What is an environmental modeller?
Environmental modellers use their knowledge to explain, explore and predict the Earth’s response to both human and natural environmental change. They use models to simplify environmental processes and systems to help them make predictions about the future. Environmental models are used to study many things such as climate, coastal changes, ecological systems, ocean circulation and the behaviour of enclosed spaces or those around buildings.
Environmental modellers are observant, creative and self-motivated.
Could you be an environmental modeller?
Why use models?
Although they have limitations, models can be used to help us understand what has taken place, find out more about causes of behaviour and to forecast future outcomes and events.
As you found today when you were building your model houses, the more detail you put into your model, the more accurate the representation becomes. So the more data an environmental modeller puts into their model, the more accurate the model becomes.
What is a model?
A model is a simple representation of a thing or a process. It is important to remember that a model is not exactly the same as the thing you are trying to explain. For example, look at the photograph of the model car. In some ways it is the same as a real car. It has wheels, headlights, doors, a boots, seats and lots of the other features of a real car. It also is not the same as a real car in many ways. You can’t sit in it and drive it for example, and it doesn’t have an engine.
Do try this at home…building science models
Solar system models
Building models is a fun way to explain many concepts in science. Have you ever tried building a model of the solar system using craft materials? Your planets will be fun to create and will represent the real celestial bodies, but it may prove very difficult to get a realistic scale for your model. Click here to find out why. Click here for a different model which is not to scale, but it is really useful if you want to explore the solar system and build your own model.
Erupting volcano models
Have you ever used bicarbonate of soda and vinegar to make an erupting volcano model? Volcanoes erupt when molten rock called magma rises to the surface. As magma rises, bubbles of gas form inside it. If the magma is thick, gas bubbles cannot easily escape and pressure builds up as the magma rises. When the pressure is too much an explosive eruption can happen.
When you mix bicarbonate of soda and vinegar, a chemical reaction occurs and carbon dioxide is produced. Just like carbon dioxide bubbles in a fizzy drink, the carbon dioxide rises to the top of the mixture. This creates the bubbles and foam you see when you mix bicarbonate of soda and vinegar. This experiment is always fun to try at home, click here for simple instructions.
Which parts of this model are a good representation of a volcanic eruption?
Why don’t you try building a tornado by following the instructions in the video on the right? Click here for photographs of lots of different science models you could try at home.
You make predictions in school every day, for example predicting what will happen next in a story, predicting the next number in a sequence in maths or predicting what will happen in a science experiment. A prediction is not just a random guess, you use what you already know about what has happened before to predict what will happen in the future.
An example of prediction in real life is the weather forecast.
How do we predict the weather?
Tools such as thermometers, barometers, and anemometers are used for measuring temperature, air pressure, and wind speed. Weather balloons are also used to measure temperature, air pressure, wind speed, and wind direction in all the layers of the troposphere. Satellites are used to observe cloud patterns around the world, and radar is used to measure precipitation (rain). All of this data is then put into computers which create forecast models of the atmosphere. This is then compared to data about the atmosphere and weather in the past and used to predict what the weather will be like in the future.
Weather or climate?
Today we have been finding out about the differences between weather and climate. Click here to find out more about the weather where you are today. Watch this video to discover more about the differences between weather and climate.
Climate change and the future
You found out today that global temperatures are rising and global climates are getting warmer, causing unpredictable and extreme weather. This is due to humans burning fossil fuels and releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. This greenhouse gas traps heat from the earth’s surface in the atmosphere making the global temperature rise. It is predicted that a warmer climate will result in more rainfall, changes in seasons, sea ice and glacial melting and rising sea levels if we don’t change!
Visit National Geographic kids and NASA Climate Kids to read more about global warming and the changes you can make at home to help prevent climate change. You can also ask your teachers if you can become at Fairtrade School or an Eco School to help combat climate change.