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What Is Meteorology and How Is It Used in Environmental Science

written by: R. Elizabeth C. Kitchen•edited by: Niki Fears•updated: 3/5/2017

Meteorology isn't just about forecasting the weather so you'll know how to dress the next day. It's also about studying cycles, patterns and events - and seeing how they impact the environment in which we live.

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    What Is Meteorology?

    Meteorology is a scientific study that focuses on the atmosphere and weather processes including forecasting. Observable weather events, also known as meteorological phenomena, are included in the study of meteorology. Conventional meteorological studies include water vapor, temperature, and air pressure as well as the gradients of each and how each of these variables interacts with one another. Meteorology also studies how these variables change throughout time. Most of the Earth's weather occurs within the troposphere.

    Types of Meteorology

    Boundary layer meteorology studies the layer of air that is directly above the Earth's surface. It focuses on how the surface-atmosphere boundary affects the oceans, lakes, urban land areas and non-urban land areas. This study delves into how the heating, cooling, and friction affects these areas and how these cause turbulent mixing in the boundary layer of air.

    Mesoscale meteorology studies several layers of the Earth including the boundary layer, the stratosphere, the tropopause and the troposphere. It examines several forms of weather such as land breezes, mountain waves, thunderstorms, fronts, squall lines and precipitation bands in extratropical and tropical cyclones. These weather events are then often followed throughout their duration.

    Global scale meteorology studies the weather patterns that are significant to the transport of heat from the north and south poles to the tropics. It also focuses on oscillations of a vast scale. It delves into how global oscillations cause weather disturbances and climate disturbances in mesoscale timescales and synoptic timescales.

    Agricultural meteorology studies how weather affects plant development, animal development, plant distribution, crop yield and the efficiency of water use. This type of meteorology studies the energy balance of natural ecosystems and managed ecosystems for similarities and differences. Those in this field are also looking into how vegetation may affect the weather and climate.

    Hydrometeorology studies the hydrologic cycle tracks the storms' rainfall statistics and deals with the water budget. This type of meteorologist prepares the forecasts that are often in the news and gives the information on amounts of potential precipitation, snow, and rain and predicts areas that may be in danger of flash floods.

    Why is it Important?

    Meteorology plays a significant role in environmental science. It is helpful for determining and tracking climate patterns as well as how land and water play a part in the climate and climate change. It gives information on oscillations and how global oscillations may cause weather and climate disturbances. Meteorology also helps to control vegetation, and it also allows those in agriculture determine the best time to promote their crops. Meteorology also studies how past climates can predict future climates and the dangers that certain environmental processes have on Earth.