What Do Climate Scientists Do?

Christian Petersen

Climate scientists, also known as climatologists, study long-term weather patterns. Climatology is very similar to meteorology, which is the study of the Earth's atmosphere and weather. They differ primarily in the time frame on which they focus. Meteorologists tend to be concerned with weather in the present and near future while climate scientists are more concerned with long-term patterns and data and how they change over time. The work of climate scientists also tends to encompass more scientific disciplines than meteorology as they may be concerned with elements of geography, geology, paleontology, and other sciences in the course of their studies.

Tropical storm viewed from space.
Tropical storm viewed from space.

In the last part of the 20th century and beginning of the 21st century, climatology has gotten a great deal of attention as the controversy surrounding the problem of global warming and its causes have been at the forefront of mainstream science reporting. This attention has placed many climate scientists in the public eye as they are experts on this type problem. Climate scientists do much more than study global warming, however. Their work helps us understand long term weather patterns, which can teach us a great deal about the history of the Earth, its plants, animals, and peoples. The study of the Earth's climates also helps us to understand the long-term cycles of its weather patterns and can better prepare and inform us for future endeavors in agriculture, commercial fishing, and conservation of natural resources.

Climate scientists study ocean currents.
Climate scientists study ocean currents.

By studying long-term weather patterns and the data associated with them, climate scientists can help historians and paleontologists understand the history of our planet and all life on it. Cores taken from ancient glaciers, pollen samples from sediments, and the study of tree rings can help climate scientists form a picture of the history of the Earth's weather. In addition, ocean currents and polar ice are all subject to current study by climatologists as they affect the Earth's weather and how it behaves and changes over time. Collecting very large stores of data on temperature, rainfall, and other weather factors can also help us to understand how the Earth came to be the way it is today as well as how weather may affect us in the future.

Some climate scientists research the causes and impacts of drought.
Some climate scientists research the causes and impacts of drought.

The study of long-term sets of weather data and patterns also help us understand many features of the Earth's geography and how they have influenced human history. Weather patterns help shape deserts, influence the growth of forests and grasslands and the migrations of people and animals. In all but very recent history, these have had a great effect on the history of the human race and its civilizations.

Climate scientists study long-term weather patterns that shape areas like deserts.
Climate scientists study long-term weather patterns that shape areas like deserts.

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