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Section 1.1 The science of meteorology

Meteorology is the study of the Earth's atmosphere, with a particular focus on observing and forecasting weather-related phenomena. The atmosphere is a relative thin layer (about 1% of the Earth's radius) of air that blankets the surface of our planet. Air is a mixture of numerous gases, consisting mostly of molecular nitrogen (N\(_2\)) and oxygen (O\(_2\)).

It is important to note the difference between weather and climate, both of which are areas of study in meteorology:

  • Weather is the condition of the atmosphere at a particular time and place. The atmospheric condition includes temperature, humidity, dew point, pressure, wind speed, cloud behavior, and precipitation.

  • Climate is the condition of the atmosphere over a longer time span of many years for a particular location or region of the Earth.

Put another way, climate is what you consider when you purchase the plane ticket, weather is what you consider when you pack your suitcase.