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Micro-meteorology: a discipline all should know about?

In the part of Milan I live, during spring and summer, plant and flower scent is deeper, more concentrated in the morning, to wave away later on, after the Sun really begins shining.

Mushrooms have evolved incredibly complicate structures to shoot their spores nearly 1cm away from their surfaces.

Plume smokes open up wide or stay packed depending on time of day.

These phenomena, and many more, have in common a simple driving phenomenon: air turbulence.

This is due mainly to two factors.
First, the "friction" of wind on any obstacle (rocks, leaves, animals, anything). This is "mechanical convection".
And second, the Sun light (more appropriately, its visible component) heats up soil which in turn heats by contact a very thin, millimeter size sheet of air immediately over it. This air, warmer, expands and loses weight-by-volume, then rising. This is "thermal convection".

Of course, on nighttime only mechanical turbulence is possible. On daytime, we have both.

Turbulence causes mixing. This is more effective as turbulence is larger and the layer of atmosphere already agitated (the "Planetary Boundary Layer") thicker - that is, non to afternoon, approximately. This is why flowers have a more intense scent in the morning: turbulent mixing is much less intense.

Turbulent mixing can not reach soil exactly, however: air, a fluid, is viscous (just a bit - yet enough to stop air mixing in the first centimeter from ground). There a "laminar" layer develops, giving one of the most extreme climate our Planet (and insects, tiny plants and other littles) experience.

The study of these phenomena is named "micro-meteorology". It's both an experimental and theoretical science.

Incidentally, I can say, it has a flavor much more experimental-inductive than deductive-theoretical: instruments able to probe the lower 2km of the atmosphere abound (ultrasonic and hot wire anemometers, SODAR/RASS, and the like). Meantime, the mathematical modeling of the PBL ("Planetary Boundary Layer", mentioned above) is to date mostly confined to semi-empirical relations. Stated in plain English: theer is still all to discover!

Micro-meteorology is extremely useful, as it directly deals with the part of atmosphere we humans live in. Micro-meteorological phenomena affect:
- Pollutant dispersion
- Seed, spore and larvae dissemination
- Forest and ecosystem function
- Global climate (through water vapor, itself mobilized by turbulence after mostly-plant-driven evapotranspiration)
- Much more...

To date, micro-meteorology is not that known.

What I find fascinating in this subject is, it is a "non-subject", spanning many fields. It deals with something operating as a sort of "blood", of connective tissue in the entire bio- and geo-spheres. It "lives" on timescale we humans can easily comprehend, much shorter than our patience spans.

And, what's not maybe so important, has nothing to do with weather forecasts.

Dear sisters, micro-meteorology it's desperately calling for attention. I confide that, contrary to common assumptions about women and science, a bit of formulae will not scare you.

I give to anyone interested some basic references:

R.B. Stull, "An Introduction to Boundary Layer Meteorology", Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1988

T.R. Oke, "Boundary Layer Climates", 2nd ed., Routledge, 1987

On request I may provide more specific references.

Thank for your attention, and cheers


jap21's picture

Hi Mauri

I am very interested in this area. Please send anything you can to me. My email is below. I am very thankful for your post.



Jacqueline Patiño FundActiva
Tarija - Bolivia
South America

Mauri's picture

You are so welcome!

Jackie, thank you for your curiosity! From you, and your deep interest on human development, this is to me a honor.

My post was long, and I imagine quite haphazard. Sorry so sloppy! If I want, I'm able to be really messy. ;-)

By the way, I posted two presentations of mine to my journal, with titles "Micro-meteorology: a short presentation" and "Micro-meteorology: A bit-more-techy presentation". Guess the second might be more immediately useful to you, as it contains a list of references (the list of contacts is, unfortunately, very Italian).

I feel knowledge is an important step towards empowerment, of women especially.
It's commonplace saying "hard" sciences are off-reach. But it isn't, really! (And here, I assure, I said nothing really original, am just an interpreter).

Another step is, translating knowledge to things useful. Here in Italy the environment is not considered that important in terms of public expenses and general committment. Yet, something is always possible to make. Specifically, we were able to set up some stations and do experimental campaigns, with the basic motivation of air quality monitoring and (hopefully) control. This have to be constructed - and it can.

Many colleagues are doing research work in various fields, including the agro-meteorological. I'll ask who of them can act as a contact.

Please forgive me having indicated presentations from "mine". Really, I know there is so much more but in this short time I haven't yet organized things better. But, I'll do - hope.

With love
-- and immense gratitude for what you are doing for all of us human --


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