Atmospheric Sciences Information Resources in the United States - an Overview for Librarians

By Layman, Mary; Smith, Shirley | Special Libraries, Winter 1993 | Go to article overview
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Atmospheric Sciences Information Resources in the United States - an Overview for Librarians


Layman, Mary, Smith, Shirley, Special Libraries


Introduction

Everyday newspapers, television news, and other information sources present stories about the Earth's troubled atmosphere--the ozone has a hole in it, the planet is warming up under the "greenhouse effect," air pollution is reaching dangerous levels. For years Los Angeles, Denver, and other cities have lived in a perpetual smoggy haze. Eastern lakes are dying from acidity caused by air pollution.

Environmental problems are high on the list of current debates in government and industry. A major research project, Sequoia 2000, at the University of California, has been initiated to study global change. Atmospheric scientists, who have been working for years to unravel the mysteries of the air that surrounds us, are receiving more and more attention as humans begin to deal with damage to the atmosphere. As research expands, the information resulting from that research expands also.

In this paper we present an overview of the many types of information produced and information sources available in the atmospheric sciences in the United States. As we developed this paper, we were overwhelmed by the amount of atmospheric, climatological, and meteorological information that exists today. It comes in every conceivable format--paper, data tapes, CD-ROM, online numeric and bibliographic databases, electronic networks--and is gathered, analyzed, processed, and distributed by a very large number of companies, universities and government agencies.

We have attempted to be comprehensive in our presentation, but cannot claim to be exhaustive--the field and the material produced through its research change and grow daily.

The next section of the paper provides some definitions of terms used in atmospheric science. The following two sections cover library collections. Data centers, research institutes, and other non-library sources of information are covered after that. There is a short section on air pollution control regulations, and then information about electronic formats. Finally, the appendices provide results of an online bibliographic search, and addresses of collections and organizations.

II. Definitions

As librarians and information specialists field questions about the atmosphere, it is helpful to know some terminology. The following definitions clarify some of the major terms:

Atmosphere: "The envelope of air surrounding the earth and bound to it more or less permanently by virtue of the earth's gravitational attraction; the system whose chemical properties, dynamic motions, and physical processes constitute the subject matter of meteorology."

Meteorology: "The study dealing with the phenomena of the atmosphere. This includes not only the physics, chemistry, and dynamics of the atmosphere, but is extended to include many of the direct effects of the atmosphere upon the earth's surface, the oceans, and life in general. The goals often ascribed to meteorology are the complete understanding, accurate prediction, and artificial control of atmospheric phenomena."

"A distinction can be drawn between meteorology and climatology, the latter being primarily concerned with average, not actual, weather conditions."

Climatology: "The scientific study of climate. In addition to the presentation of climatic data..., it includes the analysis of the causes of differences of climate..., and the application of climatic data to the solution of specific design or operational problems...

"This general subject has been placed in several in several positions relative to the science of meteorology, for example: a 'sister' science; an intermediate science between meteorology and geography; a branch of meteorology; etc. When meteorology is properly considered in its broadest sense as the complete study of the atmosphere, climatology must be regarded as a major branch of meteorology."(1)

For the purpose of this paper, the term "atmospheric sciences" will be used.

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