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M1 - What is the difference between weather and climate?

Weather is the state of the atmosphere variables (such as air temperature, precipitation, wind, cloud, etc.) at a particular time and location. Climate is the synthesis of weather observed over a period of many years.


M1 - What is the definition of climate variability?

Variations in the mean state (and occurrence of extremes, etc.) of the climate on all temporal and spatial scales beyond that of individual weather events. May be natural internal processes (i.e. ENSO) or external variability (i.e. anthropogenic forcings).


M1 - What is the Goyder line?

An early attempt to classify Australia’s climate, it was the 300mm annual mean contour of equal rainfall line – assumed that rainfall south of this line would allow wheat to be grown safely.


M1 - What is the definition of climate change?

Any change in climate over time, whether due to natural variability or anthropogenic forcings.


M1 - What is the definition of weather?

The state of the atmosphere at a particular time and location.


M1 - What is the meaning of the acronym AR5?

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Assessment Report 5


M1 - What is explained by the astronomical theory of climate?

Ice age cycles are undoubtedly linked in some manner to the variations in the Earth’s orbit.


M1 - What is physical climatology?

Applies the laws of physics to describe, understand, and study underlying climate processes. Prognostic and diagnostic application of models are possible.


M1 - What is the acronym ECMWF?

European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts


M2 - What is a possible definition for the cryosphere?

The collective portions of the earth where water is found in solid form, including snow cover, ice caps, floating ice, permafrost, ice sheets and seasonally frozen ground.


M2 - What is a possible definition for permafrost?

Permanently frozen ground.


M2 - What is latent heat?

A form of energy that is required in the phase change of water from ice to liquid to gaseous.


M2 - What are the climate system components that are referred to as active climate system components?

Active means important upon the human and non-geological time scale – the atmosphere is the most active, followed by the ocean, continents and the Earth mantle.


M3 - What is the meaning of NADW, AAIW, and AABW?

Antarctic Intermediate Water: The water constituting this return path, primarily Antarctic Intermediate Water (AAIW) is colder and fresher than the ocean return flow within the surface.

Antarctic Bottom Water: may be formed around the whole of the Antarctic Continent. It is the coldest
and heaviest of the global scale water masses and fills up the deep ocean basins

North Atlantic Deep Water: NADW enters the deep ocean leading to a renewal process of deep water on centennial time scales. The deep water contains the memory of past atmospheric conditions.


M3 - What is the Pacific Ocean Warm Water Pool?

A region of warm water in the western equatorial Pacific Ocean, created by persistent easterlies along the equator, which push warmer and less dense surface water towards the west, creating a warm water pool.


M3 - What is the permanent thermocline?

A region characterised by a large temperature gradient between bout 500 – 1000m. Basically divides ocean into two regions: the upper (influenced by interaction between ocean and atmosphere, where temperatures can vary from 25 degrees to around 5 degrees), and the lower (where temperature is cold and shows little variation)


M3 - What are isotherms and isohalines?

An isotherm is a line of constant temperature; isohalines are lines of constant salinity


M3 - What is a temperature-salinity (T/S) diagram?

A diagram that shows where the coldest and saltiest (high density) water is found (in the deep ocean) and warm and low salinity (freshest) water is found (on the surface).


M3 - What is the environmental lapse rate?

About 6.5 degrees per km height, but varies in location, season and height. Can be 0 degrees per km in the arctic


M4 - What is the Earth’s albedo?

It is the percentage of incoming solar energy reflected by the planet back into outer space (depends on land, water, ice, atmospheric composition, etc.). Its value is 0.3 or 30% for earth or the planet as a whole, 0.1 for oceans and approx. 0.9 for ice.


M4 - What is the meaning of P-E?

Precipitation - Evaporation


M4 - What is the perihelion?

The name for the point of closest approach during Earth annual pathway around the Sun.


M4 - What is the aphelion?

The name for the point of furthest distance during Earth annual pathway around the Sun


M5 - What is the Hamilton operator?

This is the general equation of motion with the terms on the right hand side of the equation representing firstly, the pressure gradient forces, secondly, the gradient of the Earth’s gravitational potential, and thirdly, the frictional forces.


M5 - What is the definition for the pressure gradient force?

Pressure Gradient Force = Coriolis Force ± Centripetal Force
Centrifugal Force = Pressure Gradient Force


M5 - What is the definition for Newton’s 2nd Law of Motion?

Acceleration of a particle is equal to the vector sum of forces acting upon that particle.


M5 - What is the South Pacific Convergence Zone?

The name for the region that is characterised by convergent air associated with could formation and delivering rainfall to the South Pacific Island nations


M5 - What is an isobar?

A constant line of pressure


M6 - What is the definition of the oceanic mixed layer?

Expressed in simple terms, the Oceanic Mixed Layer is the surface layer that has been homogenised by wind, cooling or processes such as evaporation or sea ice formation.


M6 - What is the definition of the global thermohaline circulation?

The Global Thermohaline Circulation (GTC) refers to the part of the large scale ocean circulation that is driven by density currents created by surface heat and freshwater fluxes.