How Unique is our Weather

e have examination our solar system for the key ingredients required in the formation of that one-eyed monster, a hurricane,  and the clouds that produce tornadoes and found these important ingredient are only found on earth.  This is in no small part due to one of the incredibly important atmospheric constituents that only exists in any kind of abundance on earth – water.  Water that can coexist simultaneously in all three phases: gas, liquid, and ice -- and that too is unique.  One of its remarkable properties of water is its huge latent heat of vaporization and condensation. This allows for the redistribution of an enormous amount of energy.  According to a NOAA analysis,  healthy hurricane can redistribute an amount of energy equivalent to 200 times the world-wide electrical generating capacity.  Which partially explains the difficulty in any attempt to modify hurricanes and even thunderstorms.    Our atmosphere is only 1to 4  percent water vapor, which is still far more than any other planet  in our solar system.


Because of the difference in heating between a planet’s equator and poles, meridional (north-south) circulations develop.   This differential heating, the planet’s rotation rate (hours is a day), the planet’s size and depth and composition of the atmosphere determine how many cell exist.  For example, the earth has 3 cells and Venus only one.  The giant gas plants like Jupiter have symmetric instabilities that result in many cells that encircle the planet.


For the earth, all this, coupled with the Coriolis effect cause zonal (east-west) winds to come from the east near the poles and equator.  In mid-latitudes (the United States and Europe) winds tend to blow from the west.   There are many consequences from all this, but the point here is it only exists on earth. And while there is rough weather (winds can exceed 2,000 miles per hour on some planets), there is nothing that resembles our storms and weather.


It is also worth noting again, we owe the atmosphere we have to the distance we are from the sun (how much heat we receive) and the planet’s size (the gravitational acceleration).

Most of the water in our atmosphere came from within our planet, not from being bombarded by comets as is popularly believed by some.  Much of the oxygen was and is generated by plants.


But what about other suns and planets.  There are 1011  (that is 1 with 11 zeros after it) stars in our Galaxy and it is estimated there are1011 galaxies in the universe or 1022 stars in the universe.  If only a small percentage of stars have a planet about earth’s size and about the same distance, these would be the “Goldilocks planets”. There certainly are planets of other stars that have are the same size and distance from their sun, and they probably also have water.  So, they probably do have tornadoes and hurricanes!   In fact, in our galaxy alone, it probably is common.


But even more, all the chemical ingredients of our atmosphere are very likely to  exist for producing an atmosphere that we would be familiar with on some planets.  And,  maybe some molecules would combine by chance as in a chemistry lab, to form a organism that could sustain itself and replicate – life.  Personally, when you consider the distances, I think we will never know, but it is something to contemplate. In any event, whatever exists would not be human, as we know ourselves.  Our own individual probability of existance is less than all the stars in the universe.  Each of us is literally more rare (unique) than all the stars in the universe and that is a statistical fact.  You are truly special.