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Weather is the state of the atmosphere, describing for example the degree to which it is hot or cold, wet or dry, calm or stormy, clear or cloudy.Most weather phenomena occur in the lowest level of the atmosphere, the troposphere, just below the stratosphere. Weather refers to day-to-day temperature and precipitation activity, whereas climate is the term for the averaging of atmospheric conditions over longer periods of time. When used without qualification, "weather" is generally understood to mean the weather of Earth.
Weather is driven by air pressure, temperature and moisture differences between one place and another. These differences can occur due to the sun's angle at any particular spot, which varies with latitude. The strong temperature contrast between polar and tropical air gives rise to the largest scale atmospheric circulations: the Hadley Cell, the Ferrel Cell, the Polar Cell, and the jet stream. Weather systems in the mid-latitudes, such as extratropical cyclones, are caused by instabilities of the jet stream flow. Because the Earth's axis is tilted relative to its orbital plane, sunlight is incident at different angles at different times of the year. On Earth's surface, temperatures usually range ±40 °C (−40 °F to 100 °F) annually. Over thousands of years, changes in Earth's orbit can affect the amount and distribution of solar energy received by the Earth, thus influencing long-term climate and global climate change.
Surface temperature differences in turn cause pressure differences. Higher altitudes are cooler than lower altitudes, as most atmospheric heating is due to contact with the Earth's surface while radiative losses to space are mostly constant. Weather forecasting is the application of science and technology to predict the state of the atmosphere for a future time and a given location. The Earth's weather system is a chaotic system; as a result, small changes to one part of the system can grow to have large effects on the system as a whole. Human attempts to control the weather have occurred throughout history, and there is evidence that human activities such as agriculture and industry have modified weather patterns.
Studying how the weather works on other planets has been helpful in understanding how weather works on Earth. A famous landmark in the Solar System, Jupiter's Great Red Spot, is an anticyclonic storm known to have existed for at least 300 years. However, weather is not limited to planetary bodies. A star's corona is constantly being lost to space, creating what is essentially a very thin atmosphere throughout the Solar System. The movement of mass ejected from the Sun is known as the solar wind.
On Earth, the common weather phenomena include wind, cloud, rain, snow, fog and dust storms. Less common events include natural disasters such as tornadoes, hurricanes, typhoons and ice storms. Almost all familiar weather phenomena occur in the troposphere (the lower part of the atmosphere).Weather does occur in the stratosphere and can affect weather lower down in the troposphere, but the exact mechanisms are poorly understood.
Weather occurs primarily due to air pressure, temperature and moisture differences between one place to another. These differences can occur due to the sun angle at any particular spot, which varies by latitude from the tropics. In other words, the farther from the tropics one lies, the lower the sun angle is, which causes those locations to be cooler due the spread of the sunlight over a greater surface.The strong temperature contrast between polar and tropical air gives rise to the large scale atmospheric circulation cells and the jet stream. Weather systems in the mid-latitudes, such as extratropical cyclones, are caused by instabilities of the jet stream flow (see baroclinity). Weather systems in the tropics, such as monsoons or organized thunderstorm systems, are caused by different processes.
Because the Earth's axis is tilted relative to its orbital plane, sunlight is incident at different angles at different times of the year. In June the Northern Hemisphere is tilted towards the sun, so at any given Northern Hemisphere latitude sunlight falls more directly on that spot than in December (see Effect of sun angle on climate).This effect causes seasons. Over thousands to hundreds of thousands of years, changes in Earth's orbital parameters affect the amount and distribution of solar energy received by the Earth and influence long-term climate. (See Milankovitch cycles).
The uneven solar heating (the formation of zones of temperature and moisture gradients, or frontogenesis) can also be due to the weather itself in the form of cloudiness and precipitation.Higher altitudes are typically cooler than lower altitudes, which the result of higher surface temperature and radiational heating, which produces the adiabatic lapse rate. In some situations, the temperature actually increases with height. This phenomenon is known as an inversion and can cause mountaintops to be warmer than the valleys below. Inversions can lead to the formation of fog and often act as a cap that suppresses thunderstorm development. On local scales, temperature differences can occur because different surfaces (such as oceans, forests, ice sheets, or man-made objects) have differing physical characteristics such as reflectivity, roughness, or moisture content.
Surface temperature differences in turn cause pressure differences. A hot surface warms the air above it causing it to expand and lower the density and the resulting surface air pressure.The resulting horizontal pressure gradient moves the air from higher to lower pressure regions, creating a wind, and the Earth's rotation then causes deflection of this air flow due to the Coriolis effect. The simple systems thus formed can then display emergent behaviour to produce more complex systems and thus other weather phenomena. Large scale examples include the Hadley cell while a smaller scale example would be coastal breezes.
The atmosphere is a chaotic system. As a result, small changes to one part of the system can accumulate and magnify to cause large effects on the system as a whole.This atmospheric instability makes weather forecasting less predictable than tides or eclipses. Although it is difficult to accurately predict weather more than a few days in advance, weather forecasters are continually working to extend this limit through meteorological research and refining current methodologies in weather prediction. However, it is theoretically impossible to make useful day-to-day predictions more than about two weeks ahead, imposing an upper limit to potential for improved prediction skill.
Weather is one of the fundamental processes that shape the Earth. The process of weathering breaks down the rocks and soils into smaller fragments and then into their constituent substances.During rains precipitation, the water droplets absorb and dissolve carbon dioxide from the surrounding air. This causes the rainwater to be slightly acidic, which aids the erosive properties of water. The released sediment and chemicals are then free to take part in chemical reactions that can affect the surface further (such as acid rain), and sodium and chloride ions (salt) deposited in the seas/oceans. The sediment may reform in time and by geological forces into other rocks and soils. In this way, weather plays a major role in erosion of the surface.
Weather, seen from an anthropological perspective, is something all humans in the world constantly experience through their senses, at least while being outside. There are socially and scientifically constructed understandings of what weather is, what makes it change, the effect it has on humans in different situations, etc.Therefore, weather is something people often communicate about.
Weather has played a large and sometimes direct part in human history. Aside from climatic changes that have caused the gradual drift of populations (for example the desertification of the Middle East, and the formation of land bridges during glacial periods), extreme weather events have caused smaller scale population movements and intruded directly in historical events. One such event is the saving of Japan from invasion by the Mongol fleet of Kublai Khan by the Kamikaze winds in 1281.French claims to Florida came to an end in 1565 when a hurricane destroyed the French fleet, allowing Spain to conquer Fort Caroline. More recently, Hurricane Katrina redistributed over one million people from the central Gulf coast elsewhere across the United States, becoming the largest diaspora in the history of the United States.
The Little Ice Age caused crop failures and famines in Europe. The 1690s saw the worst famine in France since the Middle Ages. Finland suffered a severe famine in 1696–1697, during which about one-third of the Finnish population died.
Weather forecasting is the application of science and technology to predict the state of the atmosphere for a future time and a given location. Human beings have attempted to predict the weather informally for millennia, and formally since at least the nineteenth century.Weather forecasts are made by collecting quantitative data about the current state of the atmosphere and using scientific understanding of atmospheric processes to project how the atmosphere will evolve.
Once an all-human endeavor based mainly upon changes in barometric pressure, current weather conditions, and sky condition,forecast models are now used to determine future conditions. On the other hand, human input is still required to pick the best possible forecast model to base the forecast upon, which involve many disciplines such as pattern recognition skills, teleconnections, knowledge of model performance, and knowledge of model biases.
The chaotic nature of the atmosphere, the massive computational power required to solve the equations that describe the atmosphere, error involved in measuring the initial conditions, and an incomplete understanding of atmospheric processes mean that forecasts become less accurate as the difference in current time and the time for which the forecast is being made (the range of the forecast) increases. The use of ensembles and model consensus helps to narrow the error and pick the most likely outcome.
There are a variety of end users to weather forecasts. Weather warnings are important forecasts because they are used to protect life and property.Forecasts based on temperature and precipitation are important to agriculture, and therefore to commodity traders within stock markets. Temperature forecasts are used by utility companies to estimate demand over coming days.
In some areas, people use weather forecasts to determine what to wear on a given day. Since outdoor activities are severely curtailed by heavy rain, snow and the wind chill, forecasts can be used to plan activities around these events, and to plan ahead to survive through them.
The aspiration to control the weather is evident throughout human history: from ancient rituals intended to bring rain for crops to the U.S. Military Operation Popeye, an attempt to disrupt supply lines by lengthening the North Vietnamese monsoon. The most successful attempts at influencing weather involve cloud seeding; they include the fog- and low stratus dispersion techniques employed by major airports, techniques used to increase winter precipitation over mountains, and techniques to suppress hail.A recent example of weather control was China's preparation for the 2008 Summer Olympic Games. China shot 1,104 rain dispersal rockets from 21 sites in the city of Beijing in an effort to keep rain away from the opening ceremony of the games on 8 August 2008. Guo Hu, head of the Beijing Municipal Meteorological Bureau (BMB), confirmed the success of the operation with 100 millimeters falling in Baoding City of Hebei Province, to the southwest and Beijing's Fangshan District recording a rainfall of 25 millimeters.
Whereas there is inconclusive evidence for these techniques' efficacy, there is extensive evidence that human activity such as agriculture and industry results in inadvertent weather modification:
The effects of inadvertent weather modification may pose serious threats to many aspects of civilization, including ecosystems, natural resources, food and fiber production, economic development, and human health.
Microscale meteorology is the study of short-lived atmospheric phenomena smaller than mesoscale, about 1 km or less. These two branches of meteorology are sometimes grouped together as "mesoscale and microscale meteorology" (MMM) and together study all phenomena smaller than synoptic scale; that is they study features generally too small to be depicted on a weather map. These include small and generally fleeting cloud "puffs" and other small cloud features.
On Earth, temperatures usually range ±40 °C (100 °F to −40 °F) annually. The range of climates and latitudes across the planet can offer extremes of temperature outside this range. The coldest air temperature ever recorded on Earth is −89.2 °C (−128.6 °F), at Vostok Station, Antarctica on 21 July 1983. The hottest air temperature ever recorded was 57.7 °C (135.9 °F) at 'Aziziya, Libya, on 13 September 1922, but that reading is queried. The highest recorded average annual temperature was 34.4 °C (93.9 °F) at Dallol, Ethiopia. The coldest recorded average annual temperature was −55.1 °C (−67.2 °F) at Vostok Station, Antarctica.
The coldest average annual temperature in a permanently inhabited location is at Eureka, Nunavut, in Canada, where the annual average temperature is −19.7 °C (−3.5 °F).
Studying how the weather works on other planets has been seen as helpful in understanding how it works on Earth.Weather on other planets follows many of the same physical principles as weather on Earth, but occurs on different scales and in atmospheres having different chemical composition. The Cassini–Huygens mission to Titan discovered clouds formed from methane or ethane which deposit rain composed of liquid methane and other organic compounds. Earth's atmosphere includes six latitudinal circulation zones, three in each hemisphere. In contrast, Jupiter's banded appearance shows many such zones, Titan has a single jet stream near the 50th parallel north latitude, and Venus has a single jet near the equator.
One of the most famous landmarks in the Solar System, Jupiter's Great Red Spot, is an anticyclonic storm known to have existed for at least 300 years. metres per second (about 2,100 km/h or 1,300 mph) have been measured on the planet Neptune. This has created a puzzle for planetary scientists. The weather is ultimately created by solar energy and the amount of energy received by Neptune is only about 1⁄900 of that received by Earth, yet the intensity of weather phenomena on Neptune is far greater than on Earth. The strongest planetary winds discovered so far are on the extrasolar planet HD 189733 b, which is thought to have easterly winds moving at more than 9,600 kilometres per hour (6,000 mph).On other gas giants, the lack of a surface allows the wind to reach enormous speeds: gusts of up to 600
Weather is not limited to planetary bodies. Like all stars, the Sun's corona is constantly being lost to space, creating what is essentially a very thin atmosphere throughout the Solar System. The movement of mass ejected from the Sun is known as the solar wind. Inconsistencies in this wind and larger events on the surface of the star, such as coronal mass ejections, form a system that has features analogous to conventional weather systems (such as pressure and wind) and is generally known as space weather. Coronal mass ejections have been tracked as far out in the Solar System as Saturn.The activity of this system can affect planetary atmospheres and occasionally surfaces. The interaction of the solar wind with the terrestrial atmosphere can produce spectacular aurorae, and can play havoc with electrically sensitive systems such as electricity grids and radio signals.
Climate is the long-term average of weather, typically averaged over a period of 30 years. Some of the meteorological variables that are commonly measured are temperature, humidity, atmospheric pressure, wind, and precipitation. In a broader sense, climate is the state of the components of the climate system, which includes the ocean and ice on Earth. The climate of a location is affected by its latitude, terrain, and altitude, as well as nearby water bodies and their currents.
Jet streams are fast flowing, narrow, meandering air currents in the atmospheres of some planets, including Earth. On Earth, the main jet streams are located near the altitude of the tropopause and are westerly winds. Their paths typically have a meandering shape. Jet streams may start, stop, split into two or more parts, combine into one stream, or flow in various directions including opposite to the direction of the remainder of the jet.
Meteorology is a branch of the atmospheric sciences which includes atmospheric chemistry and atmospheric physics, with a major focus on weather forecasting. The study of meteorology dates back millennia, though significant progress in meteorology did not occur until the 18th century. The 19th century saw modest progress in the field after weather observation networks were formed across broad regions. Prior attempts at prediction of weather depended on historical data. It was not until after the elucidation of the laws of physics and more particularly, the development of the computer, allowing for the automated solution of a great many equations that model the weather, in the latter half of the 20th century that significant breakthroughs in weather forecasting were achieved. An important domain of weather forecasting is marine weather forecasting as it relates to maritime and coastal safety, in which weather affects also include atmospheric interactions with large bodies of water.
In meteorology, a cyclone is a large scale air mass that rotates around a strong center of low atmospheric pressure. Cyclones are characterized by inward spiraling winds that rotate about a zone of low pressure. The largest low-pressure systems are polar vortices and extratropical cyclones of the largest scale. Warm-core cyclones such as tropical cyclones and subtropical cyclones also lie within the synoptic scale. Mesocyclones, tornadoes, and dust devils lie within smaller mesoscale. Upper level cyclones can exist without the presence of a surface low, and can pinch off from the base of the tropical upper tropospheric trough during the summer months in the Northern Hemisphere. Cyclones have also been seen on extraterrestrial planets, such as Mars, Jupiter, and Neptune. Cyclogenesis is the process of cyclone formation and intensification. Extratropical cyclones begin as waves in large regions of enhanced mid-latitude temperature contrasts called baroclinic zones. These zones contract and form weather fronts as the cyclonic circulation closes and intensifies. Later in their life cycle, extratropical cyclones occlude as cold air masses undercut the warmer air and become cold core systems. A cyclone's track is guided over the course of its 2 to 6 day life cycle by the steering flow of the subtropical jet stream.
Surface weather analysis is a special type of weather map that provides a view of weather elements over a geographical area at a specified time based on information from ground-based weather stations.
Weather forecasting is the application of science and technology to predict the conditions of the atmosphere for a given location and time. People have attempted to predict the weather informally for millennia and formally since the 19th century. Weather forecasts are made by collecting quantitative data about the current state of the atmosphere at a given place and using meteorology to project how the atmosphere will change.
Atmospheric science is the study of the Earth's atmosphere and its various inner-working physical processes. Meteorology includes atmospheric chemistry and atmospheric physics with a major focus on weather forecasting. Climatology is the study of atmospheric changes that define average climates and their change over time, due to both natural and anthropogenic climate variability. Aeronomy is the study of the upper layers of the atmosphere, where dissociation and ionization are important. Atmospheric science has been extended to the field of planetary science and the study of the atmospheres of the planets and natural satellites of the solar system.
An anticyclone is a weather phenomenon defined by the United States National Weather Service's glossary as "a large-scale circulation of winds around a central region of high atmospheric pressure, clockwise in the Northern Hemisphere, counterclockwise in the Southern Hemisphere". Effects of surface-based anticyclones include clearing skies as well as cooler, drier air. Fog can also form overnight within a region of higher pressure. Mid-tropospheric systems, such as the subtropical ridge, deflect tropical cyclones around their periphery and cause a temperature inversion inhibiting free convection near their center, building up surface-based haze under their base. Anticyclones aloft can form within warm core lows such as tropical cyclones, due to descending cool air from the backside of upper troughs such as polar highs, or from large scale sinking such as the subtropical ridge. The evolution of an anticyclone depends upon variables such as its size, intensity, and extent of moist convection, as well as the Coriolis force.
Atmospheric circulation is the large-scale movement of air, and together with ocean circulation is the means by which thermal energy is redistributed on the surface of the Earth.
A high-pressure area, high, or anticyclone, is a region where the atmospheric pressure at the surface of the planet is greater than its surrounding environment.
A low-pressure area, low, depression or cyclone is a region on the topographic map where the atmospheric pressure is lower than that of surrounding locations. Low-pressure systems form under areas of wind divergence that occur in the upper levels of the troposphere. The formation process of a low-pressure area is known as cyclogenesis. Within the field of meteorology, atmospheric divergence aloft occurs in two areas. The first area is on the east side of upper troughs, which form half of a Rossby wave within the Westerlies. A second area of wind divergence aloft occurs ahead of embedded shortwave troughs, which are of smaller wavelength. Diverging winds aloft ahead of these troughs cause atmospheric lift within the troposphere below, which lowers surface pressures as upward motion partially counteracts the force of gravity.
Atmospheric physics is the application of physics to the study of the atmosphere. Atmospheric physicists attempt to model Earth's atmosphere and the atmospheres of the other planets using fluid flow equations, chemical models, radiation budget, and energy transfer processes in the atmosphere. In order to model weather systems, atmospheric physicists employ elements of scattering theory, wave propagation models, cloud physics, statistical mechanics and spatial statistics which are highly mathematical and related to physics. It has close links to meteorology and climatology and also covers the design and construction of instruments for studying the atmosphere and the interpretation of the data they provide, including remote sensing instruments. At the dawn of the space age and the introduction of sounding rockets, aeronomy became a subdiscipline concerning the upper layers of the atmosphere, where dissociation and ionization are important.
A pressure system is a relative peak or lull in the sea level pressure distribution. The surface pressure at sea level varies minimally, with the lowest value measured 87 kilopascals (26 inHg) and the highest recorded 108.57 kilopascals (32.06 inHg). High- and low-pressure systems evolve due to interactions of temperature differentials in the atmosphere, temperature differences between the atmosphere and water within oceans and lakes, the influence of upper-level disturbances, as well as the amount of solar heating or radiationized cooling an area receives. Pressure systems cause weather to be experienced locally. Low-pressure systems are associated with clouds and precipitation that minimize temperature changes throughout the day, whereas high-pressure systems normally associate with dry weather and mostly clear skies with larger diurnal temperature changes due to greater radiation at night and greater sunshine during the day. Pressure systems are analyzed by those in the field of meteorology within surface weather maps.
This is a list of meteorology topics. The terms relate to meteorology, the interdisciplinary scientific study of the atmosphere that focuses on weather processes and forecasting.
An atmospheric model is a mathematical model constructed around the full set of primitive dynamical equations which govern atmospheric motions. It can supplement these equations with parameterizations for turbulent diffusion, radiation, moist processes, heat exchange, soil, vegetation, surface water, the kinematic effects of terrain, and convection. Most atmospheric models are numerical, i.e. they discretize equations of motion. They can predict microscale phenomena such as tornadoes and boundary layer eddies, sub-microscale turbulent flow over buildings, as well as synoptic and global flows. The horizontal domain of a model is either global, covering the entire Earth, or regional (limited-area), covering only part of the Earth. The different types of models run are thermotropic, barotropic, hydrostatic, and nonhydrostatic. Some of the model types make assumptions about the atmosphere which lengthens the time steps used and increases computational speed.
Meteorological instruments are the equipment used to sample the state of the atmosphere at a given time. Each science has its own unique sets of laboratory equipment. Meteorology, however, is a science which does not use much lab equipment but relies more on on-site observation and remote sensing equipment. In science, an observation, or observable, is an abstract idea that can be measured and for which data can be taken. Rain was one of the first quantities to be measured historically. Two other accurately measured weather-related variables are wind and humidity. Many attempts had been made prior to the 15th century to construct adequate equipment to measure atmospheric variables.
The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to meteorology:
Surface weather observations are the fundamental data used for safety as well as climatological reasons to forecast weather and issue warnings worldwide. They can be taken manually, by a weather observer, by computer through the use of automated weather stations, or in a hybrid scheme using weather observers to augment the otherwise automated weather station. The ICAO defines the International Standard Atmosphere (ISA), which is the model of the standard variation of pressure, temperature, density, and viscosity with altitude in the Earth's atmosphere, and is used to reduce a station pressure to sea level pressure. Airport observations can be transmitted worldwide through the use of the METAR observing code. Personal weather stations taking automated observations can transmit their data to the United States mesonet through the Citizen Weather Observer Program (CWOP), the UK Met Office through their Weather Observations Website (WOW), or internationally through the Weather Underground Internet site. A thirty-year average of a location's weather observations is traditionally used to determine the station's climate. In the US a network of Cooperative Observers make a daily record of summary weather and sometimes water level information.
Thermal lows, or heat lows, are non-frontal low-pressure areas that occur over the continents in the subtropics during the warm season, as the result of intense heating when compared to their surrounding environments. Thermal lows occur near the Sonoran Desert, on the Mexican plateau, in California's Great Central Valley, the Sahara, over north-west Argentina in South America, over the Kimberley region of north-west Australia, the Iberian peninsula, and the Tibetan plateau.
This glossary of meteorology is a list of terms and concepts relevant to meteorology and atmospheric science, their sub-disciplines, and related fields.
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