Weather and Climate

From the dawn of human intellect, weather has been a source of constant concern, study, and drama. The Norse had gods associated with weather, Thor, the god of thunder, lightning, and storms. Freyr, the god of fair weather and sunshine. Hera was the Greek goddess of air; Herse, the goddess of dew; and Zeus, the god of lightning, thunder, and storms.

Today, we realize the fundamental forces at work in our atmosphere are based on complex relationships between the Earth and Sun, between Earth surfaces and the atmosphere, and among the gases and suspended particles of our atmosphere. The Earth’s revolution around our sun, for example, alters the amount of energy we receive. The precession, the change in axial tilt of the Earth’s axis, further complicates the Earth-Sun relationship. The Earth-Sun relationship determines the amount the energy reaching the Earth. The chemical composition of the Earth’s atmosphere determines how the incident solar energy interacts with our atmosphere, alters how our atmosphere behaves. The solar energy which penetrates our atmosphere interacts with various Earth surfaces, further complicating the transfer of solar radiation to heat energy.

In essence, we have to understand how energy is emitted and absorbed, how energy is transferred from place to place, from substance to substance. The energy I refer to is radiant energy from the Sun. The radiant energy from the Sun is converted to heat energy in our atmosphere, the oceans, and terrestrial surfaces. The movement of heat, of energy, in our atmosphere manifests as weather. The long-term pattern of weather cycles, over decades, over centuries, is termed “climate.”

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A bit of chemistry is involved in learning the fundamentals of weather. Understanding the difference between Permanent Gases and Variable Gases is important. Understanding the chemical processes at work in the atmosphere is important. Balancing chemical equations is not entirely necessary to learn about weather and climate. Some math is important, being able to move between English units and metric, calculating temperatures, or humidities.  Some knowledge of physics is also important; Density, Pressure, Temperature, and Gravity are key in understanding the movement of air and air masses.

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Much of the time, “thought experiments” are all that is necessary to understand weather and climate. Einstein was famous for his thought experiments. Later, he would work out the math. Aristotle (350 B.C.), known as the father of meteorology, had many thought and experiential experiments in his work, Meteorologica. Later, when more sophisticated mathematics evolved, physicists, chemists, mathematicians, and meteorologists would figure out some of the details.

These set of education units were created to help explain weather and climate topics for the interested non-scientists among us. Some of what I present have a number of study questions to accompany the videos.

A used weather and climate textbook can help. Below are some links to books available through Amazon. A new book is not really necessary. Newer books include more commentary about climate change, climate change models, and include links to the publisher’s own course management website. An older book contains the necessary reading material, only without the more recent climate change information. Some authors also may include specialty areas, such as weather forecasting exercises, and may go into more detail pertaining to atmospheric chemistry and physics.

Again, the material I present is strictly for those curious about weather and climate principles, not for those looking to become full-fledged meteorologists.

             

By suggesting these texts, no warranties are implied. I merely offer them as suggestions for those wanting to enhance their knowledge of weather and climate.

A weather station might also be fun. Lowe’s, Wal-mart, Home Depot, Target, and Radio Shack all carry some inexpensive weather stations.

Some states, like Kentucky, maintain a network of weather stations. These states maintain a network of weather stations, providing current and detailed weather data usually geared towards agriculture.

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