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1 - Introduction to Climate

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James Thomson

BIO120H1F Online Reading Series – 1 Sept.12 2012 #1 – Introduction to the Basic Drivers of Climate What is Climate?  Weather – Temperature, precipitation, cloud cover, wind and humidity; daily measurement  Climate – Prevailing weather patterns in an area, largely determined by temperature & precipitation; long term  Variations in climate – daily, seasonal, or quinquennial (El Nino Oscillation – every 5 or so years)  Long term climate change – caused by change in distribution/intensity of solar light Sunlight Intensity & Climate  The Sun: o Provides energy for life o Drives Earth’s Weather/Climate patterns  Earth = Spherical; energy from sunlight varies based on latitude  Area closest to equator = more solar energy  Area close to poles = low solar energy (sunlight is spread over a larger area)  Sunlight varies throughout year (earth is changing its orientation in space)  Seasons occur b/c of Earth’s titled axis (23.5 )  North Hemisphere = Winter when northern tip of planet tilts way from sun  North Hemisphere Winter = South Hemisphere Summer; Vice-Versa  Tropical Areas have little change in temperature, season characterized by presence(or lack) of rain Sunlight Intensity, Global Winds, Precipitation, & Ocean Circulation  Cold water and cold air = more dense than warm water and warm air  Warm air/water rises upwards  As warm air rises, it cools, making it turn from an gaseous form to a liquid/gas mixture  Water molecules condense and form clouds, eventually becomes rain/hail/snow etc  As warm air moves up, cold air from surrounding area rush to fill void (creates wind)  Tropic Air moves from the equator towards the poles o As it travels, it cools and precipitates throughout its journey; finally at around 30 degree north/south; the air has become dry and hot o The dry air mass absorbs moisture from the area around the 30 degree latitude, making deserts o Some of the new moist air go back to the equator, some continue towards the poles o the air mass that continues towards poles slowly precipitate out around 30-60 degree N/S; not as high volume as the area of the equator o the air mass dry again and col
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