What is science? It’s not just a class at school, or a choice of major in college. It is a process of understanding the world around you. Applying this process of science to the subject of the Earth’s climate, think about it like this:
What do we observe?
…accelerated polar ice melting… increasing temperatures globally… increasing acidity of the ocean…
How do we study these effects?
…networks of remote ocean chemical sensors… satellite data… launching radiosondes into the atmosphere…
How does this impact us?
…sea level rise… potential extreme weather patterns… loss of animal and plant habitats
What can we do to help the Earth’s climate?
…”greener” technologies… renewable energies… personal choices like reduce, reuse, recycle
On this expedition, we will put this process into action every day, and you can follow along with us on the blog, and maybe even start to wonder about what you see around you.
Here are some of the major fields of study that we will be exploring on our expedition. Like many areas of science, there are distinctions, but also a lot of overlap. So to understand “the big picture,” many people with different backgrounds and skills will be needed – because each person contributes their own piece of the puzzle.
The five warmest years over the last century occurred in the last eight years… adding CO2 to the air is like throwing another blanket on the bed. - Dr. James Hansen, Scientist, NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, and Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Columbia University’s Earth Institute
Climatology is a branch of the atmospheric sciences that is also closely related to oceanography, biogeochemistry, and other areas of the Earth sciences. It attempts to describe climate and analyze the causes and effects of climatic changes and their practical consequences. It is concerned with variables such as temperature, moisture, atmospheric pressure, ocean circulation, and wind speed, as well as a detailed examination of the relationships between these variables.
“Our planet is invested with two great oceans; one visible, the other invisible; one underfoot, the other overhead; one entirely envelopes it, the other covers about two thirds of its surface.” – Matthew Maury, Oceanographer, 1855
Physical oceanography is the study of the evolving patterns of ocean circulation, fluid motion, and other characteristics like temperature, salinity and chemical composition. Researchers study the ocean at scales from centimeters to thousands of kilometers, which helps us understand microturbulence to global circulation. Scientists use a combination of theory, observation, and computer simulations, and take into account dynamics of global climate and human use of coastal regions.
In fact, the thickness of the Earth’s atmosphere, compared with the size of the Earth, is in about the same ratio as the thickness of a coat of shellac on a schoolroom globe is to the diameter of the globe. That’s the air that nurtures us and almost all other life on Earth… Now that atmosphere, so thin and fragile, is under assault by our technology. - Carl Sagan
Atmospheric science encompasses a wide range of disciplines, including clouds, climate change, satellite remote sensing, radar meteorology. Researchers do everything from tracking ozone recovery and quantifying pollutants such as aerosols, ozone, and carbon monoxide, to developing state-of-the-art atmospheric models. This work incorporates direct observation and instrument use, lab study, and computer modeling teams – as well collaboration between these teams, to improve understandings of our atmospheric conditions.
U.S. NATIONAL SCIENCE STANDARDS
Meet the Science Standard
(Florida Next Generation Science Standard, that is, for middle and high school grades)
The scientific theory of the evolution of Earth states that changes in our planet are driven by the flow of energy and the cycling of matter through dynamic interactions among the atmosphere, hydrosphere, cryosphere, geosphere, and biosphere, and the resources used to sustain human civilization on Earth.
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