Weather and Climate

Posted in Climate on January 15, 2017

Weather is a constant minor and, occasionally, major concern for most of us. Do you know anyone who claims to be able to smell changes in the weather, or who says they “sense” a change in the weather brewing? You have heard people talk about the weather—have you heard anyone ask (in ordinary conversation) what the weather is like in someone else’s locale? Or whether you’d heard the weather forecast for the weekend?

Ever gotten a letter that talked about how the weather in the writer’s area had been or been asked how the weather in your area was? Did you know about London’s Victorian-era affinity for dark-tinted wallpaper being weather related?

Because weather affects us all, physically and emotionally, we are often concerned with what changes weather is going to bring to us on a day-to-day and season-to-season basis. Whether or not you know anyone who can smell or sense weather change, as mentioned, people discuss the weather in conversation daily. We’re interested in the weather conditions in other people’s cities (especially bad weather), and people move to one locale or another because of that area’s weather conditions. Or do they? Do they move because of the weather there—or because of the climate?

Did You Know?

Accept the fact that we will be wrong about the weather, perhaps more often than we will be right.

Let’s look at climate for a moment. Have you ever asked someone how their climate is—when you really wanted to know what their weather was? We don’t often confuse the two. When we talk about weather, we are generally referring to the transient changes in temperature, precipitation, and wind that affect whether we take the umbrella along or wear a heavy coat. Most people rely heavily on the local meteorologist and the daily weather forecasts: so much so that an entire (and very visible) branch of science is dedicated to the effort of trying to predict the weather—a difficult task, because of the extensive variables in any prediction.

Try to define climate and weather. Most people do not have a good feel for the exact meanings of and differences between “weather” and “climate.” The two terms and their specific meanings and differences, and the elements that comprise them, are the subject of this chapter.

Meteorology: The Science of Weather

Meteorology is the science concerned with the atmosphere and its phenomena; the meteorologist observes the atmosphere’s temperature, density, winds, clouds, precipitation, and other characteristics and endeavors to account for its observed structure and evaluation (weather, in part) in terms of external influence and the basic laws of physics. Meteorological phenomena affect the chemical properties of the atmosphere.

Weather is the state of the atmosphere, mainly with respect to its effect upon life and human activities; as distinguished from climate (long-term manifestations of weather), weather consists of the short-term (minutes to months) variations of the atmosphere. Weather is defined primarily in terms of heat (temperature), pressure, clouds, humidity, wind, and moisture—the elements of which weather is made. At high levels above the earth, where the atmosphere thins to near vacuum, weather does not exist. Weather is a near-surface phenomenon. We see this clearly, daily, as we observe the everchanging, sometimes dramatic, and often violent weather display that travels through our environment.

In the study of environmental science, and in particular the study of air quality (especially regarding air pollution in a particular area), the determining factors are directly related to the dynamics of the atmosphere—local weather. These determining factors include strength of winds, the direction they are blowing, temperature, available sunlight (needed to trigger photochemical reactions, which produce smog), and the length of time since the last weather event (strong winds and heavy precipitation) cleared the air.

Non-destructive weather events (including strong winds and heavy precipitation) that work to clean the air we breathe are beneficial, obviously. However, few people would categorize weather events such as tornadoes, hurricanes, and typhoons as beneficial. Other weather events can have both a positive and negative effect. One such event is El Niño.

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