What do Climate Scientists Do? From wisegeek.com
Climate scientists, also known as climatologists, study long-term weather patterns. Climatology is very similar to meteorology, which is the study of the Earth’s atmosphere and weather. They differ primarily in the time frame on which they focus. Meteorologists tend to be concerned with weather in the present and near future while climate scientists are more concerned with long-term patterns and data and how they change over time. The work ofclimate scientists also tends to encompass more scientific disciplines than meteorology as they may be concerned with elements of geography, geology, paleontology, and other sciences in the course of their studies.
In the last part of the 20th century and beginning of the 21st century, climatology has gotten a great deal of attention as the controversy surrounding the problem of global warming and its causes have been at the forefront of mainstream science reporting. This attention has placed many climate scientists in the public eye as they are experts on this type problem. Climatescientists do much more than study global warming, however. Their work helps us understand long term weather patterns, which can teach us a great deal about the history of the Earth, its plants, animals, and peoples. The study of the Earth’s climates also helps us to understand the long-term cycles of its weather patterns and can better prepare and inform us for future endeavors in agriculture, commercial fishing, and conservation of natural resources.
By studying long-term weather patterns and the data associated with them, climate scientists can help historians and paleontologists understand the history of our planet and all life on it. Cores taken from ancient glaciers, pollen samples from sediments, and the study of tree rings can help climate scientists form a picture of the history of the Earth’s weather. In addition, ocean currents and polar ice are all subject to current study by climatologists as they affect the Earth’s weather and how it behaves and changes over time. Collecting very large stores of data on temperature, rainfall, and other weather factors can also help us to understand how the Earth came to be the way it is today as well as how weather may affect us in the future.
The study of long-term sets of weather data and patterns also help us understand many features of the Earth’s geography and how they have influenced human history. Weather patterns help shape deserts, influence the growth of forests and grasslands and the migrations of people and animals. In all but very recent history, these have had a great effect on the history of the human race and its civilizations.
Who actually carries out climate change research and what qualifications do they need?
There are many aspects to climate science, the scientists that work almost all have doctorates (or are graduates students working toward the doctorate). I know climate scientists that have doctorates in climate science, meteorology, physics, chemistry, biology, oceanography and statistics, but I’m sure the list doesn’t stop there. Of course the common theme is that the research that they have done is on climate, and not on some other field.
I am currently working a doctorate in climate science and entered the program with a master’s degree in physics and all the coursework toward a master’s in atmospheric science. Other students in my program entered with master’s in physics, chemistry, chemical engineering and geology. The coursework required in my program is:
4 quarters of climate science (atmospheric thermodynamics, dynamics, radiation, etc)
2 quarters of geophysical fluid dynamics
Not necessarily required for each specialization, but often taken are
Advanced graduate mathematics and statistics
Satellite remote sensing
Stable isotope geochemistry
Numerical weather prediction
Typically it takes 5-6 years to get the doctorate (that’s after Bachelor’s and possibly Master’s)
Places that hire climate scientists are:
National laboratories, like JPL, Los Alamos National Laboratory, National Center for Atmospheric Research
Private financial companies (weather and climate derivatives are big business)
National Weather Service
I don’t know how many there are in the world, definitely in the thousands, probably the tens of thousands