Meteorology is the scientific branch that studies the atmosphere, particularly with regards to the atmosphere and weather phenomena. There are many aspects that are involved in meteorology, such as measuring and predicting air pressure, precipitation, and temperature. Apart from simply providing the public with daily updates about the weather, there are also many other important uses of meteorology. It is employed by the military, for agricultural purposes, in the transportation industry, and much more. In this article, we’ll examine the evolution of meteorology and how it is practiced today.
The Origins of Meteorology
The earliest murmurings of meteorology came about in ancient India, where the people had already begun to form predictions and observations of weather patterns. By 350 B.C. Aristotle had written a book that he titled Meteorology, based on his own observation and scientific studies of weather. During the Middle Ages and Medieval period, much of meteorology was made up of wild guesses, religious reasoning, superstitious beliefs, or myths. Later by the 1900s, scientific advances allowed for more accurate studies and data analysis. Today researchers employ powerful computers and software to analyze massive amounts of data.
All of the different parts of meteorology are measured and analyzed with different and specific types of instruments. For example, a meteorologist would use different instruments for measuring precipitation or wind speed. Similarly, they would use other tools, including radar, to predict storm patterns or other weather events. Satellites are particularly useful for feeding back information that we cannot possibly observe from the ground.
Scales and Measurement
Meteorologists use many different scales depending on what exactly they need to measure or study. For example, at the smallest end is microscale meteorology. It focuses on brief, local weather events spanning less than 24 hours and within a kilometer. On the other hand, synoptic scale meteorology measures much larger weather systems that may span close to a thousand kilometers!
Sub-Disciplines of Meteorology
Since meteorology is actively used in so many different fields, it has spawned several sub-disciplines. Each sub-discipline is an adaptation of meteorology with regards to a specific use or application. For example, aviation meteorology is important for airports and aviation companies. Another sub-discipline is agrometeorology, which is heavily used by farmers and the agricultural industry.
Precipitation and Cloud Formations
There is much to consider when it comes to forecasting precipitation. In involves many variants including cloud size, formation, temperature, wind, and more. Meteorologists need to make the distinction between cold and warm clouds, since the resulting precipitation could vary accordingly. For example, snow, sleet, rain, and hail are all different forms of precipitation.
Immense bodies of air with a certain moisture level and temperature are known as air masses. A collision between two or more air masses can result in a weather event. The boundaries separating these air masses are called fronts. A weather event can vary greatly depending on the variations of the air masses as well as the fronts.
Predicting Severe Storms
Being able to predict severe storms is extremely helpful for saving lives and property. Tornadoes, severe thunderstorms, and supercells are different types of severe storms. Each comes with their own dangers, ranging from flooding to giant hail. Meteorologists typically use computer-generated models to help predict the progress of a severe storm.
Optical and Light Phenomena
Light phenomena and optical illusions are the causes of many things that we often see daily. Common examples include rainbows and moon halos. They are often caused by the refraction of light rays as they pass through masses of moisture or ice particles suspended in the air.
- Atmospheric Optics – Learn about different atmospheric optics and their causes.
- Optics Glossary – Look up definitions related to atmospheric optics.
- History of Meteorology – See how meteorology has evolved over time.
- Meteorology Dates – Browse a brief timeline of meteorology history.
- Radar – Learn about radar and its uses in meteorology.
- Weather Instruments – See some historical types of meteorology devices.
- Modern Instruments – View an illustrated explanation of modern weather instruments.
- Meteorology Tools – Find out which instruments are used for measuring certain weather.
- Saffir-Simpson Scale – Researchers use this to measure the intensity of a hurricane’s strength.
- Mesoscale Meteorology – This sale measures weather events between ten to a thousand kilometers.
- Synoptic Scale – Read all about the synoptic scale and its use in measuring weather fronts.
- Fujita Scale – This scale assesses the strength of tornadoes.
- Aviation Meteorology – See how this sub-discipline is used in the aviation industry.
- Marine Meteorology – Learn about the types of research involved in marine meteorology.
- Agrometeorology (PDF) – How does meteorology help farmers?
- Cloud Observation – Cloud shape and formation offers plenty of clues!
- Precipitation – Watch an online presentation on precipitation.