The Different Branches Of Atmospheric Science

Tree rings are studied in both paleoclimatology and paleotempestology.
Tree rings are studied in both paleoclimatology and paleotempestology.

Atmospheric science is the interdisciplinary study which combines the different components of chemistry and physics that focuses on the dynamics and structure of the atmosphere of Earth. Atmospheric science includes the study of composition, circulation, and the chemical and physical processes of the atmosphere. Atmospheric science focuses on atmosphere, the atmospheric processes, the effects of numerous systems on the atmosphere and the effects the atmosphere has on these systems. Atmospheric science extends to planetary science and studying the atmospheres of the different planets in the solar system.

6. Meteorology

The term "Meteorology" is derived from the word "meteors" which means space and "ology" which is the study of the things in the space. Meteorology is the study of the worlds atmospheric which deals with weather forecasting and processes. Although this science dates back to over 1000 years ago, no significant progress occurred until the 18th century. Prior attempts in meteorology depended on historical data. The 19th century saw modest growth in meteorology after the development of weather observation networks on different corners of the world. Majority of the observed weather which helps predict an event on earth is on the troposphere. Meteorological Phenomena are the observable weather events explained by meteorology.The meteorological phenomena like acid rain, clouds, and hurricane among other, is quantified and described by numerous variables including mass flow, water vapor, temperature, atmosphere and air pressure plus the interactions and variations of these variables and the changes they go through in time. These phenomena are described and predicted using different spatial scales.

5. Climatology

The word ''Climatology'' is derived from the Greek term "Klima" which means place or zone. Climatology is the study of weather conditions averaged over a specified period. Climate represents composite weather report over a specified period. Climatology is a branch of atmospheric science and a sub-field of physical geography. Fundamental climate knowledge helps in weather forecasting for a shorter period using numerous techniques like Northern Annular mode. Climatologists use different climate models for an array of purposes ranging from projecting of future climatic changes to studying the dynamics of climate and weather systems. Weather is the atmospheric conditions over a short period while climate deals with the weather conditions over an extended to an indefinite term. The climate shifts after a certain period and Shen Kuo, a Chinese scientist, noted this phenomenon after he observed petrified bamboos growing underground close to Yanzhou, a dry place which cannot support the growth of bamboos.

4. Paleoclimatology

Paleoclimatology is the study of ancient climatic changes. Since going back in time to observe the climatic changes is impossible, scientists use numerous climate imprints created in the past, referred to as proxies, to interpret the paleoclimate. Some of the most reliable proxies include microfossils, shells, rocks, corals, ice sheets and tree rings among others. Scientists reconstruct the ancient climate using a combination of different categories of proxy records. The proxy records are incorporated with the observations of the current climate and then uploaded into a computer model which infers the ancient climate while predicting future climatic changes. Studies of ancient environmental changes and biodiversity always reflect on the present situation especially the impact of the climatic changes on biotic recovery and mass extinctions. Paleoclimatology started in the early 19th century when numerous discoveries about the glaciations and natural changes in the ancient climate helped scientists comprehend the greenhouse effect. The first observations with reliable scientific basis were the one observed in New Zealand by John Hardcastle in 1880s. Hardcastle discovered that the loess deposited at Timaru helped record climatic changes. Hardcastle referred to the loess as ‘’climate registers’’.

3. Atmospheric Chemistry

Atmospheric chemistry is the field of atmospheric science which studies the chemistry of the atmosphere of earth and the other planets. Atmospheric chemistry is a multi-disciplinary approach to research which draws from volcanology, geology, environmental chemistry, meteorology, oceanography and computer modeling. The atmospheric chemistry and composition are crucial for numerous reasons, one of them being the interactions between the all the living organisms and the atmosphere. Multiple natural processes including lighting and volcano emission change the composition of the atmosphere. Atmospheric chemistry has addressed numerous problems including acid rain, global warming, photochemical smog, ozone depletion, and greenhouse gases. The atmospheric chemist tries to understand the causes of these issues and obtain a theoretical understanding of the problem which helps them create a solution which is tested and implemented.

2. Atmospheric Physics

Atmospheric physics is the use of physics when studying the atmosphere. Atmospheric physicists try to model the atmosphere of the earth among other planets using numerous fluid flow equations, radiation budgets, energy transfers, and chemical models. Atmospheric physics is closely related to climatology and meteorology, plus it covers the construction and design of the instruments used in studying the atmosphere and interpretation of the collected data. The atmospheric physicists use the elements of scattering theory, cloud physics, spatial statistics, and wave propagation models including the remote sensing instruments to model the weather systems. The introduction of the sounding rockets saw aeronomy become a sub-discipline dealing with the top layer of the atmosphere.

1. Paleotempestology

Emanuel Kerry coined the term Paleotempestology. Paleotempestology refers to the study of ancient tropical cyclone activities using numerous geological proxies and documented historical records. Some of the most efficient paleotempestology methods include sedimentary proxy records, makers in coral, historical records, and tree rings and speleothems.The sedimentary proxy records method uses the over-wash deposits conserved on the sediments of marshes, microfossils and coastal lakes. The scientists adopted the use of over-wash deposits from the earlier studies of numerous paleotsunami deposits. The first study of a cyclone occurred in South Pacific and Australia from the late 1970s to early 1980s. The studies examined many parallel coral shingle ridges and marine shells and confirmed that cyclones deposit over 50 ridges on the site, and each represents an ancient severe cyclone which occurred thousands of years ago. Rocks have some natural isotopes of elements referred to as natural tracers, which help describe the state under which the rock formed. Studying the calcium carbonate present in the coral rocks helps reveal the hurricane information and surface temperature of when it developed. The heavy oxygen isotopes decrease faster as compared to lighter oxygen isotopes during the heavy rainfall periods. Since the hurricanes were the primary sources of heavy rainfall in tropical oceans, scientists can date the ancient storms by looking at the decreased lighter oxygen isotope in the coral rocks.


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