Student's Guide to Weather




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The most basic way to explain the term weather is that it is the way our atmosphere behaves. A more technical way of defining weather is that it is the condition of air at a certain place and a certain time; this could be dry, hot, wet, cold, calm, blowing, etc.

Weather is an integral part of human life; in fact for all life. Weather usually dictates how people live, what they wear, eat and pretty much how they do everything. Weather is never stagnant and can change every minute.
The most integral thing to the phenomenon called weather is the Sun. it is the sun’s heat due to which evaporation of water takes place and air rises. Due to these two basic reactions to the suns heat many weather conditions are created. There are various kinds of weather including: rain, clouds, sunshine, wind and heat.
Weather wiz kids: A website for kids that talks about all aspects of what weather is.
What is weather?: A BBC article detailing the basics of what weather is.
All about Weather: A fun article by Canterbury Environmental Education Center, on various aspects things that constitute the weather.
Weather, what is it? A Wikipedia article on what weather is.

Difference between Climate and Weather

Laymen usually confuse weather with climate. Although the basis of both these phenomenon is the same i.e. behavior of the atmosphere, they are quite different from each other. As mentioned, weather is how the atmosphere behaves whereas climate is considered to be the average weather over a long period of time. It can also be said that climate is used to describe the weather pattern of a certain area over a long term.

The difference between climate and weather then is quite clear. It lies in the measure of time. Weather depicts the behavior of the atmosphere over short periods (hours, days, weeks) and climate reflects atmospheric behavior over longer periods (months, years).

Difference between Weather & Climate: An article by NASA explaining in detail the difference between weather and climate.
Weather and climate basics: an article talking about weather and climate.
Weather in general: an informative article on the what’s and how’s of weather.

“Components” of Weather

Weather is described in terms of the following:

  • Temperature
  • Humidity
  • Precipitation
  • Clouds
  • Sunshine/brightness
  • Visibility
  • Wind
  • Atmospheric pressure

Australian climate: a Wikipedia article on Australian climate
Australian weather: An up-to-date status of Australian weather by

Let’s take a closer look at each of the components of weather.

Moving air is called wind. However, it is just not as simple as that. Wind speed is considered when describing weather.
The movement of air can be slow or very fast. Slow air creates a gentle breeze and fast moving air results in strong winds. Weather as a result can be termed as calm or windy. Wind speed is generally measured in knots, miles per hour or kilometers per hour.

Precipitation is defined as the falling of water from the earth’s atmosphere to the earth’s surface. This can be in both solid or liquid form and includes snow, rain, hail, dew and sleet.

When temperature drops, air begins to rise. In rising up, the air cools and in turn so does the moisture contained in the air. This moisture condenses to form droplets that remain suspended in the air, creating clouds. When these droplets become big and heavy they fall back to the earth in the form of rain, snow, sleet or hail.

Temperature is defined as the degree of hot or cold at a certain time and place.
As is common knowledge, temperature is higher during the day when the sun is out as compared to the night when the sun has set.

Another aspect of describing weather is to quote the amount of sunshine there is. Sunshine depends on the position of the place on the earth’s latitude and the amount of clouds in the sky.

Generally speaking, areas with high atmospheric pressure get more sunshine. Weather could be sunny or overcast (cloudy).

Visibility in weather terms is the distance one can clearly see at a given time. To describe weather in terms of visibility one would consider fog, mist and urban pollution; the more the mist, fog and/or pollution the lesser the visibility.
In weather talk visibility can be good, poor, foggy, etc.

As described above, clouds are made up of tiny water droplets. Weather is described in the amount of clouds that are present at any given time. Clouds are measured in eighths or oktas and weather, in cloud terms, is generally described as clear, partly cloudy and overcast.

Atmospheric Pressure
Atmospheric Pressure is defined as the atmosphere’s weight on the earth’s surface. Atmospheric pressure affects the movement of air, clouds, etc. A Rapid drop in atmospheric pressure is indicative of unstable weather whereas a rise in atmospheric pressure is usually good news that good weather is on its way.

Clouds, what are they? An article by NASA describing what clouds are.
How are clouds formed: An article describing how clouds are formed.

Humidity is basically the measure of the amount of water vapor in the air. Water is continuously evaporating and being stored in air. Warm air like that found in tropical areas can store more water vapor as compared to air in cooler areas. Humidity can thus be high or low when describing weather.

Tree house weather kids: An interactive site giving a tour of all that is weather
What exactly is weather: All you need to know about weather

Weather Phenomenon

Due to the variables (discussed above) that constitute weather there are various weather phenomenon that occur. Some of the more common ones are discussed below:

Lightning and Thunderstorms
Thunderstorms are the result of large air masses rising into the atmosphere very quickly. This results in the formation of “cumulonimbus” clouds. These kinds of clouds have very strong air inside them which causes droplets of water and crystals of ice to smash continuously. The friction created between the droplets and crystals gives rise to static electricity eventually giving rise to lightning. The thunder during such a downpour is the noise produced by the lightning.

Lightning basics: All you need to know about lightning
Lightning made simple: Lightning explained in simple terms
Lightning & dangerous: An article on the hazards posed by lightning
What is a thunderstorm?: All you need to know about thunderstorms
Thunderstorms, what and why?: A detailed article on thunderstorms by the Hong Kong Observatory

Hurricanes are strong windstorms along with torrential rains. Hurricanes originate over oceans. Rising air over the warm ocean results in a low pressure zone. The low pressure zone sucks in air with so much power that it creates a center around which winds rotate; aka a hurricane.

The speed of the winds in a hurricane can go up to 20 miles an hour. Hurricanes move towards one of the poles, eventually losing their magnitude when they reache a cooler area or land.

What are hurricanes?: All you need to know about hurricanes
How Hurricanes work: an article that details the dynamics of a hurricane.
Reason hurricanes have names: A short article about why hurricanes are named

Tornadoes are made of swirling winds, which can reach speeds of up to 400 miles per hour. These are also caused by low pressure zones that suck in winds with immense power. As compared to hurricanes, tornadoes have a much smaller base, making them so much more destructive.

What are tornadoes?: A crisp definition of tornadoes.
Tornadoes basics: An informative site covering lots of info on tornadoes
Weather maps: Real time weather maps to know the weather


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