Wessel Wessels

Author Archives: Wessel Wessels

Lifelong weather enthusiast and researcher. Interested in all things weather-related, and how global climate and local weather interact. Owner of multiple home weather stations for almost two decades, but still learning and expanding his knowledge base every day. He is dedicated to sharing his expertise and knowledge to get more people involved and interested in both their local and global weather and how it interacts with climate on a worldwide scale. Love sharing my knowledge on home weather stations, how they work, and the many ways you can use them to your advantage. All in all, he is just a bit of weather nerd.

What Is A Storm Glass And How Does It Work To Forecast The Weather?

What Is A Storm Glass heading

Weather enthusiasts may have heard of a storm glass, also known as weather glass or a weather globe. But what is this meteorological instrument, where did it originate from, and how does it work?

A storm glass is a meteorological instrument used in the 19th century to predict the weather. It consists of a sealed glass tube filled with chemicals dissolved in distilled water. Weather predictions were based on the amount of crystallization and fogginess that occurred within the liquid.

They may have different names but are all one and the same thing. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Many also come with different colored liquids, as they are mostly used for ornamental purposes nowadays.

A little more than a century ago, these instruments were considered serious meteorological devices that were widely used to predict the weather. It became especially popular in Britain during the mid-1800s. (More on its history a little later in this article.)

A Short History Of The Storm Glass

For some reason, the real inventor of the storm glass is unknown. What we do know, however, is that a British naval officer by the name of Admiral Robert FitzRoy is the man responsible for making it famous.

Admiral Robert FitzRoy

Admiral FitzRoy was a keen weather enthusiast, and during his time aboard the HMS Beagle, he did numerous experiments with the storm glass and carefully documented all his findings.

As a strong believer in the capabilities of the storm glass, Admiral FitzRoy promoted its use throughout the United Kingdom to help meteorologists make better weather forecasts, especially after a storm in 1859 caused hundreds of fatalities at sea.

Since the more accurate barometers of the time were too expensive for mass production, the British Crown ordered large numbers of storm glasses to be delivered to coastal towns and maritime communities throughout the British Islands.

At the time, storm glasses became commonly known as "FitzRoy's storm barometers."

During the late 1800s, mercury barometers became much affordable. As a result, storm glasses started to lose their popularity. 

They also proved to be much less accurate than originally thought, which contributed in no small part to their demise in the meteorological community. 

How Does a Storm Glass Work?

Before taking a closer look at how a storm glass works, one first needs to define this meteorological device formally:

What Is A Storm Glass?

What Is A Storm Glass

A storm glass is a meteorological instrument used in the 19th century to predict the weather. It consists of a sealed glass tube filled with chemicals dissolved in distilled water. Weather predictions were based on the amount of crystallization and fogginess that occurred within the liquid.

Actually, the question in the heading should be whether a storm glass works at all instead of how it works. And the answer all depends on who you ask. To get a clearer picture, one needs to take a closer look at how it is supposed to work.

If Admiral FitzRoy were alive today, he would be able to provide you with an extensive chart detailing "with certainty" how different changes in the storm glass correlates with specific future weather events.

As previously mentioned, the chemicals mixed into the distilled water of a storm glass have a clear appearance. Under certain atmospheric conditions, the liquid starts to crystallize and take on a foggy appearance.

FitzRoy used the different stages of crystallization and fogginess that occur in the liquid as weather conditions change to establish a pattern and draw up an extensive forecast chart.

In the diagram below, you will be able to see what characteristics in the storm glass Admiral FitzRoy associated with which weather conditions. The state of the liquid is displayed in the left column and the predicted weather conditions in the right column of the diagram:

Liquid Appearance And Structure 

Predicted Weather Conditions

Clear Liquid 

Sunny and pleasant conditions

Small stars in clear liquid during clear winter days

Snowy conditions expected

Large flakes spread throughout the liquid

Cloudy and wet conditions in moderate climates · Snowy conditions during winter

Threads present near the top of the liquid

Windy conditions expected

Liquid appears cloudy 

Cloudy conditions with possible rain

Liquid appears cloudy with small stars

Thunderstorms expected

Small dots appear in liquid

Humid or misty weather expected

Crystals appear at bottom of liquid

Frosty conditions expected

The various states of the liquid and the predicted weather conditions associated with them (as shown in the diagram above), are the conclusions of Admiral FitzRoy. It has not been substantiated by any recent research or studies.

In truth, not enough research and studies have been done to reach a definitive conclusion as to exactly how a storm glass works and how accurate it really is.

Unfortunately, enough studies have been done to confidently state that a storm glass has at best a 50 percent chance of accurately forecasting the weather.

During FitzRoy's time, storm glasses were not able to be completely sealed due to the limitation of the technology of the time. As a result, a change in barometric pressure could have played a role in his findings.

Modern-day storm glasses are completely sealed. This means the only atmospheric variable that can really play any part in the changes occurring in a storm glass is temperature.

The effect temperature has on the liquid inside a storm glass can not be accurately measured or used to produce any kind of legitimate weather prediction. 

Conclusion

Even though storm glasses didn't turn out to be the meteorological wonders they were once thought to be, they still remain fascinating and an interesting talking point among weather enthusiasts and even meteorologists today.

As I already mentioned, storm glasses are still produced and used today, but not for any serious meteorological work. Today they serve a more ornamental purpose, which is why they come in many interesting shapes, sizes, and colors.

They actually make an aesthetically pleasing addition to any study, studio, or bookshelf display, and it is still fascinating to observe how the liquid within the glass crystallizes under different weather conditions.

If you are interested, you can find out more about the different modern-day examples of storm glasses available by following this link.

Never miss out again when another interesting and helpful article is released and stay updated, while also receiving helpful tips & information by simply  clicking on this link .

Until next time, keep your eye on the weather!

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How To Predict The Weather Using Your Cloud Knowledge And Your Home Weather Station

How To Predict The Weather Using Clouds And Your Home Weather Station heading

In today's connected world, we have almost unlimited access to weather forecasts across different platforms. But by simply observing cloud formations, we can make our own short-term weather forecast.

And it is exactly this challenge we will be addressing in this article. By combining the power of thorough cloud knowledge with your weather station readings, you can be turned into a formidable forecaster of your local weather.

But let us not get ahead of ourselves. By concentrating on cloud identification first, then look at how you can combine this with your weather station in a later section, you will avoid any confusion and go through the process in a logical and orderly fashion.

Different Cloud Types

In another article, we already discussed and explained the ten different cloud systems and the four categories under which each one falls. You can find the article here. (I suggest you keep this article open and nearby.)

You will quickly notice that some clouds look almost identical, and you may find it difficult to distinguish between some of them. In truth, some seasoned meteorologists still find it hard to make a clear distinction in some cases.

Luckily there are some steps you can take that will help you to make cloud identification much more simple. One technique that works very well and consists of a series of logical steps is the one we will focus on. 

How To Tell Clouds Apart

By following a few simple steps, you will be able to identify the type of cloud you are looking at with some certainty. You may be surprised by how deceptively simple the process seems. However, the more you practice, the more accurate you will get. 

The following steps are not foolproof but will go a long in helping you make confident cloud identifications. Here they are:

1) Determine The Shape Of The Cloud

By recognizing the shape of the cloud, you will immediately start to narrow down the wide selection of clouds. Pay attention and see if you can identify any of the following shapes following cloud shapes:

a) Puffy, Cotton-Like Or, Woolly Appearance

Cumulus Clouds

This shape is normally associated with different cumulus shaped clouds, often resembling balls of cotton. Examples include:

  • Cumulus
  • Cirrocumulus
  • Altocumulus
  • Stratocumulus
  • Cumulonimbus

b) Layered In Appearance, Covering Large Areas Of The Sky

Altostratus Clouds

This shape clearly points to the featureless stratus-type clouds that appear at different heights in the atmosphere, which sometimes covers the entire sky from horizon to horizon. Examples include:

  • Status
  • Cirrostratus
  •  Altostratus
  • Nimbostratus

c) Feathery Or Flaky Appearance

Cirrus Clouds

This is a common cirrus cloud-type shape, especially when the clouds are also very light in color. Examples include:

  • Cirrus
  • Cirrocumulus
  • Cirrostratus

2) Note The Cloud Color

Although this rule is not set in stone, it gives a very clear indication of the state of the cloud you are observing.

A white or very light-colored cloud usually indicates a light cloud density, which means the moisture level is fairly low. 

Think of the white cirrus clouds high up in the sky or the light-colored altostratus clouds that both have no precipitation associated with them.

In contrast, a gray to dark gray colored cloud usually indicates a high cloud density, which means the moisture level is very high.

When a low-lying stratus cloud thickens and turns into a nimbostratus cloud, it turns into a dark gray color. Similarly, a large cumulonimbus cloud typically has a dark gray base. Both these clouds are associated with heavy rainfall.

3) Determine The Height Of The Cloud

If you already read through the article describing the different cloud types, you will know that clouds are mainly categorized according to their height. If you need to refresh your memory, you can read the article here.

Height is also a great way to help you identify a specific type of cloud. I know it is not always easy to judge the height of a cloud, but you can get a good idea by looking at nearby objects.

Contrails
  • A flock of birds that quickly disappear in the clouds as they gain height will expose a low-level cloud very quickly. 
  • A cloud that covers the top of a relatively high mountainous area may point towards a medium-level cloud.
  • When you observe a jetliner high in the sky, visible through feathery white clouds, sometimes leaving contrails in their wake, you are looking at high-level clouds.

These observations may seem trivial but can be crucial in making a final determination as to the type of cloud you are trying to identify. 

4) Consider The Surroundings

When we talk about surroundings in this context, we refer to the atmospheric conditions surrounding the clouds.

This includes keeping an eye on variables like the wind, humidity, and temperature. (All these variables will be recorded and stored by your home weather station anyway, but in this context, you want to physically observe it to help identify a cloud type.)

While studying a cloud, make notes of any wind movements, changes in temperature, any rainfall, and other conditions you experience. Knowing what the conditions are like and what specific attributes a certain cloud has should help to eliminate any further confusion.

Important Note

Make sure you record all your observation when identifying clouds. Even a simple spreadsheet will do to capture all your observations and conclusions, as well as the date and time of each event.

This will be vital information to compare with your weather station data to form weather patterns and make accurate weather forecasts. 

Using Your Home Weather Station

Modern home weather stations have more sensors than you'll ever need. My own Ambient Weather Osprey station has ten sensors, but I seldom pay attention to more than five of them. I simply don't need them.

If you are familiar with any of my other articles, you will know I consider the following three atmospheric variables the most important in any weather station. They are:

  1. Temperature
  2. Humidity
  3. Barometric Pressure

The importance of these three variables is simple. 

  • They are the most important indicators of future weather conditions, meaning weather forecasting.
  • They also reflect why you experience the weather the way you do. (Feeling hot, uncomfortable, short-of-breath, etc.)

It is absolutely vital that you also record and store your weather station's readings, as you will need them in the future to compare with your cloud observations, as I will explain in the next section.

Luckily, keeping track of these variables is a simple process with modern weather stations. The majority of them connect to their own or third-party online servers that record and store all sensor readings after a proper setup.  

Apart from the three weather variables I singled out, two other variables are also useful and important for the sake of this article's subject matter. They are wind (speed & direction) and rainfall.

You can get more in-depth information about a weather station's different weather sensors, what they measure, and how they work in this article.

Now it's time to find out why and how cloud knowledge and your home weather station work together to establish local weather patterns and make better forecasts.

Putting It All Together

If you are a home weather station owner, you probably already know that your home weather station's "weather forecast" is often not very accurate. It also differs substantially from the local or regional weather forecasts in many cases.

(If you are very lucky, your weather station's forecasts may be reliable and accurate and also correlate with local and regional forecasts. This is seldom the case, though.)

There are a couple of good reasons for this discrepancy:

  • Your local area (neighborhood) has its own micro-climate that may differ from the general regional weather conditions.
  • Your weather station also measures different variables in your area than that which are measured by a bigger professional weather station on a larger scale.
  • Lastly, the range of your home weather station sensors is much more limited than those used by professional weather stations that can measure atmospheric conditions hundreds of miles away.
Weather Station

For these reasons, it is perfectly understandable why the best personal weather station money can buy will battle to make an accurate weather forecast (using its presets and making comparisons with local forecasts). Luckily it's not that hard to solve the problem.

You simply need to learn what measurements on your home weather station lead to certain weather conditions in YOUR area. In other words, you need to establish a weather pattern that is unique to your area.

And this is here where your cloud observation and weather station data come in. 

Combining Your Cloud Observation Data With Your Weather Station To To Make Better Forecasts

The procedure is very simple. You can learn to recognize this pattern with consistent practice. (More on this "on the fly" exercise a little later.)

Even better, you can take the time to sit down and do a proper analysis of the data. Simply follow these steps: 

  1. Sit down and study a record of cloud observation data over a specific period of time. (Preferably for at least a period of 12 months to have enough data to work with.)  
  2. Mark the areas where notable weather events took place (like heavy rainfall, very cold or hot temperatures, storm systems, etc.)
  3. Now make a record of your home weather station's sensor data for the same period of time.
  4. Make a note of what the different weather sensors measured before or during each notable weather event you marked.
  5. Pretty soon, you will start to start to see a pattern emerging as you look at your weather station's measurements that preceded and accompanied every weather event, as well as what type of cloud was present during this period.

You can confirm this pattern by looking at a certain weather event, like rainfall, whenever it occurred. If the same weather station readings repeatedly preceded this event, you have an established pattern.

If the same cloud system also preceded the same type of weather event in the majority of cases, this can be seen as further proof of the already established pattern.

Cloud-And-Weather Staton Measurement

And there you have it. You are now able to determine what kind of weather to expect when your weather station measures a certain combination of readings. 

If the clouds you see correlates with your station's readings (as established when you were comparing and formulating the weather pattern for your area), it will serve as further confirmation that you can expect a certain type of weather.

"And this is exactly How you can Predict The Weather by observing the clouds Together With using Your Home Weather Station"

It looks a little daunting, I know. However, by keeping a thorough record, and going through these steps a couple of times, will help you master the process more quickly than you think.

Using "On The Fly" Consistent Practices

At the beginning of this section, I recommended constant practice to learn to use the clouds and your weather station together to make an accurate weather prediction.

You may not want to wait a year to gather enough data to study, make comparisons and form your own system of weather forecasting.

You can simply keep your eye out for any cloud development and look at what your station's readings are at the same time. Then you obviously need to make a note of what the resulting weather conditions are.

By doing this repeatedly, you will start to see similarities between cloud developments, certain weather station readings, and the resulting weather.

This method of "learning as you go" is one way of learning to "read" the weather by constantly observing clouds and sensor readings.

This needs to be tested and confirmed over time, though, and it here where the 5 step method I described above comes into play. 

Conclusion

This article turned out to be a bit more "technical" than I intended, but it is the best possible way of helping you make use of the resources at your disposal to establish weather patterns and create accurate weather forecasts for your little corner of the world.

As any professional meteorologist or weather service provider will tell you, your forecasting system will never be foolproof, and nature will do its best to create confusion and make you doubt your methods.

You will find yourself constantly tweaking your "system" as you learn more and additional data comes available. Welcome to the never-ending world of meteorology! 

However, you will keep on improving as time goes by, and things definitely won't get boring. Our unpredictable weather will make sure of that.

Never miss out again when another interesting and helpful article is released and stay updated, while also receiving helpful tips & information by simply  clicking on this link .

Until next time, keep your eye on the weather!

Also Read

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The Different Types Of Clouds And Their Meanings

The Different Types Of Clouds And Their Meanings heading

We often briefly look up at the skies in the morning to see how cloudy it is before heading off to work, school, or college. However, different cloud types can tell us more about the weather than we realize.

Some types of cloud systems can look almost identical to the casual observer. To be honest, it can even be confusing for some seasoned weather enthusiasts. 

And to make things more confusing, you have the odd occasion where you experience light rain or drizzle without a cloud in sight. This phenomenon is called a sunshower or serein.

After doing some research, one will also find several different classification systems used for categorizing or grouping different types of clouds together. 

Cloud Classification Chart

The form of classification that makes the most sense and is widely accepted in the meteorological community, is the one we will focus on in this article.

This system categorizes clouds according to their height in the atmosphere. There are a total of four main groups with the ten major cloud systems organized within each group.

I will name and list the four different cloud groups first, including the ten cloud systems associated with each group. We will then proceed to examine each cloud system with their unique characteristics and features.

The 4 Categories Of Clouds And The 10 Cloud Types Associated With Each One

As I already mentioned, the main four cloud groups are categorized according to their height, with the ten major cloud systems listed below the category they are associated with:

1) High Clouds
  • Cirrus 
  • Cirrocumulus
  • Cirrostratus
2) Middle Clouds
  • Altocumulus
  • Altostratus
3) Low Clouds
  • Stratus
  • Stratocumulus
4) Multi-level Clouds (Clouds with a large vertical buildup)
  • Cumulus
  • Cumulonimbus
  • Nimbostratus

Now that you have a clear idea what the four main cloud groups are, as well as the ten major clouds and which group they are associated with, we can start to focus in more detail on each group and cloud system. 

High Clouds

Clouds are classified as high clouds when they occur at altitudes of 6096 meters (20 000 feet) or higher. At these heights temperatures are below freezing point, meaning the water moisture in the clouds is in the form of ice crystals or supercooled water droplets.

(Supercooled water droplets are water that remains in liquid form below freezing point. Upon contact with ice crystals or any other object like dust or pollen, however, they immediately freeze into crystal form.)

Due to the height of these clouds, they don't produce precipitation of any kind on their own. They are, however, sometimes seen as early indicators of stormy weather to follow later.

The clouds most commonly found at this height are Cirrus, Cirrocumulus, and Cirrostratus clouds:

1) Cirrus Clouds

Cirrus clouds are the familiar thin, feathery looking clouds you see high up in the sky on an otherwise clear and sunny day. Some parts of these flaky clouds have an almost transparent look due to their light nature.

As is common with many high-level clouds, they always occur in during clear and pleasant weather conditions. However, as I already pointed out, they may be early indicators of stormy weather or warm fronts.

2) Cirrocumulus Clouds

Cirrocumulus Clouds

Cirrocumulus clouds are a variation of Cirrus clouds. They are patchy looking clouds which are often arranged in rows. Some meteorologists see them as a degraded form of Cirrus clouds.

These high-altitude clouds are small and very short-lived and are sometimes referred to as cloudlets. As with Cirrus clouds, they appear and are associated with clear and pleasant weather conditions.

3) Cirrostratus Clouds

Cirrostratus Clouds

Cirrostratus clouds can be best described as a transparent veil of clouds. Unlike the two previously mentioned high-level clouds, they have a very smooth appearance. 

The veil of milky looking clouds can sometimes cover almost the entire sky. Due to the refraction of light by ice crystals, these clouds form the rainbow-colored halos we often see forming around the sun.

These clouds are an indication of high moisture levels in the upper atmosphere, which often precedes the arrival of a warm front.   

Middle Clouds

Middle clouds usually occur at altitudes of between 2000 meters (6 500 feet) and 6096 meters (20 000 feet).

As they appear much lower in the atmosphere, some condensation forms above water's freezing point. This means middle clouds contain a mixture of ice crystals and water droplets.

Apart from appearing lower in the atmosphere, they are also denser than higher-level clouds. This means they are less prone to being transparent and allowing sunlight through.

Middle clouds seldom produce any rainfall. They do, sometimes, create what is called Virga. (Virga is rain or snow that starts falling but evaporates before reaching the ground).

4) Altocumulus Clouds

Altocumulus Clouds

Altocumulus clouds are a very common sight across the world. They are characterized by their woolly, round/oval shaped appearance. These patchy clouds have a white to light grey appearance and are sometimes formed in parallel rows.

Often observed during warm and humid mornings in the middle atmosphere, these clouds can signal the onset of thunderstorms or cold fronts. The time of year and your location will determine the type of weather to expect.  

5) Altostratus Clouds

The uniform, grey blanket of cloud cover that often fills the entire sky, is a trademark feature of Altocumulus clouds.

These mid-level clouds are much denser than the similar shaped Cirrostratus clouds found higher up in the atmosphere, meaning they are less transparent and don't allow shadows to be cast on the ground. They are still thin enough to be able to see the sun through them. 

Altostratus clouds are frequently associated with light rain, but due to their height and density, they are not able to produce heavy rains.

Low Clouds

Low clouds are formed at altitudes of below 2000 meters (6 500 feet). At these lower heights, the clouds consist mainly of water droplets.

(Cold winter months with subzero temperatures are the exception when you will find ice crystals present in these low-altitude clouds.) 

6) Stratus Clouds

Stratus Clouds

Stratus clouds are made up of thin layers of clouds that are formed close to the ground. They are mostly featureless with a grayish color. 

One of their standout features is taking up large portions of the sky at a time. (Often stretching from horizon to horizon.)

Stratus clouds are closely related to fog. In fact, fog is nothing more than a form of stratus cloud that forms at ground level. 

The precipitation associated with these dreary looking clouds mostly consists of mist or a light drizzle. 

7) Stratocumulus Clouds

Stratocumulus Clouds

These low-lying, puffy looking clouds are spaced closely together, with small pieces of blues sky visible in between them. When viewed from below they have a honeycomb appearance.

With colors ranging from white to grayish, and their tendency to cover substantial parts of the sky, people often associate rain with these clouds.

In reality, stratocumulus clouds are pretty benign when it comes to precipitation. A light drizzle may be the most you will get out of this cloud system. 

Multi-level Clouds

Multi-level Clouds are clouds that have a large vertical buildup. They are called multi-level clouds because of their ability to spread through the lower, middle, and upper cloud levels.

The clouds are characterized by vertical air movements called updrafts. These vertical currents can spread moisture upwards through the cloud system into the upper regions of the atmosphere.

The combination of updrafts and downdrafts in multi-level clouds creates an environment that can result in severe weather events. This includes heavy rainfalls hailstorms and even tornadoes that are formed within multi-level clouds.

Not all multi-level clouds develop to this extent though and can be completely benign, as our first example will illustrate. 

8) Cumulus Clouds

Cumulus Clouds

The light, puffy looking clouds scattered across the sky, are arguably the most well-known of all the clouds. (It's probably the first image that comes to mind when you think of a cloud.)

They are instantly recognizable with their white, fluffy round tops and flat bottoms. They are fairly evenly spread out with a fair amount of blue skies visible between them. (Their shape is often compared to that of a cauliflower.)

Cumulus clouds appear during sunny days early in the day and disappear towards the evening.  With no precipitation associated with them, they are often referred to as "fair weather clouds".

9) Cumulonimbus Clouds

Cumulonimbus Clouds

Starting out as a humble cumulus cloud, strong vertical air movement (updrafts) combined with enough humid air allow this type of cloud to develop. Cumulonimbus clouds are seen as your typical storm clouds.

They start at a low cloud level and can grow and expand up to the highest level. It is within this space, dominated by updrafts and downdrafts, that all the elements necessary for the development of a storm system are formed.

When viewed from a distance, cumulonimbus clouds appear to have a low dark base, with the clouds above it building up to great heights, creating a spectacular towering effect.

The lower levels of a cumulonimbus cloud consists mainly of water droplets, while the upper level, where temperatures are well below zero, mainly consists of ice crystals and supercooled water.

As far as precipitation goes, these clouds are known for producing heavy rainfall and hailstorms. They are also responsible for producing violent winds, and it is within this cloud system that tornadoes can occur. 

10) Nimbostratus Clouds

Nimbostratus Clouds

Nimbostratus clouds typically cover the entire sky. It is a dark, thick layer of clouds, capable of completely blotting out the sun. 

Starting at a low level and building up in height, the clouds are usually loaded with moisture and associated with long periods of persistent rain or snowfall. That is why it is known as your typical rain cloud, with the precipitation usually spread out over a large area.

Alongside cumulonimbus clouds, nimbostratus clouds are almost guaranteed to provide the area it covers with a substantial amount of precipitation. 

However, they do not have the uniquely identifiable shape of cumulonimbus clouds, and it's harder to judge where the rainfall will take place due to the large area it covers.

Conclusion

Breaking it up into proper categories helps you to better distinguish the different clouds from one another. You should now be able to start telling the major cloud systems apart.

You will be forgiven for still finding it difficult to tell certain clouds apart. Some of them are almost indistinguishable under some conditions. Even experienced still have a hard time sometimes telling them apart.

But you know what they say, "Practice makes perfect".  

In a separate article, I go into a little more detail and take you through the steps to help you identify cloud systems. I also explain how you can use your cloud knowledge alongside your home weather station to make better forecasts. You can find that article here.

Never miss out again when another interesting and helpful article is released and stay updated, while also receiving helpful tips & information by simply  clicking on this link .

Until next time, keep your eye on the weather!

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What Is A Weather Radar And How Does It Work?

How Does A Weather Radar Work heading

Weather enthusiasts will be familiar with the different ways of collecting meteorological data but don't always realize the importance of using radar technology. We take a closer look at the weather radar.

A weather radar is an observational instrument, typically a pulse-Doppler radar, used in meteorology to identify and picture various types of precipitation, measure their magnitude, and track their movement. It does so by sending out electromagnetic or microwaves and analyzing the returning echoes.

Radar technology has been around for some time, with its origins dating back as far as 1886, when scientist Heinrich Hertz illustrated that radio signals could be reflected off objects. The name is an abbreviation for the term "Radio Detection And Ranging."

While using it to spot enemy aircraft during World War II, radar operators discovered that their systems were able to detect rainfall as well, which caused enemy targets to be obscured in many instances.

weather radar

After the war, some systems continued to be used by scientists to experiment with the detection of precipitation. Over time this leads to the implementation of weather radars by governments and meteorological agencies worldwide.

This will be one of the main focus points of this article. The aim is to explain and illustrate precisely what a weather radar is, its characteristics and the way in which it is used for all meteorological purposes.

Characteristics Of A Weather Radar

Before delving into its characteristics and how it works, one first needs to define exactly what a weather radar is:

What Is A Weather Radar?

A weather radar is an observational instrument, typically a pulse-Doppler radar, used in meteorology to identify and picture various types of precipitation, measure their magnitude, and track their movement. It does so by sending out electromagnetic or microwaves and analyzing the returning echoes.

Imagine a giant golf ball sitting on top of a tee. You now have a pretty good idea what a weather radar looks like, as the accompanying picture clearly shows.  

Weather radars come in different sphere sizes and tower heights, depending on their specific purpose, the type of technology used, and the topography of the surrounding terrain. 

The dome-shaped sphere, situated at the top of the tower, is called a radome. It houses the rotating antenna/dish, which is installed in the center of the dome.

How Does A Weather Radar Work?

While rotating, the dish sends out radio (electromagnetic/microwave) waves up to a maximum distance of around 230 km (143 miles).

How A Weather Radar Works

If the signal encounters any precipitation (rain, hail, or snow), it is reflected back to the radar tower, which interprets the reflected signal (also called the echo). The radar can determine a lot from the characteristics of the reflected wave. 

The length of time it takes the echo to return to the sender indicates how far away the precipitation is from the radar. The strength of the echo, on the other hand, provides a strong suggestion of the type of precipitation encountered (rain, hail, or snow).

Although this varies from one radar to another, a signal is normally sent out with a frequency of around once every six to ten minutes. The resulting animated radar image forms a thirty-minute loop.

Although a radar image does not give you a clear and definite forecast, it shows you where the rainfall has been, as well the direction in which it may be moving. 

On modern-day weather systems, the results captured by a weather radar are displayed as a color image on a display screen.

A color scale is used to show the intensity of the precipitation. Usually, the most intense form of precipitation is indicated by black. (In many cases, black represents hail.)

Radar Image

Color scales are also used to indicate the amount of rainfall, not just the intensity. The two terms are often used interchangeably, which can be confusing.

Be sure to read the weather scale that accompanies every radar image to confirm what each color means for that specific image.

Each radar image has a timestamp at the bottom of the image, which is in Universal (Greenwich) Time or UTC. This helps anyone viewing the picture to know when the image was created, no matter where in the world or in which timezone they are.

Limitations Of A Weather Radar

With all the advantages and benefits of the weather radar, they are not without their shortcomings or limitations. Here are a few of the most notable drawbacks:

  • The optical range of a weather radar is limited to 5 - 200 kilometers (3 -124 miles). This is mainly due to the curvature of the earth. The radar beam travels in a straight line, meaning beyond its maximum range, it is unable to detect objects close to the surface of the ground.  
  • As a result of the previous point, the radar may be able to pick up precipitation that is much higher up in the air beyond its optical limit. This does, however, not reflect the conditions on the surface, which can give a false reading as a result.
  • It is difficult to pick up drizzle that is close to the ground, as it often falls below the radar's beam, and the droplets are sometimes too small to detect (difficult to bounce back the signal).
  • A weather radar cannot detect echoes that are very close to or above the radar itself. This falls within what is known as the "cone of silence."
  • Sometimes a radar can "falsely" pick up what is perceived to be precipitation, which is in reality flocks of birds, smoke, or swarms of insects.
  • Radar beams cannot "see'' through and are obstructed by permanent fixtures such as tall buildings and mountains. This is one of the main reasons why weather radars are located in large open areas.

The Doppler Weather Radar

Advances in radar technology have allowed us to add to the functionality of the conventional radar. The Doppler radar system is one such case. So, how does a Doppler radar work?

Doppler Weather Radar

A Doppler radar adds to the capabilities of traditional weather radar systems by possessing the ability to measure the direction and velocity of wind, and as a result, the direction the weather is moving in. (Many modern weather radar systems are Doppler radars.)

It is capable of measuring the wind direction and velocity by measuring the frequency of an object. It analyzes how the movement of the object has changed the frequency of the returning signal. (This is called the Doppler effect).

More specifically, it measures the pitch of the frequency. An object moving towards the radar compresses the returning frequency, causing a higher pitch. An object moving away from the radar "stretches" the returning frequency, creating a lower pitch.

In short, a higher frequency means an object (for example, rain) is moving towards the radar. A lower frequency means an object is moving away from the radar.

This ability is a very important function of modern weather radars implementing the Doppler effect. It allows meteorologists to determine the direction a weather system is moving in with a much greater degree of certainty.

In practice, it is used by organizers of outdoor events to better plan and adjust activities. It is also used in sports where weather plays a big role (like cricket and motorsport). Knowing if and how quickly rain will arrive has become a vital part of their planning and strategy.

Conclusion

It is clear to see how important the addition of weather radar systems is to the field of meteorology. Used alongside more traditional forms of weather detection, it helps to produce much more accurate weather forecasts.

The addition of the Doppler radar (which is now slowly replacing all traditional weather radars) has further enhanced the capabilities of weather radars. It is now commonly used in many outdoor events where the weather conditions play a crucial role. 

Never miss out again when another interesting and helpful article is released and stay updated, while also receiving helpful tips & information by simply  clicking on this link .

Until next time, keep your eye on the weather!

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How To Read A Synoptic Weather Map

Reading A Weather Map

Weather forecasts are usually accompanied by maps covered with different symbols, lines, and colors. Meteorologists use these synoptic weather maps extensively to illustrate current and future conditions.

But what do all those lines, symbols, and colors mean? And how does the weather map help you get a better understanding of the weather forecast?

Weather Forecast Symbols

In a previous article, we covered all the symbols and accompanying information to help you fully understand what the prominent forecasting symbols mean. (You can read the in-depth article here).

To complete the picture, however, I want to help you get a better understanding of the weather maps used in forecasts as well. By understanding a weather map, you will get a much better idea of what to expect and why.

This is also meant to help those of you owning or planning on buying a home weather station in the future to better understand a weather map to use your device more effectively. 

Understanding how to use a weather map effectively will assist you in making better sense of your weather station's readings and how they correlate with indicators on the map. 

Before we start examining the different elements that make up a weather chart in detail, we need to clarify what a weather map is:

What Is A Synoptic Weather Map?

What Is A Weather Map?

A synoptic weather map displays different atmospheric conditions and weather patterns on a map of a particular region. Symbols and other graphical elements represent various weather conditions and events overlayed on the map and are typically used during meteorological forecasts.

In recent years, advances in animation and display technology have enabled weather forecasters to use animations and display technology to not only display current atmospheric conditions but also project how these conditions will evolve into anticipated future weather events (forecasts).  

It is important to understand the difference between a chart showing current conditions and the modern graphical equivalent of a forecast showing an impressive and realistic animated prediction of how the weather might react in the future.

The former is an accurate portrayal of current conditions, while the latter is a  part of the prediction/forecast and should not be taken as fact.

Weather Map Symbols And Elements

The various symbols, icons, and elements on a weather chart represent some form of weather condition or event. Knowing what each of these elements symbolizes will help you to understand the different kinds of atmospheric conditions that are present on the map.

weather map symbols

Knowing what each element on a map means will help you to better read and understand the weather map, as well as better, follow the actual forecast. (You may even draw your own conclusions as to what to expect, based on your personal experience and level of expertise).

Each element will be described and explained, as well as what they represent. Where possible, I will provide a link to a separate article that offers detailed information about the condition or event represented by the element or symbol. (Should you like to learn more about the weather occurrence and its implications).

The best way to proceed is to start with the most commonly used elements and move to the lesser-known ones in the latter part of the section.

On almost any weather map, the majority of weather systems are formed around two areas:

Low Pressure System

Low-Pressure System

A low-pressure system is an area where the air (barometric) pressure is significantly lower than that of the surrounding air. As air always flows from an area of high to low pressure, winds are drawn towards this system.

In the Northern Hemisphere, air circulates counterclockwise around a low-pressure system, and in the Southern Hemisphere, it flows clockwise around them. You can find out more about the development and characteristics of a low-pressure system in this article.

A low-pressure system is the source of a variety of weather systems forming around it. This can vary from fold fronts to more severe weather systems.

Some strong low-pressure systems in the sub-tropics can lead to tropical depressions which, in turn, can lead to much stronger storm systems. You can read exactly how these storms are formed in this article.

High Pressure System

High-Pressure System

A high-pressure system is an area where the air (barometric) pressure is higher than that of the surrounding air. In this case, air usually flows away from the center of this system for the same reason it flows towards a low-pressure system. 

You can find out more about the development and characteristics of a high-pressure system in this article.

Unlike a low-pressure system, it does not always produce severe weather conditions and is generally associated with much more pleasant weather conditions.

This does not mean that a high-pressure system cannot produce significant weather systems. Usually, the weather produced is not as violent and severe as those generated by a low-pressure system. 

You can find out more about the type of weather associated with high-pressure systems in this article. (Also, learn why the agricultural sector normally welcomes the weather associated with a high-pressure system.)

A variety of tentacle-like arms extend from these two systems and interact in different ways with each other. These "arms" usually symbolizes a certain type of front, each one with its own characteristics and resulting weather system.

Each type of front has its unique symbol representing it on a weather map. The most important ones are:  

Cold Front

Cold Front

A cold font normally develops around a low-pressure system when the leading edge of a cold moving mass of air meets a body of warmer air. The boundary formed between these two air masses is called a cold front.

A cold front is typically associated with more severe weather conditions, including wind, rain, clouds, and potentially thunderstorms. The severity of the weather depends on the strength of the low-pressure system and the conditions where the two air masses meet.

You can find more information about the development and characteristics of a cold front in this article.

Warm Front

Warm Front

A warm front usually develops around a high-pressure system when a moving mass of warm air encounters a colder and denser body of air. The boundary where these two air masses meet is called a warm front.

A warm front is normally associated with more moderate weather, producing light rains for a sustained period of time.

You can find more information about the development and characteristics of a warm front in this article.

Stationary Front

Stationary Front

Like a cold and warm front, a stationary front also occurs when a body of warm air meets a body of cold air. In this case, neither the air masses is powerful enough to dominate and move the other one out of the way. As a result, the front stays in one place and is called a stationary front.  

Weather normally associated with these conditions usually consists of long periods of consistent rain that stays in one location.

Occluded Front

Occluded Front

A cold front naturally moves faster than a warm front. On the odd occasion, a cold front can catch up with a warm front. When this happens, an occluded front is formed. (It is typically indicated by a purple line with the half-circles and triangles.)

A wide variety of weather conditions can form when an occluded front is formed, but it is usually associated with dry air.

A combination of two or more fronts intertwined with each other around high and low-pressure systems usually dominates a weather map.

They are not the only elements that can be found on a weather map, however...

Lines On A Weather Map

isobars

Isobars 

Very often, you will see circular or oval-shaped lines starting outside a high or low-pressure system. They are followed up by a number of similar lines, growing larger and changing in shape as new ones are added.

These lines are called isobars. Each line represents an area of equal air (atmospheric) pressure, as it would occur at sea level. (Each line is measured at or brought down to sea level to remove any influence height or other variables may have on barometric pressure.)

Isobars play an important role in indicating how pressure in the atmosphere changes as it moves away from the center of the pressure system (high or low).

For example, it shows you in which direction areas of the same pressure is spreading in relation to the center of the pressure system. Larger open areas usually indicate these areas with the lines spaced far apart.

The spacing between the lines also clearly shows you how steep the gradient, or how quick the change in pressure is. The closer the lines are spaced together, the stronger the wind speed in the area will be.

(Remember, air flows from an area of high pressure to an area of low pressure. The closer the lines are spaced together, the steeper the gradient and the stronger the wind speed.) 

Conclusion

As you just found out, once you know the basic symbols and elements used on a weather map, it looks much less confusing and intimidating.

It will also help you to better understand what the meteorologist means when pointing to different areas on the map to explain how the weather will behave in the future.

Some weather forecasting symbols indicating future weather conditions are sometimes also displayed on the weather map itself. Fortunately, we already covered each of these symbols and what they mean, which you can find in this article

Never miss out again when another interesting and helpful article is released and stay updated, while also receiving helpful tips & information by simply  following this link .

Until next time, keep your eye on the weather!

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Understanding The Difference Between Weather And Climate

Difference Between Weather And Climate heading

Weather and climate are among some of the most discussed topics worldwide and are often mistakenly used interchangeably. We take a closer look at both occurrences and the differences between them.

Weather is defined as the specific atmospheric conditions you experience at a given time in a particular location. Climate, on the other hand, is the average weather conditions and trends of a region established over an extended period, typically measured over a minimum of thirty years or more.

In fact, for a vast number of people, weather and climate are one and the same thing. For those in the know, this can be incredibly frustrating, even infuriating. This is especially true for weather enthusiasts, meteorologists, and climatologists.

To be fair, though, if weather and climate are not your passion, it is easy to get confused. The two terms are often used interchangeably by those who are supposed to know better, sometimes even by the mainstream media.

In this article, we highlight the difference between weather and climate, as well as the factors that make them different from each other.

However, we need to be more specific to really understand the difference between the weather and climate. This means we need to look at the specific factors that determine the weather and climate.

The Role Of Time, Patterns, and Averages In Determining Weather And Climate

Before delving into the specifics of how time, patterns, and averages impact the weather and climate, one first needs to define exactly what the difference between the two occurrences are:

The Difference Between Weather and Climate

Weather is the actual atmospheric conditions you experience at a specific time in a particular location. Climate, though, refers to the weather patterns and averages of a region established over an extended period, typically measured over a minimum of thirty years or more.

The Role Of Time In Weather And Climate

The biggest difference between weather and climate can be summed up in one word: Time. As already mentioned, the weather is measured over a relatively short period of time, ranging from minutes to a day or two.

Climate takes much longer to establish weather patterns and averages, which is used in forecasting models to determine future atmospheric conditions.

The standard time to determine the climate (or climate change) of a region is 30 years. That is 30 years of weather data taken daily to establish weather patterns and averages.

But what are these weather patterns, and how are they established? 

Weather Patterns In Terms Of Weather And Climate

Weather patterns are specific atmospheric conditions that stay the same for a prolonged period of time.

In terms of weather, we look at a pattern of atmospheric conditions that last from a number of days to a couple of weeks. (Examples include long hot, dry spells or prolonged periods of cold and wet weather.)

In terms of climate, we observe weather patterns that are typically associated with specific seasons of a particular country or region. It may even establish a tendency or change in weather patterns between different years.

Pennsylvania Winter

In other words, patterns associated with weather are established over a short period of time (days and weeks), while patterns associated with climate are formed over several years (from decades to sometimes even centuries).  

(The cold, snowy winters and warm, humid summers of Pennsylvania is a perfect example of the former. The gradual increase in global temperatures over the past few decades is an example of the latter.)

Averages And The Elements Of Weather And Climate 

The elements that weather and climate use are the same ones. A few examples include temperature, rainfall, wind tendencies, humidity, solar radiation, barometric pressure, etc.

The averages calculated for each of these variables/elements, however, are used differently when applied to the weather and climate, respectively.

Some of the averages measured to determine the weather and climate conditions include:

1) Temperature Averages 

Weather Thermometer

Temperature, specifically temperature averages, is one of the main talking points in recent years due to the impact and concerns regarding Global Warming

In terms of weather, calculated temperature averages are mostly used in forecasts to indicate how warm or cold it will be in the coming days or weeks.

(Short-term temperature averages are also calculated and stored for historical weather data.)

In terms of climate, it is used to help determine how warm it will be during a specific season or time of year in a particular region.

2) Rainfall Averages

Rainfall is another important variable or element that plays a major role in determining atmospheric conditions over the short and long term.

In terms of weather, recorded rainfall averages are used in forecasts to indicate the probability and amount of rain to fall in the coming days or weeks.

(Short-term rainfall averages are also calculated and stored for historical weather data.)

In terms of climate, it is used to help determine how much or little precipitation is expected during a specific season or time of year in a particular region.

3) Wind Speed, Direction, And Frequency Averages

Wind is not just a result of weather and climate, but a main driving force of weather systems across the world. Therefore, it is crucial to constantly keep a record of winds and the resulting weather conditions, wherever and whenever it occurs.

strong winds

In terms of weather, recorded wind speed, direction & frequency averages are used, not only in forecasts to indicate wind tendencies in the coming days or week but also the resulting weather events.

(Short-term wind averages are also calculated and stored for historical weather data.)

In terms of climate, it is used to help determine how wind averages will influence and drive weather systems in the future during a specific season or time of year in a particular region.

4) Humidity Averages

Humidity is not such an obvious and tangible weather element or variable as temperature, rainfall, and wind tendencies, but plays just as an important role to the meteorologist and climatologist.

Without repeating everything that was already said about the other variables, the same applies to the recording and use of humidity averages.

If you are unfamiliar with humidity and the role it plays in weather and climate, you can find all the information in this article

These are just a few examples of how the averages of weather elements are used in different ways by the weather and climate. 

It can be a bit confusing, and you may have to read a few sentences and statements a couple of times before it makes.

It will be worth it, though, as it will help you better understand how these different averages are used differently in the context of weather and climate.

Expectations And Outcome

There are a LOT of similarities between weather and climate, as you would have noticed throughout this article.

It is no wonder and should come as no surprise that so many people are completely confused about the difference between the two or even concluded that they are essentially the same thing.

There is one very effective way of telling the difference between weather and climate, which is a  brilliant explanation of distinguishing between the two:

"Climate is what you expect. Weather is what you get."

That sums it up! This short statement can be explained as follows:

Expectation and Outcome

Decades of weather data gathering and calculations help meteorologists to create a prediction of what the general weather conditions will be like during particular seasons or how it will change in the future. 

In other words, they create an expectation.

When present-day weather forecasts are made, you experience the actual weather on a specific day or during a particular season. It may be on par or deviate from what the general climate conditions for the region may indicate.

This is the actual weather outcome or "what you get."

This should help to make things more understandable. It will also help to explain the heading of this section. The best way I can capture it in my words...

"Climate creates an expectation. Weather is the actual outcome."

These two explanations will help to summarize and define the real big difference between weather and climate. I think any more explanations or examples will just cause more confusion than really helping.

Conclusion

I hope after reading this article, you will have a clear understanding of the difference between weather and climate. I also highlighted why these differences exist and the different purposes each one serves.

Yes, they are similar in many ways. They can also seem to contradict each other, which is not the case. As I just said, they serve very different purposes.

The most important thing to remember is that, although they are different and serve different purposes, they are both part of the same overarching study of meteorology. They work to complement and not work against each other. 

Never miss out again when another interesting and helpful article is released and stay updated, while also receiving helpful tips & information by simply  following this link .

Until next time, keep your eye on the weather!

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Why Meteorologists Use Historical Weather Data To Make Forecasts And The Importance For Your Home Weather Station To Do The Same

The Importance Of Historical Weather Data To Make Forecasts

We are all guilty of blaming the Weather Service when a forecast is off, and the weather takes a turn for the worst, ruining our day. Yet, it is because of increasingly accurate weather forecasts over the last couple of decades that we rely on them so much.

Historical weather data provides meteorologists with a template of general weather conditions experienced by a region over an extended period of time, which, combined with current atmospheric conditions gathered from an array of remote and local sensors, allow them to make more accurate forecasts.

We have to recognize and admit the irony in our thinking (and sometimes irrational emotional reaction) when it comes to weather forecasts.

Weather Forecast

If weather forecasting weren't becoming so reliable and accurate over the past couple of years, we simply would not have the ability to plan and execute so many outdoor events with such a great amount of confidence.

This includes international sporting events, political rallies, and music concerts. Or it can simply be a fun day out with your family or partner. And the weather reacts as predicted almost ninety percent of the time.

The high accuracy with which meteorologists are able to predict weather events is a result of vastly improved technology and better forecast models. The most important one that is the focus of this article, though, is historical weather data.

What Is Historical Weather Data?

Before we can go into the details of historical data and why it is so important, we need to understand exactly what it is.

Historical Weather Data

Historical Weather Data is a database of the past weather conditions in a particular region. This record can include multiple weather variables such as temperature, rainfall, wind direction and speed, humidity, and barometric pressure.

Historical weather data can be as recent as weather information from a week ago. However, it usually stretches back years, decades, and even centuries. The longer and the more detailed the record is, the more valuable it is to the meteorologist. 

In the field of meteorology, this historical weather data is crucial not just for understanding current weather conditions but also to assist with the prediction of future weather conditions and events (weather forecasts).

But for those of us with our own personal weather stations, gathering historical data is just as important to help us understand and forecast the weather specificity region. (More on that a little later.)

To best understand its true value, we need to understand how meteorologists go about calculating and predicting weather conditions.

how do meteorologists predict the weather

Climatologists and meteorologists use a combination of data, advanced computing power, and complex forecast models to calculate and make weather predictions.

It will make the most sense if we look at each of the individual forecasting steps on their own to understand the process as a whole.

Data Gathering

Meteorologists use a multitude of readings from sensors and devices around the planet to collect weather data. This includes sensors on the ground, in the ocean & air, and also space to collect the data needed for them to make important decisions and accurate forecasts.

Land-based radar systems, remote weather stations, ocean buoys, weather balloons, and satellites are just a few examples of sources of data that are all captured and processed by a weather service.

(There is quite a bit of confusion as to what exactly a weather balloon is and what role it plays in the gathering of meteorological data. You can get an in-depth explanation in this article.

One of the most important sources of data, however, is the vast record of historical weather data that is essential to use as a source of reference. Without it, it would be impossible to make use of forecasting models that need a record of past weather events to calculate future weather conditions accurately.

Processing Through Raw Computing Power

Over a million sensor readings are gathered across the planet every day. Combined with the mountains of historical data, weather services need some serious computing power to process this volume of data.

There is no way one single computer, no matter how powerful, can even begin to process even a fraction of this data.

Cray Supercomputer

Example Of The Sheer Size And Scope Of A Cray Supercomputer

To give you an indication of the size and power needed to process all this data, the ECMWF (European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts) uses a Cray supercomputer to store and process its data.

It weighs more than 50 metric tons and spans over multiple air-conditioned hallways. And it can process data at multiple petaflops!

(A petaflop is the name given to a speed of one thousand million million instructions per second.) 

That is the amount of computing power needed to handle the sheer amount of data. And the ones we have today are still not powerful enough to entirely make use of the forecasting models meteorologists are currently using and constantly improving upon.

A large section of these supercomputers and data storage systems are dedicated to just storing and processing the historical weather data. 

But how do these supercomputers even know how to handle all this data thrown at them?

Weather Forecasting Models

Numerical weather prediction (NWP) has been extensively used since the development of the computer during the last century, which made the processing of all gathered weather data possible.

These numerical forecast equations used to calculate weather and climate are called weather forecasting models.

There are numerous forecasting models for different types of weather events. Two global weather forecasting models are generally regarded to be the most accurate and trusted models relied upon by meteorologists and climatologists.

  1. The ECMWF (European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts) use what is more commonly known as the European Weather Forecasting Model.
  2. The GFS (American Global Forecasting System) use what is more commonly known as the American Weather Forecasting Model.

Both models are very accurate and highly regarded by the global meteorological society, but each one has its own unique weather forecasting methods.

The calculated results from these forecasting models are normally the final step in the whole forecasting process.

The Importance For Your Home Weather Station To Record And Store Weather Data

This brings us to the section where I really want to drive home a very important point to all home weather station owners.

Ambient Weather Display Console

Make sure your home/personal weather station can record and store all the weather data its various sensors capture!

Throughout this article, I made it very clear why historical weather data is so important in not just observing and understanding current weather, but especially for predicting future weather conditions.

Just remember, the weather is unique in your area where your weather station is situated. Even if you have access to local and regional historical data, it is almost guaranteed that your home/neighborhood will have its own micro-climate.

In order for you to be able to make any kind of accurate weather prediction, you will need a historical record of conditions in your location. You need to know what the weather was like in the past under similar circumstances and how it reacted and changed.

This is why it is so crucial that you start to keep a record of your readings as soon as your weather station is up and running. And make offline backups of your weather records!

(Don't make the mistake I made. I kept all records online until a chain of events caused me to lose all my connections. This resulted in me having to reset my router, my Ambient Weather station, and re-register as a new user with a new weather station. 

This little mishap caused me to lose the first four months of weather data. Now I am already four months behind with my historical data buildup.)

Wunderground Graphs

The vast majority of professional weather stations for home use come with WiFi connectivity built-in. They are also ready to be integrated into popular online services like Wunderground (Weather Underground).

Manufacturers like Ambient Weather created their own online service, which lets your console connect to their network.  This displays a personal dashboard on your device with real-time readings from your weather station. 

It also keeps a database that records all your weather station's readings and displays each weather variable on highly customizable graphs. (With the option to export all your data in a separate file, which I highly recommend.)

(If you are interested, you can read more about my experience with my Ambient Weather WS-2902A Osprey, especially the WiFi setup and integration in this article.)

This is just one example of how a fully connected and well set-up weather station can make building up a historical weather record relatively painless. Most manufacturers have their own online systems that work just as well.

This is the reason why I am so critical of high-end weather stations that don't offer these features. (Or sell it as an optional extra.) They can really do better.

My advice to you simple. I urge you to invest in a weather station that can record and build up a database of historical weather data and use it! (And remember to make offline backups.)

Conclusion

I don't think there is too much to summarize, as I have made my point over and over throughout this article.

By now, you should not be under any illusion as to how important a database of historical weather data is for accurate forecasting. So is the importance of choosing a personal weather station that enables you to do just that.

I hope you found this article helpful and reminded you to pay attention to an often overlooked but essential part of meteorology. 

Never miss out again when another interesting and helpful article is released and stay updated, while also receiving helpful tips & information by simply  following this link .

Until next time, keep your eye on the weather!

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What Is A Polar Vortex And Why Is It So Potentially Dangerous?

What Is A Polar Vortex heading

In recent times, a phenomenon called a Polar Vortex started to get a lot of public and media attention due to its devastating effects on countries in the Northern Hemisphere. We take a closer at this meteorological event, what it is, and its widespread impact. 

A polar vortex is a permanent low-pressure system centered above the Earth's poles. In the Arctic Circle, it extends from 11 - 50 kilometers in altitude. The air rotating counter-clockwise is kept in place by the Polar Front Jet Stream and is characterized by icy temperatures as low as -80° Celsius.

The name "Polar Vortex" surfaces in the mainstream media every once in a while. Usually, when it misbehaves and reaches further south than it is supposed to, and impacts the lives of millions of people in countries in the Northern Hemisphere.

We first have to quickly clear up the misconception that a Polar Vortex itself is the problem or abnormal in any way. We will address this issue and also go into detail explaining why and when it becomes dangerous.

Polar Vortex Definition

Before getting into further detail about how a polar vortex works and how its impacts the environment, one first has to describe what precisely this meteorological phenomenon is: 

What Is A Polar Vortex?

What Is A Polar Vortex

In the Northern Hemisphere, a polar vortex is a permanent low-pressure system that is present in the mid-to-upper atmosphere centered above the Arctic and extends from 11-50 kilometers (7-31 miles) in altitude.

It rotates counter-clockwise above the polar region and is characterized by freezing temperatures of up to -80° Celsius (-112° Fahrenheit). It is kept in place by a strong wind system called the Polar Front Jet Stream.

This low-pressure system is kept in place by the Polar Front Jet Stream. These strong winds circle the polar vortex at high speeds in excess of 257 km/h (160 mph)

Strong Polar Vortex

The Polar Front Jet Stream surrounding the polar vortex operates at a lower altitude of around 10 kilometers (7 miles), but its constant high-speed rotation is sufficient to keep the polar vortex in place and stable.

It is very important to understand that the polar vortex itself is a normal phenomenon that is permanently situated above the North Pole. As long as the vortex remains strong and stable and doesn't lose its shape, it doesn't affect or pose a danger to sub-polar regions.  

Simply put, a strong polar vortex is a safe polar vortex.  

When A Polar Vortex Becomes Dangerous

Now that we established what a normal polar vortex is, we need to examine when and how it starts to "misbehave" and threaten regions further to the south. 

Usually, a strong polar vortex helps the circulating jet streams to stay strong and keeps them in shape. The polar jet stream also forms the boundary between the cold polar vortex air and the warmer subtropical air.

With air temperatures within the polar vortex reaching -80° Celsius (-130° Fahrenheit) in the mid-upper atmosphere, the maintenance of a strong boundary between the Arctic and subtropical air is essential.  

It is when the low-pressure system in the polar vortex starts to weaken that an unstable environment is created. 

Weakening Of Polar Vortex

Illustration Showing The Influx Of Warm Air Weakening And Deforming The Polar Jet Stream

There are a variety of ways in which the vortex can weaken (which we will discuss later in the article), but it is usually the presence of warmer temperatures that disrupts the strong low-pressure system that holds the polar vortex together. 

When the warmer air mixes with cold Arctic air, the low-pressure system starts to weaken substantially. This has a direct effect on the polar jet stream surrounding it.

The strength of the jet stream relies on the strength of the temperature difference between the cold Arctic and subtropical air. The warmer air in the Arctic causes this difference in air temperatures to weaken.

As a result, the jet stream weakens and starts to lose its normal shape and structure. It begins to wind and flow in a more wavy manner, causing its borders to reach much further south than usual.

The weakened low-pressure system and a compromised jet stream can even cause a polar vortex to split, where the primary vortex is broken down into smaller vortices, and each piece can move in different directions. This is commonly referred to as a Polar Outbreak.

Regions that would typically not be affected under stable conditions are now directly exposed to Arctic temperatures. (It may even dip below Arctic temperatures as it is exposed to air similar to that we usually found in the mid-upper atmosphere above the North Pole.)

And this is the real danger of a polar vortex. When a vortex weakens, the polar jet stream weakens and loses its shape, causing the wavy border that can wander far south and affect areas that would normally not be exposed to this phenomenon at all.

Simply put, a weak polar vortex is an unstable and dangerous polar vortex. 

what causes polar vortex To weaken

Now that you know why a polar vortex can become so dangerous and that temperature plays a major role in the weakening of the polar vortex, we need to try and establish what the reason for these disturbances in temperature is.

Meteorologists are not completely sure themselves and are still debating the underlying causes that may lead to these dangerous polar outbreaks.

There are quite a few viable explanations, though, some of which have already been proven.

1) Arctic Amplification

An accelerated rise in temperatures over the last couple of decades globally has already been recorded and confirmed. (No, this not an argument for or against climate change. It is simply a statement of the facts.)

In the Arctic Region, the situation is even worse. Surface temperature in this area has been warming at twice the rate of the global average.

The melting of snow cover and sea ice is mainly responsible for this accelerated warming of air temperatures in the polar regions. The white snow and ice usually reflect the majority of heat from the sun. The darker waters of the ocean in, contrast, absorb and retain the heat. 

Arctic Amplification

Heat Map of Arctic Amplification Courtesy of NASA

With less ice and snow present, more heat gets absorbed and retained by the exposed ocean water. The resulting warmer air, combined with global warming, leads to this accelerated rise in temperature, which is known as Arctic Amplification.

This phenomenon causes the warmer air over the Arctic to move in from the sides of the polar vortex and disrupt the cold air. This causes the weakening of the vortex and deformation of the jet stream, as I described in the previous section. 

As the polar vortex becomes more severely disrupted, Arctic Amplification can cause the vortex to split into multiple vortices, which leads to a Polar Outbreak. 

And, as already discussed, it is the movement of these multiple vortices that can cause the polar jet stream to veer seriously off course and reach areas much further south.

2) Climate Change

You can argue that Arctic Amplification is a direct result of global warming. This implies that, indirectly, Climate Change is responsible for the weaker polar vortex, which deformed shape causes it to venture south and impact countries in the Northern Hemisphere. 

It leaves the question of whether Climate Change can be more directly linked to a polar vortex. To be honest, no direct link or specific body of evidence between Climate Change (global warming) and "wondering" polar vortices has been established yet.

Scientists and meteorologists have bits and pieces of evidence that point to a more direct correlation between the two, but more research and gathering of data needs to be done before something concrete can be deducted and a conclusion reached.

Dangers & Consequences Of a Polar Vortex

Once the polar jet stream gets disrupted to the point where it loses its shape and takes on a wavy form, regions not used to the extreme cold now get exposed to Arctic temperatures with potentially fatal consequences.

I am not sure anyone who hasn't experienced the full brunt of a polar vortex can fully grasp the severity and danger that accompanies this phenomenon.

An extreme example of a polar vortex engulfing and trapping huge parts of the United States Of America in January 2019 can be used as a perfect example of just how bad things can get.

Polar Vortex In Chicago

Chicago Experiencing The Extreme Cold Temperatures Associated With A Polar Vortex  

Cities and towns in Minnesota experienced some of the most extreme cold weather in history, which is a direct result of the polar vortex. Looking at the conditions they were exposed to, and the resulting consequences will help to shine some light on the dangers of such an event.

In Cotton, Northern Minnesota, temperatures dropped as low as -49° Celsius (-56° Fahrenheit). Chicago wasn't too far behind Cotton, with temperatures reaching lows of -30° Celsius (24° Fahrenheit).

These temperatures were colder than those experienced at the North Pole and Antarctica during the same period! This is enough to cause severe health issues within seconds.

People were advised to stay indoors, schools were closed, flights canceled, and the USPS canceled mail deliveries during this period. And with good reason.

These are some of the dangerous conditions and health risks that existed during this period.

Dangerous Transport & Infrastructure Conditions

Roads were instantly iced over, especially with black ice, making it extremely slippery and dangerous to drive on. (You can read more in-depth detail about black ice and other cold/ice-related phenomena in this article.)

Railway tracks were literally set on fire to prevent them from contracting due to the cold, which would have resulted in gaps in the tracks.

The accompanying snowfall on roads and railways in many areas made travel almost impossible, and commuters got stuck on roads across the country.  

Hypothermia

In subzero temperatures, it can only take minutes for your body's temperature to drop below its core temperature. In the extreme cold of a polar vortex, this process is accelerated. 

If not treated immediately, this condition is normally deadly, and quite a few fatalities were recorded during this period in the coldest states.

Frostbite

Frostbite occurs when your skin comes in contact with freezing temperatures, especially those as low as that experienced during a polar vortex.

It happens really fast to exposed skin and under these extreme conditions, and it can take only five minutes of exposure.

Frostbite leads to the skin and underlying tissue to die. In the severe conditions of a polar vortex, prolonged exposure can even lead to the loss of digits and limbs.

(You can read more in-depth detail about frostbite in this article.)

These are just a few of the many dangers that accompany a polar vortex when a region is exposed to its full force.

Conclusion

Now that you have a good idea of exactly what a polar vortex is and what causes it to become dangerous, you will now be able to better understand such an event. 

You will also have a better understanding of the conditions that normally accompany this phenomenon and how dangerous it can get. 

With the occurrence of polar vortices increasing and appearing more frequently, this may be a condition we may have to prepare for as the "new normal."  

Never miss out again when another interesting and helpful article is released and stay updated, while also receiving helpful tips & information by simply   following this link .

Until next time, keep your eye on the weather!

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22 Degree Halos: Defining A Lunar Halo And How It Occurs

What Causes A 22-degree halo

Occasionally, you may notice a hazy-looking ring around the Moon visible through a thin layer of clouds in the evening. This phenomenon is known as a lunar or 22-degree halo, but what exactly is it?

A 22 Degree Halo, also known as a Lunar Halo, is a hazy ring that occurs around the moon at a radius of approximately 22 degrees. It results from the moon's light being refracted by ice crystals in Cirrus clouds in the upper troposphere at an altitude of approximately 6000 meters or 20 000 feet.

Although there are many theories and folklore surrounding this "supernatural" occurrence, very few people really know what exactly these rings (or halos) are or how they are formed. 

In this article, we take a look at what these rings are and how and how they are created. We also address a few common assumptions and look at some folklore surrounding these mystical objects in the sky.

What Is The Ring Around The Moon?

A brief description of what these sometimes mysterious-looking rings around the moon has already been provided. To better understand its formation, though, one needs a more elaborate and detailed definition.

What Is A Lunar Halo?

22-degree halo definition

A 22 Degree Halo, also known as a Lunar Halo, is a hazy ring that occurs around the moon at a radius of approximately 22 degrees. It results from the moon's light being refracted by ice crystals in Cirrus clouds in the upper troposphere at an altitude of approximately 6000 meters or 20 000 feet.

A lunar halo goes by many different names. Sometimes it is simply referred to as "the ring around the moon." In the scientific community, it is known as a 22 degree halo but is also known as a halo, moon halo, moon ring, or winter halo.

The hazy rings appear at a radius of approximately 22 degrees around the moon & vary from rainbow-colored to a pale white color, depending on the level of refraction, size of the clouds & strength of the moonlight.

It occurs in the upper troposphere, where temperatures are too low for water droplets to remain in its liquid form. The hexagon shape of the ice crystals breaks the moonlight up and refracts back to Earth.

The color of a lunar halo varies from a faint rainbow color to a pale white tint. The rainbow colors are the result of the ice crystals breaking up the white light into its primary colors. Sometimes, though, the primary colors combine and blend together to form a white tint.

The halo is not visible to everyone. It all depends on your geographical location in relation to the position of the moon. Depending on where you stand, the ice crystals will refract the light from the moon just at the right angle in order to see the circular-shaped phenomenon. 

A lunar halo is exactly the same phenomenon that occurs during the daytime around another celestial body. The halo you see around the sun is the same meteorological phenomenon. Instead of moonlight, though, it is sunlight that is refracted in this case.

What Causes The Rings Around The Moon

As mentioned in the previous section, the rings you see around the moon result from the ice crystals in cirrus clouds refracting and reflecting the light in such a way that you can see a ring appearing from your location on the planet's surface. 

A few things need to be in place in order, though, to observe these rings surrounding the moon clearly.

  1. 1
    The presence of a full moon is ideal for the best viewing conditions.
  2. 2
    Secondly, a clear sky with only a thin layer of cirrus clouds high up in the atmosphere is essential. (The presence of thicker clouds lower down in the atmosphere will obscure or eliminate the effect.)
  3. 3
    As the light from the moon (or sun) hits the cirrus cloud, it gets refracted and "bend" by the ice crystals. The refraction by the ice crystals causes the light to be projected somewhere else. 
  4. 4
    If the light is refracted or "bend" at a certain angle, specifically 22 degrees, the rings will become visible to the observer. (This also means the rings have a radius of about 22 degrees around the moon or sun.) That is why this occurrence is also referred to as 22 degree halos by scientists and meteorologists. 

As already mentioned, an individual also has to be in the right geographical location on the planet's surface )in relation to the moon's location) to observe this phenomenon.

Characteristics Of The Rings Around The Moon

A notable feature of the halo surrounding the moon is the lack of a clear and well-defined border. The fuzzy border is partly the result of so many millions of ice crystals refracting the light in multiple directions that it makes it impossible to create a well-defined border.

Although the ring around the moon has a mostly hazy white color, other colors can also be observed. This a direct result of the hexagon shape of the ice crystals.

22 degree halo

Very much like the shape of raindrops causing the different colors in a rainbow to appear, the faceted (hexagon) shape of ice crystals not only refract the light of the moon but also breaks it up into its primary colors.

This is why you will occasionally notice some rings around the moon or sun to have a red tint on the inside and a blue tint on the outside.

Since the moon isn't as bright as the sun, the rings around the moon mostly appear white, while the rings around the much brighter sun more often display these rainbow colors.

Another interesting fact about the rings surrounding the moon is that the sky directly surrounding the ring/halo always appears darker than the rest of the night sky.

Finally, if you are lucky, you may catch a very rare glimpse of not one but a double halo surrounding the moon. 

Folklore And Superstitions Regarding Rings Around The Moon

For centuries now and among many cultures around the world, a ring around the moon was a clear sign that rainy weather is on the way.

And to be honest, this is neither a myth nor a superstition. The presence of high cirrus clouds is very often an indication of wet and stormy weather on the way.

Cirrus clouds normally precede low-pressure systems by a day or two, and as many of you may already know, low-pressure systems are normally at the heart of stormy wet weather. (You can read more about low-pressure systems and cold fronts in this article.)

The most noteworthy part about specific beliefs and folklore concerning rings around the moon is the surprising lack of any specific ones.

Normally, different cultures and religions look to these celestial bodies and attach some significant meaning to changes in their appearances when it comes to the sun and moon.

Significant events like the Full Moon, New Moon, and especially rare events like Solar Eclipses (especially combined to cause a "Blood Moon"), all have significant meaning and are often a time for religious ceremonies and even sacrifice for some pagan religions.

lunar halo mythology

The worshiping of the sun (and events surrounding the sun) is probably the oldest religion in the world and predates any recorded history. The worshiping of the sun gods Amun and Ra is well documented in ancient Egyptian history. 

Celebrations of the winter solstice, symbolizing the victory of light over darkness, also predates any Christmas celebrations during the same period, celebrating the birth of Christ.

Yet, despite all these celebrations and importance given to various events surrounding the sun and moon by various religions and cultures over the centuries, there is no evidence (not even a mention in any literature) of any attention given to the halos surrounding the moon.

The biggest irony is that the only folklore surrounding the rings around the moon is based on actual science. And that is the belief that the hazy ring we see at night surrounding the weather symbolizes rainy weather. As it turns out, this belief is actually scientifically correct.

Conclusion

As you can clearly see, the visible ring/aura around the moon that sometimes occur under ideal conditions is not nearly as mystical as one might think.

There is a very simple scientific explanation for it, which has everything to do with what is going on in our atmosphere, and nothing to do with what is happening in space around the moon itself.

The multicolored rings we sometimes see around the sun is also exactly the phenomenon that occurs around the moon.

Never miss out again when another interesting and helpful article is released and stay updated, while also receiving helpful tips & information by simply  clicking on this link .

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Extreme And Interesting Weather On Other Planets In Our Solar System

Extreme Weather On Other Planets In Our Solar System heading

Our weather can get pretty extreme and downright weird at times, and we experienced some extraordinary meteorological events in recent times. However, all these events will pale in comparison to the extreme weather events experienced on our neighboring planets.

With this in mind, it is just as well that we haven't advanced space travel to the point of being able to settle on any of our neighboring planets. Do you think the weather on our planet can get crazy and destructive? You might want to reconsider after reading this article.

The Planets In Our Solar System

Since the latter stages of the Twentieth Century, we have been able to start exploring the planets in our solar system in much more detail. Hundreds of satellites and space probes have been launched and send on exploratory missions to our neighboring planets.

With these regular missions to explore the furthest reaches of our solar system, we are now able to get a much clearer picture of the weather on our neighbors. 

Some of these findings are pretty scary and, at times, hard to believe. It sometimes paints a pretty horrific picture of extreme weather on a few of our neighboring planets.

Let's take a quick tour through all the planets, starting with the one closest to the sun and working our way outwards from there. We will focus on the standout features of the weather on each planet that makes it unique.

(I think we can give Earth a skip in this article. If you are interested, there are plenty of articles about all aspects of the weather on earth elsewhere on this website. If you feel like delving into Earth's weather, learn more about it, this is a good article to start with.)

The Weather On Mercury

Weather On Mercury

Mercury is the planet closest to the sun. Since it is nothing more than an empty rock, it has a dark gray color. Due to its small size and extreme temperatures, it has, for all intents and purposes, no atmosphere.

As a result, there is no weather activity on the planet. The little resemblance of an atmosphere there is consists of traces of oxygen, sodium, and hydrogen.

Its weak exosphere, however, contains a variety of gasses and elements. They include oxygen, calcium, hydrogen, calcium, helium, sodium, calcium, and some water vapor.

Temperatures On Mercury

When it comes to temperature, though, Mercury shows a lot more activity. Its lack of atmosphere makes it incapable of retaining any heat, which causes a deep contrast between day and night temperatures.

The side of the planet facing the sun reaches temperatures in excess of 427° Celsius (800° Fahrenheit), while the side in the shade of the sun drops to temperatures as low as -173° Celsius (-279° Fahrenheit).

It should be interesting to note, though, that Mercury is not the hottest planet in the solar system. Even though it's the closest planet to the sun, the lack of atmosphere prevents it from conducting and retaining any of this heat. 

Storms On Mercury

As I already mentioned, Mercury has no weather. This means no storm activity.

Rainfall On Mercury

For the same reason, no rainfall occurs on Mercury.

Winds On Mercury

Again, the absence of an atmosphere also means no form of wind or any air movement is present on the planet. 

(I know, pretty uneventful so far, but things are going to get a lot more interesting as we move on to the next planet.)

Mercury: Extreme Weather Summary

  • Closest planet to the Sun
  • Only planet without no active core
  • Only planet with no atmosphere

The Weather On Venus

Weather On Venus

Venus is the second planet from the sun and Mercury's closest neighbor. Unlike Mercury, however, there is a lot more activity on this planet that makes it much more "interesting."

It has an atmosphere, which makes the presence of weather possible. Unfortunately, it is not the kind of weather you would enjoy. In fact, Venus is widely considered to be the planet with the most hostile environment in the entire Solar System.

The main reason for this diabolical environment is the extremely dense atmosphere on Venus. It is 90 times thicker than the Earth's atmosphere at sea level. 

This means a diver on earth will need to reach a depth of 1000 meters (3280 feet) underwater to experience the same amount of pressure.

The atmosphere is also extremely toxic. With air containing carbon dioxide, nitrogen, and sulfur dioxide, life as we know it would just not be possible. And this is only the start...

Temperatures On Venus

Venus is the hottest planet in our solar system. This is thanks to a combination of the thick atmosphere and the carbon dioxide it consists of.

This combination allows for a significant amount of radiation from the sun to be trapped in the planet's atmosphere. This causes a rapid buildup and retention of very high temperatures in the atmosphere.

These temperatures build up to around 480° Celsius (900° Fahrenheit) and are consistently maintained all year long!

Storms On Venus

As you will soon discover, Venus is a pretty stormy planet. Quite a few flybys by space probes even detected lightning on the surface of the planet.

The rainfall (if you can call it that) is pretty extreme and, combined with fast wind speeds, complete the picture of a very stormy and unpleasant environment.

Rainfall On Venus

Venus does, in fact, experience rainfall. But when I talk about rainfall, I am not referring to rain in the form of water.

Venera Space Probe

Depiction of sulfuric rain captured by Russia's Venera Space Probe

The rain that falls consists almost purely of sulfuric acid. (Yes, the kind that practically instantly dissolves clothing and eats through human flesh on contact.)

"Luckily," the surface is so hot that the sulfuric acid evaporates before reaching the ground. With surface temperatures hot enough to melt lead, this is hardly surprising. 

Winds On Venus

Unfortunately, things do not get any better when it comes to wind. Winds reaching speeds in excess of 300 km//h (186 mph) can be found about 30 miles. This is stronger than the winds in our biggest hurricanes.

Fortunately, the wind dies down closer to the planet's surface due to the enormous pressure the atmosphere is exerting at this level. This means you only have to cope with the toxic air, crushing pressure, and temperatures that can melt metal.

Venus: Extreme Weather Summary

  • Hottest planet in the solar system | 480° Celsius (900° Fahrenheit)
  • Considered to be the planet with the most hostile atmosphere
  • Closest planet to the Sun with an atmosphere
  • Extremely dense atmosphere | 90 times thicker than Earth
  • Rains sulfuric acid

The Weather On Mars

Weather On Mars

The Big Red Planet... Probably more fiction and non-fiction have been written, filmed, and discussed about Mars than all the other planets (and our moon) combined.

For some reason, we are fascinated by Mars and everything surrounding it. Maybe it has something to do with similarities between Earth and the Red Planet. This obviously brings us to the weather on Mars.

Mars is the fourth planet from the sun. (Earth is third, but remember we are skipping it for the purpose of this article.) Like its two closest neighbors, Mars has an atmosphere as well.

Its atmosphere is the direct opposite of the one you will find on Venus, however. Where the air on Venus is 90 times denser than on earth, Mars has an air pressure roughly 100 times thinner than that of Earth.

The atmosphere primarily consists of 95% carbon dioxide. Like Earth, Mars also has icecaps on its North and South Pole, consisting mainly of this carbon dioxide and water ice. This is similar to dry ice as we know it.

It makes conditions a lot more bearable but brings with it its unique challenges. The atmosphere is also still dense enough to support weather activity.

Temperatures On Mars

Due to its thin air and greater distance from the sun, the temperature on Mars is much lower than that on Earth. It is generally bitterly cold, with average temperatures in the region of -60° Celsius (-76° Fahrenheit).

However, it does get warmer and more bearable the closer you get to the equator. As Mars also experiences seasons, the summer temperatures are also not as cold as ones experienced during the wintertime. 

Storms On Mars

When it comes to storms, Mars is not shy to show off some impressive and interesting unruly weather activity.

Huge Dust Storms (the largest in the solar system) can engulf the entire planet and last for months. Regional dust storms that occur every few weeks are more common but are still large in scale and can be very disruptive.

The approaching wall of red dust stretching for miles can be a very intimidating sight. (In case you were wondering why the surface of Mars is red, it is due to the large percentage of iron oxide present in the soil.)

Dust Devils On Mars

12 Mile High Dust Devil On Mars

Dust Devils are also another uniquely Martian phenomenon. They closely resemble the tornadoes we experience on Earth visually, but very little is actually known about how they are formed.

These harmless whirlwinds appear frequently and in large numbers across the planet. At any given time, there are literally millions of dust devils present on the surface of Mars.

They are only about 13 meters (42 feet) in diameter but can easily reach up to 1000 meters (3280 feet) in height. You can imagine the sight of observing a dozen of these dust devils racing across the red surface of the planet.

Rainfall On Mars

Although exploration by multiple satellites and surface probes revealed the possibility of surface waters long ago, the atmosphere of Mars is very dry.

As a result, no current rainfall or traces of it in the past has ever been detected. 

Winds On Mars

Winds are present on Mars in many different forms. We have already seen its activity in the dust storms and dust devils we discussed in the previous section.

Although the winds can get pretty strong, they are not nearly as strong or destructive as the ones found in some hurricanes on earth and the heavy winds found on other planets.

Mars: Extreme Weather Summary

  • Planet most likely to support life (apart from Earth)
  • Huge dust storms covering entire planet
  • Polar ice caps on North & South Pole
  • Millions of dust devils (small tornadoes) across planet 

The Weather On Jupiter

Weather On Jupiter

This brings us to Jupiter, the fifth and largest planet in our solar system. It has three hundred times the mass of Earth and two-and-a-half times the mass of all the planets in the solar system combined.

Jupiter is also considered to be one of the gas giants. This is because the planet has no solid surface and consists of 90 percent hydrogen. The remaining 10 percent consists mainly of helium.

These denser gasses are heaped on top of each other to form the "body" of the planet. Since Jupiter has no solid surface,  its surface is determined at the point where the atmospheric pressure is the same as that on Earth. 

Jupiter has a very dense and dry atmosphere. It consists mainly of hydrogen and helium, with smaller amounts of ammonia, water vapor, methane, and silicon-based elements.

As you will soon discover, Jupiter's weather is very active and violent. Some of the weather events are so extreme, they are visible from both Space and Earth.

Temperatures On Jupiter

The average temperature on Jupiter is about -145° Celsius (-234° Fahrenheit). This is the atmospheric temperature of the planet.

As there is no clear distinction between the surface and the atmosphere, the temperature keeps rising as you move closer to the center of the planet. The rocky core of Jupiter, sitting far below the surface, is a blistering hot 20 000° Celsius (36 000° Fahrenheit)

Storms On Jupiter

To say that Jupiter is characterized by some of the most violent and extreme storms in the solar system is not an understatement.

As already, some of these storms are so big, it can be observed from space. Many of you will be familiar with the famous Great Red Spot on Jupiter.

Jupiter Great Red Spot

Jupiter's Great Red Spot

The Great Red Spot is nothing more than an enormous cyclonic storm on the surface of the planet. It is roughly 40 000 km (24 900 miles) in diameter and dates back as far as 1665 when astronomer Giovanni Cassini discovered it.

This storm is not the only one of its kind occurring on Jupiter, however. 

Winds drive multiple large storms called wind storms with speeds reaching 620 km/h (385 mph). These storms take shape very rapidly. They start to form within hours and grow to thousands of kilometers in width in less than a day. 

Clouds are formed at different latitudes in areas called the "tropical regions." It is this layered cloud system that gives Jupiter its distinct banded appearance. They are created and driven by jet streams at speeds of 482 km/h (300 mph).

The gigantic storms that are so commonly found in the atmosphere are formed within these clouds.  

Storms very similar to those occurring on Earth can also be found on Jupiter. Lightning storms are common, and large cyclones can be found in the polar regions. I already mentioned the wind storms that are raging across the surface of the planet.  

The big difference between the storms on Earth and Jupiter is the sheer size strength. The storms on Jupiter completely eclipse those on our planet. Some of these storms are actually the size or larger than Earth itself!

Rainfall On Jupiter

Rainfall does occur on Jupiter, just not the type you would expect. 

If you choose to believe some publications from media outlets, it actually rains diamonds on Earth. Obviously, it is a theory that has been taken entirely out of context.

It can be true, however. The working theory among scientists is that carbon (in the form of soot) is formed in the upper atmosphere as a result of lightning strikes. 

As the soot falls through the atmosphere, the immense air pressure hardens and turns it into graphite. In turn, as the graphite continues to fall to the surface, the pressure gets so high that it is compressed into diamonds.

Needless to say, this theory has not been proven yet, and it will be hard to do so in the near future. The conditions are just too hostile for any probe to survive the extreme conditions. 

There is a general consensus among scientists, however, that there is a strong possibility that this theory is indeed correct. I'll leave this one for you to make up your own minds.  

Another form of precipitation on Jupiter is helium rain. Helium starts as a mist in the upper layer of the atmosphere. At this height, the temperature is around 5000° Celsius (9000° Fahrenheit), which allows hydrogen to turn into metal, but not helium yet. 

This means the hydrogen and helium do not mix. As the droplets of helium grow bigger, they combine with neon and start falling towards the surface of the planet.

Winds On Jupiter

Jupiter experience some of the strongest winds of any planet in our solar system. I already mentioned the Great Red Spot, where wind speeds reach 620 km/h (385 mph). This is almost twice the maximum wind speeds measured within major hurricanes on Earth.

A smaller storm named the Little Red Spot by scientists contains some of the strongest winds ever detected on a planet. The winds in this storm are considered to be at least as strong as the winds observed in the Great Red Spot. And it is still growing...

At North and South Poles, the cyclones rotating each pole's central storm contain very violent winds with speeds of up to 350 km/h  (220 mph).

These are just a few standout examples of the extreme and violent winds present in storm systems and jets streams across Jupiter's surface.

Jupiter: Extreme Weather Summary

  • The largest planet in the solar system (300 times the mass of Earth)
  • Great Red Spot the largest and oldest storm at 40 000 km (24 900 miles) in diameter
  • Rains diamonds and helium

The Weather On Saturn

Weather On Saturn

Jupiter's next-door neighbor is another gas giant. Saturn is the sixth planet from the sun and also the second biggest planet in size and mass.

Saturn is probably the most well-known planet (except perhaps Mars) in our solar system as a result of its unique features. Its rings make it instantly recognizable. It is also one of the very few planets that are visible to the naked eye. 

Unfortunately, size and looks will only get you so far. Upon closer inspection, it turns out Saturn has a lot in common with Jupiter when it comes to its weather. And not in a good way. 

It has 95 times the mass of Earth and is so big that it can hold 760 Earth-sized planets. However, it is the least dense of all the planets. It's the only planet that has a density less than that of water.

Like Jupiter, Saturn's atmosphere consists mainly of 96% hydrogen and 3% helium. (There are trace elements of other gasses and heavier elements, but their small volume makes it insignificant.) 

The atmosphere also shares Jupiter's volatile and extreme weather. We will break down the different weather elements in the following sections.

In general, though, the weather on Saturn is characterized by violent storms, high-speed winds, and freezing temperatures.

Temperatures On Saturn

Saturn is freezing cold with an average temperature of -178° Celsius (-288° Fahrenheit). This is mainly due to the planet's vast distance from the sun.

It also does not have a solid surface, which means the little heat from the sun can not be absorbed and retained.

There is no significant temperature difference between the equator and the poles, as the heat that is generated, comes from the planet's core. This means the majority of the heat is generated in Saturn's interior.

There is a variation in temperature, and this variation is directly tied to the three layers of clouds covering the surface.

The upper layer, containing ammonia ice,  is the coldest, with average temperatures of -173° Celsius (-280° Fahrenheit)

The middle layer sees a rise in temperature. The air is still cold when judged according to human standards, with average temperatures around -88° Celsius (-128° Fahrenheit).

The third and lowest layer shows a significant increase in temperature due to its relative proximity to the planet's core. The average temperature in this layer is a "blistering hot" 57° Celsius (134° Fahrenheit)

Storms On Saturn

As already mentioned, the weather on Saturn is very much like that which you will find on Jupiter. This includes its stormy nature. An abundance of massive and violent storms are regularly occurring across the planet.

Great White Spot

Saturn's Great White Spot

An extraordinary phenomenon that occurs approximately every 30 years is called the Great White Spot (aka The Great White Oval). This oval-shaped storm system is so big it can be seen from Earth. The clouds which give it its white appearance can grow from several thousand miles in diameter to encircling the entire planet.

These global thunderstorms produce severe lightning and large cloud disturbances. Apart from the oval-shaped head, the storm is also characterized by a tail that keeps growing and eventually spirals the entire planet.

Another prominent storm feature of Saturn is the six-sided storm (Saturn's Hexagon) that has been raging over the northern pole of the planet for decades already. 

The six-sided storm is approximately 29 000 kilometers (18 000 miles) in diameter. It also has an unusually big vertical buildup, starting far down in the lower atmosphere and topping out at a height of around 300 kilometers (190 miles).

There is much speculation about how exactly this hexagonal storm is formed. One popular theory is that it is the result of a jet stream (containing atmospheric gasses) rotating in the atmosphere around the polar region.

The cloud bands that normally surrounds storm systems on Saturn is what gives the planet its uniquely streaky look. (As is the case with Jupiter).

Rainfall On Saturn

Even the rainfall on Saturn closely resembles that of Jupiter. 

It also "rains diamonds" on Saturn, and the same theory that is applicable for diamond formation on Jupiter applies here. There is one possible point of confusion that we need to be cleared up, though.

It is the immense pressure in Jupiter's atmosphere that plays a key role in the formation of diamonds. Yet, as you've learned earlier in this section, Saturn has an extremely low density. Then why would diamonds still be able to form under these conditions?

It is very straightforward, really. It is the density of the planet itself that is so low, not its atmosphere. The atmosphere is almost identical to that of Jupiter in many ways which makes it just as ideal for diamond formation.

Saturn also experiences what is called "Ring Rain." It is the different particles and elements that fall from Saturn's rings to the surface of the planet.

It has recently been discovered that this rain doesn't just consist of a variety of different elements, it is also a more persistent downpour than just a drizzle.

The rain consists of hydrogen, water, butane, and propane. Some of these are considered to be "complex organics." Much of this data was captured by NASA's Cassini spacecraft as it made its final descent before crashing into the planet.

Winds On Saturn

The winds on Saturn are some of the fastest in the solar system, only beaten by Neptune when it comes to maximum speeds. Near the equator, the winds in the upper atmosphere reach speeds of up to 1 800 km/h (1 118 mph).

Although violent and fast-moving winds occur (and form and define the majority of storms) all across the planet throughout the year, there is more weather event which contains some severe winds.

Saturn's Hexagon, the massive six-sided storm raging at Saturn's northern pole, is surrounded by winds with speeds reaching 530 km/h (330 mph). That is almost double the maximum wind speeds attained in Earth's most powerful hurricanes. 

Saturn: Extreme Weather Summary

  • The planet characterized by its well-known rings
  • The second-largest planet in the solar system
  • Very strong wind speeds at 1 800 km/h (1 118 mph).
  • Jupiter also experience Rain Ring (Particles falling from its rings)
  • Rains diamonds

The Weather On Uranus

Weather On Uranus

We are now starting to wander very far away from the center and heat source of our solar system, the Sun. Uranus, the seventh planet from the sun, is one planet that is showing some clear evidence of this fact.

Uranus is officially the coldest planet in the solar system, with the temperatures in the atmosphere dropping as low as -218° Celsius  (-370° Fahrenheit).

Like Jupiter and Saturn, it is also one of the four gas giants. It differs from them in some significant ways, though.

It is also unique compared to other planets, as this planet is entirely turned on its side and spinning at 90 degrees as a result. This means the little heat from the sun warms the poles, not the equator, as is the case with the other planets.

Initially considered to be a rather dull and uneventful planet, recent discoveries by the Hubble Space Telescope shows Uranus to be more active with some storm systems, bands of clouds, and winds occurring across the globe. 

Temperatures On Uranus

As I already mentioned, Uranus is the coldest of all the planet with an average temperature of -218° Celsius (-370° Fahrenheit)It is no surprise that it is referred to as one of the two ice giants, next to Neptune.

The interior temperature of the planet is far cooler than that of other planets, which means less heat is radiated from the planet itself.  (Due to its much lower temperature, there is a lot more certainty among scientists that it contains a solid rocky core.)

As a result of the planet's low temperature, its coldest at the surface and warms as altitude increases above the planet's surface.

The troposphere closest to the surface, which contains some elements of weather, is a freezing -218° Celsius (-370° Fahrenheit).

Higher up in the troposphere, the sun's radiation starts to have some effect, and temperatures rise slightly to a more bearable -153° Celsius (-243° Fahrenheit).

The outer layer of the atmosphere contains the highest temperatures found on the planet, which is directly exposed to the sun's radiation. Temperatures can reach up to 577° Celsius (1 070° Fahrenheit).

Storms On Uranus

Even though the planet's core temperature is much colder than that of other planets, it still seems to be the main driving force of all weather activity in the atmosphere.

Although not nearly on the scale of Jupiter and Saturn, there is some storm activity on Uranus. The type of storm activity in the atmosphere is also very similar to that of the two larger planets, just on a much smaller scale.

It has bands of storms that orbits the planet. (These bands are mostly obscured by the amounts of methane in the upper atmosphere, giving the planet its blue tint.) The weather systems on Uranus are much smaller than on other planets, but things can still get pretty stormy.

The clouds in the storm systems mainly consist of methane ice crystals. Some of these storms can still reach some respectable sizes. (In 2006, the Hubble Space Telescope identified a dark cloud on Uranus' surface, which turned out to be storm two thirds the size of the United States.)

Rainfall On Uranus

As the weather resembles that of Jupiter and Saturn so closely, it should come as no surprise that rainfalls consisting of diamonds are also believed to occur on Uranus.

There does not seem to be any other form of rainfall present on the planet. Nothing significant has been discovered or identified yet anyway.

Winds On Uranus

The winds are not as strong as its two bigger neighbors but can still reach speeds of up to 900 km/h (560 mph.)

At the equator, the winds blow in the opposite direction as the rotation. Closer to the poles, however, the wind direction changes and the winds start blowing in the direction of the planet's rotation.

Uranus: Extreme Weather Summary

  • The coldest planet in the solar system | as low as -218° Celsius (-370° Fahrenheit) at the planet's surface
  • Methane layer in upper atmosphere gives the planet is blue tint
  • Rains diamonds

The Weather On Neptune

Weather On Neptune

This brings us the eighth and last planet. At 4.5 billion kilometers (2.8 billion miles), Neptune is also the furthest planet from the sun. 

It is the last of the four gas giants. Like most of the other gas giants, Neptune has a very active weather system.

The weather is characterized by huge & violent storms, high wind speeds, extreme temperatures, and some "interesting" rainfall. You should start to notice a familiar pattern emerging when it comes to describing weather on any of these gas giants. 

Temperatures On Neptune

Due to its distance from the sun, Neptune receives very little solar radiation or heat. As a result, it is one of the coldest planets in the solar system, with temperatures as low as -218° Celsius (-360° Fahrenheit).

As I previously mentioned, it is because of its icy atmosphere that Neptune is referred to as an ice giant (alongside Uranus).

Because the planet has no solid atmosphere being a gas giant, the surface is calculated at the point where the air pressure is the same as on earth. At the "surface," the air temperature is in the region of -210° Celsius (-346° Fahrenheit).

Temperatures also react differently in the planet's two atmospheric layers, the troposphere and stratosphere. In the troposphere (the lower layer starting at the planet's surface), the temperature decreases as the altitude increases.

The stratosphere (starting above the troposphere) reverses this trend and shows a constant increase in temperature as altitude increases.  

We normally associate the north and south poles with the coldest temperatures on the planet. This not the case with Neptune, however. It is tilted at just a little more than 28 degrees on its axes, with the South Pole facing the sun during the summer months.

This means for the entire summer on Neptune (which lasts 40 Earth years), the South Pole is hotter than the rest of the planet by about 10° Celsius (18° Fahrenheit).

Storms On Neptune

As a gas giant, combined with the fact that it contains a much warmer core than Uranus, it makes Neptune one very stormy planet.

The majority of storms are in the shape of bands (like Jupiter and Saturn) circling the planet and driven by high winds. 

Neptune Cirrus Clouds

Neptune's Fast Cirrus Clouds

A unique and interesting feature is Cirrus clouds circling the planet at high altitudes. They travel extremely fast and make a full rotation of the planet every 16 hours! They also consist mainly of methane ice crystals.

The most fascinating and mysterious phenomenon that the Voyager II spacecraft found in its 1989 flyby is the "Great Dark Spot," the name given to it by scientists.  The consensus was that this spot was a huge cyclonic storm, very much like Jupiter's Great Red Spot.

When the Hubble Space Telescope tried to locate it years later, it disappeared, but a new dark spot was discovered further north. Astronomers argued that these appearing and disappearing dark spots could be holes created in the methane clouds.

No conclusion has yet been reached as to what exactly these mysterious dark spots are. However, whether gigantic cyclones or holes in clouds, they do point to a very active and stormy weather system. 

Rainfall On Neptune

It may come as no surprise at this stage, but yes, as is the case with other gas giants, diamond rainfall is believed to occur on Neptune. (For the same reason as on other gas giants.)

The gaseous and warm core makes any other form of rainfall unlikely. Even if it occurs, it will probably evaporate long before reaching any type of solid ground. (With no solid surface, in theory, it will just continue to fall towards the core of the planet.)

Winds On Neptune

It has already been determined that Neptune is a very windy planet, with many of them encircling the banded storm systems across the planet.

Neptune has the honor of being the planet with the fastest wind speeds in our solar system. Winds can reach speeds of up to 2 100 km/h (1 305 mph). That is almost twice the speed of sound on Earth!

Scientists are not sure why the winds reach such high speeds, but scientists theorize that the extremely cold weather reduces friction, which allows for higher speeds.

Neptune: Extreme Weather Summary

  • The planet with the fastest wind speeds in the solar system | in excess of 2 100 km/h (1 305 mph)
  • The second coldest planet in the solar system
  • The furthest planet from the Sun
  • Rains diamonds

Conclusion

So, after reading through this article, do you still think the weather on Earth can get pretty extreme, violent, and downright destructive?

If you do, you will not be wrong. And with Climate Change playing its part, it's bound to get worse over the coming years.

Looking at the weather on other planets, you have to admit though, that our most extreme weather systems pale in comparison to "normal" weather on our neighboring planets.

The goal was not to draw comparisons, but just to give you a small peek into what weather is like on the other seven planets in our solar system.

And also how small our planet and its weather systems are in comparison to our neighbors. And our solar system is only our little corner of space. We have no idea what exactly is happening on planetary systems elsewhere in our own galaxy, and at the scale, it is happening.

I hope you found this quick tour through our solar system fascinating and helped you to get some perspective as to how much our little planet, with its human-friendly atmosphere and weather systems, support and protect us.

We better take care of it and not screw it up. As you have seen, there is no real alternative or Plan B out there...

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Until next time, keep your eye on the weather!

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