Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

A new approach to meteorology

with 2 comments

A truly fascinating look at some new ideas in meteorology (which we all know is not the same as climatology, right?). Robert Matthews writes in New Scientist:

WE’VE all watched those vast heaps of cotton wool float across the sky. Lofted and shaped by updrafts of warm air, cumulus clouds mesmerise with their constantly changing shape. Some grow ever taller, while others wither and die before our eyes. All bear witness to the ceaseless roiling of the ocean of air we call the atmosphere.

About 80 years ago, the British mathematician Lewis Fry Richardson was pondering the shapes of such clouds when a startling thought occurred to him: the laws that govern the atmosphere might actually be very simple.

Even at the time, with scientific meteorology still in its infancy, the idea seemed absurd: key equations governing the behaviour of the 5 million billion tonnes of air above us had already been identified – and they were anything but simple.

No one was more aware of this than Richardson, who is recognised as one of the founders of modern weather forecasting. Even now, the world’s most powerful computers are pushed to their limits extracting predictions of future weather and climate from the equations he wrestled with using pencil and paper.

Yet Richardson suspected that behind the mathematical complexity of the atmosphere lay a far simpler reality – if only we looked at it the right way.

Now an international team of researchers analysing signals from satellites, aircraft and ground-based stations have found clear evidence that Richardson’s intuition was right and that the complexity of the atmosphere could really be an illusion.

The results point to a new view of the atmosphere as a vast collection of cascade-like processes, with large structures the size of continents breaking down to feed ever-smaller ones, right down to zephyrs of air no bigger than a fly.

The implications promise to transform the way we predict everything from tomorrow’s local weather to the changing climate of the entire planet. "We may never be able to view the atmosphere and climate in the same way again," says team member Shaun Lovejoy of McGill University in Montreal, Canada. "Rather than seeing them as so complex that only equally complex numerical models can make sense of them, we’re seeing a kind of scale-by-scale simplicity."

Richardson had a reputation for having ideas decades ahead of his time. He pioneered the study of …

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

8 November 2009 at 11:37 am

Posted in Daily life, Science

2 Responses

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  1. Would that meteorolgists would be called climatoligists. The profession must be embarrased that many of it’s members have not mastered the proper pronunciation of it’s name. They mostly call themselves METERologists.

    Bob Slaughter

    8 November 2009 at 12:03 pm

  2. What an interesting man Richardson was, so far ahead of his time.


    20 January 2010 at 7:49 am

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