NASA file photo

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NASA Explains How Climate Change Is Like the Flu

Like some of us mere mortals, Earth has a “fever.”

For NASA, climate change is kind of like flu season.

In a new animated video, the space agency calls the warming phenomenon "planetary fever." Just as the human body heats up in response to an infection or illness, Earth has warmed from the accumulation of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide in its atmosphere. The average temperature of the planet has increased more than 1 degree Fahrenheit in the last century, according to NOAA's National Climatic Data Center, which tracks global temperatures.

"It might not sound like much, but think of it this way: a 1-degree rise in your body temperature can lead to a fever. Five degrees can land you in the hospital," the narrator says. "So guess what? Our Earth has a fever, and scientists believe Earth's temperatures could rise by 3 to 10 degrees this century."

The video takes the flu metaphor further, listing the symptoms of Earth's "fever": melting glaciers, sea-level rise, stronger heat waves and hurricanes, and changing animal habitats. "Experiencing any of these symptoms?" the narrator asks. "It's time to seek attention right away."

So, NASA says, the Earth is just like us. One difference, though, is that there's no aspirin for the planet.