Monday, January 5, 2009

What About the Climate? by Madilyn

Climate - by Madilyn

Climate is the average weather that you can expect outside your window over a long period of time. The sun powers Earth’s climate. The sun sends heat to the earth and the oceans, and then the warm water and air move around the earth, bringing rain and warmth to other places.

The most important factors affecting climate are: distance from the sea, ocean currents, direction of prevailing winds, relief, proximity to the Equator, the El Niño phenomenon, and human activity.

Coastal areas are cooler and wetter than inland areas.

Ocean currents can either increase or decrease temperatures by moving cooler or warmer water together with air.

Mountains get more rainfall because they are cooler.

El Niño is the irregular warming of water in the Pacific Ocean that happens every 2 to 7 years. It can affect the weather in many parts of the world.

People can affect the climate because factory smoke, burning trees and using gasoline send CO2 into the air. Trees hold carbon inside them, just like a carbon sink, until they’re chopped down and used for paper and wood. Sometimes, instead of being built into something, the wood is used for a fireplace (or factory) and is burned up. Fossil fuels are used for factories and also release CO2 in the atmosphere.

Climate Classification
Aristotle was one of the first people that made a climate classification system. He had three different climate zones: Torrid, Temperate, and Frigid. The Torrid Zone was near the Equator, and the Frigid Zone was close to the poles. The Temperate Zone, though, was in between. Aristotle thought that people could only live in the Temperate Zone.

About 100 years ago, a German climatologist named Wladimir Köppen made a different (and better) climate classification system, which we still use today. Köppen considered more climate factors when he made his system. Aristotle was only thinking about latitude, or proximity to the Equator. Köppen’s system is more complex because he looks at more factors, such as precipitation and native vegetation. Native vegetation means the plants that naturally grow in an area. Köppen’s climate classification system is the basis of what many climatologists use today.

Maryland has two climates; humid subtropical in the eastern part of the state, and continental in the western part. In the continental area, it is warm in the summer and cold in the winter. In the subtropical area, it is hot in the summer and cool in the winter.

Temperatures in Baltimore can get hotter than 100°F during the summer, but can feel as hot as 115°F because of something called heat index.
Also, in Baltimore, people are planting trees and building green roofs because plants keep the city cooler. But green roofs cost money to install, and there is still more concrete and asphalt than trees.


  1. That's alot of information and i appreciate the diagrams to help break it up. I hadn't heard of Koppen before and will be sure to look him up. I like the green roofs comment at the end. I live in a very rainy city and often wondered all these flat buildings are wasting perfect garden space on top.

  2. [Lemony is forwarding a comment from Gramma M.]

    What a lot of information you have there! Are you able to explain all of it using your own words?
    Frankly, I just came inside from taking a walk and the climate seemed very continental today, althought I understand climate is the average over a period of time.
    Is your team trying to focus on the use of new and different roofing materials as a way of reducing the urban heat island effect?
    Good job,
    Gramma M.

  3. [Lemony is forwarding a reply from Madilyn]

    Dear Gramma,

    I watched a Squibs DVD called "Air, Weather, and Water". I learned about El Nino, the 5 layers of Earth's Atmosphere, Cloud Names, the Greenhouse Effect, and more.

    [Lemony's note:]

    Continental climates have winter temperatures cold enough for snow to fall and stay more than a few days.

    Humid subtropical winters are warmer.

    Yes, the team did talk about new roofing materials, but we came up with something that uses convection to cool down a roof. Convection carries heat from one place to another. Heat wants to go from where it is to where it isn't.