotranspiration, sources and sinks of heat-trapping gases (greenhouse gases), or other properties of the climate system and may thus have a radiative forcing and/or other impacts on climate, locally or globally.

Land surface air temperature - The surface air temperature as measured in well-ventilated screens over land at 1.5 m above the ground.

Lapse rate - The rate of change of an atmospheric variable, usually temperature, with height. The lapse rate is considered positive when the variable decreases with height.

Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) - The Last Glacial Maximum refers to the time of maximum extent of the ice sheets during the last glaciation, approximately 21 ka. This period has been widely studied because the radiative forcings and boundary conditions are relatively well known and because the global cooling during that period is comparable with the projected warming over the 21st century.

Latent heat flux - The flux of heat from the Earth's surface to the atmosphere that is associated with evaporation or condensation of water vapor at the surface; a component of the surface energy budget.

Leaching - The removal of soil elements or applied chemicals by water movement through the soil.

Leaf area index (LAI) - The ratio between the total leaf surface area of a plant and the ground area covered by its leaves.

Legume - Plants that fix nitrogen from the air through a symbiotic relationship with bacteria in their soil and root systems (e.g., soybean, peas, beans, Lucerne (also known as alfalfa), clovers).

Levelized cost price - The unique price of the outputs of a project that makes the present value of the revenues (benefits) equal to the present value of the costs over the lifetime of the project. See also present value.

Lifetime - Lifetime is a general term used for various time scales characterizing the rate of processes affecting the concentration of trace gases. The following lifetimes may be distinguished:   ► Turnover time (T) (also called global atmospheric lifetime) is the ratio of the mass M of a reservoir (e.g., a gaseous compound in the atmosphere) and the total rate of removal S from the reservoir: T = M / S. For each removal process, separate turnover times can be defined. In soil carbon biology, this is referred to as Mean Residence Time.   ► Adjustment time or response time (Ta) is the time scale characterizing the decay of an instantaneous pulse input into the reservoir. The term adjustment time is also used to characterize the adjustment of the mass of a reservoir following a step change in the source strength. Half-life or decay constant is used to quantify a first-order exponential decay process. See response time for a different definition pertinent to climate variations. The term lifetime is sometimes used, for simplicity, as a surrogate for adjustment time. In simple cases, where the global removal of the compound is directly proportional to the total mass of the reservoir, the adjustment time equals the turnover time: T = Ta. An example is CFC-11, which is removed from the atmosphere only by photochemical processes in the stratosphere. In more complicated cases, where several reservoirs are involved or where the removal is not proportional to the total mass, the equality T = Ta no longer holds. Carbon dioxide (CO2) is an extreme example. Its turnover time is only about four years because of the rapid exchange between the atmosphere and the ocean and terrestrial biota. However, a large part of that CO2 is returned to the atmosphere within a few years. Thus, the adjustment time of CO2 in the atmosphere is actually determined by the rate of removal of carbon from the surface layer of the oceans into its deeper layers. Although an approximate value of 100 years may be given for the adjustment time of CO2 in the atmosphere, the actual adjustment is faster initially and slower later on. In the case of methane (CH4), the adjustment time is different from the turnover time because the removal is mainly through a chemical reaction with the hydroxyl radical OH, the concentration of which itself depends on the CH4 concentration. Therefore, the CH4 removal rate S is not proportional to its total mass M.

Likelihood - The likelihood of an occurrence, outcome or result, where this can be estimated probabilistically, is expressed in IPCC (2007) reports using a standard terminology. Particular, or a range of, occurrences/outcomes of an uncertain event owning a probability of are said to be: >99% Virtually certain; >90% Very likely; >66% Likely; 33 to 66% About as likely as not; <33% Unlikely; <10% Very unlikely; <1% Exceptionally unlikely.

Limnology - Study of lakes and their biota.

Lithosphere - The upper layer of the solid Earth, both continental and oceanic, which comprises all crustal rocks and the cold, mainly elastic part of the uppermost mantle. Volcanic activity, although part of the lithosphere, is not considered as part of the climate system, but acts as an external forcing factor. See Isostatic.

Little Ice Age (LIA) - An interval between approximately AD 1400 and 1900 when temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere were generally colder than today's, especially in Europe.

Littoral zone - A coastal region; the zone between high and low watermarks.

Lock-in effect - Technologies that cover large market shares continue to be used due to factors such as sunk investment costs, related infrastructure development, use of complementary technologies and associated social and institutional habits and structures.

Low-carbon technology - A technology that over its life cycle causes less CO2-eq. emissions than other technological options do. See also Environmentally sustainable technologies.


Glossaries of the contributions of Working Groups I, II and III to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fourth Assessment Report 2007.

Nakićenović, N., J. Alcamo, G. Davis, B. de Vries, J. Fenhann, S. Gaffin, K. Gregory, A. Grübler, T.Y. Jung, T. Kram, E.L. La Rovere, L. Michaelis, S. Mori, T. Morita, W. Pepper, H. Pitcher, L. Price, K. Raihi, A. Roehrl, H.-H. Rogner, A. Sankovski, M. Schlesinger, P. Shukla, S. Smith, R. Swart, S. van Rooijen, N. Victor and Z. Dadi, 2000: Emissions Scenarios: A Special Report of Working Group III of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, and New York, 599 pp.

* Definitions adapted from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fourth Assessment Report 2007 and the Dictionary of Geological Terms Third Edition. 1984. Bates and Jackson (Eds).