Breathe in, breathe out. Like most nervous flyers, you struggle to stay calm while you catapult upward and out east over the Atlantic as your flight gains altitude. Enjoy a cigarette and settle down now that the no-smoking sign is off. The attendant will be here soon to serve you a stiff drink which you can sip while you gaze out the window at that huge wing and wonder how anything as large as this can ever fly. What if we run into a storm? Are storms really getting worse? How much pollution is this thing spewing out? You wonder how many internet surfers have these same questions as you sip and try not to think too much about it, but your mind can’t dive into any rabbit hole that does not bring you out thinking about how you rely on the state of things outside of this thin aluminum tube. “Fill me in on atmospheric science,” you ponder.
But what do those folks looking for atmospheric info on the internet want to know about our air? The fact is, these things about your life, from the air you breathe to the weather outside of the plane, to the smooth nature of that bourbon you are sipping, are all more-or-less tied to the fuzz hanging around this planet, called the atmosphere. Is it important? Several entire fields of science are dedicated to how it affects the earth, what the earth does to it, how we humans change it, how we do not affect it, and how often it becomes likely to kick us in the pants.
We all realize the necessity of weather forecasting. Where would we be without news, sports and web reports telling us how risky boarding this plane today is supposed to be, how damp we shall get on the trip to oru beloved airport, and most importantly, the “eye candy” who delivers the info to us while grinning through big red lips above a tight hot-pink sweater? But weather forecasting is only one application for meteorology, which itself is only one of the disciplines of science dealing with the atmosphere.
“Atmospheric science” really is an umbrella term (Gee! I feel drier already) which covers an entire crop of sciences. The next big-hitter in this lineup of studies is climatology. It deals more with changes and trends in the earth’s atmosphere – both those produced naturally and those caused by the airplane exhaust and other anthropogenic emissions. While that seems to make it a science of a lesser stripe in terms of our pressing concerns, consider that climate change a.k.a. “Global Warming” is precisely the bone over which contentious public figures like Al Gore are growling; Google alone has well in excess of 5 million pages indexed for “Al Gore”. The perceived condition of global warming affects public policies such as tax rates, productions of things like the red lipstick our meteorologist was wearing, and the jet fuel prices that made this plane ride so much more expensive. So it pays to keep informed of the science involved here so we know if we are having sunshine blown up our skirts.
Other elaborate studies of the atmospheric sort include aeronomy. What’s that? The science of the upper atmosphere, and “planetary science” may include the study of the atmospheres of other globes in our solar system. Ozone depletion falls within the domain of aeronomists, who once informed us that we blew a hole in the sky over the southern hemisphere with hairspray like the kind that darned meteorologist uses. Their findings may affect how much you pay for sunblock and also provide opportunities for crafty writers to explore a future of an underground civilization in Australia and neighbouring irradiated nations. Stay tuned online for fascinating finds from Venus.
Barry is a meteorologist who writes atmospheric science articles for distribution and on his own website. Would your website, blog or forum readers like to read about these subjects? Have a look for his other, more detailed, articles either on EzineArticles.com or his site.