Atmosphere, oceans, and land



The study of the atmosphere, oceans, and the land (surface, soil, ice, snow, lakes, and groundwater) has undergone a revolution in the past few decades. This revolution is fueled not only by an intrinsic desire to understand the basic scientific principles that determine the evolution and state of our environment, but also by a more practical need to predict, and to some extent control, those aspects of the environment that affect our immediate health, sustenance, and well-being, such as hurricanes, tornadoes, blizzards, floods, avalanches, droughts, air pollution, sunburn, and acid rain.

The rapid growth of knowledge in this area has entailed not only important discoveries about the physics underlying weather, but also the application of computers to the prediction of weather, climate, and ocean currents; the use of artificial satellites; and the recognition of the sensitivity of the atmospheric ozone (O3) layer to depletion by remarkably small amounts of man-made chemicals. Particularly since 1980, it has become apparent that our environment is, in a genuinely nontrivial sense, a global-scale entity with complex dynamical, physical, and chemical connections that link ocean with atmosphere; atmosphere with the land, vegetation, and ice; tropical latitudes with temperate; Southern Hemisphere with Northern; lower atmosphere with upper; and even ocean with the Earth's interior.