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Essential Principle: The atmosphere changes over time and space giving rise to weather and climate.

Welcome bloggers.  In this session we will be brainstorming fundamental concepts under the essential principal "The atmosphere changes over time and space giving rise to weather and climate."  This is a large group exceeding 15 individuals.  Our facilitator is Lisa Gardiner (UCAR EO).  My name is Teri Eastburn (UCAR EO) and I am serving as the OPL.  I will be conveying the content of the session:

Participants:  Dean Moosavi (Tulane), Joe (AMS), Susan Gallagher (Assoc. of American Geographers), Sandra Henderson (UCAR EO), Susan Buhr (Univ. of Colorado), Steve Wilton (The Climate Project - TN), Dan Barstow (TERC), David Smith (US Naval Academy), Carol Landis (Byrd Polar Research Ctr.), Mary Betteen (Naval Postgraduate School), Julie Winkler (Michigan State University), Marika Holland (NCAR Climate Scientist), Bob Henson (UCAR Communications), Ola Persson (CIRES/NOAA), Tamara Ledley (TERC), Frank Niepold (NOAA).  Note:  I will perfect this list with accurate first and last names plus affiliations at the end of this session.

Format we will be using:  We will be reviewing comments that pertain to this essential principal from yesterday and then using sticky notes to brainstorm individually fundamental concepts.  The comments we are reviewing are listed in the Powerpoint on the ASCL website. Participants will post their list of fundamental concepts for the group to discuss and refine.

Note to Bloggers: Please feel free to add your own additions to be considered and discussed with the group.  I will/can serve as your voice in the session.

Comment:  Bob Henson noted that we may want to review the prior NOAA document.  Frank Niepold noticed that there is similiarities and differences from yesterday's essential principals.  For instance, "Human's impact the atmosphere" is different than "human's impact the climate system." 

Comment from Sharon Cooper (Joint Oceanographic Institutions - JOI): I'm still playing with the wording, but I'd like to see something like this in the list of fundamental concepts:  The composition of Earth's atmosphere has changed over geologic time. These changes have affected what life (organisms) survived (and thrived) on the planet at any given time.

Thanks Sharon.  We are still brainstorming and your concept has been added to the growing list.  We will be reviewing them momentarily.

List of concepts brainstormed by group:

  • H20 evaporates from the surface of the earth, rises and cools, condenses into rain and snow, and falls again to the curface.(4B/M7a)
  • The cycling of water in and out of the atmosphere is a  significant aspect of the weather patterns on Earth (4B/m7c
  • by burning fuels, people are releasing CO2 into the atmosphere and tranforming chemical energy into thermal energy (8c/M11)
  • Changes in atmospheric state are associated with both "natural" and  "external" forcings, for example anthropogenic GHGs; volcanic eruptions; solar variations (natural forcings - interactions w/ ocean; internal atm. dynamics, etc.
  • To best understand changes in weather, one must understand the predominant forcing mechanism (s) responsible for change.  To best understand changes in climate, one must understand the predominant cycle(s) for the time scale under consideration
  • The climate of a location is influnced by the large scale curculation of the atmosphere (including the ITCZ, STH, trade winds and westerlies)
  • Life changes over time in response to changes in the atmosphere
  • Feedbacks -- information on what feedbacks are; feedbacks can act to amplify or damp a perturbation and allow for a non-linear response to forcing change
  • Small changes can generate large effects.
  • Change is an inherent characteristic of climate.  Cliamte changes over a broad range of time scales from years to millions of years.
  • Many aspects of weather and climate are cyclic, meaning that they vary in a regular and somewhat predictable way.
  • Climate can change abruptly in response to shocks such as a weakening of the thermohaline circulation.
  •  Climate change is geographically non-uniform in sign (direction) and magnitude.
  • Climate change tends to be abrupt rather than gradual.

There are many more.  While I've typed, we have since grouped many of these under specific headings or dominant concept themes.  I will attempt to record these groups below.

Circulation and Spatial variations

  • Spatial thermal differences produce both general global curculation patterns and weather systems.
  • The climate of a location is influenced by the large-scale (general) circulation of the atmosphere (including the ITCZ, STH, trade winds and westerlies
  • Easterly winds occur in the troppics and upper latitudes and westerly winds occur in the mid latitudes
  • Atmospheric moisture content varies by region based on earth surface properties, elevation, and planetary scale atmospheric circulation.
  • Storm tracks and the positions of jet streams shift seasonally in synchrony with variation in incoming solar radiation and the location of the strongest temperature gradients.
  • Temerlpature, mositure and wind over the most significant parameters governing weather changes.
  • Weather and climate have regional patterns related to latitude, solar energy and physical features on earth.
  • ENSO, the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO), and other atmospehric teleconnections are associated with interannual variation in temperature, precipitation, and wind for amny parts of the world.

Climate Change and Long-Term Change

  • Climate can change abruptly in response to shocks such as a weakening of the thermohaline circulation.
  •  Climate change is geographically non-uniform in sign (direction) and magnitude.
  • Climate change tends to be abrupt rather than gradual.
  • Earth's climate changes over time periods ranging from a few years to millions of years.
  • Origin and evolution of atm. over gelogic time.
  • The composition of Earth's atmosphere has changed over geologic time.  These changes have affected what life organisms) survived on the planet.
  • We can understand "natural" variability in atmospheric change by studying change by studying past climates.
  • Climate change is geographically non-uniform in sign
  • While global atmospheric change refers to the planet as a whole, particular locations will respond differently.
  • We can understand "natural" variability in the atmospheric change by studying past climates.
  • The Earth's climates have changed in the past , are currently changing and are expected to change in the future primarily due to processes that will result on the changing composition in the atmosphere.
  • The composition of the atmospher has evolved over the age of the Earth.
  • Long term variations in the Earth's climate are evident from pre paleocllimate records.
  • Would it be appropriate to include mention of changes in the range of plant and animal habitats as a result of changes in weather and climate?  (Comment: this may fit better under another Essential Principal pertaining to impacts of climate change)
  • The past record of climate change is preserved in various records that are available for scientific study (e.g., ice cores, deepsea sediments, tree-rings)

 Human Impact

  • Development of consistent patterns ofr a region can drive human economics for that region.
  • By burning fuels, people are releasing CO2 into the atmosphere in transforming chemical energy into thermal energy (8c/m11)
  • Some of the recent and projected climate changes cannot be explained unless human activities are considered.
  • Society is impacted by climate change.  Human activities contribute to climate variability and climate change.
  • Changes in weather and climate affect life and human activities can lead to changes in weather and climate.

A comparison/differences between wx and climate and their link

  •  Weather is the state of the atmosphere at a specific place and time.
  • Climate is the synthesis of weather or typical conditions representative of location averaged over a time period of 30-50 years.
  • Climate is a description of the types of weather that occur at one or more locations over a period of time.
  • Climate is weather averaged over same time period plus extremes in weather.
  • Weather condidtions are atmospheric conditions for here and now.
  • Climate must be specified in terms of context.  The time frame is essential and various cylces will govern the climate condition.
  • Weather describes short term variations (state of atmos. at a particular time); climate is essentially the average of weather's long term variations.
  • Weather is determined by measuring current atmospheric conditions at a particular locale.
  • Weather conditions are defined by temp., percipitation, humidity, cloud cover, air pressure, and wind.
  • the weather varies geographically

What are time and space scales for atmospheric processes from weather to climate.

  • The atmosphere can change over time scales from seconds to centuries and from space scales from a particular location to a global scale, dirunally, seasonally, decadally, millieniallys (spelling?)
  • Weather takes place over significantly shorter time scales than climate, (for example from seconds to days).
  • Weather can include spatial scales fairly small like dust devils to fairly large phenomenon such as hurricanes, blizzards....
  • Change is an inherent charactistic of climate.  Climate change is over a broad range of time scales from years to millinea.
  • The composition of the atmosphere changes with altitude.
  • Lower parts of the atmosphere are much more impacted by spacial variations in surface type than the upper parts.
  •  the time and spatial scales of weather vs. climate are very different  (e.g., weather features endure for days to weeks, while climate features operate on time scales greater than ~1 year or so)  

Processes and Feedback

  • The cycling of water in and out of the atmosphere is a significant aspect of the wx patterns of earth (4b)
  • Small changes can generate large effects.
  • Atmosphere changes the land.
  • Atmospheric processes are the result of physical and chemical actions.
  • Climate variability and cllimate change are products of the interaction of many variables having different time constants.
  • Many aspects of wx and climate are cyclic, meaning that they vary in a somewhat predictable way.
  • Concepts of micro climate and the idea that landforms both natural and human made influence climate.
  • Feedbacks -- information on what feedbacks are; feedbacks can act to amplify or damp a perturbation and allow for a non-linear response to forcing change
  • Changes in atmos. state are associated with both natural and external forcings. (or natural and external variations - for e.g. antropogenic and GHG; volcanic eruptions; solar variations)
  • The climate of some locations is shaped by the interaction of a number of controls that vary over a range of periods.
  • Dynamic processes such as cloud formation, ocean currents, and atmospheric circulation patterns influence climate (4g/H5b)
  •  

Regional events and Evolution dependant on surface conditions

  • Tropical cyclones are extreme weather events that form under specific local conditions and evolve in response to surface conditions that they move over.
  • The magnitudes of the changes in the atmosphere are modulated by the underlying surface.
  • the growth and motion of weather patterns change with latitude whether it is over ocean or land.
  • Spatial thermal gradients change with time.
  • Weather distrubences in mid to upper latitudes have time scales of 3-5 days.
  • The close proximity of large diffreences in temerpature lead to significant wether events.
  • Weather events can be a manifestion of longer term cycles, i.e. El Nino/affects - rain in So. American and drought in Australia.
  • Capstone statement:  Interaction between the atmsophere, ocean, and land surface can shape weather features such as hurricanes and climate features such as El Nino.

This session is officially over.  Thank you for your comments.  Please check the Powerpoint that was created to capture a capstone statement of fundamental concepts from the various statements above.

Online Viewers:  Please use the "Add Comments" button below to add your comments and suggestions.
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8 Comments

  1. Hi -
    I'm still playing with the wording, but I'd like to see something like this in the list of fundamental concepts:

    The composition of Earth's atmosphere has changed over geologic time. These changes have affected what life (organisms) survived (and thrived) on the planet at any given time.

    Sharon Cooper

    Joint Oceanographic Institutions (JOI) 

  2. I would like to encourage inclusion of the concept of micro-climate and the idea that landforms (both natural and human-made) influence climate.

    Linda Fey

    New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science

    1. I agree that a sense of different operational scales (time and space) may be significant

      Lois Ongley

      Unity college

      1. I think a fundamental concept for people to understand is that the time and spatial scales of weather vs. climate are very different and I think putting some boundaries on this (e.g., weather features endure for days to weeks, while climate features operate on time scales greater than ~1 year or so) would be valuable.  I also think we should not assume that the average citizen understands that the weather varies geographically; again putting in some spatial scales would help to illustrate how variable things can be.

         I wonder whether we have captured ideas that relate to in situ formation of weather features versus advected features?  This just occurred to me, but I'll go back and look at what is on the list again.

  3. Hello,

       Would it be appropriate to include mention of changes in the range of plant and animal habitats as a result of changes in weather and climate?  

    Rob Snyder

    STEM Education Institute at Umass Amherst

  4. in the comments related to circulation, should we mention density variations?

  5. re. climate change:  should there be a fundamental concept that talks about how the past record of climate change is preserved in various records that are available for scientific study (e.g., ice cores, deepsea sediments, tree-rings)?

    1. I agree! That would be a wise concept to have.