Climate

Climatology and Climate Classification

Climatology (climate science) is a field within the atmospheric sciences which focuses on the long term atmospheric conditions of a region.  In the early 20th century, Wladimir Köppen developed 5 principle groups of climate based upon 2 key atmospheric characteristics, which seemed to explain patterns of climate observed in terrestrial regions on Earth: temperature and precipitation. 
His classification scheme takes into account annual averages, extremes, and seasonality. 

The 6 broad groups still used today to classify global climate regions are:  

(A) Humid Tropical—abundant warmth and precipitation which becomes more seasonal further away from the equator

Associated Biomes: Tropical Rainforest & Tropical Savanna.

(B)  Dry—diurnal temperature extremes; rates of evaporation exceed rates of precipitation.

Associated Biome: Desert

(C)  Humid Middle Latitudes, mild winters—mild temperatures throughout the year and relatively constant supply of moisture, although it may be seasonal in nature.

Associated Biomes: Subtropical Forest, Temperature Rainforest, and Chaparral.

(D)  Humid Middle Latitudes, cold winters—distinct warm/cold, humid/dry seasons.

Associated Biome: Temperate Deciduous Forest, Prairie, and Boreal Forest/Taiga

(E)  Polar—cold and dry. 

Associated Biome: Tundra

(H) Highland—climate moderated through the influence of elevation change

Associated Biome: Alpine Forest

Because species and ecosystems develop adaptations related to temperature conditions and moisture availability and soils develop forestdifferent characteristics in response to climate conditions, Climatology is an important area of study for researchers studying patterns and distributions of species populations, ecological communities, and ecosystems.

An aspect of this project is to identify the adaptations the Japanese beetle has developed in response to the type of climate present in its native range.  Then, examine the relationship between the ability (or inability) of the Japanese beetle to colonize your local area and its adaptations to its native climate. 

 

Your Local Climate

There are a number of resources available which will provide you with an overview of climate conditions at your location—both historical and current characteristics.  Particularly useful are the resources found at www.wunderground.com.  To access historical climate data which will enable you to determine the climate type of your area, click on the “weather” tab, and select “History Data” and “Airport History Data” from the dropdown menus.  Enter your location and you will receive temperature and precipitation data for your location. 

At www.esrl.noaa.gov/psd/data/usclimate/states.fast.html, you will find an interactive climate map.  Click on your state and nearest town for climate data/information.

You can then use the Köppen Classification Key to determine the type of climate at your location.  Use your favorite search engine (e.g. google, bing, etc.) to access a Köppen Classification World Map and/or classification flow chart which will enable you to interpret your climate data.

 

Climate Change

Recent research related to global climate has focused on climate change.  Because climate is a component of natural environmental systems, it is inherently dynamic and has experienced periods of change throughout the Earth’s history. 

As the Earth shifts in its orbit and orientation to the Sun (Milankovitch Cycles), as the lithospheric plates change location altering land surface and ocean currents (plate tectonics), and as organisms modify the chemistry of the Earth’s atmosphere (photosynthesis, decomposition, and industrial processes), the Earth’s climate has and continues to change.

 

 climate change graph

Image available at: www.carbonbrief.org

Recent climate science research (which reflects recent, growing, concern regarding climate change) is not related to the notion that “change is now occurring in a climate system which has remained static throughout the Earth’s history.”  Current research is centered on 4 general points of focus:

(1)  Climate is changing at a rate to which many species, ecosystems, and cultures will not be able to adapt. 

(2)  Current changes in climate conditions can be linked to changes in atmospheric chemistry.  Increases in chemicals—like carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxides (NOxs), and water vapor (H2O)—which absorb long wave radiation can be directly or indirectly linked to human activities. 

(3)  Long term impacts of climate change are not easily predicted.  Even models which provide insight into future patterns of global temperature and precipitation cannot predict impacts on water resources, agricultural activities and food supply, frequency of extreme weather events, migration of species (invasives and diseases included), extinction, etc. 

(4)  Natural feedback mechanisms are triggered to mitigate environmental change.  What natural processes might “kick in” to slow the current warming trend and would they be strong enough to counter the current trend?  What might be the impacts of any potential human mitigation strategies? 

 

Climate Change at Your Location

There are a number of resources available which discuss specific ways climate is changing in your local area or region.  Visit www.wunderground.com and select the “Climate Change” and “Local Climate Change” tab for projected changing climate conditions at your location.

Your state’s Department of Environmental Conservation will also have valuable information regarding projected climate change for your region.  For example in New York, there is a publication accessible on the DEC’s website which suggests that New York’s 2070 climate will be similar to that of Georgia’s 2010 climate—see article at www.dec.ny.gov/pubs/39313.html.