Changing Ocean Atmosphere Interface

Photo: Prasad

Abstract: Dr. Shailesh Nayak’s calm aura, ease and lucidity spoke of an authority that complemented his tall frame. Self effacing about being the pioneering scientist in shaping the recent Tsunami Warning System, Dr Nayak was happy to have placed the best possible technology worldwide, which would send real time warnings and protect the coastal populace of our subcontinent. Strengthening the technological base he asserted was his foremost concern, as it would assist a better understanding of earth processes as well as create a service base for data dissemination to user groups in the sectors of agriculture, disaster management, sports and more. Worried about the empirical nature of monsoon models, he believes that monsoon predictions would improve dramatically with enhanced observation systems. In about three years, he emphatically adds, the systems would be in place and by 2012 accurate predictions would make it easier to manage extreme events of rainfall.

Term Power

What is ...

Any portion of the electromagnetic spectrum (including visible light) that is trapped by free atoms or molecules in the path of the radiation, thus reducing their transmission. In the climate context, this is important for the greenhouse effect since water vapor, carbon dioxide and methane absorb certain wavelengths of infrared radiation.

Any small particle, solid or fluid that is suspended in air. Abundance values typically range from 100 to 10,000 particles per cubic centimeter for air over land with higher values found in cities. Sizes vary greatly, but typically are near 0.1 μm or less. The particles originate from wind blown sea salt or dust, volcanic eruptions, burning of vegetation, combustion of coal and petroleum products, and other natural and anthropogenic processes. In the lower stratosphere, concentrations are extremely low; much of the aerosol here consists of droplets of sulfuric acid.

Carbon isotopes are useful in documenting the rate and amount of input of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere from human activities (the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation) and in tracing the path of this added carbon through the carbon cycle.

Clouds consist of water particles floating in air which are dense enough to prevent the direct transmission of light. Higher temperatures will produce greater moisture in the air, which will favour formation of clouds in the cool regions of the atmosphere, which may move upward as the surface warms. The general increase of pollution of the atmosphere that is associated with increased human activity (e.g. burning, agriculture, and diesel engines) should favour the availability of cloud nuclei. Clouds also provide for 'cloud albedo,' since they reflect much of the sunlight into space, but also trap infrared radiation.

Infrared radiation is in all respects similar to visible light, except that the wave length of the electromagnetic radiation is longer than that of light. Infrared radiation is also called 'heat radiation.' Our eyes cannot detect infrared radiation. It is however readily sensed even if the air between the skin and the hot object is quite cold. By employing special instruments, infrared radiation can be used for 'seeing' in the dark.

The energy contained in water and in water vapour, relative to ice or water, respectively. When water vapour condenses, the latent heat is released, warming the surrounding air. This heat powers storms, including the great hurricanes. When water freezes, latent heat is also released, warming the air in contact with the forming ice. Latent heat plays an important role in the redistribution of heat on the surface of Earth, especially through evaporation in the tropics and subtropics and the subsequent precipitation in higher latitudes.

A landmark international agreement designed to protect the stratospheric ozone layer. The treaty was originally signed in 1987 and substantially amended in 1990 and 1992. The Montreal Protocol stipulates that the production and consumption of compounds that deplete ozone in the stratosphere (chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), halons, carbon tetrachloride, and methyl chloroform) are to be phased out by 2000 (2005 for methyl chloroform).

The Nordic heat pump is associated with the production of North Atlantic Deep Water, generated in the regions east and west of southern Greenland. Here surface water is cooled and sinks after it has given up much of its heat. It is then replaced by more warm water from the south. Cold deep water is exported from the region in return for the warm water imported. This process helps stabilise the Iceland Low, which in turn helps drive warm winds into the northern North Atlantic.

A permanently frozen layer of soil, often hundreds of meters thick, found in the polar tundra. In the summer, the upper layer of the permafrost melts, resulting in muddy, swampy conditions. There is concern among climatologists that the increased temperature resulting from global warming will melt much of the Earth’s permafrost, with severe implications for soil stability and tundra ecology.