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Location of Manchester


Before we explore Manchester, we must be able to place it. That means looking at the UK first. The UK is part of the British Isles, a collection of islands in the North Atlantic Ocean off the northwest coast of continental Europe. The largest island is Great Britain which is made up England, Scotland, and Wales. The second largest island is Ireland which is made up of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. There are also over 5,000 smaller islands including the Orkney and Shetlands Islands, the Hebrides, the Isle of Wight, the Isle of Scilly, and the Channel Islands (Jersey and Guernsey).


The British Isles were not separated from continental Europe by tectonic activity. For most of the Pleistocene epoch, the first part of the Quaternary period we are in now, the UK was connected to continental Europe. That is because the Pleistocene epoch was an ice age characterised by ice sheets expanding from the poles. During an ice age, most of the world’s water is locked up in ice sheets and glaciers so sea levels are significantly lower. When the ice started to melt, some 20,000 years ago, the sea levels started rising and slowly the land that connected the British Isles to continental Europe was flooded creating the North Sea and the English Channel.


Today, the UK is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the North, the North Sea to the east, the English Channel to the south, and the Irish Sea to the west. Although the UK is no longer connected to continental Europe it is still located in western Europe. Each country in the UK has its own capital. The capital of England is London, the capital of Scotland is Edinburgh, the capital of Wales is Cardiff, and the capital of Northern Ireland is Belfast. The capital city of the UK is London. A country’s capital city is determined by the location of government offices.


Despite the UK having a population over 67 million, only a small amount of land in the UK is urban – made up of towns and cities (where most people live). Urban comes from the Latin word ‘urbs’, which means city. The majority of the UK is rural, and the land is used for agriculture. Agriculture comes from the Latin words ‘agri’ which means fields, and ‘cultura’ which means growing. So, agriculture is growing crops in fields. How fields are used depends on the climate and what the ground is like.


The majority of the UK’s mountains and hills are located in Scotland (Grampian Mountains and Scottish Highlands), northwest England (Peak District, Pennines and Lake District), and Wales (Cambrian Mountains). So, the UK’s highlands are located in the north and west. These areas are rocky, and the soils are not very thick. Highlands are chilly and wet, so they are often used for farming sheep, although some areas like Greater Manchester are lower than others and so can be used for farming cattle (cows). The east and south of the UK are not characterised by mountains or hills. The east and south are lowland areas with much thicker soil that is good for grow food. The majority of the UK’s population live in the south and east of the UK because it is easier to build on flat land.


Manchester is located in the northwest of England on relatively flat land. The city is about 36 miles away from the coast, where the land meets the sea. The Pennines border Manchester to the north and east. Over 500,000 people live in the city of Manchester. Manchester is 220 miles south of Edinburgh and 200 miles northwest of London.

Manchester in the primary sector


The economy is the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services and the supply of money. People who work are paid in wages; some of the money is deducted as a tax, a compulsory contribution to government income. People spend the rest of their wages in their everyday life, to buy goods and pay for services (insurance, gas, water, electric, etc.). The economy operates at different scales, from a city, a region, a country, or globally.


The economy of a city, region, or country includes all the various types of jobs that people do – the jobs can be grouped into four employment sectors. The primary sector involves extracting raw materials (natural resources) from the land. The jobs in this sector include farmers and farmhands, miners, those who work in the fishing industry, and forestry workers. The secondary sector involves manufacturing goods from the raw materials – this is typically done in factories and mills, and construction work. The jobs in this sector include factory workers, steelworkers, builders of houses, roads, railways, ports, etc.). The tertiary sector involves providing a service to others. Tertiary comes from the Latin word ‘tertius’, which means third. The jobs in this sector include teachers, doctors, nurses, police officers, retail and hospitality workers, refuse collectors, etc.). Finally, the quaternary sector involves technology and research. Quaternary comes from the Latin word ‘quattuor, which means fourth. The jobs in this sector include people who work in ICT and researchers. Employment structure changes over time as a country develops.


The economy of Manchester, a major city in the northwest of England is one of the largest in the UK, and at one point, it was one of the largest in the world. Today, most people in Manchester work in the tertiary sector, but that has not always been the case. Historically, before machines and factories, the UK was an agricultural country. Most of the population worked in the primary sector.


Almost two thousand years ago, Manchester did not exist as it does today – it was acres of swampland and fields. In 79 AD, the Roman army built a fort out of timber at the confluence where the River Medlock and River Irwell meet. The fort was named Mamucium, which means breast-shaped hill. The location of the fort enabled the Roman army to watch over the Roman settlements in York to the northeast, and Chester to the southwest. The river provided a natural defence – without bridges, people would struggle to cross it. The final structure was rebuilt with stone and home to over 500 people. A civilian settlement grew up alongside the fort providing services and equipment for the Roman army. The fort was occupied for over three hundred years. The majority of Romans left Britain at the start of the fifth century. The soldiers that remained would have been unpaid. To earn money, they merged with the local farming community. The Romans were followed by the Saxons, the Danes, and the Normans. In 1086, a village called Mamecester existed.


The village held a weekly Saturday market and later, in 1222, a two-day annual fair for the sale of cows, pigs, sheep, and horses on Acre’s Field (now St. Ann’s Square). When the fair was not on, the field was used for growing corn and potatoes by the people of Manchester. In fact, most of the area surrounding Acre’s Field was arable farmland during the medieval times. At that time, Manchester was rural.


In the early 1300s, Flemish weavers migrated to Manchester from Belgium. The weavers brought new skills in the production of wool and linen. Soon after, the sale of woollen goods and cotton replaced the livestock market at Acre’s Field and Manchester was officially recognised as a market town in 1359. By 1700, Manchester had a population fewer than 10,000 and most people worked in the primary sector. The economy of Manchester was mainly based on agricultural products.

Manchester in the secondary sector


Manchester lies within the conurbation of Greater Manchester. Conurbation comes from the Latin words ‘com’ which means together, and ‘urbs’ which means city. A conurbation is an extended urban area, consisting of several towns together with a central city. Greater Manchester includes towns such as Bolton, Bury, Oldham, Rochdale, Salford, Stockport, Trafford, and Wigan. The conurbation of Greater Manchester has a population over 2.8 million and an economy estimated to be worth over £60 billion. We know that Manchester has not always been like this.


Manchester’s economic history is fascinating. Manchester was little more than a small market town at the beginning of the eighteenth century with a population fewer than 10,000. By 1760, the population had grown to 17,000. Much of Manchester was fields where the people of the town grew corn and potatoes. In 1712, St. Ann’s Church was built but a space 30 yards wide had to be reserved for the Saturday market and the two-day annual fair which had been held there since 1222. Although cotton and linen production and trade had been established, Manchester’s economy was mainly based on agricultural products.


From the 1750s, Manchester experienced significant change. The invention of the spinning jenny and flying shuttle meant that the spinning and weaving of cotton was taken out of the home and into the mills. Until the 1780s, cotton mills were water-powered and so needed to be built on the banks (sides) of rivers. The first cotton mill in Manchester opened in 1783 on Miller Street, Shudehill marking the start of the industrial revolution. In the following 30 years, a further 85 cotton mills were built. The town expanded at an incredible rate, not just in terms of population but also in commerce (trade) and construction. The cotton mills were joined by warehouses for storage and showcasing goods, factories for dyeing and printing the cloth and factories for making mill machinery. The large mills and factories employed thousands of men, women, and children. As more people started to migrate to Manchester from the surrounding rural areas in search of work in the cotton mills and factories or construction and distribution (by railway), Manchester started to spread out into the surrounding fields.


Living conditions were not great. The average life expectancy at the turn of the 1800s was 25 years old. The town had a population of 70,000. Many people lived in slums. A slum is an extremely dirty, unpleasant, and overcrowded area within a city that is inhabited by very poor people. One such slum in Manchester was Little Ireland which existed where Oxford Road is today. It was made up of 200 back-to-back houses and home to 4,000 Irish immigrants. Soot and fumes from the factories caused air pollution, rubbish filled the streets, rivers flooded cellars, diseases spread quickly, and many children would die before reaching the age of 5.


During this time, Manchester’s economy was built on the back of the transatlantic slave trade. Despite being Manchester’s main economic activity, cotton could not be grown in the UK. Cotton requires a constant warm and humid climate to produce its fluffy cotton heads. So, to grow and harvest the cotton where the climate allowed, Africans were captured and enslaved in West Africa before being transported across the Atlantic Ocean to the West Indies and America, where they were sold to work on cotton plantations. The cotton the slaves picked was then sent to the UK and reached Manchester from Liverpool via the railway. The imported slave produced cotton was spun into chequered cloth and silk handkerchiefs and exported to West Africa, where it was in high demand. Slavery helped Manchester treble its economy between 1775 and 1800. At the time, the wealth generated through the transatlantic slave trade paid for the development of canals, railways, and grand buildings such as the Royal Exchange which overlooks St. Ann’s Square.


Since 1750, Manchester had undergone significant transformation. Most people now worked in the secondary sector and the town experienced rapid (fast) urbanisation. Urbanisation means the increasing proportion of people living in towns and cities. By 1853, Manchester had a population over 300,000 and was granted city status. By that time, Manchester had 108 cotton mills.

Manchester in the tertiary sector


Manchester underwent significant change between the 1750s and 1850s. Modern Manchester grew up around St. Ann’s Square, the site of the weekly Saturday market and two-day annual fair since 1222. The population soared from 17,000 in 1760 to over 300,000 in 1853, when the town became a city. Manchester went from having one cotton mill in 1783 to having 108 by 1853. Manchester also had a papermaking industry and iron foundries. The population increased as people migrated to Manchester from the surrounding countryside and other parts of the UK in search of work. During that time, most people worked in the secondary sector and lived in unsanitary conditions. At the same time, Manchester’s economic growth was built from weaving and spinning imported cotton produced by enslaved Africans in the West Indies. However, despite its role in fuelling the transatlantic slave trade, Manchester played an important part in the abolition of slavery.


In 1787, Thomas Clarkson, a leading campaigner against the transatlantic slave trade in the British Empire gave a speech in what is now Manchester Cathedral. He was later supported by William Wilberforce, a Member of Parliament from Hull. One in five Mancunians signed a petition to abolish slavery. In 1807, an Act of Parliament passed making it illegal to trade enslaved people in British lands. However, it did not free those who had already been enslaved. Many Lancashire towns continued to use imported cotton produced by enslaved people in their mills. Eventually, in 1833, the Slave Emancipation Act was passed, giving all slaves in British lands their freedom. Many enslaved people did not get their freedom until 1838. Slavery continued in many other countries including those in South America and the south of the USA. The American Civil War between the north and south of the USA in 1861 was fought largely over slavery. President Abraham Lincoln was determined to end slavery in the USA. The north of the USA blocked the ports in the south of the USA. This meant that cotton produced by enslaved people could not be exported to Liverpool or Manchester. This led to the Lancashire Cotton Famine. With less cotton coming in, thousands of mill workers lost their jobs. Despite the unemployment and poverty, cotton workers met in 1862 and agreed to support Lincolns fight against slavery. By 1864, cotton had started flowing again and Manchester’s mills continued production.


However, because of the cotton famine in the late nineteenth century, many industries had diversified. Some mills had converted to wool production, flour milling, and biscuit and cereal production. The old industry of cotton went into a steep decline. By 1930, at a time when Manchester’s population was over 766,000, mills and factories started to close in a process called deindustrialisation. The mills closed as the production of cloth was moved to countries closer to where cotton was grown and where labour was cheaper. This meant that cloth was sold cheaper by those countries and Manchester could not compete with their prices. Thousands of people lost their jobs and Manchester’s population went into decline. In 1961, the population of Manchester was just over 660,000. Many of Manchester’s mills, warehouses, factories, and old housing were left abandoned. Community spirit was low and crime rates were high. Manchester’s needed a post-industrial economy, so city leaders decided to regenerate the city. Regeneration comes from the Latin word ‘regenerare’, which means create again.


Old run-down housing was demolished and replaced with modern council houses with more space and better facilities. The Museum of Science and Industry opened in 1969, followed by The Museum of Transport and a completed Manchester Arndale in 1979. In 1992, the Metrolink connected Manchester to the surrounding towns. This meant people could travel into Manchester for work and to shop. Old mills and factories have been turned into modern apartments, or retail and hospitality outlets such as the Corn Exchange in Manchester. The old Royal Exchange is now a theatre. Manchester’s universities attract students from overseas, with lots continuing to live and work in Manchester after they graduate. Manchester is a centre for arts, music, education, and culture. This regeneration has caused a rise in jobs in the tertiary sector with many people providing a service to others. Today, Manchester is a thriving city within the conurbation of Greater Manchester. The region has a population over 2.8 million and an estimated economy worth over £60 billion.

Opportunities of urbanisation in Manchester (using an OS map)


Urbanisation is the increasing proportion of people living in towns and cities. Over 80% of the UK’s population live in an urban area such as a town or city. Many of the UK’s major cities grew up around rivers, coalfields, or along the coast (where the land meets the sea). The increase in urbanisation is caused by migration and natural increase.


Cities are magnets to people from rural areas because they provide more opportunities than rural areas. The migration of people from rural to urban areas is caused by push and pull theory. Push factors are reasons why people emigrate away from a place, whereas pull factors are reasons why people immigrate to a place. Push factors include natural disasters such as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and tropical storms; poor living conditions; poor services such as education and healthcare; crop failure; conflict and war; persecution; and not enough jobs. Pull factors include better paid jobs for both skilled and unskilled workers; better services such as healthcare and education; better living conditions with access to clean water, electricity, and food; and family and friends.


Cities tend to have high proportions of young people, especially migrants. This means that cities tend to have high birth rates and a growing population. However, the economic development of the country matters when it comes down to birth rates. For example, in an economically developed country, women have more rights and access to birth control so tend to have children at a later age. This lowers the birth rate. The average person in Manchester is 33 years old and the birth rate is low.


You can see the opportunities available in cities on Ordnance Survey (OS) maps. Ordnance Survey maps are the national mapping agency for the UK. The agency produces maps for government, businesses, and leisure.  OS maps can be used to locate places and their key features. OS maps use different symbols, coloured lines, and abbreviations to show different features of a place. We can also locate places using four-figure and six-figure grid references.


OS maps have blue lines that make a number of grids. Vertical lines on an OS map are known as eastings because the numbers increase eastwards and horizontal lines are known as northings because the numbers increase northwards. To find the four-figure grid reference of a place, you go along the eastings and up the northing and use the bottom left corner to find the numbers needed to give the four-figure grid reference. The number along the eastings always comes first.


To find a more precise location of a place, you can use the six-figure grid reference. First, you must find the four-figure grid reference. Then divide the grid up into tenths along the eastings and northings so that there are 100 squares of equal size within the grid. To get the six-figure grid reference you need to go along the eastings and count along the tenths until you reach the line that locates the feature. If it is three tenths along the easting, you add a 3 after the eastings number. Then, go up the northings and count along the tenths until you reach the line that locates the feature. If it is four tenths up the northings, you add a 4 after the northings number.


Urban areas on an OS map will show high building density, blue lines (motorways), red lines with dots in the middle (dual carriageways), red lines (main roads), and orange lines (secondary roads). There will be more railway stations and bus stations too. This means that there are lots of transport links in the towns and cities to help people get around. Towns and cities will have more schools, colleges, and universities as well as more hospitals and other health services. There will be large retail areas and lots of offices surrounded by parking – these provide well paid jobs in the tertiary sectors. There are lots of interesting things to do and see in museums, art galleries, buildings of historic interest, and theatres. You will also find sport stadiums and recreation, leisure, and sport centres (gyms and swimming pools).

Challenges of urbanisation in Manchester


Urban areas like Greater Manchester, London, Leeds, and Liverpool are places of opportunity. There are so many pull factors that attract migrants from other parts of the UK and other parts of the world.

  • There are lots of buildings and more houses than in rural areas. As the population increases, more houses are built.
  • There are lots of motorways, dual carriageways, main roads, railway stations, and bus stations that provide excellent transport links throughout the town or city so people can get around.
  • With large populations, towns and cities have lots of primary and secondary schools.
  • Urban areas also have colleges and universities that attract students from all over the world.
  • There is better access to healthcare. Towns and cities have lots of GP surgeries, dentists, opticians, and hospitals.
  • There are lots of opportunities for retail. Manchester has the Arndale, Trafford has the Trafford Centre, Bury has The Rock, Bolton has Market Place. Other urban areas like Liverpool have Liverpool One and London has Oxford Road (Europe’s busiest shopping street with half a million visitors every day).
  • There are lots of interesting things to do and see in museums, art galleries, buildings of historic interest, and theatres.
  • You will also find more sports stadiums and recreation, leisure, and sport centres (gyms and swimming pools). This might attract the young athlete.


However, despite the regeneration of Manchester, there are still challenges to living in the city. We can categorise the challenges into social, those that affect people; economic, those that affect the economy; and environmental, those that affect the environment and nature. Some challenges might fall into more than one category.


An environmental challenge in Manchester is brownfield sites. A brownfield site is land that has been used, abandoned, and now awaits some new use. After deindustrialisation, many cotton mills, warehouses, and factories were left abandoned. The land is often contaminated from chemicals that were used when the mill or factory was open. This is expensive to clean up, so property developers avoid brownfield sites. As a result, many inner-city areas are home to brownfield sites that are dangerous, unattractive, and attract crime. Instead, property developers build on greenfield sites because they do not have to pay to demolish any buildings or decontaminate the land. This causes urban sprawl, the expansion of a town or city into the surrounding countryside. It can mean less space for farmland, wildlife, and recreation such as walking. However, Manchester plans to protect its surrounding countryside by building 90% of new homes within the city, making use of brownfield sites.


An economic challenge in Manchester is unemployment. After deindustrialisation, many people living in Manchester lost their jobs. Between 1971 and 1981, Manchester lost nearly 50,000 full time jobs. With an increasing population, there is a lot of competition for jobs. More recently, the coronavirus had impacted the jobs market. Many businesses closed during lockdown and some never reopened.


There are social challenges too such as high crime rates and health issues. High crime rate is often caused by high poverty and unemployment. Some of the health issues are caused by environmental challenges such as traffic congestion and air pollution. Every year, over 100 people in Manchester die because of toxic air.

Air quality in Manchester


Urban areas like Manchester are places of opportunity with excellent transport links throughout the city with many motorways, dual carriageways, main roads, railway stations, and bus stations. The network of roads widens people’s job search area and helps them find employment. Highly skilled workers are more likely to travel across longer distances to work, especially if they are following good job opportunities. Public transport such as trains, trams, and buses help people who cannot drive or afford a car to travel across long distances for work. Many people who work in Manchester do not live there. More than 230,000 people commute to Manchester from other parts of the UK. Most come from the surrounding towns like Bury, Bolton, Oldham, and Tameside, but some come from places further afield such as Blackpool and York. Having excellent transport networks is great for employment but not so great for the environment.


Manchester has a long and difficult history of air pollution. During the late eighteenth century to the mid-nineteenth century, Manchester’s landscape was dotted with cotton mills and factories. To begin with the cotton mills were powered by water, but this changed after the invention of the steam engine. Coal containing carbon was burnt to heat water that produced steam. The steam drove a piston back and forth to power machinery. Manchester’s forest of chimneys filled the air with smoke and soot that covered buildings making them dirty. Lots of Manchester’s buildings that were around during the industrial revolution have since been cleaned. The air pollution caused massive health problems for the people of Manchester. Soon, people developed coughs, eyes stung, and an increase in heart and respiratory (breathing) diseases increased the death rate.


Today, air pollution levels in Manchester are much lower than they were during the industrial revolution. Nevertheless, air pollution in Manchester still causes 100 deaths a year. Today, transport is one of the leading causes of air pollution In Manchester. Most cars rely on burning the petrol and diesel that comes from oil, a fossil fuel. These cars emit pollutants such as carbon dioxide, sulphur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide into the air, mostly from fumes that come out of the exhaust when the engine is running. Together, road vehicles account for more than 10% of global carbon dioxide emissions. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas that traps the Sun’s heat and warms up the Earth. This can contribute to climate change. Nitrogen dioxide is harmful to health. The pollutants from traffic congestion can increase the risk of getting lung or hearth diseases and well as respiratory problems such as asthma. The acidic gases in the air mix with precipitation, creating an unusually acidic rain that can damage plants and historical buildings. Acid rain was discovered in Manchester by Robert Angus Smith in 1872.


So how can we solve the problem of air pollution by reducing traffic congestion?

  • In 2022, Greater Manchester is introducing Clean Air Zones. Private cars, motorbikes and mopeds are not included. The heaviest polluting vehicles will have to pay a daily fee to travel within the Clean Air Zones. This will prompt businesses to switch to more environmentally friendly transport.
  • Bus lanes are being improved. During the busiest hours, only buses are allowed to use bus lanes. This stops buses getting stuck in traffic which shortens journey times and makes public transport a more attractive option. If more people use public transport, there will be less cars on the road.
  • Cycle lanes are being improved so that cyclists are separated from the traffic for most of their journey. This makes cycling safer and a more attractive option, especially for those who live and work in Manchester.  
  • Manchester City Council are working with schools to promote walking and cycling to school, tackle idling by asking parents to switch off car engines while they wait for their child(ren), and trialling ‘green screens’ around playgrounds.


Manchester’s air pollution is generally and consistently much lower than other cities in the UK, for instance, London.

Manchester's weather


Weather is the day-to-day changes in the atmosphere, including wind speed and direction, precipitation, humidity (the amount of water vapour in the air) and cloud cover, sunshine hours, and temperature. Manchester experiences a great variability of weather, making it a daily talking point.


Typically, Manchester does not experience extremes of hot or cold weather, but it does get plenty of rainfall. The average weather of Manchester can be represented using a climate graph.












































The average weather is known as climate. As you can see from the climate graph, Manchester has a mild and humid climate with rainfall all year round. However, the city is not one of the wettest places in the UK, in fact, it is not even in the top ten wettest places in the UK.


The climate of Manchester was significant during the industrial revolution. The mild and humid conditions meant that the cotton was far less likely to snap when it was being spun. The abundance of rain filled the rivers and canals that kept the water wheels spinning to power the cotton mills. Even after the invention of the steam engine, the water was needed to produce the steam that powered the machinery. Manchester’s bleaching and dyeing industries also used huge amounts of water.  


Different parts of the UK get different amounts of rainfall. The wettest parts of the UK are concentrated around mountainous regions. Snowdonia, the Lake District, and the Scottish Highlands all receive over 4 metres of rainfall in a year.


One of the key drivers for weather is air. Where air stays long enough over one surface, like land or sea, it takes on its humidity and temperature. This creates an air mass, a body of air that has the same humidity, temperature, and pressure. The air masses move. The UK is situated at what some call a ‘weather roundabout’, on the edge of the relatively warm waters of the Atlantic Ocean, but close enough to continental Europe to be influenced by cold air originating from Siberia. The UK is also affected by air from the Arctic, Greenland and the Arctic Sea, and North Africa. Different air masses bring certain weather conditions. When two air masses meet, they do not mix. Instead, the air masses create a weather front.


When warm and cold air meet and form a weather front, the warm air rises over the heavier, colder air. As the warm air is forced to rise, it cools, and the water vapour condenses into water droplets. The water droplets then join together to form clouds. When the clouds get too heavy, it rains along the weather front. This is called frontal rainfall and it is typical across the west of the UK.


As the weather front moves from west to east, the amount of rainfall reduces. This is because the air meets the mountains of the northern and western UK forcing the air to rise. As the air rises, it cools quickly and enhances the formation of clouds and rain in these locations.


This explains why Manchester has rain all year round. The city is located in the northwest of the UK only 36 miles from the coast. Manchester is also to the west of the Pennines. So, Manchester is affected by frontal and relief rainfall.

Climate change in Manchester


We know that Earth’s climate is not fixed. During Earth’s history, the climate has changed between glacial and interglacial periods several times. Glacial periods occur when there is an ice age. Ice ages happen when Earth changes its eccentricity around the Sun. Essentially, Earth deviates away from its circular orbit around the Sun and takes on a more oval-shaped orbit. This was discovered by Milutin Milankovitch and so we refer to them as Milankovitch cycles. Earth changes its eccentricity around the Sun every 100,000 years. The last ice age occurred at the beginning of the Quaternary Period some 2.6 million years ago. The ice age ended 11,700 years ago. The melting ice flooded the land between Ireland and Great Britain and Great Britain and continental Europe.


We also know that volcanoes affect Earth’s climate. During the Hadean and Archean Eons, the Sun was not as bright as it is today – Earth should have frozen over, but it did not. This is because greenhouse gases emitted by volcanoes trapped the Sun’s heat, making Earth warming enough to sustain life. However, volcanoes are more known for creating a cooling effect on Earth’s climate. When they erupt, ash clouds can block out the Sun’s rays making Earth cooler. On a global scale, large eruptions can emit a lot of sulphur dioxide high into the atmosphere, above the clouds. The sulphur dioxide reacts with water vapour in the air creating a volcanic aerosol that reflects the Sun’s energy back into space, preventing it from reaching the Earth’s surface. In 1991, Mount Pinatubo, a volcano in the Philippines erupted and emitted lots of sulphur dioxide that spread around the Earth. As a result, Earth’s temperature dropped by 0.5°C.


Earth’s climate is changing again. However, it is not being caused by natural activity such as the Milankovitch cycles or volcanic activity. This time, climate change is being caused by human activity, especially the burning of fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and gas, and deforestation. As the Earth we know today formed, lots of carbon dioxide was taken out of the atmosphere and stored in oceans, rocks, and trees.


The burning of fossil fuels through industry, transport, and heating releases carbon dioxide back into the atmosphere. The carbon dioxide traps the Sun’s heat and warms the Earth. There is 40% more carbon dioxide in our atmosphere today, than there was before the industrial revolution. When trees are felled (cut down), it reduces the amount of carbon sinks there are to take carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere through photosynthesis. Moreover, the carbon stored in the trees that have been felled is released back into the atmosphere. Again, this carbon dioxide traps the Sun’s hear and warms the Earth. If Earth becomes too warm, it can have devastating consequences.


Manchester is already experiencing hotter, drier summers and wetter winters along with more extreme weather events such as storms and floods. Extreme weather is weather that is significantly different to the usual weather patterns of a place, and it is often dangerous. Heatwaves and heavy prolonged rainfall are examples.

  • Manchester’s hotter summers will mean more heatwaves. This means less rainfall which can affect our water supply and food production. It can also cause an increase in soil subsidence; this happens when the soil loses moisture. Soil subsidence can lead to more sink holes. Heat can also be deadly, especially to the elderly. It can cause hyperthermia. Hyperthermia comes from the English word ‘hyper’, which means beyond, and the Greek word ‘thermÄ“’, which means heat.
  • Warmer temperatures mean that the atmosphere can hold more water vapour. This results in more intense rainfall, especially in the winter. This increases flood risk. Flooding affects people and property.

We must act quickly to reduce our impact on Earth. We could plant more trees and reduce our reliance on fossil fuels. In Manchester, we are already trying to reduce the amount of traffic congestion to curb emissions. Manchester is also part of the Great Northern Forest Scheme. The scheme will see 50 million trees planted from Liverpool to Hull. The trees planted in Manchester will help tackle air pollution and take carbon out of the atmosphere.