The Effects of El

The natural warm phenomenon known as El Niño alters the temperature of the water within the east central zone of the Pacific Ocean along the coasts of Ecuador and Peru. Farmers and fishermen are negatively affected by these changes in temperature and the modification of marine currents. The nutrients normally present in the ocean decrease or disappear from along the coast because of the increase in temperature. As the entire food chain deteriorates, other species also suffer the effects and disappear from the ocean. In contrast, tropical marine species that live in warmer waters can flourish. The phenomenon affects the weather and climate of the entire world. It tends to cause flooding, food shortages, droughts, and fires in various locations. •

ATACAMA, CHILE

Laguna Blanca Salt Marsh

FLOODING

Abnormal flooding caused by El Niño in the desert regions of Chile and the later evaporation of water leave behind hexagonal deposits of potassium nitrate.

Surface area 1,200 square miles (3,000 sq km)

Cause

Floods caused by El Niño

anomalies

Year

1999

WEATHER AND CLIMATE 35

Areas Affected

EL NIÑO from December to February

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The phytoplankton promote the normal development of microorganisms, fish, and other creatures, i

Normal conditions

Cold waters, rich in nutrients, ascend from the bottom of the sea and provide favorable conditions for the growth of phytoplankton, the basis of the mari ne food chain.

During El Nino, the scarcity of cold water debilitates the phytoplankton population and alters the marine food chain.

Various marine species die off for lack of food or must migrate to other zones.

Meteorological Phenomena

HURRICANE ALERT

This image of Hurricane Elena, captured by the Space Shuttle on September 1, 1985, allowed meteorologists to evaluate its scope before it reached the Gulf of Mexico.

ropical cyclones (called hurricanes, typhoons, or cyclones in different parts of the world) cause serious problems and often destroy everything in their path.

They uproot trees, damage buildings, devastate land under cultivation, and cause deaths. The Gulf of Mexico is one of the areas of the planet continually affected by hurricanes. For this reason, the government authorities organize preparedness exercises so that the population knows what to do. To understand how hurricanes function and improve forecasts, investigators require detailed information from the heart of the storm. The use of artificial satellites that send clear pictures has contributed greatly to detecting and tracking strong winds, preventing many disasters.

Temperature at the Earth's surface

The year that British meteorologist Luke Howard carried out the first scientific study of clouds

Capricious Forms

Convection

The heat of the Sun warms the air near the ground, and because it is less dense than the surrounding air, it rises.

Convergence

When the air coming from one direction meets air from another direction, it is pushed upward.

Geographic elevation

When the air encounters mountains, it is forced to rise. This phenomenon explains why there are often clouds and rain over mountain peaks.

Presence of a front

When two masses of air with different temperatures meet at a front, the warm air rises and clouds are formed.

Clouds are masses of large drops of water and ice crystals. They form because the water vapor contained in the air condenses or freezes as it rises through the troposphere. How the clouds develop depends on the altitude and the velocity of the rising air. Cloud shapes are divided into three basic types: cirrus, cumulus, and stratus. They are also classified as high, medium, and low depending on the altitude they reach above sea level. They are of meteorological interest because they indicate the behavior of the atmosphere. •

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Temperature in the upper part of the troposphere

CIRROSTRATUS

A very extensive cloud that eventually covers the whole sky and has the form of a transparent, fibrous-looking veil

300 miles (500 km)

The temperature of the middle part of the troposphere

CUMULONIMBUS

A storm cloud. It portends intense precipitation in the form of rain, hail, or snow. Its color is white.

HOW THEY ARE FORMED Clouds are formed when the rising air cools to the point where it cannot hold the water vapor it contains. In such a circumstance, the air is said to be saturated, and the excess water vapor condenses. Cumulonimbus clouds are storm clouds that can reach a height of 43,000 feet (13,000 m) and contain more than 150,000 tons of water.

CUMULUS

A cloud that is generally dense with well-defined outlines. Cumulus clouds can resemble a mountain

TYPES OF CLOUDS

NAME

MEANING

CIRRUS

FILAMENT

CUMULUS

AGGLOMERATION

STRATUS

BLANKET

NIMBUS

The layer closest to the Earth and in which meteorological phenomena occur, including the formation of clouds

Exosphere

Mesosphere Stratosphere

Temperature of the lower part of the troposphere of cotton.

The altitude at which it freezes

Wave:

Lines of cumulus clouds Â

Lenticular

Rotating cloud

Mild winds

ALTOCUMULUS

A formation of rounded clouds in groups that can form straight or wavy rows

ALTOSTRATUS

Large, nebulous, compact, uniform, slightly layered masses. Altostratus does not entirely block out the Sun. It is bluish or gray.

STRATOCUMULUS

A cloud that is horizontal and very long. It does not blot out the Sun and is white or gray in color.

CIRRUS

A high, thin cloud with white, delicate filaments composed of ice crystals

CIRROCUMULUS

A cloud formation composed of very small, granulated elements spaced more or less regularly

NIMBOSTRATUS

Nimbostratus portends more or less continuous precipitation in the form of rain or snow that, in most cases, reaches the ground.

Anvil-shaped top

DESCENDING CURRENT

The Inside

The altitude at which clouds are t^t formed depends on the stability of the air and the humidity. The highest and coldest clouds have ice crystals. The lowest and warmest clouds have drops of water. There are also mixed clouds. There are 10 classes of clouds depending on their height above sea level. The highest clouds begin at a height of 2.5 miles (4 km). The mid-level begins at a height of 1.2 to 2.5 miles (2-4 km) and the lowest at 1.2 miles (2 km) high.

Thickness of a storm cloud

150,000

tons of water

SPECIAL FORMATIONS

CLOUD STREETS

The form of the clouds depends on the winds and the topography of the terrain beneath them. Light winds usually produce lines of cumulus clouds positioned as if along streets. Such waves can be created by differences in surface heating.

LENTICULAR CLOUDS

Mountains usually create waves in the atmosphere on their lee side, and on the crest of each wave lenticular clouds are formed that are held in place by the waves. Rotating clouds are formed by turbulence near the surface.

can be contained in a storm cloud.

Direction of the storm

The Rain Announces Its Coming

The air inside a cloud is in continuous motion. This process causes the drops of water or the crystals of ice that constitute the cloud to collide and join together. In the process, the drops and crystals become too big to be supported by air currents and they fall to the ground as different kinds of precipitation. A drop of rain has a diameter 100 times greater than a droplet in a cloud. The type of precipitation depends on whether the cloud contains drops of water, ice crystals, or both. Depending on the type of cloud and the temperature, the precipitation can be liquid water (rain) or solid (snow or hail). •

CONDENSATION NUCLEI Salt, dust, smoke, and pollen, among other particulates, serve as a surface on which water molecules, ascending by convection, can combine and form water droplets.

GROWTH

The smallest clouds adhere to one another to form larger clouds, increasing their size and height.

Dilatation

The molecules of water are tree-water vapor.

Water molecules

Sandstorm particulates

Condensation

The molecules group themselves around a condensation nucleus.

Hydrogen «

Oxygen

Forest fire particulates,

Collision-Coalescence

Via this process, molecules collide and join together to form drops.

Collision-Coalescence

Via this process, molecules collide and join together to form drops.

LEVEL

Particulates from combustion in factories and vehicles

Volcanic particulates']

MATURATION Mature clouds have very strong ascending currents, leading to protuberances and rounded formations. Convection occurs.

4 miles

When the air cools, it descends and is then heated again, repeating the cycle.

RAIN

The upper part of the cloud spreads out like an anvil, and the rain falls from the lower cloud, producing descending currents.

DISSIPATION The descending currents are stronger than the ascending ones and interrupt the feeding air, causing the cloud to disintegrate..

Coalescence

The microdroplets

The air cools. The water vapor condenses and forms <iiicrodroplets of water.

Coalescence

The microdroplets continue to collide and form bigger drops.

Heavier drops fall onto a lower cloud as fine rain.

Low, thin clouds -contain tiny droplets of water and therefore produce rain.

continue to collide and form bigger drops.

Heavier drops fall onto a lower cloud as fine rain.

Low, thin clouds -contain tiny droplets of water and therefore produce rain.

When they begin to fall, the drops have a size of 0.02 inch (0.5 mm), which is reduced as they fall since they break apart.

When they begin to fall, the drops have a size of 0.02 inch (0.5 mm), which is reduced as they fall since they break apart.

CONDENSATION

molecules occupy 1 cubic millimeter under normal atmospheric conditions.

CONDENSATION

The hot air rises.

molecules occupy 1 cubic millimeter under normal atmospheric conditions.

CROSS SECTION OF A HAILSTONE

WARM

ASCENDING

CURRENT

A cloud with a greenish tinge or rain with a whitish color can portend a hailstorm.

The heaviest hailstones that fell on April 14,1986, in Gopalganj, Bangladesh.

FROST

Frost forms when the dew point of the air is less than 32° F (0° C), and the water vapor transforms directly into ice when it is deposited on surfaces.

HOAR FROST

Similar to frost but thicker. It usually forms when there is fog.

VARIED FORMS

Snow crystals can have a variety of shapes; most of them have six points, although some have three or 12, and they have hexagonal symmetry in a plane. They can also be cubic crystals, but these form under conditions of extremely low temperature in the highest regions of the troposphere.

The droplets freeze, and each time they are carried upward in the cloud, they acquire a new layer of ice. This process, called accretion, increases the size of the hailstone.

HAIL

Precipitation in the form of solid lumps of ice. Hail is produced inside storm clouds in which frozen droplets grow in size as they rise and fall within the cloud.

Most have six points.

Vertical air currents microdroplets to ascend and descend within the cloud.

Very small hail (0.2 inch [5 mm] or less in diameter) is called snow pellets.

CROSS SECTION OF A HAILSTONE

The flakes measure between 0.04 and 0.8 inch (1 and 20 mm).

WARM

ASCENDING

CURRENT

A cloud with a greenish tinge or rain with a whitish color can portend a hailstorm.

When the hailstones are too heavy to be supported by the ascending air currents, they fall to the ground.

The typical range of hailstone sizes

2 pounds

The heaviest hailstones that fell on April 14,1986, in Gopalganj, Bangladesh.

FROST

Frost forms when the dew point of the air is less than 32° F (0° C), and the water vapor transforms directly into ice when it is deposited on surfaces.

HOAR FROST

Similar to frost but thicker. It usually forms when there is fog.

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Renewable Energy 101

Renewable Energy 101

Renewable energy is energy that is generated from sunlight, rain, tides, geothermal heat and wind. These sources are naturally and constantly replenished, which is why they are deemed as renewable. The usage of renewable energy sources is very important when considering the sustainability of the existing energy usage of the world. While there is currently an abundance of non-renewable energy sources, such as nuclear fuels, these energy sources are depleting. In addition to being a non-renewable supply, the non-renewable energy sources release emissions into the air, which has an adverse effect on the environment.

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