Monday, March 25, 2013

Weather or Not

Since we're always concerned whether (not weather) March comes and goes like a lion or a lamb, I figured I'd take the opportunity to educate/remind folks why we have the weather we do.

Last week's post was some pretty basic stuff that we probably all learned in the 8th grade, then just never thought twice about since. This week I'll get into much more detail (which I'm almost sure I learned years ago, but just forgot). Weather/climate is a lot like real estate, it's all about location location location. The reason the earth has weather patterns the way is does is because of ocean and wind currents. The rotation of the planet itself has its own bearing - the Coriolis Effect. The terrain features also factor in greatly - vast arid desert versus lush balmy jungle. Latitude from the equator has obvious effect as well in determining tropics versus tundra. And we mustn't forget one of the most crucial bits in climatology - axial tilt.

Currently we sit at 23.5 degrees, hence why the tropics of Cancer and Capricorn are marked at those degrees latitude. The planet has "wobbled" between 21 and 25 degrees in its history. These changes of just a few degrees make a huge difference because it exposes more or less of an angle to receive insolation (incoming solar radiation) from the sun. The tropics would be narrower or wider, vastly affecting the strength of building storms.

We also have to consider that the earth doesn't travel in a perfect circle around the sun, it's an ellipse/oval. We are nearest to the sun during the winter and furthest in the summer. It's a good thing to; otherwise, summers would be unbearably hot and winters would be deadly cold. Millions of years ago, this was backwards. I recently heard somewhere...probably some NPR chat about climate change (it's absolutely REAL btw)...that hundreds of millions of years ago, in the time of the dinosaurs, the atmosphere had something close to 4 times more carbon dioxide. This means the planet was way warmer and because the continents weren't so scattered yet, it was the perfect environment for growing humongous cold-blooded reptiles. At first I wondered how that much CO2 kept from suffocating life, but when you look at humans who live in extreme altitudes - Bolivia for example - people simply evolve larger lungs. Now I'm no paleontologist or zoologist, but I'd bet good money that the lungs of a T-rex, stegosaurus, and triceratops were enormous.

All this is just a bunch of weather jabber and may not even factor into your worldbuilding. Maybe you just hand wave and say "the weather is a lot like earth." Fine. Fair enough. For me I have to have as many details accurate and complete. Fortunately I have a pretty awesome earth science professor and she agreed to look over my maps and help me make sure the weather patterns are as correct as they could be.

PS If I remember correctly, and if the 10 day forecast is correct, March came and went lamby this year.

1 comment:

  1. tell her that would possibly be a good part-time job - paying to check people's conworld maps to check for mistakes and ways certain things can be improved!