Mind Candy

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Weather cycles and changes

Posted by mandyf on May 6, 2012

In my old Air Force unit we had a saying when it came to the weather, “Your guess is as good as mine.” The weather is not only constantly changing but so are the cycles which drive it. It is understood that meteorologists and atmospheric scientists consider cycles a bit differently from laymen, but still there is common ground.

Most people are familiar with the phenomena we call El nino and La nina, but they are far from the only cycles globally. In fact, there are so many it would almost take an entire book to explain them all as each micro climate has its own evolving cycles. For sake of simplicity, let’s just discuss these cycles in general terms.

For starters, it is often thought and reported that man-made global warming is driving the weather cycles. The truth of the matter is that although it does act as a contributing factor its role is greatly over emphasized. The earth has gone through cycles similar to what it is now experiencing before man ever walked the planet, which should lead people to believe we aren’t as big a factor in the weather as we tend to think.

The simple fact is naturally occurring phenomena such as volcanic eruptions do more to change weather cycles than nearly a decade of man’s abuse. Yes, it does sound unbelievable, but the immediate impact of the release of immense amounts of sulfur and ash into the atmosphere is far more pivotal in cycle changes than the slow cumulative effect of chlorofluorocarbons (CFC) or smog.

Approximately fifteen years ago we rang in the El nino era and theories as to its cause were postulated by all. It’s global warming, it’s part of the seven seals of the apocalypse, and even government conspiracy associated to weather manipulation. Any reason you can imagine, sensible or not, was floated to explain this. The simple answer, however, is that it was just nature being nature. The earth operates itself on a delicate system of checks and balances, and what we were experiencing was simply the product of that.

To further calm fears of alarmists, it can be pointed out this cycle actually began just over one hundred years ago. Let that sink in a moment. We are now seeing that era slowly end over perhaps the next fifty or so years when things are predicted to become more in tune with what we expect seasonally, followed by a slow cooling period. It is then expected to slowly warm again.

During this cycle there were periodic increases in hurricanes and typhoons which made landfall, but when each decade is compared on their own against any other, the actual number of cyclones has seen no significant increase. We are simply more aware of them now with global communications and weather on demand from a multitude of sources, including for many something as common as cell phones.

The weather cycles themselves are driven by one main factor, which is temperature. Temperature determines basically everything. It determines the oceanic currents as well as upper air currents. It determines the nature of precipitation we receive, whether it be virga (precipitation which dissipates before reaching earth), rain, hail or snow. It determines likewise the amount we receive, as temperature directly affects how quickly moisture is recollected to the upper atmosphere and bonded to condensation nuclei.

Most importantly to many of us is that temperature is a huge determining factor in how cyclones move and how long they live. As tropical cyclones feed on warm water, they are constantly in search of this source. The more they have the bigger they grow, and more collected and potentially dangerous they become.

Many people wonder why it is the temperatures change so much from what they would traditionally expect when considering warm winters, an abundance of precipitation and the like. The answer, in all honesty, is very simple, in fact almost too simple to believe. The answer is we don’t know why. We can pose theories but prove none definitively. All we can say for sure is nature does as it wishes. That is really all we know.

We don’t know for sure why the temperature rises and falls over the course of a century or even if man has a real impact on contributing to these changes. We just know that it is likely based on recorded history. In the end math, the only thing we agree on is that temperature is the driving factor in all weather cycles.

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