Understanding weather and climate from a field guide’s perspective
BY: Tasneem Johnson-Dollie
Understanding weather and climate is essential for field guides because it can tell you a lot about any natural environment. Let’s take a closer look at climate and weather from a field guide’s perspective.
Because weather and climate have an impact on natural environments (and everything that lives in them), understanding weather and climate is key in the work that field guides do every day.
In fact, without this understanding, field guides wouldn’t be able to do their work quite as well.
Let’s take a closer look at climate and weather in field guiding.
What’s the difference between climate and weather?
“Weather” refers to the short-term, or day-to-day changes in the atmosphere. And “climate” tells us what the weather is like in a specific area.
The National Centers for Environmental Information simply states, “Climate is what you expect, weather is what you get.”
So, when you’re told that Cape Town has the perfect holiday-weather from December to February, you expect to soak up the sun while you tan on the beach.
But when you travel to Cape Town, you’ll experience the day-to-day atmospheric conditions. This may be a strong south-easterly wind to knock your sunhat right off.
These short-term fluctuations create a yearly pattern that adds up to the climate of the region over time.
There are five major climate types:
Learning about these weather and climate types can tell field guides a lot about how nature works, and allow them to keep an eye on the health of natural environments in real-time.
Here’s why understanding weather and climate is essential for field guides.
Understanding weather and climate from a field guide’s perspective
Since a field guide’s everyday activities involve analysing and interpreting nature, climate and weather fall under the basics of things you need to know to be good at what field guides do.
But understanding climate and weather goes beyond being aware of when to wear a winter jacket and when to keep your shades at hand.
In fact, because climate and weather are external forces that are felt by everyone – and everything – on Earth, they have a big impact on the way plants, animals and people live their lives.
While the types of plants present in an area are key in setting up a certain type of climate, they’re also affected by the climate and weather in an important way.
The reproductive system of plants is sensitive to changes in the atmosphere. As the weather shifts from winter to spring, plants begin their reproductive cycle.
Similarly, wild animals sync their breeding season so that their offspring are born when the weather is at its warmest. This means that baby wildlife are born into a season where food and water is easier to find – giving offspring the best chance to survive and thrive.
And while people may reproduce all year round, climate and weather still have an impact on our daily lives in a significant way.
Not only does the climate and weather play a role in the types and amounts of fruit and vegetables that grow, but adverse weather conditions – that are occurring more frequently around the world – affect where human beings can live and their long-term well-being.
With climate and weather being strongly linked to the next generation of plants, animals and people, we can’t deny its importance in our everyday lives and in maintaining healthy ecosystems.
For field guides, understanding weather and climate means getting to grips with how plants, animals and people function in the environments they live and grow in. And this is one of the best ways to truly grasp what’s going on in ecosystems around the world.
Why keeping up with weather and climate change is key
Let’s face it, if you try learning about weather and climate from a 1950’s textbook, you’ll miss out on an avalanche of new information. You could even learn about weather and climate conditions that no longer exist.
That’s because, when we compare weather and climate back then to what it is today, we’re talking about vastly different situations.
For example, droughts have become much more common across the African continent. This has affected the length of the dry season and the amount of water present during the wet season.
In keeping with what we know about how weather and climate changes affect natural environments, it’s no surprise that things on the African continent have changed in a big way due to climate change. Some examples are:
- Food productivity is a growing concern.
- Water has become even more scarce.
- People, plants and animals are being faced with more and more environmental challenges each year.
This can be seen by the number of animals going extinct and the growing number of people faced with health challenges.
While many of us have heard about the effects of climate change in Africa, weather and climate changes are being felt across the world. This means that every country is facing some sort of obstacle in the face of climate change.
And if we want to see some positive change, we all need to get involved in efforts to address climate change where we live, as well as globally.
A good first step is learning about weather and climate change from the comfort of your own home.
How to learn about weather and climate from home
You can learn about weather and climate by stepping outside, searching Google, or even talking about it with your friends and family.
But how can you learn about weather and climate in a structured way that will leave you with some qualifications?
By signing up for an online meteorology course!
Meteorology is the scientific study of the atmosphere, which includes atmospheric processes like climate and weather.
Further reading: Why World Meteorological Day 2020 is worth all the fuss
Programs that offer a combination of online meteorology and online field guide training provide the perfect combination of theoretical information.
They also make it easy to gain practical experience, because your theoretical knowledge will equip you for in-field work when you join a program. This opportunity is great for anyone looking to understand weather and climate in a meaningful way.
These types of courses take the study of weather and climate to a convenient setting – your home. But more than this, they provide a supportive and interactive learning platform that’s delivered by experts in the field.
You can start off on a good footing with Bushwise’s Field Guides Association of Southern Africa (FGASA) Nature Enthusiast online course. This is one of those courses online that will bring you up to speed on the science behind natural environments and the different types of weather and climate experienced in these areas.
Then, take it up a notch and get involved in our FGASA Field Guiding online course, a course where you’ll gain a deeper understanding of weather and climate and become an accredited field guide too!
How understanding climate and weather makes for better field guiding
And once you can confidently answer the question, “What is the difference between climate and weather”, and have a solid understanding of weather and climate as it applies to field guiding, what’s next? Making a positive impact on climate change!
Since climate change is one of the biggest global challenges the world has ever faced, field guides who are tuned-in to climate and weather concerns are a valuable asset.
Understanding weather and climate makes conservation efforts and ecosystem management more effective and relevant.
Without an understanding of weather and climate, we’d miss opportunities to do meaningful work in the wild. We wouldn’t get to build on efforts aimed at addressing climate change, or be able to predict and prepare for adverse weather events.
But, one good thing about the seriousness of climate change is that it has brought change when it comes to getting educated about climate and weather.
Learning about weather and climate is easier than ever before, and the study of these topics is a big part of sustainable efforts worldwide.
Find out more about our online field guide courses, gain an understanding of weather and climate, and get involved in conservation efforts that will blow you away.