Welcome to Learning About Weather
Ever since I can remember, I've been fascinated by the weather. How it happens and why it happens are questions I have pondered. Until now, I haven't taken that next step to learn about it. Until now. One day not long ago I was thinking about the weather. I live in Minnesota where we have some of the most diverse weather in the U.S.. It can get to -40 F in the Winter all the way to over 100 F in the Summer. I realized that I didn't know much about the weather other than, it happens. I'm sure there are a lot of people just like me. We know conditions can change in a matter of minutes, from cold to hot, or windy to still, but we don't know why. I've decided to change that. I am learning about the weather and as I do, I'm going to write about it here. I'll explore all kinds of weather, conditions, changes, weird stuff, and facts and figures, and I'll write about everything I learn, on the blog! You can find the blog button just above and to the right.
So if you've ever wondered about the weather, about what makes weather, how it happens and why, this is the place for you! I'll explain everything I find in easy to understand terms. We'll figure this weather thing out together. And the next time the temperature drops 50 degrees over night, we'll know why. Stay tuned!
Sophie and Me
morning for over 8 years. Sophie is a Malamute Husky cross and definitely a Winter weather dog. Butch, as it turns out, is just a human.
Marshall 'Butch' Armstrong and his dog Sophie have been enjoying the weather on their 2 mile walk every
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Where to start?
In 1947 a Tornado dumped hundreds of fish on a town in Louisiana, USA. It seems the tornado went over a lake or possibly the ocean, picked up hundreds of fish and they then rained down on the unsuspecting inhabitants. Now that's some weird weather!
So that's the question, isn't it? Weather is such a huge subject. It affects everyone, all the time. It surrounds us, it affects the way we live and work, and it even changes our mood. I'm thinking that the place to start is with a question. What causes weather? What does cause weather?
Well, it's a combination of things. First of all, it's the Sun. The Sun heats the atmosphere. The Earth, being round (attention Flat Earthers) and spinning, and being tilted on its axis by 23.5 degrees in relation to the Sun, doesn't allow the Sun to heat the atmosphere evenly. And then there's water. The atmosphere absorbs water through evaporation, which makes clouds, and when the clouds get too much water in them they send it back to the planet in the form of precipitation (storms). Storms happen because of the uneven heating of the atmosphere, making some area's warm and some cold. When warm and cold air masses meet, storms happen. And then there's the topography of the planet, and gravity and.....!
Of course this is a really simplified explanation. The whole process of weather is much more complicated than that and I'll get into that soon. I just wanted to give you a basic idea of what we're talking about. Doesn't this sound like fun? Don't you want to know more? I sure do, so I'll keep telling you! More to come!
Did You Know...?
Did you know that the longest lightening streak ever recorded happened just last year? It happened over Brazil and was 418 miles long!
Sophie's Words Of Wisdom
Today is the perfect day for air conditioning and laying in front of the fan. Don't do anything but sleep. You'll regret it if you do. Actually,
don't even read this. It
takes too much energy.
Just find a cool drink
and a chair in the
shade. That's pretty
much all you need!
Or maybe some mud
to lay in!
Glad to see that you've made it this far! I hope you're enjoying learning about weather. If you are, scroll to the bottom of the page and send me an email. Let me know what you Think!
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I'll start with the meanings of some basic weather terms we hear on every weather forecast. Once we get to know these terms we find that they are used a lot to describe weather. They are the basic weather language.
Temperature is an easy one. It tells you how the air is going to feel, hot or cold. Thermometers are made to conform to the Thermodynamic temperature scale which is an internationally agreed upon scale, so 70 degrees Celsius or Fahrenheit, is 70 degrees no matter where you go. Temperature is not the only factor influencing how you feel, however, and each person feels temperature independently. Some think 70 degrees feels fine and others think it's too hot. Temperature ultimately tells you how you are going to feel outside. It is actually the measurement of the activity of atmospheric (read air) molecules. Heat energy speeds up the vibration of air molecules while cold slows them down.
Usually referred to as just "Humidity" the term is actually "Relative Humidity". The definition goes like this: The amount of water vapor present in the air expressed as a percentage of the amount needed for saturation at the current temperature. (Wikipedia) So at 100% humidity the air would be completely saturated with moisture. However, relative humidity is dependent on temperature because warm air can hold more moisture than cold air. so 50% relative humidity at 70 degrees F is not the same as 50% relative humidity at 90 degrees. That's why relative humidity is not always a good indicator of how the air will feel.
Dew Point, which is expressed as a temperature is the point at which condensation occurs. (Condensation in this case is the point where water vapor in the air becomes liquid/dew). It is a more direct measure of moisture in the air because it is not dependent on air temperature. Therefore you know that a 70 degree dew point is going to feel sticky no matter what the temperature but a 50 degree dew point will feel much more comfortable even when the temperature is high.
Wind speed and Direction
Wind speed and the direction it's coming from are important to consider when determining how comfortable you will feel outside. They can also tell you what kind of weather may be coming your way. Wind has a cooling effect so a hot day will feel cooler with a strong wind blowing and a cold day will feel colder. The direction of the wind can also indicate comfort to a degree. A South wind in the U.S. will usually bring warm breezes and a North wind, cooler ones. Because of the spin of the Earth and the heating of the atmosphere by the Sun, most storms in the U.S. move West to East. When we have an East wind it it often because of a weather formation that is circling as it moves West to East and brings a high probability of storms.
Precipitation is what falls from the sky. (In the case of a tornado, not everything that falls from the sky will be precipitation. It may be a house!) The atmosphere absorbs moisture from lakes, rivers, and oceans and from the ground through evaporation. The moisture in the air forms clouds and when they become saturated you get precipitation of one form or another.
Barometric, or atmospheric pressure is the weight of the atmosphere directly over the measurement point. Everything has weight because of gravity, even air molecules. The atmosphere exerts a pressure of approximately 14.696 pounds per square inch at sea level. Which means that every square inch of your skin has over 14 pounds of pressure being applied all the time. So if you hold your arms out level with the ground, you're holding up a lot of weight. You don't feel that weight however because atmospheric pressure is exerted from all points at once. So that pressure is being felt under your arms pushing up at the same time it's pushing down on top of your arms.
Air is denser at lower altitudes because gravity is pulling it down. The further air molecules get from gravity the less dense the air. This means that atmospheric pressure will be higher at sea level than say, Denver , Colorado. A lot of our weather is influenced by atmospheric pressure. Cold fronts are low pressure areas of cooler air pushing into areas of higher pressure with warmer air. Cold air is denser than warm air so cold fronts push under warm air and lift it higher. Warm fronts moving into areas with cooler air push over the cooler air, squeezing it out of the way. When cold and warm fronts meet, it usually means weather is about to happen!
These terms are the ones you'll hear meteorologists use most often. Getting to know their meanings helps a lot in understanding what's happening in your backyard. But don't worry, there's defiantly more to come!
How does weather happen? That's a good question. As I said earlier, weather happens because of the warming of the atmosphere by the Sun. With the Earth spinning on it's axis, and being tilted 23.5 degrees in relation to the Sun, the atmosphere is not heated evenly. This causes warm areas and cold areas. When warm air and cold air meet, storms happen. Other things are involved as well. Gravity acts on air molecules by pulling them down toward the Earth causing the air to be denser lower down and less dense or lighter, further up. Warm air is lighter than cold air so warm air wants to rise and cold air wants to sink. These actions in the atmosphere cause wind.
Evaporation of water into the atmosphere from lakes, rivers, oceans and the land (dirt and vegetation) eventually causes precipitation. This is called the Hydrologic cycle. (Click on the blog for an explanation.) The kind you get, whether rain or snow depends on the temperature of the air. The topography of the Earth also plays a part in making weather. Mountain ranges, prairies, hilly or flat land, lakes rivers, and oceans, even tall buildings can influence the weather.
Winds have patterns caused by the heating of the Sun. The equator sees the most direct Sun rays on the planet. This causes winds within about 30 degrees North and South of it to be drawn toward the equator. These are called the Trade Winds. They are so named because early sailors would use these latitudes to sail their ships around the world on trading missions. The Trade winds move in a clockwise rotation North of the equator and counterclockwise, South of it. This causes regular, weather patterns.
Around the area of the Bermuda Triangle, there is a persistent high pressure area called aptly enough, The Bermuda High. Winds circle around it in a clockwise rotation bringing warm sub-tropical air up toward the Eastern U.S. It also helps power the Gulf Stream, a current of warm air that warms the water of the Atlantic. The gulf stream flows up the Eastern Seaboard, crosses the North Atlantic ocean and gives Western Europe its milder climate.
On the other side of the country we have the Pacific high which is another persistent high pressure area that circles just off the California/Mexico coast. This high brings in cooler polar air which is picked up by the Westerlies, high altitude West to East flowing winds, (which the Jet Streams are a part of) and they carry this cooler air across the country. The Jet Streams, currents of faster moving air within the Westerlies can move North and South. In Summer when the polar Jet Stream moves North it does so because of the abundance of warmer air over the U.S.. This allows warm, sub-tropical air from the Gulf of Mexico to move North into the middle of the country. This causes warm summers in the Mid-West and quite often, storms.
Of course there is a lot more to weather than this and I'll be exploring much of it here on the blog. Please feel free to comment on what you have read here!