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Ecology, Climatology, and Earth Systems Science

Ecology is the study of living and built systems and the biological and physical relationships between organisms and their environments. Ecology seeks to provide an explanatory framework as to how these relationships are distributed. Initially categorized as a subfield of biology, ecology has developed to cover a variety of topics extending beyond the relationship between an organism and its environment to include areas like social ecology, political ecology, information ecology, and others. Crucial to climate studies, the concept of ecosystem has proven invaluable to understanding how individual parts contribute to a systematic whole of climatic conditions

Climatology is the study of weather conditions averaged over a duration of time--usually seasonally, yearly, or longer. Scientists who study the climate look for long-term patterns in weather changes, such as the average global temperature from year to year. Climatology is often confused with meteorology, which is the study of day-to-day weather predictions. Climate change, however, is not really observable in the behavior of weather patterns from one day to the next, but rather only in periods spanning hundreds, to hundreds of thousands, of years.

Earth Systems Science (ESS) is an interdisciplinary field that studies and interrelates all components of the Earth’s climate system. Emerging from attempts to understand all factors influencing the behavior of the climate, ESS brings together the study of the Earth’s oceans, atmosphere, cryosphere (ice caps), and biosphere. Understanding each one of these areas is complex and data-intensive and requires significant communication across fields of expertise. The field of ESS uses modeling, empirical analysis, and the study of fundamental processes to study a wide range of climate phenomena and interactions, including historical climate, interactions between ocean and atmosphere, biosphere respiration, and other significant large-scale processes.

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