Weather forecasting or the science and research of weather events and weather forecasting involve the study of the atmosphere and predicting weather events that are based on the study of current atmosphere.
A little history
The beginnings of Meteorology can be traced as far back as ancient India in 3000 B.C.E. Several ancient texts like the Upanishads carry detailed information on how to recognize turns in the weather, processes of cloud formation and identification of seasonal weather cycles caused by the movement of Earth around the sun. Aristotle, Roman Pomponius Mela and Greek scientist Theophrastus all were intensely interested in the weather and how the cycles of weather occurred. Meteorology advanced in leaps and bounds as the ancients tried to predict weather patterns for boutiful crops and to prevent natural disasters. The field actually exploded when eminent scientists like Anders Celsius, Luke Howard, Francis Beaufort, Gaspard-Gustave Coriolis etc started contributing to the field. The establishment of an international weather observation network in 1654 was the first active step taken to track weather patterns to learn how they influenced weather and seasons in different parts of the world. Late in the 20th century, numerical weather prediction made the process of predicting the weather improved by leaps and bounds. By the 20th century, an improved understanding of atmospheric physics led to the foundation of mathematical principles for weather prediction. Lewis Fry Richardson also produced an impressive text called “Weather Prediction By Numerical Process” that renovated the field of weather patterns, atmospheric flows, pressure gradients.
Branches of Meteorology
However, meteorology is not limited to active weather predictions and it includes several branches like
• Microscale Meteorology deals with atmospheric phenomenon that is based 1km or less from the surface of the earth. Generally small cloud formations are studied in this field and it may be clubbed together with mesoscale meteorology to study all cloud formations that may occur. Usually microscale deals with the mixing and dilution of hot and cold air that occurs in the atmosphere. Important factors that influence this field include heat transfer, gas exchange, turbulence, etc. Variables that are measured in this branch and which influence weather are heat fluxes and heat from the earth disseminating into the weather.
• Mesoscale Meteorology may be clubbed together with Microscale as a single branch as both fields influence each other considerably. The study of weather more than 5 kms from the surface of the earth is referred to as Mesoscale Meteorology and it usually combines mesoscale which is measured 1km from the earth surface. This field usually includes sea breezes, squall systems and convective complexes. This field is further divided into subclasses like-
o Meso-gamma that deals with weather 2-20km from the earth which usually demonstrates thunderstorm activity
o Meso-beta deals with the study of weather conditions that exist 20-200kms from the earth surface which demonstrates sea breezes, lake effect snow storms and other weather conditions.
o Meso-alpha deals with 200-2000 km weather conditions that demonstrate squall lines and tropical cyclones.
• Synoptic scale meteorology is a horizontal length scale of 1000kms or more that includes surface weather problems like depressions and pressure gradients across the surface of the earth.
Modern Day Meteorology
Modern day meteorology depends on a range of techniques that incorporate the science and research of weather events and weather forecasting to predict the weather. Meteorology uses a unique set of lab equipments and procedures to predict weather. For example, sets of surface measurements are taken at different locations all over the world by satellites, weather stations, ships or weather buoys. Weather measurements like temperature, pressure, humidity and a range of other measurements are carried out. Instruments like barometers, anemometer, hygrometers, and thermometers are used to record the measurements and collate them on computers. Other critical data parameters include upper air data that is recorded with radiosondes. With the advent of satellites, it became exceedingly easy to record upper air data and weather conditions that were spread out over a large surface area. Computers also made the process of understanding weather very easy. Numerical weather prediction models were set up that used previously recorded weather data to create objective, physics-based calculations that were real time and more likely to be trusted. These models also used real time data from satellites, weather buoys, weather instruments etc to predict complex and multiple weather variables. These models are also improved by meteorologists who correct and tweak the data to produce better equations. This was combined with another model called Model Output Statistics to improve weather forecasts by combining it with the Numerical Weather Prediction Model.
Weather forecasting has newer been ideal but the field has been advancing with leaps and bounds. Even the modern day condition of Meteorology has ensured that atleast a fraction of adverse weather can be predicted well in advance saving thousands of lives. Even though weather prediction and the science and research of weather events and weather forecasting has been around for thousands of years; we are still a long way off from understanding how the earth and its atmospheric cover works.