Other planets have weather and climate

Climate research

What is climate

The word climate comes from the Greek and means "sky region" or "inclination of the earth towards the poles". Today, climate refers to the entire weather in a region or climate zone over several years or decades.

The weather describes the prevailing character of the weather pattern at a certain location over a period of several days. Weather describes the state of the lower atmosphere (the so-called troposphere) in a certain place at a certain point in time.

The fundamental motor for the climate on earth is solar radiation. In addition, there are various factors that influence, maintain or change the climate. These are known as climate factors. These include solar radiation, the distribution of land and sea, the composition of the earth's atmosphere and the altitude of a particular location.

Furthermore, there are cycles that determine the climate on earth, such as the general circulation of the atmosphere, ocean currents, the water cycle as a whole, but also the cycle of rocks. Regional weather phenomena such as El Niño, La Niña and monsoons are also part of it. Humans influence nature and the climate by producing greenhouse gases and building and sealing more and more areas.

The different climates

What influences weather and weather conditions can often be measured. These so-called climate elements include solar and sky radiation, wind, temperature, humidity, air pressure, precipitation, evaporation, cloud cover, ocean currents and the salinity of the oceans.

Regional considerations are more meaningful than global climate trends. The scientists therefore differentiate between different climates such as altitude, urban, sea and continental climates. Another spatial structure results from this division:

1) That Large or macro climate describes continental and global relationships.
2) That Mesoclimate, also called local climate, refers to cities or landscapes, but can also include countries up to a few hundred kilometers in extent.
3) That Microclimate considers a very small area with a size of a few meters to a few kilometers.

The earth can be divided into climatic zones, depending on which climatic factors are used. One of the most common classifications is based on temperature. This results in five climate zones on earth: the polar zone, the subpolar zone, the temperate zone, the subtropics and the tropics.

Climatology: the study of the climate

Climatology deals with the scientific research of the climate. The focus is on observing the climate elements. Solar radiation, wind strength and other data are regularly measured and statistically recorded at climate stations.

In addition, the sequence, frequency and local formation of typical weather conditions are analyzed. In the meantime, the researchers are working increasingly interdisciplinary: They are investigating the interaction of climate elements and factors, such as how ocean currents and cyclones arise or how the deforestation of rainforests affects the regional or global climate. The anthropogenic influences, i.e. those caused by humans, also flow into the calculations of increasingly complex climate models.

There are various specialist disciplines within climate research. Bioclimatology, for example, studies the effects of climate on living organisms, especially humans. Agricultural climatology analyzes the climate effects on crops.

Microclimatology researches the climate of the air layers close to the ground. Paleoclimatology looks into the past. Today drill cores from glacier ice serve as an important aid. Annual rings in trees or wood residues make it possible to understand the climate of Europe over the past millennia.

Methods of weather observation

The current climate is recorded using weather balloons, among other things, which rise to measure temperature, air pressure and humidity. They send their data to weather stations, where they are collected and evaluated.

The great water cycles of the oceans are recorded by satellites and floating measuring probes. Drift probes in the sea, for example, collect data on temperature, salinity and currents in the depths. They appear at regular intervals and transmit data to a satellite, which forwards them to climate researchers on the mainland.

The farmers in particular, but also warlords, have always had a great interest in weather and climate forecasts. The peasants developed their peasant rules, wars were partly decided by the weather - for example Napoleon's defeat in the severe Russian winter.

And when the Allies landed in Normandy during World War II, they had to rely on reliable weather data. At that time, scientists had succeeded in predicting the intensity of the waves on the canal.

Better predictions don't always bring clarity

But although calculations and models are becoming more and more complex and generally more meaningful, climate researchers are also reaching their limits. This is shown by the example of Greenland. The largest island on earth is largely covered by ice.

Scientists agree that if the Greenland ice melts, the global sea level will rise by seven meters. But if, when and how exactly this could happen is not clear, because the relationships are very complex.

The fact is that Greenland is already melting and these processes have accelerated. However, according to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), it is currently not possible to predict what influence the events in Greenland will have on global climate change and its consequences.

Basically, climate models and forecasts of climate development should help to take precautions so that people can protect themselves from floods, droughts or hurricanes.

In addition, more and more detailed climate models will play a role in the future. Farmers have to deal with global warming and its consequences as well as economists, health experts and politicians who are responsible for climate protection.