From 2016 to 2019, Meteorologists have seen more heatwaves around the world than ever before. Wildfire outbreaks in California USA and Australia, and also the longest series of recorded “Category 5 tropical cyclones” on record. The number of extreme weather events has been increasing for the last forty years. Current forecasts suggest that these types of natural disasters will continue. But are these natural disasters simply caused by bad weather? Or is it caused by climate change?
The Difference between Weather and Climate..!!
To answer this question we have to understand the difference between weather and climate. What they are? How do we predict them? and what those predictions can tell us?
The definition of weather by Meteorologists is the condition of the atmosphere at a particular time and place. Currently, researchers can predict the weather for an area for the next week with approximately 80% accuracy. Whereas Climate can be defined as a region’s average atmospheric conditions over periods of a month or more. Climate predictions can forecast average temperatures for many years to come. However, it cannot anticipate specific weather events on specific days. These two forms of predictions offer very different information because they rely on different data.
The hurdles of Forecasting and Predicting.
To forecast the weather, meteorologists need to measure the atmosphere’s initial conditions. This includes the present levels of rain, air pressure, humidity, wind speed, and wind direction, which in turn determine the weather of the region. Twice every day, meteorologists launch from over 800 stations around the world release balloons into the atmosphere. These balloons carry tools instruments called radiosondes. Which measures initial conditions and transmit their findings to the international weather centers. Meteorologists then process that information through predictive physics models which produces the final weather forecast.
Unfortunately, something is stopping this global network of data from producing a perfect prediction. The weather is a fundamentally chaotic system. This means that it is incredibly sensitive and impossible to forecast perfectly without absolute knowledge of all the system’s elements. In a period of just ten days, even incredibly small disturbances can massively impact atmospheric conditions, making it impossible to reliably forecast weather beyond two weeks.
Climate prediction, on the other hand, is far less turbulent. This is often partly because of a region’s climate is, by definition, the average of all its weather data. But this can be also because climate predictions ignore what is happening right now in the atmosphere, and focus on the range of what could happen. These parameters are referred to as boundary conditions. And as their name suggests, they act as climate and weather constraints.
An example of a boundary condition is Solar radiation. By analyzing the precise distance and angle between the region and the sun, we are able to determine what proportion of heat that area will receive. And since we all know the behavior of the sun during the year, we are able to precisely define its effects on temperature. Averaged across years of data, this reveals periodical patterns, including seasons. Most boundary conditions have well-defined values and change slowly, if at all. This enables researchers to depend on climate projections for years into the future.
Extreme weather connecting to natural disasters and solution
Here is where it gets tricky. Even a small change in these conditions results in a much larger change for the chaotic weather system. For example, the Earth’s surface temperature has risen by about 1 degree Celcius over the past 150 years. This might appear to be a minor change, But that one-degree change added energy equivalent to roughly 1,000,000 nuclear warheads into the atmosphere. This massive increase in energy has already led to a dramatic increase in the number of heatwaves, droughts, and storm surges.
So, is the increase in extreme weather due to random chance or climate change? The answer is that while the weather will always be a chaotic system, changes in our climate do increase the likelihood of extreme weather events. Scientists everywhere around the globe agree that our climate is changing and human activities are accelerating these changes. But fortunately, we are able to identify the human behaviors that almost all influence the climate by keeping track of which boundary conditions are shifting. So even though the weather for the next month will always be a mystery, we have to work together to safeguard the climate for centuries to come.
Learn more here: Weather v/s Climate
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