WHAT IS METEOROLOGY ?
Meteorology is the science of weather. It is essentially an inter-disciplinary science because the atmosphere, land and ocean constitute an integrated system. The three basic aspects of meteorology are observation, understanding and prediction of weather. There are many kinds of routine meteorological observations. Some of them are made with simple instruments like the thermometer for measuring temperature or the anemometer for recording wind speed. The observing techniques have become increasingly complex in recent years and satellites have now made it possible to monitor the weather globally. Countries around the world exchange the weather observations through fast telecommunications channels. These are plotted on weather charts and analysed by professional meteorologists at forecasting centres. Weather forecasts are then made with the help of modern computers and supercomputers. Weather information and forecasts are of vital importance to many activities like agriculture, aviation, shipping, fisheries, tourism, defence, industrial projects, water management and disaster mitigation. Recent advances in satellite and computer technology have led to significant progress in meteorology. Our knowledge of the weather is, however, still incomplete.
Weather observations, taken on the ground or on ships, and in the upper atmosphere with the help of balloon soundings, represent the state of the atmosphere at a given time. When the data are plotted on a weather map, we get a synoptic view of the world’s weather. Hence day-to-day analysis and forecasting of weather has come to be known as synoptic meteorology. It is the study of the movement of low pressure areas, air masses, fronts, and other weather systems like depressions and tropical cyclones.
Climatology is a study of the climate of a place or region on the basis of weather records accumulated over long periods of time. The average values of meteorological parameters derived from a data base that extends over several decades are called climatological normals. Different regions of the world have different characteristic climates. However, it is now recognized that climate is not static and issues such as climate change and global warming are receiving increasing attention.
This particular branch of meteorology attempts to describe the atmospheric processes through mathematical equations which together are called a numerical model. After defining the initial state of the atmosphere and ocean, the equations are solved to derive a final state, thus enabling a weather prediction to be made. Dynamic meteorology deals with a wide range of hydrodynamical equations from a global scale to small turbulent eddies. The process of solving the equations is very complicated and requires powerful computers to accomplish.
In physical meteorology we study the physical processes of the atmosphere, such as solar radiation, its absorption and scattering in the earth-atmosphere system, the radiation back to space and the transformation of solar energy into kinetic energy of air. Cloud physics and the study of rain processes are a part of physical meteorology.
In simple terms, agricultural meteorology is the application of meteorological information and data for the enhancement of crop yields and reduction of crop losses because of adverse weather. This has linkages with forestry, horticulture and animal husbandry. The agrometeorologist requires not only a sound knowledge of meteorology, but also of agronomy, plant physiology and plant and animal pathology, in addition to common agricultural practices. This branch of meteorology is of particular relevance to India because of the high dependence of our agriculture on monsoon rainfall which has its own vagaries.
Like agriculture, there are many human activities which are affected by weather and for which meteorologists can provide valuable inputs. Applied meteorologists use weather information and adopt the findings of theoretical research to suit a specific application; for example, design of aircraft, control of air pollution, architectural design, urban planning, exploitation of solar and wind energy, air-conditioning, development of tourism, etc.
BOOKS TO READ:
The Monsoons by Dr P. K. Das, National Book Trust, India, New Delhi, 1995 (Third Edition).
Be Weatherwise by Dr S. M. Kulshrestha, National Institute of Science Communication (CSIR),
New Delhi, 1998.