Easy Climatology

Ercília Torres Steinke

Climatology studies the climate and the weather and has a big influence in our daily routine, for it interferes in human activities such as farming and hydric resources management. Through climatology we’re able to understand Earth’s climatic concepts and phenomena.

Easy Climatology, by the geographer and doctor in ecology Ercília Torres is richly illustrated and presents practical examples to explain the main concepts of general climatology such as Earth’s rotation and translation movements, solar radiation, humidity, precipitation and atmospheric circulation. At the end of the book the author discusses global warming and the polemics around it, leading the reader to reflect upon this important matter.

The book came from the author’s experience, as she selected several questions from her students for 15 years and turned it into a practical and original book.

Easy Climatology is a practical and uncomplicated reference to Geography, Meteorology and Agronomy undergraduate students and elementary and high school teachers as well as everyone interested to know more about the climatic phenomena through daily routine examples.

Original title
Climatologia fácil
Year of publication

About the authors

Ercília Torres Steinke

Ercília Torres Steinke is graduated in Geography, has a Masters in Environmental Technology and Hydric Resources and a Doctorate in Ecology by University of Brasília (UnB). Works as a teacher and researcher in UnB’s Geography Department since 1996. Is also the founder and currently coordinates the Laboratory of Geographic Climatology (LCGea). Has experience in the fields of Geography with emphasis in Geographic Climatology, acting mainly teaching Climatology.

Author's CV.

1. What is climatology for?

1.1 Climatology and Meteorology

1.2 Climate and weather

2. Do climates change?

2.1 The rotation movement

2.2 The translation movement

3. Why does air temperature reduces with altitude?

3.1 Atmosphere composition

3.2 Atmosphere’s vertical structure

4. Why is it warmer in the region close to the equator??

4.1 Solar radiation nature

4.2 Radiation distribution

4.3 Terrestrial radiation

4.4 Atmospheric radiation and greenhouse effect

4.5 Radiation audit

4.6 Earth’s energy audit

5. Which is the mechanism behind the hang glider flight?

5.1 Influential factors in horizontal distribution of air temperature

5.2 Spatial distribution of air average temperature on Earth

6. Why does the grass get wet at dawn even without rain?

6.1 Relative humidity

6.2 Temperature inversions

6.3 Dew and mist

6.4 What provokes condensation in atmosphere?

6.5 Precipitation

6.6 Types of rainfall

6.7 Spatial rain distribution on Earth

7. Is it true that in the city of La Paz the water boils at 90°C?

7.1 Winds

7.2 Effect of Earth’s rotation

7.3 Effect of centrifugal force

7.4 Effect of friction with the surface

8. What’s the difference between a hurricane and a tornado?

8.1 How are hurricanes made?

8.2 How are tornados made?

9. How are deserts formed?

9.1 Global atmospheric circulation

9.2 Walker circulation

10. What are undertows and what originate them?

10.1 Air mass

10.2 Fronts

10.3 The phenomenon of undertows

Final considerations: a short discussion about global warming




"So what have you done today, my dear? Anything entertaining?"
"Not really. […] I actually read for most of the day. Kind of lame."
"What are you reading? […]
"The weather."
He paused midstroke. "And what did you learn?"
"Storm-formation stuff. How water molecules build up and condense, how charged particles discharge to form lightning. Oh, and there was something else about high and low pressure, but I've got to go back and reread that. Kind of confusing."

Mead, 2011, p. 341

This publication is inserted in the ambit of a project developed in the Laboratory of Geographic Climatology (LCGea) in the Geography program of University of Brasilia (UnB), the Easy Climatology project. It came from the need to elaborate pleasanter forms to teach and learn Climatology, for the most teachers and students facing this subject considerate it “kind of confusing” and hard to understand because of the level of abstraction it demands.

When I started teaching Climatology for Geography undergraduates in UnB in 1996 I noticed many of the students had a lot of resistance to the subject. They would come with pre-conceived concepts, often covered with misconceptions and besides, they weren’t interested by the subject for considering it too abstract. At that I began an investigation about the teaching of Climatology in several levels of education.

A few articles and didactic products were already made with the intention to help to learn Climatology related subjects, such as Easy climatology: an interactive class about weather, Terrestrial landscapes and Natural disasters: interactive encyclopedia CD-ROMs. These products are constituted of interactive classes for a high school and primary education audience. The preparation of the three CD-ROMs was a partnership with the Brazilian Institute of Information in Science and Technology (IBICT), a federal public agency belonging to the structure of research units from Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (MCTI). The CDs were released respectively in the 7th, 8th and 11th National Week of Science and Technology, an annual event in Brasilia.

After years of direct investigation alongside the General Climatology students of UnB’s Geography program I prepared this new product, a document shaped as a book to try to transform the learning of basic notions of Climatology into pleasanter moments.

This book was generated from a teaching strategy I still use to motivate the students to take interest in the program subjects. Is a simple mechanism: you ask the student, after a brief explanation on the subject, to write in a piece of paper a question, curiosity, something they would like to know about weather and climate.

These questions are used through the semester, in the beginning of each class, as motivation. After concluded the topic related to that question I ask the student who elaborated it if it remains. Most of the times the answer is negative. This way, I observed, the students feel really fundamental in the context of the learning process and, more important than that, begin to take interest on the matters of Climatology and realize how interesting it is to investigate something present in our daily routine.

Fifteen years later I gathered around a thousand questions and classified them by topics. I realized, as expected, most of the questions were quotidian related; however, more than that, the main theme of the students’ questions were the climate topics being discussed at the moment, especially by the media. In the beginning of the investigation the bigger interest was about the El Niño phenomenon; right after that there were questions about the ozone layer, 2006 hurricane season, global warming and, more recently, torrential rains and the floods they cause.

I decided then to share this experience to help all those who are interested in Climatology to learn, in a more uncomplicated way, General Climatology notions. For this I wrote this document without worrying of showing mathematically the processes and mechanisms of weather and climate. These are here presented and described in a simple conceptual way, seeking to clarify its meanings in our lives. In this book I choose one question from each topic to begin the sections followed by the explanation, trying to follow a logical and linked sequence of phenomena for students realize despite separate, the subjects are connected to one another.

I hope to be able to contribute for basic notions of Climatology may be better comprehended through elements closer to our reality. Any suggestions and comments aiming to expand or improve the content of this publication will be very welcome.

Ercília Torres Steinke