Earth Day 2021: A look at the history and ongoing warming of our planet

Weather Blog

ROCHESTER, NY (WROC) – Earth Day falls on April 22nd every year, and is celebrated to bring awareness and show support to our environment. This is done in hopes of continuing the conversation on ways we can help combat climate change by protecting the Earth from pollutants.

The first Earth day was celebrated back in 1970, founded by Senator Gaylord Nelson as a way to bring awareness to the issues happening with unregulated pollutants being put into the atmosphere from factories and plants. After nearly 20 million Americans celebrated by demonstrating in cities all over the U.S., the movement took off! During the winter of that same year, congress authorized a new federal agency called U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) founded to tackle environmental issues and regulate outgoing pollutants. 

Before the EPA, Clean Water Act, and Clean Air Act, it was legal for companies and factories to release smoke and fumes into the air, as well as dump toxic waste into local streams and rivers with no regulations.

The planet is warming, but by how much?

Since the first Earth day was celebrated in 1970, the average temperature of the U.S. has warmed by 2.4°. A large part of this warming comes from the greenhouse effect. This natural process occurs as greenhouse gases present in the atmosphere act to absorb the sun’s energy, where it’s radiated back down to Earth further warming the surface.


The most common greenhouse gases already present in Earth’s atmosphere are water vapor (H2O), carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), and ozone (O3).

The greenhouse effect itself is a good thing and happens naturally on its own. However, there’s more CO2 being put into the atmosphere than is being taken out. Increasing the amount of greenhouse gases that are already present in the atmosphere is only amplifying these effects, and causing additional warming that’s already proven to cause issues and concerns for the environment as the climate changes across the globe.


Many cities across the U.S. are seeing a consistent warming trend with data taken from yearly averages, but you wouldn’t be able to tell that simply by looking at today’s weather in Rochester. This year’s Earth Day was spent on the more wintry side of things, but BIG warmth is on the way…

Looking for ways to celebrate Earth Day? Here are a few things you can do every day to help out the environment:

  • The 3 R’s: Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle. Keep track of what you throw away, and recycle the items that require it. More on recycling basics HERE.
  • Volunteer for local cleanups in your community
  • Conserve water and choose sustainable options

For more information about Earth Day and events happening across the globe, click HERE.

~Meteorologist Christine Gregory

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