What is Aerology?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Aerology is the study of the Earth's atmosphere. Interest in the Earth's atmosphere has been a part of human life for thousands of years, with serious investigations dating to the 1800s, although many people date the specific discipline of aerology to 1944, when scientific equipment for atmospheric research was developed. This discipline is part of the larger field of atmospheric sciences, which includes topics like meteorology and climatology.

The ozone layer of the Earth's atmosphere contains comparatively high levels of ozone, and helps protect the planet from harmful rays of naturally occurring radiation.
The ozone layer of the Earth's atmosphere contains comparatively high levels of ozone, and helps protect the planet from harmful rays of naturally occurring radiation.

A variety of types of equipment are used in aerology to take measurements of the Earth's atmosphere. One of the most common is a radiosonde, a device which can take periodic measurements as it moves vertically, providing a cross section of measurements which can extend from quite high into the atmosphere to ground level. Aerologists also use weather balloons and aircraft to take measurements which may assist in their work.

Issues such as wind direction and speed, temperature, air pressure, and humidity level are all of interest to aerologists, as are changes in these measurements which occur as instruments ascend or descend. Aerology is also concerned with the measurement of ozone, including the use of historic data to monitor changes in the atmosphere which may be dangerous to human or animal health, and with the measurement of radiation. At any given time, radiation levels in the atmosphere can vary, and many nations engage in regular monitoring of radiation levels.

Understanding the Earth's atmosphere can be used to further the cause of other atmospheric sciences, and also to understand the history of the Earth. The atmosphere has not always existed in its current form, and many people are interested in exploring the way in which the atmosphere formed, the conditions which needed to be present for the Earth's atmosphere to develop in the way that it did, and what could potentially damage or destroy the atmosphere. Some aerologists are also interested in studying the atmospheres on other planets to learn more about they formed.

Many aerologists work for government agencies, monitoring atmospheric conditions. Others may work for private organizations interested in the atmospheric sciences, ranging from private companies which predict weather to public advocacy organizations concerned about the ozone layer. Researchers can also find employment in many universities, conducting research and training students in aerology. Other work can include employment with scientific instrument companies, developing new instruments for use in aerology and refining existing instruments to make them more precise or to make modifications in response to feedback from researchers in the field.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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