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Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Climate

Climate


Map of world dividing climate zones, largely influenced by latitude. The zones, going from the equator upward (and downward) are Tropical, Dry, Moderate, Continental and Polar. There are subzones within these zones.
Worldwide Climate Classifications
Climate encompasses the statistics of temperature, humidity, atmospheric pressure, wind, rainfall, atmospheric particle count and other meteorological elemental measurements in a given region over long periods. Climate can be contrasted to weather, which is the present condition of these elements and their variations over shorter periods.
A region's climate is generated by the climate system, which has five components: Atmosphere, hydrosphere, cryosphere, land surface, and biosphere.[1]
The climate of a location is affected by its latitude, terrain, and altitude, as well as nearby water bodies and their currents. Climates can be classified according to the average and the typical ranges of different variables, most commonly temperature and precipitation. The most commonly used classification scheme was originally developed by Wladimir Köppen. The Thornthwaite system,[2] in use since 1948, incorporates evapotranspiration along with temperature and precipitation information and is used in studying animal species diversity and potential effects of climate changes. The Bergeron and Spatial Synoptic Classification systems focus on the origin of air masses that define the climate of a region.

Definition

Definition

Part of the Nature series on
Weather
 
Calendar seasons
Spring · Summer
Autumn · Winter
Tropical seasons
Dry season · Wet season
Storms
Thunderstorm · Supercell
Downburst · Lightning
Tornado · Waterspout
Tropical cyclone (Hurricane)
Extratropical cyclone
Winter storm · Blizzard · Ice storm
Dust storm · Firestorm  · Cloud
Precipitation
Drizzle · Rain  · Snow · Graupel
Freezing rain · Ice pellets · Hail
Topics
Meteorology · Climate
Weather forecasting
Heat wave · Air pollution
Weather portal

Climate (from Ancient Greek klima, meaning inclination) is commonly defined as the weather averaged over a long period.[3] The standard averaging period is 30 years,[4] but other periods may be used depending on the purpose. Climate also includes statistics other than the average, such as the magnitudes of day-to-day or year-to-year variations. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) glossary definition is:
Climate in a narrow sense is usually defined as the "average weather," or more rigorously, as the statistical description in terms of the mean and variability of relevant quantities over a period ranging from months to thousands or millions of years. The classical period is 30 years, as defined by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). These quantities are most often surface variables such as temperature, precipitation, and wind. Climate in a wider sense is the state, including a statistical description, of the climate system.[5]

Köppen

Köppen

Monthly average surface temperatures from 1961–1990. This is an example of how climate varies with location and season
Monthly global images from NASA Earth Observatory
The Köppen classification depends on average monthly values of temperature and precipitation. The most commonly used form of the Köppen classification has five primary types labeled A through E. These primary types are A, tropical; B, dry; C, mild mid-latitude; D, cold mid-latitude; and E, polar. The five primary classifications can be further divided into secondary classifications such as rain forest, monsoon, tropical savanna, humid subtropical, humid continental, oceanic climate, Mediterranean climate, steppe, subarctic climate, tundra, polar ice cap, and desert.
Rain forests are characterized by high rainfall, with definitions setting minimum normal annual rainfall between 1,750 millimetres (69 in) and 2,000 millimetres (79 in). Mean monthly temperatures exceed 18 °C (64 °F) during all months of the year.[15]
A monsoon is a seasonal prevailing wind which lasts for several months, ushering in a region's rainy season.[16] Regions within North America, South America, Sub-Saharan Africa, Australia and East Asia are monsoon regimes.[17]
A tropical savanna is a grassland biome located in semiarid to semi-humid climate regions of subtropical and tropical latitudes, with average temperatures remain at or above 18 °C (64 °F) year round and rainfall between 750 millimetres (30 in) and 1,270 millimetres (50 in) a year. They are widespread on Africa, and are found in India, the northern parts of South America, Malaysia, and Australia.[18]

Thornthwaite

Thornthwaite

Precipitation by month
Devised by the American climatologist and geographer C. W. Thornthwaite, this climate classification method monitors the soil water budget using evapotranspiration.[11] It monitors the portion of total precipitation used to nourish vegetation over a certain area.[30] It uses indices such as a humidity index and an aridity index to determine an area's moisture regime based upon its average temperature, average rainfall, and average vegetation type.[31] The lower the value of the index in any given area, the drier the area is.
The moisture classification includes climatic classes with descriptors such as hyperhumid, humid, subhumid, subarid, semi-arid (values of −20 to −40), and arid (values below −40).[32] Humid regions experience more precipitation than evaporation each year, while arid regions experience greater evaporation than precipitation on an annual basis. A total of 33 percent of the Earth's landmass is considered either arid of semi-arid, including southwest North America, southwest South America, most of northern and a small part of southern Africa, southwest and portions of eastern Asia, as well as much of Australia.[33] Studies suggest that precipitation effectiveness (PE) within the Thornthwaite moisture index is overestimated in the summer and underestimated in the winter.[34] This index can be effectively used to determine the number of herbivore and mammal species numbers within a given area.[35] The index is also used in studies of climate change.[34]

Climate change

Climate change

Variations in CO2, temperature and dust from the Vostok ice core over the past 450,000 years
Climate change is the variation in global or regional climates over time. It reflects changes in the variability or average state of the atmosphere over time scales ranging from decades to millions of years. These changes can be caused by processes internal to the Earth, external forces (e.g. variations in sunlight intensity) or, more recently, human activities.[41]
In recent usage, especially in the context of environmental policy, the term "climate change" often refers only to changes in modern climate, including the rise in average surface temperature known as global warming. In some cases, the term is also used with a presumption of human causation, as in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The UNFCCC uses "climate variability" for non-human caused variations.[42]
Earth has undergone periodic climate shifts in the past, including four major ice ages. These consisting of glacial periods where conditions are colder than normal, separated by interglacial periods. The accumulation of snow and ice during a glacial period increases the surface albedo, reflecting more of the Sun's energy into space and maintaining a lower atmospheric temperature. Increases in greenhouse gases, such as by volcanic activity, can increase the global temperature and produce an interglacial. Suggested causes of ice age periods include the positions of the continents, variations in the Earth's orbit,[43] changes in the solar output, and volcanism.[44]

Record

Record

Modern

Instrumental temperature record of the last 150 years
Details of the modern climate record are known through the taking of measurements from such weather instruments as thermometers, barometers, and anemometers during the past few centuries. The instruments used to study weather over the modern time scale, their known error, their immediate environment, and their exposure have changed over the years, which must be considered when studying the climate of centuries past.[39]

Paleoclimatology

Paleoclimatology is the study of past climate over a great period of the Earth's history. It uses evidence from ice sheets, tree rings, sediments, coral, and rocks to determine the past state of the climate. It demonstrates periods of stability and periods of change and can indicate whether changes follow patterns such as regular