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ESS 111 – Climate &

Global Change
Week 1
Weather vs Climate
Structure of the Atmosphere
Global Wind Belts
Weather is the state of the atmosphere at a
given place and time. For example, right
now, the temperature in Huntsville, AL is
90°F with Partly Sunny skies.
Climate is the average condition of the
atmosphere (such as temperature or
precipitation) over a long period of time.
For example, the average annual temperature
over the past 30 years for Huntsville is 62°F.
The average annual precipitation is 54 inches.
Climate is the average of weather conditions
in a place.
Just as the weather differs from day to day, the
climate differs from place to place.
Seattle, WA Houston, TX Phoenix, AZ Barrow, AK
Cool Warm Hot Cold
Moist Moist Dry Dry
Two important elements of weather and
climate are: precipitation and temperature

• Precipitation includes all forms of moisture falling to the

surface of the earth. (Examples: rain, sleet, snow, hail)

• Temperature is how warm or cool the air is outside.

* For this class, mean temperature/precipitation is the same as

average temperature/precipitation.
A graph that indicates average
temperature and precipitation for an area.
These graphs can answer the following
types of questions:
How much rain is there in a particular
When is it dry?
Is it wet when it’s cool?
What vegetation can grow there?
How to Read a Climograph
Look at the title to see what location’s climate is
being described by the graph.
The numbers
The numbers on
on the left
the right show
show you the
you the
amount of
Make sure you
Make sure
check to see if
you check to
the temperature
see if the
is measured in
is measured
Fahrenheit of
or inches.

The letters at the bottom show you the

months of the year.
In case you’re not great at interpreting Celsius
30° is hot
20° is nice
10° is cold
0° is ice
**Remember: This is for Celsius, not Fahrenheit!
How to Read a Climograph

The bar graph

measures the The line graph
average shows you the
precipitation average
for each temperature for
month. The each month.
numbers that The numbers
measure it are that measure it
on the left side are on the right
of the graph. side of the
•One factor that effects the temperature of a place is the amount of sunlight it receives.

•Notice how the temperature line on the climograph is almost level? This location is
near the equator. It receives the same amount of sunlight all year which results in an
almost straight temperature line.

Tropical Wet and Dry Location

The second location is further from the equator. The
curved temperature line shows that the amount of
sunlight this location receives varies with the seasons.

Humid Subtropical Location

Study the two climographs below.

•Can you pick out the one that depicts a tropical climate? How do
you know?

•Is it a tropical wet or a tropical wet and dry climate? How do you

Climate A Climate B
Where is the atmosphere?
Completely surrounds
Held to Earth by
gravitational attraction
What makes up the atmosphere?
Water Vapor
Location of this in the atmosphere is
highly variable
Significantly influences climate &
Atmospheric Thickness

No defined top to the atmosphere

The atmosphere is very shallow—and is less
than 2% of the Earth’s thickness

Over 90% of
atmosphere in
the lowest 16km
& is where nearly
all weather occurs
Temperature Basics
Temperature – measure of average kinetic energy
(motion) of individual molecules in matter
Three temperature scales (units): Kelvin (K), Celsius (C),
Fahrenheit (F)
All scales are relative
degrees F = 9⁄5 degrees C + 32
degrees K = degrees C + 273.15
Temperature Layers
Due to Solar
winds, Cosmic

Due to ozone
absorption of

Temperature Due to surface

decreases with heating
height in the (Longwave,
Troposphere Latent heat,
Sensible heat)
Density & Pressure
Density & Pressure
Lower layers of atmosphere are
compressed by air above it
This compression increases pressure &
density of the lower layers of the
What is atmospheric pressure?
Weight of the overlying air
Taller the column of air above an object,
the greater the air pressure exerted on
that object
Standard Atmospheric Pressure
1013.25 mb
1013.25 hPa
29.92 inches of Hg
The Layers of the Atmosphere

Lowest region of
the atmosphere
Contains ½ of the
atmosphere density
Depth of tropopause
Between the Troposphere & Stratosphere is the
Height is variable – Thermal expansion &
How do we determine where the
tropopause is located?

Temperature increases with an increase

in altitude
What is this called?
Why is there a temperature inversion
in the stratosphere?
Temp Inversion – temperature warms
with height instead of cooling w/ height
Gas that absorbs ultraviolet (UV) solar
Increases the temperature of the air
surrounds ozone

decreases with an
increase in altitude
Where meteors burn
up while entering the
Earth’s atmosphere

First exposed to the Sun's radiation and

so is first heated by the Sun
Air is so thin that a small increase in
energy can cause a large increase in
Vertical Structure of the Atmosphere
Space shuttle Endeavour straddles mesosphere & stratosphere
Planetary Winds
Well-defined pressure patterns exist across the
Earth that induce the global wind patterns on
the planet
Idealized Single-Cell Convection Model for
a Planet
Features of the
circulation pattern:

•horse latitude
•trade winds
•prevailing westerlies
•polar easterlies
•polar front
The Three-Cell Model Polar cell --
Ferrel cell --
northeasterly winds
southwesterly winds
at surface
at surface

Subtropical high -- Air

subsides (dry climate)

Hadley cell -- tropical

convection cell

convergence zone
(ITCZ) -- surface low
pressure with clouds
and rain
Observed Distribution of Pressure and Winds
(a) An imaginary uniform Earth with (b) Actual planetary winds belts on
idealized zonal (continuous) pressure Earth taking into account continents
belts and ocean currents
Idealized Pressure Belts
Equatorial Low- warm air rising creates cell of low pressure.

Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ)- referred to as the

convergence zone because this region is where the trade winds
converge. Ascending air leads to cloud formation which makes this
region clearly visible on satellite imagery.

Subtropical Highs- These zones are caused primarily by Coriolis

deflection which restricts upper-level winds from moving poleward.
Subsiding air and divergent winds at the surface cause warm, cloud-
free weather (many large desert areas are located along this
latitudinal belt). Subtropical Highs tend to persist throughout the
year, with the center of the high migrating, and are regarded as
semi-permanent pressure systems.
Idealized Pressure Belts (cont.)
Subpolar Low – located around 50 to 60  latitude. Associated
with the polar front. The belt of low pressure is formed by the
interaction (convergence) of the polar easterlies and the westerlies

Polar Highs – located over the poles! The process which produces
the polar highs is different than the process which produces the
subtropical highs. Surface cooling is the principle reason the
polar high.
The ITCZ is a band of clouds across the tropics

The three-celled model vs. reality:

• Hadley cells are close approximations of real

world equatorial winds
• Ferrel and polar cells do not approximate the
real world winds very well at all
• Model is unrepresentative of westerly flow
• Continents and topographic irregularities
cause significant variations in real world
wind patterns compared to the model
Semi-Permanent Pressure Cells are large areas
of higher or lower atmospheric pressure than the
surface average
They may be thermally induced (rising warm air or
subsiding cold air) or they may be caused
dynamically by converging or diverging wind
They fluctuate seasonally
Northern hemisphere semi-permanent cells
The Aleutian, Icelandic, and Tibetan lows
Siberian, Hawaiian, and Bermuda-Azores highs
ITCZ (low)
Vertical structure and mechanisms

Polar Cell (thermal): Ferrel Cell (dynamical): Hadley Cell (thermal):

Driven by heating at Dynamical response to Heating in tropics  forms
50 degree latitude and Hadley and polar cells surface low and upper level
cooling at the poles high  air converges
equatorward at surface, rises,
and diverges poleward aloft
 descends in the subtropics
Average atmospheric air pressure and wind patterns in January
Average atmospheric air pressure and wind patterns in July