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Earth and Atmospheric Sciences

Hurricans and Tropical Storms_NASA_070522A
[NASA - Two hurricanes and two tropical storms in the Atlantic basin on September 4, 2019 as seen from the GOES-16 satellite.]

- Overview

Understanding the past and present to guide the future. 

Atmospheric Science is the study of weather analysis and predictability, climate and global change, the circulation of the atmosphere relating to weather systems and their impact on the Earth, air quality, and other atmospheric processes that affect us. 

Discovery and understanding in Atmospheric Science is critical to our resiliency, and preparedness ­so that we may meet the most pressing challenges of our atmosphere-dependent systems. 

Earth science can be considered to be a branch of planetary science, but with a much older history. Earth science encompasses four main branches of study, the lithosphere, the hydrosphere, the atmosphere, and the biosphere, each of which is further broken down into more specialized fields. 


- Earth's Changing Climate

The Earth's climate has changed many times due to natural factors, such as changes in the Earth's orbit, ocean currents, and volcanic eruptions. However, climate scientists say that human activities, like burning fossil fuels, have caused almost all of the global warming over the past 200 years. 

Since 1850, the average temperature of the Earth's land and ocean has increased by about 2° Fahrenheit (0.11° Celsius) per decade, and since 1982, the rate of warming has been more than three times as fast. 

The average temperature of the Earth's surface is now about 1.1°C warmer than it was in the late 1800s, and warmer than at any time in the last 100,000 years.

The effects of climate change include:

  • Melting polar ice shields
  • Rising sea levels
  • More frequent wildfires
  • Longer droughts in some regions
  • More intense winds and rainfall from tropical cyclones
  • More extreme heat waves and droughts in some regions
  • More extreme weather events and rainfall in some regions

The United Nations says that fossil fuels, like coal, oil, and gas, are the biggest contributor to climate change, accounting for more than 75% of global greenhouse gas emissions.


- Earth Science

Earth science or geoscience includes all fields of natural science related to the planet Earth. This is a branch of science dealing with the physical, chemical, and biological complex constitutions and synergistic linkages of Earth's four spheres, namely biosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere, and geosphere. 

There are both reductionist and holistic approaches to Earth sciences. It is also the study of Earth and its neighbors in space. Some Earth scientists use their knowledge of the planet to locate and develop energy and mineral resources. Others study the impact of human activity on Earth's environment, and design methods to protect the planet. 

Some use their knowledge about Earth processes such as volcanoes, earthquakes, and hurricanes to plan communities that will not expose people to these dangerous events.  


University of Oxford_61422AA
[University of Oxford]

- Atmospheric Science

Atmospheric science is the study of the Earth's atmosphere and its physical processes. It can be considered a subdiscipline of environmental science. 

Atmospheric science is traditionally divided into three topical areas:

  • Meteorology: The study and forecasting of weather
  • Climatology: The study of long-term atmospheric patterns and their influences
  • Aeronomy: The study of the physics and chemistry of the upper atmosphere

 Atmospheric science also includes:

  • Weather analysis and forecasting
  • Climate and global change
  • The circulation of the atmosphere about weather systems and their impact on Earth
  • Air quality

Atmospheric science uses experimental instruments such as: Satellites, Rocketsondes, Radiosondes, Weather balloons, Radars, Lasers.

Some examples of atmospheric science include:

  • Depletion of ozone in the stratosphere
  • Degradation of air quality in many urban areas
  • The continuing increase in the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases

- The Effects of Climate Change

The effects of human-caused global warming are happening now, are irreversible for people alive today, and will worsen as long as humans add greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. 

Climate change is already affecting human health and well-being in many ways, including:

  • Extreme weather: More frequent and intense heatwaves, storms, floods, and bushfires can cause death and illness
  • Air and water quality: Worsening air and water quality can impact health
  • Food systems: Disruption of food systems can impact health
  • Diseases: Increased spread of infectious diseases, zoonoses, and food-, water-, and vector-borne diseases can impact health
  • Mental health: Climate change can impact mental health
  • Social determinants: Climate change can undermine social determinants for good health, such as access to health care and social support structures
  • Economy: Climate change can impact the economy, leading to increased unemployment, financial stress, food insecurity, and rising social inequalities

Climate change can also impact the environment, such as rising sea levels that threaten coastal communities and ecosystems.

Some say that climate change could cause the avoidable deaths of millions of people unless we deal with it immediately. However, others say that climate change may destroy civilization, but it won't cause human extinction in the near future. 


[More to come ...]


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