how weather works

How Weather Works?

“Don’t Knock the Weather. If it Didn’t Change Once in a While, Nine Out of Ten People Couldn’t Start a Conversation”

American humorist Kin Hubbard had a point, but soon you’ll be able to liven up banal weather conversations by answering the question How weather works? Along with other illuminating explanations, key weather and climate facts.

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Weather EventThis is how weather happens
Low pressure areaCold air is heavier than warm air. Cold air pressing down creates low pressure often in conjunction with precipitation such as rain or snow. This is typically displayed on a weather map by a large letter L
High pressure systemWarm air rises and exerts a lower pressure than colder air. On the weather map this is often shown as a large letter H
Weather frontWhen two air masses with a different density and temperature meet each other, showers, thunderstorms and other weather phenomena come about.
ThunderstormEach bolt of lightning produces a thunderclap that can be as loud as 120 decibels. This is caused by the extremely quickly heated air. It is easy to work out how far away lightning is by counting the seconds between the lightning flash and the thunderclap. Each second represents roughly 1000 feet (300 meters). If you see a flash, but don’t hear thunder, it’s because the flash is too far away for the sound to travel. That’s how weather works!
What to do during a thunderstorm?If possible, stay in the car. The metal frame is an electrical conductor and forms a safe Faraday cage. Don’t use any electrical appliances with a cable because the cable can conduct the lightning flash. Don’t hold any metal objects in your hand like golf clubs, shovels and the like. Some people say shelter under a beech tree but avoid an oak tree. This is not good advice – it’s best to avoid trees.
LightningA bolt of lightning has up to 3 million volts (slightly more than the 110/220 volts your wall socket provides) and a temperature of about 27,800 degrees. It shoots through the atmosphere at 300 km a SECOND discharges a current of up to 400,000 amps (a typical fuse blows at 16 amps). Worldwide approximately 100 flashes are counted every second. Each flash produces thunderclaps of up to 120 decibels caused by the extremely quickly heated air. You can tell how far away lightning is by counting the seconds between the lightning and thunder. Each second represents approx. 300 yards/meters, so 5 seconds is about 1 mile away etc. If you see a flash, but hear no thunder it’s because the flash is too far away from us.
Struck by lightningThe American park ranger Roy Sullivan has been hit by lightning 7 times and is still alive. But don’t try it yourself! Lightning is dangerous and kills many people each year.
Wind speedThe highest ever wind speed (excluding tornadoes) was measured in 1996 in the Olivia depression: 253 mph (407 km/h)
Weather forecasts24-hour predictions are 90% accurate today. The accuracy of 3-day forecasts is about 75%.
CloudsClouds are formed at a height of between 1000-5000 feet (300-1500 m) by warm, moist air that rises up. They continue to grow and fill up with condensed water particles (rain).
Types of cloudIn 1802, Luke Howard came up with the cloud names still in use today.
  • Stratus clouds are gray, low-hanging rain clouds.
  • Cumulus clouds are the fair-weather clouds that look like cotton balls at medium altitude.
  • Cirrus clouds clouds are fine, wispy thin clouds at higher altitude.
  • Nimbus clouds are dark towering clouds that can produce heavy rain and thunderstorms.
  • Alto-Stratus clouds are thin gray layers of clouds that sometimes bring rain.
  • Alto-Cumulus clouds are gray fleecy clouds at an altitude at higher altitude.
TornadoA tornado is formed when cold polar air at high altitudes meets warm tropical air at low altitudes. This generates an upswing (mesocyclone) that – depending on wind speed and direction – can form a rotating vortex extending down to the ground or a funnel in the air. Warm air from below is sucked upwards in this process.
HurricaneHurricanes generally occur over the ocean near the equator. Warm seawater evaporates and rises up to form clouds and rotating winds (storms) in the process. If the speed of the storm exceeds 74 mph (119 km/h), it is called a hurricane. When hurricanes hit land, they bring very high rainfall and often devastate whole areas. In Asia hurricanes are also known as typhoons.

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