The Scientific Field of Meteorology

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  • 0:05 What Is Meteorology?
  • 1:08 A Brief History of Meteorology
  • 2:22 Scales of Meteorology
  • 4:30 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Sarah Friedl

Sarah has two Master's, one in Zoology and one in GIS, a Bachelor's in Biology, and has taught college level Physical Science and Biology.

Thanks to meteorologists, we can plan for both short- and long-term weather events that affect our daily lives. But meteorology has been around a lot longer than the daily news, and this scientific field helps us better understand the world around us in a many ways.

What Is Meteorology?

When I was a kid, my parents let us watch the news on TV after dinner. My sister's favorite part was the weather section. She was always fascinated by the predictions, patterns, and storms that the weather person told us about each night.

It's no surprise that she ended up becoming a meteorologist. A meteorologist is someone in the field of meteorology, the study of atmosphere, climate, and weather. While it is a major component of meteorology, these scientists do more than just forecast weather. They study it to better understand weather patterns both locally and globally, how weather is affected by the atmosphere, and how weather affects our lives on Earth.

Meteorologists don't all have their heads in the clouds either. Some of them study interactions with organisms and ecosystems down here on the ground. Climate and weather play an important role in soils, rivers, lakes, and biological organisms, and understanding their relationships with weather is very important.

A Brief History of Meteorology

Meteorology has been around as long as people have. Even before the nightly news, tracking and predicting weather patterns was important for hunting, crop production, and travel.

Considered one of the founding fathers of meteorology, back in the 15th century, Evangelista Torricelli noticed that changes in weather were related to changes in air pressure. He later invented the barometer to measure this pressure, a device that continues to be used by meteorologists today.

Until the invention of the telegraph in the 19th century, meteorological information was difficult to distribute globally. But once this technology made cross-continental information easy to share, meteorologists could start piecing together more large-scale patterns of weather and climate. This not only led to a better understanding of weather overall but also led to better weather predictions for future meteorological events.

Meteorologists continue to make advances in their field, and modern technology has certainly helped fuel this. Armed with a wide variety of instruments, computer models, and techniques, modern meteorologists are learning more than ever about weather and Earth's atmosphere.

Scales of Meteorology

Not all weather happens in the same place at the same time. Because of this, weather is divided into different spatial and temporal scales. These scales allow meteorologists to specialize in their field and better understand different types of weather. The scales runs from the very smallest of weather to the very largest and are named accordingly.

Microscale meteorology is the study of weather phenomena smaller than one km and that last less than a day. This includes things like thunderstorms and clouds but also air pollution and energy changes between the atmosphere and soil, plants, and water bodies. We're talking really small weather events that happen on an hourly or daily time scale.

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