GPHY 314 Quiz: Week 1

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29 Dec 2020
WEEK 1: Introduction to Climate Change
Weather and Climate
Weather: actual/instantaneous state of atmosphere at particular time, easy to measure
o Important for making short-term decisions i.e. whether you bring umbrella
o Chaotic -> Even microscopic disturbances can lead to huge changes
o “Good” weather is relative -> Depends how you use land and your experiences
Climate: statistical description of the weather over a period of time, usually a few
decades, much harder to measure (requires decades of data)
o More important for long-term i.e. choosing where to build vacation home
o Shaped by global forces that alter energy valves in atmosphere
o Average set of atmospheric conditions for given region
o We divide the world up into climate-types i.e. arctic, continental, tropical
Commonly see extreme weather events linked to yields of some product or impact on
direct community
o Accurate in only some cases
Weather hard to predict, climate very unpredictable
o Climate always changes in response to global forces
o Strongest force driving climate change right now is CO2, which traps heat of sun
Temperature most often associated with climate, directly affects Earth’s inhabitants
o Most commonly discussed is average temperature, but extremes also matter i.e.
heat waves which can kill people
Precipitation rivals temperature in importance because life without freshwater impossible
o Total annual precipitation of region, and distribution of rainfall throughout a year
o Form also important i.e. snow vs rain
Two most important things we rely on to survive food production and freshwater
availability greatly affected by climate
Climate Normals and Anomalies
Usually when analyzing climate, compare it to a “climate normal”
Climate values typically presented as normal averaged over a 30-year period
No quantitative reason necessarily to use 30 years, but having longer periods are better
for understanding variability, and captures information suitable for lifespan
In earlier normal periods, air temperature tended to be cooler than later periods
Just because there is a normal trend, doesn’t mean each year will map onto it exactly
o Should expect a bit of fluctuating variations in the data
o But if there is data extremely different from normal (i.e. warm spell indicated by
lots of data above normal) it is an anomaly
Climate anomalies: deviations from a climate normal
o Anomaly = (observed valued) (climate normal for same unit of time for a longer
or different time period)
o Useful because if you represent anomalies across space, you can see patterns
(deviations from normal) you wouldn’t see otherwise
Temperature tends to be clumpy in representation while precipitation is noisier
Important to remember we tend to get strong associations between climate anomalies
across long distances
o Especially temperature i.e. cold region in Kingston, expect cold period in Ottawa
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