Our climate is changing … and not in a good way. Changes over the 20th century include rising global sea levels, changes in regional weather patterns, and increases in global air and ocean temperatures. Some of these changes are caused by additional heat in the climate system due to the addition of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. And more importantly, they control the conditions that are vital for all forms of life on earth.
Climate science is the study of atmospheric conditions, and along with the earth’s energy dynamics, play a major role in what influences the everyday conditions of our environment. This course is ideal for those interested in climate and seeking to enhance their professional development including horticulturists, farmers, engineers and environment, land and natural resource managers.
Our Certificate of Climate Science is an online professional development program that will give you a solid understanding of how factors like temperature, wind, water vapour and air pressure can affect climatic conditions.
In this climate science course, you will explore the nature and scope of climatology, factors that influence climate, the foundations of weather science, and climate patterns and classification models including those of Koppen, Thornwaite and Bergeron. You will also study atmospheric dynamics, circulation patterns, factors that cause or influence climate change and the applications of climate change. You will then prepare your own problem-based learning project, which can enhance your career even further!
Outcomes achieved by undertaking a climate science course include:
- Learning about the nature and scope of climatology and meteorology
- Understanding how climate and weather affect us
- Exploring what makes up our weather and we measure it
- Studying weather science foundations
- Gaining insights into solar radiation
- Examining temperature, precipitation and deposition
- Understanding humidity
- Learning about clouds
- Exploring circulation patterns including pressure systems and atmospheric pressure
- Studying pressure and temperature
- Gaining insights into air masses and latitudinal circulation
- Understanding winds, trade winds and the Beaufort Scale of Wind Speed
- Learning about frontal systems and oceanic and longitudinal circulation
- Exploring southern oscillation and ocean gyres
- Studying climate classifications and patterns
- Examining arid/desert, subtropical, tropical, temperature, coastal and Mediterranean patterns
- Understanding the factors that influence climate
- Learning about latitude, wind direction, altitude, aspect and topography
- Exploring the Koppen Climate Classification and the Thornwaite Climatic Classification System
- Studying the Bergeron Climatic Classification System
- Gaining insights into the Spatial Synoptic Classification (SSC)
- Examining the Holdridge Life Zone System
- Understanding atmospheric dynamics and atmosphere composition
- Learning about seasonal variations and the vertical structure of the atmosphere
- Exploring precipitation, cloud dynamics, storms and thunderstorms
- Studying tornadoes, cyclones, typhoons and hurricanes
- Gaining insights into the METAR codes for precipitation processes
- Understanding aerosols and climate processes
- Learning about the factors that cause or influence climate change
- Exploring the sun, earth’s orbit and its axis
- Studying oceanic circulation and oceanic carbon dioxide
- Gaining insights into magnetic fields, plate tectonics and volcanic activities
Major Climate Classification Systems
A major component of studying a climate science course is learning about how different climates are actually classified. These classification systems are four of the most widely used in the world.
This system was developed by German-Russian climatologist Wladimir Koppen in 1884. It divides climates into five main groups, with each being divided based on temperature patterns and seasonal precipitation. The five groups are tropical, dry, temperate, continental and polar. Because of his experience as a botanist, his climate groups are also based on the types of vegetation that grows in a climate classification region. Therefore, this system is useful in predicting future changes in plant life within a particular region.
Developed in 1948, this system divides climate into groups according to the vegetation characteristics found within them. It is based on the sum of monthly precipitation and evaporation (P/E) and is defined into five different humidity “provinces” associated with vegetation. A P/E index of less than 16 (arid) indicates desert, 16 to 31 (semi-arid) indicates steppe, 32 to 63 (subhumid) indicates grassland, 64 to 127 (humid) indicates forest, and 127 (wet) indicates rainforest.
This is the most widely accepted form of air mass classification, and it involves three letters. The first describes its moisture properties, with “m” used for maritime air masses (moist) and “c” used for continental air masses (dry). The second letter describes the thermal characteristic of its source region — “T” for tropical, “P” for polar, “A” for Arctic or Antarctic, “M” for monsoon, “E” for equatorial and “S” for superior air (which is dry air that is formed by a significant downward motion in the atmosphere). The third letter defines the stability of the atmosphere. If the air mass is warmer than the ground below it, it’s labelled “w”. If it is colder, it is labelled “k”.
This system is based upon the Bergeron classification scheme. There are six categories within this scheme — Moist Tropical (similar to the maritime monsoon, maritime tropical or maritime equatorial), Moist Moderate (a hybrid between maritime tropical and maritime polar), Moist Polar (similar to maritime polar), Dry Tropical (similar to continental tropical), Dry Moderate (similar to maritime superior) and Dry Polar (similar to continental polar).
Current Initiatives in Australian Climate Science
Climate change exacerbates risks inherent in our country’s climate, which can pose serious consequences to the environment, communities and the economy. Understanding what encapsulates future climate risk is now essential for decision-makers in both government and business alike. As you’ll learn in our climate science course, high-quality climate information allows us to better prepare for and perhaps avoid some climate change impacts, and investments in Australia’s climate science capabilities is the key to achieving the best possible outcomes.
A report released by the National Climate Science Advisory Committee in 2019 which was based on the National Science Statement of March 2017, outlines an extensive body of publicly-funded climate research that’s already underway in Australia, including these initiatives:
National Environmental Science Program (NESP)
This is a long-term commitment by the Government to the environment and climate research. The role of the NESP and the Earth Systems and Climate Change (ESCC) Hub is to ensure Australia’s policy and management decisions are effectively informed by Earth systems and climate science, now and into the future. A collaboration between the CSIRO, the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) and several Australian universities, it has world-leading capability in multi-disciplinary Earth system modelling and science and provides information to underpin effective and efficient adaptation responses.
Bureau of Meteorology (BOM)
The BOM continually carries out research on climate variability, climate change and seasonal prediction. Paramount to the success of climate change initiatives is ensuring the scientific community has access to high-quality observational data and global and regional climate modelling capabilities.
The Bureau continues to fund the curation of vital data sets such as the Australian Combined Observational Reference Network for Surface Air Temperature (ACORN-SAT) and the National Tidal Centre sea level data, to better characterise changes in climate over the past century. It is producing the first high-resolution atmospheric regional reanalysis for Australia (BARRA), using Australia’s national weather and climate model (ACCESS). BARRA will produce detailed information on past weather, derived from historical regional observations, and provide researchers with a consistent method of representing the atmosphere over multiple decades.
Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO)
The CSIRO has been investing in ocean, atmospheric and climate science for over three decades, and have co-led the BOM on a range of climate change research programs over that period. To better understand and assess climate variability and change in the past, present they established a Climate Science Centre in 2016. A new multi-year initiative has developed reliable decadal climate forecasts to enable decision-makers in water, energy, agriculture, insurance, health, financial and other sectors to manage the risks and impacts arising from variations in climate.
Australian Antarctic Science Program
Another critical component of Australia’s climate science research effort is the extensive work of the Australian Antarctic Science Program. Delivered through the Australian Antarctic Division of the Department of the Environment and Energy, it places major research focus on Antarctica and Southern Ocean climate, ecosystems and fisheries. This includes a new research station on Macquarie Island, and a research and resupply icebreaker to access the interior of the Australian Antarctic Territory to drill an ice core in excess of a million years old.
Australian Research Council (ARC)
New investments through the ARC have enhanced capability including:
- The Centre of Excellence for Climate Extremes (CLEX) to support research projects that will transform our understanding of past and present climate extremes and enhance our ability to predict them.
- The Special Research Initiative in Excellence in Antarctic Science will provide Antarctic researchers in Australian universities the opportunity to seek funding to support their work, including in climate science.
International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP)
The IODP provides scientific drilling infrastructure to obtain seafloor samples including cores recording past climate. It provides critical paleoclimate records including in the Antarctic Ocean, the eastern Indian Ocean and the Great Barrier Reef.
Reef Restoration and Adaptation Program (RRAP)
This collaboration of Australia’s leading marine science and other experts has created a suite of innovative measures to help preserve and restore the Great Barrier Reef. It is the largest, most comprehensive program of its type in the world. The resulting technology could be used worldwide to help improve the resilience of coral reefs to climate change impacts.
Gain a basic understanding of how the sun’s radiation, the earth’s movement and atmospheric conditions control the conditions that are vital for all life on earth with a climate science course such as our Certificate of Climate Science.