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The History of Synoptic Meteorology in the Age of Numerical Weather Forecasting  

Kristine C. Harper

Despite some early attempts in the 19th century, national weather services did not regularly create forecasts for public consumption until the early 20th century, and many of those were based on a handful of surface observations of dubious quality. With the invention of the balloon-borne radiosonde in the 1930s, upper-air observations became more common, and knowledge of upper-level processes was melded into forecasting practice. World War II brought its own challenges and opportunities, expanding the number of trained meteorologists worldwide, establishing many new observing stations in tropical and high-latitude locations, and opening the possibility of using radar to identify short-range severe weather. But the big change was the development of digital electronic computers, and with them the opportunity to calculate the weather. The first efforts were marginal at best, but international teams in the United States and Sweden continued their efforts, and by the late 1950s, midatmospheric prognosis charts were being transmitted to forecast offices, which would prepare the final local forecasts. Unfortunately for the synoptic forecasters in the field offices, the new objective numerical weather prediction (NWP) products were not comparable to the old subjective forecast charts that they had used for years. The resulting push and pull between the atmospheric modelers and the synoptic meteorologists ultimately changed both groups: the atmospheric modelers used forecaster feedback to upgrade the models, and the synoptic meteorologists learned to use the objective forecasts. The anticipated improvements in weather forecasting, however, did not follow immediately. As the decades passed, computing power increased and the introduction of satellites with multiple specialized sensors, purpose-built weather radar, and other remote sensing devices increased the availability of ground and upper-air data. As a result, more variables and the physics that defined them were added to NWP models, and the resulting products changed the way synoptic meteorologists made their forecasts, even if they did not change their feel for the atmosphere. Those changes continued into the 21st century, fueling the desire for specialized forecasts from multiple interest groups and the public’s desire for accurate, up-to-the-minute weather forecasts that extend up to 2 weeks into the future.

Article

Effects of Meteorological and Air Pollutant Factors on the Deaths from COVID-19 in Chinese Cities: A Spatial Panel Data Analysis  

Faysal Mansouri and Zouheir Mighri

Coronavirus (COVID-19) global pandemic was first identified in Wuhan, China in December 2019. Its human-to-human transmission was confirmed on January 20, 2020 and rapidly escalated into a global pandemic. Coronavirus exponential spread has caused overwhelming challenges to global public health and left households and businesses counting huge economic losses. These unprecedented global circumstances have forced policymakers to work under bilevel pressure: implement successful containment strategies and in the meantime get society and the economy to a new normal path—in other words, a trade-off between successful containment strategy and optimal reopening strategy. As the pandemic evolves, a growing public and academic debate has taken place on the likelihood of the influence of meteorological factors as well as pollution elements on COVID-19 cycle. This potential association between meteorological factors and COVID-19 spread inevitably shapes containment strategies and social and economic reopening policy options. An important growing literature has investigated this relationship using various statistical tools and approaches. Indeed, several researchers have attempted to provide evidence of statistical correlation between meteorological conditions as well as and air pollution factors and COVID-19 reported deaths? Several studies have analyzed the association between meteorological factors and the spread of COVID-19 in local, regional, and global frameworks. A particular focus has been made on the identification of factors that might have impact on COVID-19 mortality rate as well as on the acceleration of diffusion of infection, for various countries including China.

Article

Changes in Land Use Influenced by Anthropogenic Activity  

Lang Wang and Zong-Liang Yang

The terms “land cover” and “land use” are often used interchangeably, although they have different meanings. Land cover is the biophysical material at the surface of the Earth, whereas land use refers to how people use the land surface. Land use concerns the resources of the land, their products, and benefits, in addition to land management actions and activities. The history of changes in land use has passed through several major stages driven by developments in science and technology and demands for food, fiber, energy, and shelter. Modern changes in land use have been increasingly affected by anthropogenic activities at a scale and magnitude that have not been seen. These changes in land use are largely driven by population growth, urban expansion, increasing demands for energy and food, changes in diets and lifestyles, and changing socioeconomic conditions. About 70% of the Earth’s ice-free land surface has been altered by changes in land use, and these changes have had environmental impacts worldwide, ranging from effects on the composition of the Earth’s atmosphere and climate to the extensive modification of terrestrial ecosystems, habitats, and biodiversity. A number of different methods have been developed give a thorough understanding of these changes in land use and the multiple effects and feedbacks involved. Earth system observations and models are examples of two crucial technologies, although there are considerable uncertainties in both techniques. Cross-disciplinary collaborations are highly desirable in future studies of land use and management. The goals of mitigating climate change and maintaining sustainability should always be considered before implementing any new land management strategies.

Article

Air Pollution and Weather Interaction in East Asia  

Aijun Ding, Xin Huang, and Congbin Fu

Air pollution is one of the grand environmental challenges in developing countries, especially those with high population density like China. High concentrations of primary and secondary trace gases and particulate matter (PM) are frequently observed in the industrialized and urbanized regions, causing negative effects on the health of humans, plants, and the ecosystem. Meteorological conditions are among the most important factors influencing day-to-day air quality. Synoptic weather and boundary layer dynamics control the dispersion capacity and transport of air pollutants, while the main meteorological parameters, such as air temperature, radiation, and relative humidity, influence the chemical transformation of secondary air pollutants at the same time. Intense air pollution, especially high concentration of radiatively important aerosols, can substantially influence meteorological parameters, boundary layer dynamics, synoptic weather, and even regional climate through their strong radiative effects. As one of the main monsoon regions, with the most intense human activities in the world, East Asia is a region experiencing complex air pollution, with sources from anthropogenic fossil fuel combustion, biomass burning, dust storms, and biogenic emissions. A mixture of these different plumes can cause substantial two-way interactions and feedbacks in the formation of air pollutants under various weather conditions. Improving the understanding of such interactions needs more field measurements using integrated multiprocess measurement platforms, as well as more efforts in developing numerical models, especially for those with online coupled processes. All these efforts are very important for policymaking from the perspectives of environmental protection and mitigation of climate change.

Article

Transcontinental Meteorology Infrastructures From Ancient Mesopotamia to the Early Modern Age  

Robert-Jan Wille

The current global infrastructure of meteorology partly builds on older transcontinental structures of weather science and meteorological philosophy. For several millennia, the large belt stretching from East Asia, through mountains, silk roads, and the Indian Ocean, to the seas and river deltas where Western Eurasia and North Africa border on each other, has formed a key region. From Ancient Mesopotamia to the 16th century, a continuous and multi-site infrastructure emerged that was organized around meteorological texts, including not only scrolls, papyri, and manuscripts, but also ideas and concepts, as well as meteorological writers and readers traveling between institutions and storehouses. Not considering the long history of orally transmitted pre-Mesopotamian weather knowledge, the first large-scale textual infrastructures were inseparable from astronomical tabulation and dynastical prognostication. In later millennia, in the city states and empires of Greece, Rome, China, and India, “meteorology” became a distinct subject, with its own language and concepts, even though it remained allied to agriculture and statecraft as knowledge practices. At the beginning of the Common Era, the first distinct meteorological instruments appeared, first in East Asia and later in the Near East and Greece. In the 15th and 16th centuries, new regions were added to this knowledge infrastructure, with or without force, making it almost global: the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, their Eurasian and African shores, and the Americas. This changed the power dynamics, with European empires controlling the transatlantic infrastructures of knowledge and labor. Ideas that were transcontinental in origin now became part of a Western European program to conquer the globe.