Meteorology, Climatology, and Atmospheric Science (OpenStax Chemistry 2e)
Throughout the ages, people have observed clouds, winds, and precipitation, trying to discern patterns and make predictions: when it is best to plant and harvest; whether it is safe to set out on a sea voyage; and much more. We now face complex weather and atmosphere-related challenges that will have a major impact on our civilization and the ecosystem. Several different scientific disciplines use chemical principles to help us better understand weather, the atmosphere, and climate. These are meteorology, climatology, and atmospheric science. Meteorology is the study of the atmosphere, atmospheric phenomena, and atmospheric effects on earth’s weather. Meteorologists seek to understand and predict the weather in the short term, which can save lives and benefit the economy. Weather forecasts (Figure 1) are the result of thousands of measurements of air pressure, temperature, and the like, which are compiled, modeled, and analyzed in weather centers worldwide.
In terms of weather, low-pressure systems occur when the earth’s surface atmospheric pressure is lower than the surrounding environment: Moist air rises and condenses, producing clouds. Movement of moisture and air within various weather fronts instigates most weather events.
The atmosphere is the gaseous layer that surrounds a planet. Earth’s atmosphere, which is roughly 100–125 km thick, consists of roughly 78.1% nitrogen and 21.0% oxygen, and can be subdivided further into the regions shown in Figure 2: the exosphere (furthest from earth, > 700 km above sea level), the thermosphere (80–700 km), the mesosphere (50–80 km), the stratosphere (second lowest level of our atmosphere, 12–50 km above sea level), and the troposphere (up to 12 km above sea level, roughly 80% of the earth’s atmosphere by mass and the layer where most weather events originate). As you go higher in the troposphere, air density and temperature both decrease.
Climatology is the study of the climate, averaged weather conditions over long time periods, using atmospheric data. However, climatologists study patterns and effects that occur over decades, centuries, and millennia, rather than shorter time frames of hours, days, and weeks like meteorologists. Atmospheric science is an even broader field, combining meteorology, climatology, and other scientific disciplines that study the atmosphere.
Flowers, P., Theopold, K., Langley, R., & Robinson, W. R. (2019, February 14). Chemistry 2e. Houston, Texas: OpenStax. Access for free at: https://openstax.org/books/chemistry-2e
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Research Article: The Relationship between Particulate Pollution Levels in Australian Cities, Meteorology, and Landscape Fire Activity Detected from MODIS Hotspots
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Research Article: An Association between Air Pollution and Daily Outpatient Visits for Respiratory Disease in a Heavy Industry Area
Date Published: October 25, 2013 Publisher: Public Library of Science Author(s): Kuo-Ying Wang, Tang-Tat Chau, Malcolm Gracie Semple. http://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0075220 Abstract: In this work we used daily outpatient data from the Landseed Hospital in a heavily industrial area in northern Taiwan to study the associations between daily outpatient visits and air pollution in the context of … Continue reading