Weather’s influence on our lives


By Mitchell Pence

Darke County Parks

How many of you turn on a weather channel or boot up a weather app on your phone in the morning to prepare for the day? Weather has such a great influence on our day-to-day lives, yet it remains unpredictable. Sure, we have some of the best meteorologists who monitor what is happening in our atmosphere, but even they may struggle to produce a forecast that is accurate for an extended period of time. Weather is a powerful force of nature, so powerful that at times it can even be deadly. Thankfully, events like these are uncommon, but as the global temperature continues to rise, our climates across the globe become more unstable, creating more unpredictable and volatile weather.

To understand the basics of how weather works, we need to start with our local, life-giving star, the sun! It is thanks to the sun that life on Earth is even possible to begin with. It provides light, heat, and energy for all living things. It is also the cause for all weather patterns that take place on planet Earth. Specifically, heat is the start of any weather recipe. As the sun heats a variety of surfaces throughout the day, each of these surfaces absorb and give off heat differently. Through convection, this unevenly heated air rises into the atmosphere, cools, then falls back to the surface. As this happens, areas of low pressure or high pressure may form across the globe. Air constantly strives for balance and equilibrium, and in response, will rush from areas of high pressure to fill in areas of low pressure. We recognize this movement in the form of wind! The greater the difference in pressure, the faster the air will try to equalize the difference, making for stronger winds. If you take all of this uneven heating and pressure, and combine that with Earth’s rotation and the tilt of its axis, you get a pretty clear picture of how air, and weather, moves across the globe. Of course, there is a lot more to it than that, but I did say these are the basics.

So how do these elements cause dangerous weather? Let’s revisit that heated air that is rising into the atmosphere. One thing to note is that all weather on Earth takes place within the lowest layer of our atmosphere: the troposphere. As the heated air rises, temperatures high in the troposphere are much colder, causing this air to condense and form moisture in the form of water droplets or ice crystals. As this moisture builds, clouds will form and grow. So long as there’s a steady feed of warm, wet air to condense, clouds may grow to monstrous sizes like a cumulonimbus, or spread themselves across a vast area, forming a gray ceiling, like stratus clouds. The type of cloud that forms can depend on what kind of air mass it was born into and what kind of front is pushing it around. For example, cumulonimbus clouds are the result of cold fronts, bulldozing warm air up into the atmosphere rapidly. These fronts tend to move through quickly, but are powerful, producing intense thunderstorms, hail and even tornados. Likewise, warm fronts slowly push colder air masses away which can produce those long, drawn-out rain events that last for days.

While this is just a simplified summary of how weather can form, you get the picture that temperature plays a pivotal role in how powerful weather can become and how quickly it can change. I mentioned in the beginning how rising global temperatures are affecting climates across the planet. While it may seem strange to consider that a little extra heat could cause so much fuss, just listen to planet Earth. She is communicating to us through our weather that things are indeed changing, and not for the better. While these changes may seem insignificant on the surface, look at the increase in the number of wildfires across the planet, the bleaching of our coral reefs, and the growing intensity in our local weather events. As temperatures continue to steadily rise, our global climates and weather will keep intensifying.

So what can we do? Well, the greatest impact we can make is to lower our carbon emissions as much as we can. This will help to reduce the greenhouse gasses that contribute to holding heat within our atmosphere. You can also try reducing or reusing products to cut back on global supply chains, bike to work, or plant trees wherever you can. I think the bottom line is best said by the Lorax, “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”

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