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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.

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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.Next up in size is mesoscale meteorology. This is the study of weather phenomena from 1-1,000 km and that last for more than a day. ‘Meso’ means ‘middle,’ so you could think of these weather phenomena as mid-sized weather events.

This includes weather events like tropical cyclones, fronts, and longer, larger thunderstorms than those in the microscale.After this, we have synoptic scale meteorology, which is the study of weather phenomena from hundreds to thousands of km in size and that last for days to weeks. These are really large weather events! Hurricanes, frontal zones, and even jet streams are included in this category. These weather events and patterns are things that cover much larger spatial areas both vertically and horizontally and occur over much longer periods of time than our previous two types of weather phenomena.

Finally, we have global scale meteorology, which is the study of weather patterns and heat transfer from the tropics to the poles. Literally, global weather phenomena. Think of things like El Ni;o/La Ni;a and the global air circulation cells, and you’ll get the idea here.

These, of course, are on a much larger time scale than our other smaller scales of meteorology.

Lesson Summary

If you like weather, you’ll love meteorology. This is because meteorology is the study of atmosphere, climate, and weather. Meteorologists study weather to better understand its relationship with the atmosphere, the soil, and everything in between.Meteorology has been around a long time and continues to advance as a scientific field. With a passion for their work and a host of tools, modern meteorologists continually learn about our atmosphere, weather, and climate, and how they affect our lives.There are different scales or sizes of weather to study.

If you like small, short thunderstorms, then microscale meteorology is for you. If you would rather study longer, larger events like fronts, then you should consider mesoscale meteorology. If weeklong tropical storms are your thing, then you should specialize in synoptic scale meteorology. But if you want to know about global weather patterns and heat transfer, then you’re in luck because global scale meteorology is right up your alley.No matter which specialization you choose, meteorology is an important and fascinating field, rooted deep in human history.

Learning Outcomes

Following this video lesson, you should be able to:

  • Define meteorology
  • Summarize the history and importance of this field
  • Describe the different scales of meteorology

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