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Engineering LibreTexts

7.1: Background

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  • In some climate models from late 20th century only atmospheric circulation was taken into account. This made them simpler, a necessary requirement given the limited computing power of the time, but far less accurate. A key reason for this is that a considerable amount of mass and energy is continually being passed from one to the other. For instance, the hydrologic cycle involves ocean water evaporating and moving up into the atmosphere as vapor. This water condenses forming clouds and is returned to the oceans as precipitation or as runoff if the precipitation falls on land. Likewise, warm ocean currents loose thermal energy as they warm the atmosphere above them.

    As a result of this continual mass / energy handoff there are a number of major weather systems that shape the climate in particular parts of the world and are readily altered by changes in the earth’s energy balance. The following activities look at three of these.

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