The evening weather forecast is a part of the day’s news that many people tune-in to watch regularly. Knowing whether a jacket, umbrella or sunscreen will be needed the next day influences many decisions. Weather forecasts are a product of meteorology, the scientific study of weather and atmospheric conditions. The immensely complex processes that determine weather patterns are a fascinating field of study with practical implications.
Beyond influencing wardrobe decisions for tomorrow morning, a forecast may determine whether a construction project can proceed. High winds can prevent the use of large cranes to move structural elements because of safety concerns. In northern latitudes, where snow and ice can become a building roof load concern a meteorologist can help answer the question of how much does snow weigh?
Meteorologists find exciting work other than weather forecasting for the evening news. Other interesting specialties of meteorology are paleoclimatology, biometeorology and bioclimatology.
Before humans invented instruments like thermometers or barometers ancient weather patterns left evidence about climate conditions in nature. Studying these natural records of historical conditions can help scientists understand climatic changes that occur over extremely long periods of time.
A paleoclimatologist examines things like ice cores from deep within ice sheets and glaciers. These core samples act as a kind of frozen time capsule of atmospheric conditions when they were formed. Studying these has led to discoveries about ancient events like volcanic eruptions that left traces of ash in the atmosphere.
Biometeorology and Bioclimatology
Earth’s atmospheric conditions influence living organisms within the biosphere of the planet. When these interactions between living things and the atmosphere are studied on relatively short timescales, it is called biometeorology. A good example is the relationship between sunlight and the plant process of photosynthesis.
The same kinds of relationships and effects, when studied in time periods longer than a season, are called bioclimatology. Weather system behaviors over long time periods determine the locations of desert regions which, in turn, impact the number and variety of living species in those areas.
The complexity of weather patterns and atmospheric conditions make meteorology a challenging field. Advances in understanding these phenomena have very practical benefits for daily living.