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Posted at 10:45 AM ET, 04/22/2009

No Separating Weather From the Environment

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Weather and the environment are inextricably connected, yet often seen as separate. Weather is part of our environment -- really, there's no separating the two. I don't think this connection is highlighted enough in the weather world. So today being Earth Day, I challenge us to find as many connections between weather and what we typically think of as "the environment" (air, land, water, wildlife, vegetation, human health, human impact, green living and technology, energy, etc.) as possible.

Here are a few weather-environment connections to get things started:

Watersheds -- In a watershed, rainwater falling onto land either soaks into the soil becoming groundwater, or is carried into local waterways. Both of these are sources for our drinking water, and in turn, the water we use in our daily lives is cycled back into this loop, contaminated or not. Drought and flooding affect the quality and accessibility of these sources.

Keep reading for more weather-environment connections...

Air Quality -- Our activities alter the quality of our air -- and, subsequently, our health -- and also lead to changes in microclimates, such as increased temperatures and thunderstorm development due to the urban heat island effect. Ground-level ozone/smog is exacerbated on sunny, warm days.

Animals -- All living things have adaptations (changes in their bodies or behavior) in order to survive in their environment. Take a North American wood frog, for example -- it can literally freeze itself in freezing temperatures, stopping its heart and lungs and filling with ice during winter and thawing out in spring. A more obvious example is your dog growing a thicker coat of fur for the winter and shedding it before summer.

Plants -- Plants need sunlight, water and carbon dioxide to survive. They affect temperature and humidity, but also have adaptations to respond to changes in weather variables. To our benefit, they help filter pollutants from stormwater and air. Trees help reduce the temperature of city streets, homes and buildings, saving energy during hot summer months, and act as a wind block. Some plants -- including many crops -- depend on the wind for pollination and seed dispersal.

Energy Use -- We use a lot of energy at home and work on heating and cooling degree days by cranking up heaters or air conditioners. Weatherproofing our homes and businesses to prevent cold air from sneaking in during winter and air-conditioned air from sneaking out in summer can save energy and money. Using water also uses energy: a faucet running for five minutes uses about as much energy as letting a 60-watt light bulb run for 14 hours (source).

Human Health -- Seasonal and short-term weather conditions -- hot and cold temperatures, severe weather, flooding, UV radiation, air and water quality, pollen -- can affect almost every aspect of our health and well-being. Biometeorology is a very cool field that studies the relationship between living things, including humans, and the atmosphere.

Can you think of other weather-environment connections?

For more info on weather and the environment and what you can do, check out Earth Gauge.

By  |  10:45 AM ET, 04/22/2009

Categories:  Environment, Environment

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