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CLIMATE

DEFINITIONS

What is the difference between climate and weather?

Climate is the long-term (usually 30-year) average weather for a particular place. The weather is the current condition of the atmosphere. So, the weather in Barrow, Alaska, might be a hot 70° Fahrenheit, but its tundra climate is generally polar-like and cold.

How are different types of climates classified?

The German climatologist Wladimir Koppen developed a climate classification system that is still used today, albeit with some modifications. He classified climates into six categories: tropical humid, dry, mid-latitude, severe mid-latitude, polar, and highland. He also created sub-categories for five of these classifications. His climate map is often found in geography texts and atlases.

What is global warming?

Global warming is the gradual increase of the Earth's average temperature—which has been rising since the Industrial Revolution. If temperatures continue to increase, some scientists expect major climatic changes, including the rise of ocean levels due to ice melting at the poles. According to many scientists, global warming is primarily due to the greenhouse effect.

What is the effect of global warming and climate change on Earth?

By the year 2100, relative to 1990, world temperatures could rise from 2 to 11.5° Fahrenheit (1.1 to 6.4° Celsius) and sea levels may rise 7.2 to 23.6 inches (18 to 59 centimeters).

How did the Inca civilization experiment with climate?

In the Urubamba valley in Peru, in a city called Moray, is the remains of a great amphitheater-like terrace system. Archaeologists and scientists now believe that this was a great agricultural laboratory, where each area of the terrace exhibited completely different climates, allowing the Incas to experiment with different climates and growing techniques.

What are the most polluted cities in the world in terms of air quality?

The most severe air pollution can be found in the following cities: Cairo, Egypt; Delhi, India; Kolkata, India; Tianjin, China; Chongqing, China; Kanpur, India; Lucknow, India; Jakarta, Indonesia; and Shenyang, China.

What are the sources of air pollution?

Air pollution has two main sources: anthropogenic (man-made) and natural. Man-made sources of pollution include factories, cars, motorcycles, ships, incinerators, wood burning, oil refining, chemicals, consumer product emissions like aerosol sprays and fumes from paint, methane from garbage in landfills, and pollution from nuclear and biological weapons production and testing. Natural sources of pollution may include dust, methane from human and animal waste, radon gas, smoke from wildfires, and volcanic activity.

THE ATMOSPHERE

How much pressure does the atmosphere exert upon us?

Average air pressure is 14.7 pounds per square inch (10,335.6 kilograms per square meter) at sea level.

Why is the sky blue?

This is one of the world's most frequently pondered questions, and, contrary to what some people believe, the sky's blue color is not due to the reflection of water. Light from the sun is composed of the spectrum of colors. When sunlight strikes the Earth's atmosphere, ultraviolet and blue waves of light are the most easily scattered by particles in the atmosphere. So, other colors of light continue to the Earth while blue and ultraviolet waves remain in the sky. Our eyes can't see ultraviolet light, so the sky appears the only color remaining that we can see, blue.

How many layers are in the atmosphere?

There are five layers that make up the Earth's atmosphere. They extend from just above the surface of the Earth to outer space. The layer of the atmosphere that we

What is the air made of?

The air near the Earth's surface is primarily nitrogen and oxygen—nitrogen comprises 78 percent and oxygen 21 percent. The remaining 1 percent is mostly argon (0.9 percent), a little carbon dioxide (0.035 percent), and other gasses (0.06 percent).

breathe and exist in is called the troposphere and extends from the ground to about 10 miles (16 kilometers) above the surface. From about 10 miles to 30 miles (16 to 48 kilometers) up lies the stratosphere. The mesosphere lies from 30 to 50 miles (48 to 80 kilometers) above the surface. A very thick layer, the thermosphere, lies from 50 all the way to 125 miles up (80 to 200 kilometers). Above the 125 mile (200 kilometer) mark lies the exosphere and space.

Why can I hear an AM radio station from hundreds of miles away at night but not during the day?

At night, AM radio waves bounce off of a layer of the ionosphere, the "F" layer, and can travel hundreds, if not thousands, of miles from their source. During the day, the same reflection of radio waves cannot occur because the "D" layer of the ionosphere is present and it absorbs radio waves.

Why don't FM radio waves travel very far?

FM radio waves are "line of site," which means they can only travel as far as their power and the height of their radio antenna will allow. The taller the antenna, the farther the waves can travel along the horizon (as long as they have enough power).

Does air pressure change with elevation?

Yes, it does. The higher you go, the less air (or atmospheric) pressure there is. Air pressure is also involved in weather systems. A low-pressure system is more likely to bring rain and bad weather versus a high-pressure system, which is usually drier. At about 15,000 feet (4,572 meters), pressure is half of what it is at sea level.

What are the different kinds of clouds?

There are dozens of types of clouds, but they can all be classified into three main categories: cirriform, stratiform, and cumuliform. Cirriform clouds are feathery and wispy; they are made of ice crystals and occur at high elevations. Stratiform clouds are

What is albedo?

Albedo is the amount of the sun's energy that is reflected back from the surface of the Earth. Overall, about 33 percent of the sun's energy bounces off the Earth and its atmosphere and travels back into space. Albedo is usually expressed as a percentage.

sheet-like and spread out across the sky. Cumuliform clouds are the ubiquitous cloud—puffy and individual, they can be harmless or they can be the source of torrential storms and tornadoes.

How much of the Earth is usually covered by clouds?

At any given time, about one-half of the planet is covered by clouds.

How do airplanes create clouds?

When the air conditions are right and it's sufficiently moist, the exhaust from airplanes often creates condensation trails, known as contrails. Contrails are narrow lines of clouds that usually evaporate rather quickly. Contrails can turn into cirrus clouds if the air is close to being saturated with water vapor.

What is the greenhouse effect?

The greenhouse effect is a natural process of the atmosphere that traps some of the sun's heat near the Earth. The problem with the greenhouse effect, however, is that it has been unnaturally increased, causing more heat to be trapped and the temperature on the planet to rise. The gasses that have caused the greenhouse effect were added to the atmosphere as a byproduct of human activities, especially combustion from automobiles.

What is the jet stream?

The jet stream is a band of swiftly moving air located high in the atmosphere. The jet stream meanders across the troposphere and stratosphere (up to 30 miles [48 kilometers] high) and affects the movement of storms and air masses closer to the ground.

 
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