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Climatology and meteorology are your friends

The Norwegian Meteorological institute has celebrated its 150th anniversary this year. It was founded to provide weather data and tentative warnings to farmers, sailors, and fishermen. The inception of Norwegian climatology in the mid-1800s started with studies of geographical climatic variations to adapt important infrastructure to the ambient climate. The purpose of the meteorology and climatology was to protect lives and properties.

The journey from the early history of meteorology and climatology to the present weather forecasts and climate research is one of mankind’s great success stories. In the early days, there was a belief that the weather was influenced by sunspots and northern lights, but this notion lost its traction as meteorology and became more and more successful in forecasting.

Modern meteorology started in 1904 with a landmark theory proposed by Vilhelm Bjerknes that made it possible to compute how the atmospheric state changes over time, based on a set of key variables and differential equations. The progress was build on science and painstaking efforts, as described by Paul Edwards in his book “A Vast Machine”.

Today, weather forecasts ensure safety over a wider range of dimensions depending on where you are. Some of the most important sectors for Met Norway include roads, rail, aviation, and maritime operations. However, the general public and businesses are also important recipients, and they benefit from an open data policy and the popular weather portal

In the USA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) provide a wide range of services. One example is the early warning systems for phenomena such as hurricanes which in the past took a large number of lives.

Why do meteorological services include both weather and climate, and how are they connected? Climate can be defined as the statistical description of weather, or the “typical weather” if you like. Long records of weather data is an essential part of climatology and you need a sufficiently large sample in order to get an accurate statistical description.

The statistical character of weather includes both the means, the range of variations, and the extremes. It is determined by the presence of physical processes, such as solar inclination (latitude), air mass above (elevation), prevailing winds, and how these are modified by the proximity of oceans and mountains.

I use the term climatology for the science-based knowledge about our climate, and this is built on climate research over time.

Climatology puts us in a better position to be prepared for a range of natural hazards and is a key element in risk handling. Risk R is often defined as the product between the consequence C of an event and the probability P that it takes place: R = C P.

Area planning is a typical examples of risk management, where the purpose is to avoid building in floodplains where floods are likely and to make sure that excess water drains efficiently. We also want to live where we are not killed by rockslides.

In mountainous Norway, we are particularly exposed to avalanches and rockslide hazards that may affect roads, rail, and buildings. Other types of exposure include wind (bridges) and storm surges (build environment). Operational meteorological services collaborate closely with homeland security and water authorities.

Weather data typically involve daily observations, and long series are essential to map the risks and quantify the typical frequency of extreme events. They are also essential for the evaluation of weather/climate model skill and for keeping an eye on the state of our climate.

Climate change means a shift in the weather statistics: Weather that was typical in the past may no longer be so common, and we start to see new types of weather events. Trend analysis and record-breaking occurrences can tell us if the probability for a particular type of events is changing. The climate changes because the physical conditions change, either from one location to the next, or over time as the greenhouse effect is increased.

Meteorology and climatology have been like two twins that have followed each other for a long time through our history. They have grown into modern sciences and are now a foundation for our safety. Weather forecasts and early warning systems represent the last line of climate change adaptation.

Recently, there have been some loud voices from people who find facts to be inconvenient and then try to make scientists look like villains. It is therefore important to remind ourselves that meteorology and climatology are your friends. At the same time, I would like to take the opportunity share this video that combines this message with a Merry Christmas greetings.

13 Responses to “Climatology and meteorology are your friends”

  1. 1

    A fun and charming video, even if the lyrics play a little fast and loose with causality! Also, nice to hear a trumpet solo…

    “A Vast Machine” sounds interesting, too.

  2. 2
    Dan DaSilva says:

    Thanks for the Christmas Song. May the messengers who work to bring facts be appreciated as the wise men appreciated Mary and Joseph.

  3. 3
    birte says:

    Thank you, you made my day :-)

  4. 4
    Dan DaSilva says:

    Rasmus Benestad please do not think the majority of those who are not agreement with you are trying to make scientists into villains. There is a range of opinions from “we have only a few years live” to “incresing CO2 is positive”. This range is polarized by political inclination into two warring groups. I like psychologist Jonathan Haidt’s view on this. This has taken place has taken place on climate change and many other issues we face. Merry Christmas

  5. 5
  6. 6
    Adam says:

    @ #1 I can thoroughly recommend it, Kevin. It’s a bit US-centric, but Paul Edwards admits that up front, and it is understandable as to why it it so, for a few reasons. That and the weak conclusion are my only nit picks. The bulk and meat of the book is excellent, and very informative.

  7. 7
    Mike Roddy says:

    Thanks, Rasmus, you Norwegians can sing! It was a very welcome relief from our election and Vikings on TV.

    Let us hope that we Americans awaken with the joy and hope you just showed. The opposition is strong in money, but weak in truth. As RC readers know, truth has a way of winning out.

  8. 8
    Tokodave says:

    Thanks Rasmus. And thanks to the folks at the Norwegian Meteorological Institute for putting this together as well as all their regular work!
    Season’s Greetings to all and keep up the good work, alas, we need it now more than ever.

  9. 9
    Matt Smith says:

    Thank you for this timely and welcome reminder, and also for the very strong singing! Happy holidays to everyone at realclimate. Looking forward to reading more in what will surely be a challenging new year here in the US.

  10. 10

    #6, Adam–

    Thanks for the expansion. Even more interested now!

  11. 11
    Jon Kirwan says:

    I read “The Vast Machine” from front to back when it came out and got a chance to talk with the author via email. It’s wonderful, very well written and readily absorbed. It also probably comprises the better part of two decades of the author’s life. It gave me a much fuller understanding of the history as well as a much, much clearer meaning for many of the terms I read from time to time. Nothing replaces this book for a lay audience, in my opinion. It holds unique value.

  12. 12
    Trump on climate change says:

    Donald Trump on Climate Change, saved on the Internet Archive so that future generations can reflect on how smart the world has gotten: (WARNING: You may loose a heck of brain cells by reading things below, do so at your own risk!)

  13. 13
    Thomas says:

    “Climatology and meteorology are your friends” especially when one is the the denier business and weather forecasting business at the same time.
    Because there is money (and private funding grants) to be made by spending a decade plus with like minded ideological friends trashing the reputations of the UK MetOffice, Nasa/Giss and the BOM (Aust.)

    A cpl of classic examples

    Judith Curry et al = CFAN, Climate Forecast Applications Network, LLC. and

    CFAN scientists conduct foundational research on weather and climate predictability and prediction, ranging from theoretical analyses of predictability to prediction skill assessments of weather and climate models. and

    Jennifer Marohasy recently founded The Climate Modelling Laboratory, which will hopefully be a vehicle for progressing my work with John Abbot forecasting monthly rainfall using artificial neural networks, a form of machine learning/artificial intelligence.

    Motivation – I believe that the next really big breakthrough in sustainable resource management will come from better forecasting of droughts and floods using sophisticated artificial neural networks and quality temperature data. I’m working towards this ambitious goal, and thinking about alternative theories of climate change.
    I have described myself as a utilitarian libertarian. Libertarians oppose arbitrary power. I much prefer appeals to reason, logic and evidence, rather than authority.

    Of course only state funded climate researchers would be “biased” and lie about their data, right? Bloody filthy rich super-powerful buggers these climate scientists are. LOL

    Sometimes the most obvious issues are placed right under your nose in plain sight and yet we still miss them. cheers fwiw