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The 5 Layers Of The Atmosphere – Their Composition, Characteristics, And Importance Explained

5 Layers Of The Atmosphere heading

When looking at the sky on a cloud-free day, one will observe a single continuous blue sky. But actually, the atmosphere consists of five distinct layers, each with its own characteristics.

The 5 Layers Of The Atmosphere

Endeavour Space Shuttle Against Backdrop Of The Different Layers Of Earth

The Space Shuttle Endeavor, Pictured Against The Backdrop Of The Different Layers Of Earth 

  1. Troposphere
  2. Stratosphere
  3. Mesosphere
  4. Thermosphere
  5. Exosphere

In this article, we take a closer look at each of the five layers, their composition and characteristics, as well as their importance and the role they play in protecting the planet.

To provide a global picture and avoid confusion, the diagram of the atmosphere with all five layers below will help you to orientate yourself at any time.

Diagram Of The Atmosphere

Diagram Of The Atmosphere And Its 5 Layers

The Troposphere

The troposphere is arguably the most important layer of all for us humans. This is the layer we all live in, and also the layer that supports all other forms of life as well. It is also the layer in which almost all forms of weather occur. 

Troposphere

Composition Of The Troposphere

The air in the troposphere contains all the elements necessary for all forms of life to exist. It also contains the vast majority of water vapor on the planet. (More than all the other layers in the atmosphere combined.)

To be more get a better picture, let's take a closer look at the specific elements that make up the air in the troposphere:

  1. Nitrogen (78.08%)
  2. Oxygen (20.95%)
  3. Argon (0.93%)
  4. Carbon Dioxide (0.04%)
  5. A Variety Of Smaller Gasses

Every one of these elements plays an important role in creating an atmosphere conducive to supporting the existence and growth of life on earth. (And this includes carbon dioxide, which got a really bad reputation as a result of its role in global warming due to its rapid increase. It actually plays a vital role in the survival of plant life.) 

As I already mentioned, the troposphere also contains more water vapor than all the other layers combined. To be more precise, 99% of all water vapor is concentrated in the troposphere.

The importance and advantages of water are too many to get into detail. It is a vital source of hydration for humans (our bodies consist of 60% water after all) and animal life. It is also essential for all forms of vegetation to grow and flourish.

water and weather

Water also plays an important role in regulating temperatures around the world. This aspect of water is closely related to one of its most important functions, which is to form and regulate weather systems on a global scale. Without water, the occurrence of weather in any significant form will simply be impossible.

We should also never overlook the importance of the behavior of temperature & air pressure in the troposphere. Both show a steady decline as height above the earth's surface increases.

The Earth gets heated from the bottom up. The sun heats the earth's surface, where the highest temperatures can be found. It then starts cooling down as its height increases. The temperature keeps dropping and reaches temperatures as low as -55° Celsius (-64° Fahrenheit) at the troposphere's upper limit.

Similarly, the air pressure is at its highest at the surface of the planet, where the gravitational forces are at their strongest. As the particles in the air are pulled closer together, the air is much more dense as a result. 

As the air increases in height, the gravitational forces become less, and the air density starts to drop. At the upper reaches of the troposphere, the air is so thin that breathing becomes almost impossible. (This is the reason why mountaineers scaling high mountains often need some form of breathing apparatus to breathe.)

Characteristics Of The Troposphere

Starting at the surface of the planet, the troposphere reaches an average height of around 7-12 km (4-7 miles). This height is not constant, though, and varies depending on your location on earth.

The troposphere is at its highest above the tropics (reaching heights of 20 km or 12 miles at the equator). Over the polar regions, it reaches its lowest point (as low as 7 km or 4 miles).    

The height of the troposphere also varies from season to season as a result of the difference in temperature, which directly influences the troposphere. This is most obvious during the winter and summer months over the mid-latitudes.

During summer months, the warmer temperatures cause the air to expand, which causes an increase in the height of the troposphere. During the winter months, the colder temperatures cause the air to contract and make it more dense, causing the height of the troposphere to decrease as a result.

At the top of the troposphere, you will find a thin layer called the tropopause. This layer forms the boundary between the troposphere and the lowest part of the stratosphere.

Very often, you will see the top of a big storm cloud flattening out, giving it its familiar anvil shape. This due to the fact that the updrafts in the storm cloud bump into the tropopause & lower parts of the stratosphere where the air temperature is warmer than the air below it.

As, a result the cloud cannot expand any further in height, and starts expanding out horizontally at the border between the 2 layers.

Importance Of The Troposphere

We will all spend our entire existence on this planet in the troposphere. (Except, of course, if interplanetary travel and colonization become possible and viable within the next few centuries. Something I seriously doubt for some reason if I look at the rate of progress of space exploration attempts over the last half-century.)

astronaut

And no, commercial pilots and astronauts don't count, as they literally spend a fraction of their lifetimes outside the troposphere. On top of that, that period of time is spent inside an artificially created environment that mimics that of the troposphere. In other words, technically, they are still in the troposphere.

The reason why the troposphere is so important is that it contains all the vital elements that make it possible for life on earth to exist. I already covered that in the previous section, but it's worth summarizing why it is so important.

The most 2 most important aspects of the troposphere that make life on earth possible are:

1) Necessary Gasses

I already mentioned the primary gasses the troposphere consists of. (Nitrogen, oxygen, argon, and carbon dioxide.) It also contains trace elements of neon, helium, methane, krypton, hydrogen, and off-course, water vapor.

All these gasses play an important part in keeping us alive. Oxygen allows us to breathe, and carbon dioxide is essential for plant life. All the other gasses have some role to play in the formation, protection, and preservation of so many forms of organic and inorganic objects, to mention just a few functions. 

2) Weather

Weather is just as important for life to exist on earth. Naturally, it requires water vapor, of which 99% resides in the troposphere.

The advantages of weather should be obvious, but here are just a few examples:

Creates Seasons: This is important as seasons (winter, spring, summer, autumn) helps to regulate and balance the planet's temperature, rainfall, and air movement.

Provides Rainfall: This is not only important to keep human and animal life hydrated by keeping bodies of water full, but also moisturize the soil, which keeps vegetation (including crops in the agricultural sector) growing.

Creation Of Winds: This an often-overlooked advantage of the weather. First of all, winds are responsible for moving weather systems above the planet's surface. A second very important function of wind in our modern world is its "cleansing" effect. Strong winds are responsible for clearing away impurities that might have formed in the air above certain locations. This includes the volcanic cloud particles above a volcano, the dense fog at coastal regions, smoke, and smog that accumulates over urban areas.  

As important and critical as the troposphere is, it cannot function on its own. It needs the other layers in the atmosphere to function properly. It is time to move on to the second layer of the atmosphere.

The Stratosphere

The stratosphere is situated just above the troposphere, only separated from it by a thin transitional layer called the tropopause, which contains a a mixture of both layers. 

Stratosphere

Composition Of The Stratosphere

The stratosphere contains very few of the elements found in the troposphere. The majority is broken down by sunlight or deposited back to the planet's surface via rain.

Temperature inversion takes place between the troposphere and stratosphere. (An increase in temperature with height.) This also contributes to making the exchange of air between the 2 layers virtually impossible.

By far the most important element present is ozone. The stratosphere contains the biggest concentration of ozone of all the layers. 

Air is extremely dry in the stratosphere, as water contained in the air and clouds is trapped in the troposphere. (With almost no air exchange between the 2 layers, as already mentioned.) This means basically no form of precipitation takes place from the stratosphere.

The air continues to get less dense as height increases, leading to air in the stratosphere to be about a 1000 times thinner than at the sea level.

Characteristics Of The Stratosphere

The stratosphere starts at a height just above the troposphere and reaches as high as 50 km (30 miles) above the surface of the earth.

Almost no weather occurs in the stratosphere, although big storm clouds (in the form of supercells containing cumulonimbus clouds) occasionally punch through the tropopause and reaches lower parts of the stratosphere.

Temperature Inversion

One of the main characteristics of the stratosphere is an occurrence called temperature inversion. 

Temperature inversion occurs when the temperature rises as the height above the earth's surface increases. (This is the direct opposite of what occurs with the air temperature in the troposphere.)

Starting with an average temperature of -51° Celsius (-60° Fahrenheit) just above the troposphere, it starts to increases in temperature, reaching an average of -15° Celsius (5° Fahrenheit) close to the mesosphere. 

One of the most important functions of the stratosphere, though, is the presence of the very important ozone layer within the stratosphere. This layer of ozone protects the earth from the harmful ultraviolet rays of the sun.

A very simple way of explaining how the ozone layer protects us is to see the ozone layer as a gigantic filter. It allows the less harmful longwave UVA radiation through while absorbing the more dangerous shortwave UVB & UVC radiation. This is done through a process called the "ozone-oxygen cycle."

The ozone layer gained fame and came to the forefront a few decades ago when a hole in the layer was discovered over the Antarctic. Through a process called ozone depletion, large amounts of ozone were reduced in the stratosphere.

It was mainly caused by CFC gasses, commonly used in refrigerators and air conditioners at the time. An international ban on the use of CFC gasses was issued, and since then, the ozone layer has made a significant recovery.

(On an interesting note, as necessary as the ozone layer is for protecting the Earth from the sun's harmful UV radiation, it is actually quite harmful to us humans. It is can cause a variety of respiratory problems and permanently damage your lungs when inhaled.)   

Importance Of The Stratosphere

By far the most important attribute of the stratosphere is the fact that it contains the ozone layer that is so vital to all life on earth. (It has already been discussed and explained, so no need to explain its importance again.)

The state of the ozone layer is so important that weather balloons are send up on a regular basis to measure ozone levels. Weather balloons are capable of reaching the stratosphere and can also be launched from various regions worldwide.

The readings of the ozone layer in Arctic Regions are especially important. The reason being the fact that the hole in the ozone layer were first discovered over Antarctica. The stratosphere is also at its lowest altitude over the polar regions.

The stratosphere also acts as a barrier or containment layer. It confines the important elements in the air, including water vapor, to the troposphere.

airplane in stratosphere

Jet airliners make good use of some of the attributes of the stratosphere. They fly at cruising altitudes in the lower stratosphere for 2 reasons.

The fact that almost all weather is restricted to the troposphere allows aircraft to fly above the weather in the stratosphere, avoiding turbulence and potential damage in the process.

In the lower stratosphere, the air is also much thinner than in the troposphere, allowing airliners to fly through air with much less resistance. In the process, it saves a significant amount of fuel, which can also extend the range of the airplane.

A thin layer, called the stratopause, forms the border between the stratosphere and the mesosphere. Interestingly, it is within this thin layer that a maximum in the temperature. The combination of warm and very dry air makes clouds formation (and any form of weather for that matter) practically impossible within the stratopause.

The Mesosphere

The mesosphere can be found just above the stratosphere. It is only separated from it by a thin layer of air, called the stratopause, that acts as a border between the 2 layers. (Very much like the tropopause forms the border between the troposphere and the stratosphere.)

With its height making it relatively inaccessible, scientists know much less about the mesosphere than the other layers closer to the surface of the air.

mesosphere structure

Composition Of The Mesosphere

As the majority of meteorites burn up in the mesosphere, it contains fairly high concentrations of iron and metal atoms. (The shooting stars you observe in the night sky are meteorites that vaporize as it burns up in the mesosphere.)

The mesosphere contains the same percentages of gasses that can be found in the troposphere and stratosphere. The air is at such a low density, though, that the actual amount of gasses present in the mesosphere are just a fraction of those found in the troposphere.

Water vapor also continues to diminish as altitude increase. The amount of water vapor present in the mesosphere is so small, it is basically insignificant. 

Ozone is the one element that can be found in abundance in the mesosphere. Despite the fact that the ozone layer can be found in the stratosphere, overall, the mesosphere contains more ozone than the layers below it.

Characteristics Of The Mesosphere

The stratosphere starts at a height of 50 km (30 miles) just above the stratosphere and reaches as high as 85 km (53 miles) above the surface of the earth.

Like the troposphere, the temperature in the mesosphere also decreases as the height above the earth increases. (No temperature inversion takes place, as is the case within the stratosphere.) Near the top of the mesosphere, the temperature can fall to -90° Celsius (-130° Fahrenheit), making it the region with some of the lowest temperatures in the atmosphere.

noctilucent clouds

As weather is for all intents and purposes non-existent in the mesosphere, an interesting phenomenon in the form of noctilucent clouds can sometimes be found at altitudes of 80 km (50 miles).

Consisting out of ice crystals, they provide a spectacular view from Earth around 2 hours after sunset. You can find more about this rare phenomenon in this article.

A dynamic feature of the mesosphere is the presence of zonal winds, atmospheric tides, gravity waves, and planetary waves. These waves start in the troposphere and eventually spreads into the mesosphere.

In the mesosphere, the waves/tides become unstable and dissipate, creating momentum in the process. It is this momentum that drives global circulation to a great extent.

Importance Of The Mesosphere

The mesosphere can be seen as another protective layer of the earth's atmosphere. There are two specific "dangers" it helps to protect us from. Both were already mentioned but needed to be emphasized again.

As I already mentioned, meteorites of various sizes burn up in the mesosphere. It is estimated that a meteorite the size of an automobile enters and is vaporized in the mesosphere every year. (Space rocks smaller than 25 meters (82 feet) are vaporized in this layer before it can reach the Earth's surface.)

Now imagine the mesosphere did not protect us from meteorites, and we are hit by a meteor shower, with hundreds of rocks 20 meters in size reaching the earth's surface at supersonic speeds. 

I don't need to explain what a city like London or New York will look like after being bombarded with meteorites of this size. (We have all seen disaster movies like "Armageddon" that paints a pretty realistic picture of what can actually happen if it wasn't for the mesosphere.)  

The second danger the mesosphere protects us from is the sun's ultraviolet rays. (No, it is not just the ozone layer in the stratosphere.) A combination of ozone and molecular oxygen in the mesosphere protects us from solar radiation with varying wavelengths.

So, as little as we know about the mesosphere, we know enough to realize that it plays a vital role within the structure of the Earth's atmosphere.

As is the case with the troposphere and stratosphere, a small boundary separates the mesosphere from the thermosphere. The mesopause forms the border between the 2 layers.

The relative absence of solar radiation combined with the cooling effect of carbon dioxide in the mesopause makes it the coldest region on earth, with temperatures falling as low as -100° Celsius (-148 ° Fahrenheit).

But we are far from finished. There is yet another layer above the mesosphere that needs to be examined...

The Thermosphere

The thermosphere (sometimes called the Ionosphere) lies between the mesosphere and exosphere. It is only separated from the mesosphere by a thin layer called the mesopause.

From a human perspective, the thermosphere is quite popular and, as a result, one busy place. It plays home to the International Space Station and approximately 800 active satellites.

This off-course this does not include the thousands of pieces of garbage in the form of space debris orbiting the earth in the thermosphere. (Yep, we are not just filling our planet with garbage, but also the space above us, and a very important part of space).

Diagram Of  The Thermosphere

Composition Of The Thermosphere

The air is extremely thin (with almost a zero amount of air density), and gravity almost non-existent in the mesosphere. The properties of air closely resemble that of the vacuum of space as a result.

Since space is seen to start at 100 km (62 miles) above the Earth by many definitions, it is not surprising that the thermosphere is seen as part of space in many circles.

The little air present in the thermosphere mainly consists of helium, atomic nitrogen, and atomic oxygen.

Ions are also created in the thermosphere when ultraviolet radiation causes photoionization of molecules. (This process takes place in the ionosphere, which is spread over the thermospheres and stretches over parts of the mesosphere and exosphere.)

Characteristics Of The Thermosphere

The thermosphere starts at a height of around 90 km (56 miles) and extends up to heights of between 500 - 1000 km (311 to 621 miles). This makes the thermosphere thicker than all the other layers combined.

One of the main characteristics of the thermosphere is the extremely high temperatures that occur within this layer (as the name of the layer would suggest). With temperatures reaching around 2000° Celsius (3632° Fahrenheit), the thermosphere is the hottest of all the layers in the atmosphere by a huge margin.

The temperature is not constant, though. Between day and night, an average difference of 200° Celsius (360° Fahrenheit) can occur. The amount of solar radiation also has a direct influence on the temperature, causing as much as a 500° Celsius (900° Fahrenheit) variation, depending on the amount of radiation.

Ironically, you will not be able to feel these extremely high temperatures. As the air is so thin that it basically resembles a vacuum, there are no particles/atoms in the air to conduct the heat.

As a result of this lack of conduction, you will actually experience cold temperatures. It very often drops to below 0° Celsius (32° Fahrenheit), especially at night.

aurora borealis

The spectacular Aurora Borealis (Northern and Southern Lights) takes place in the thermosphere. The Aurora Borealis is a result of charged particles from the sun colliding with gaseous particles in the thermosphere. This causes the colorful light display people in the Northern Hemisphere are so familiar with. (Green is one of the most common colors created.)

Importance Of The Thermosphere

The thermosphere has mainly 3 great benefits, with one being a very beneficial side-effect.

1) Protection Against The Sun's Radiation

It supports and protects all life on earth by absorbing the majority of the sun's X-rays and extreme ultraviolet radiation. A byproduct of the abortion of solar radiation is the creation of the ionosphere.

The ionosphere is a direct result of the vast amount of ions that are formed within the thermosphere.  When X-rays and UV radiation collide with gas molecules, some electrons are knocked free to form electrically charged ions. And herein lies the side-benefit...

2) Creation Of The Ionosphere

The great benefit of the ionosphere is its ability to make long-distance radio communication possible.

Before satellite and other forms of wireless communication emerged, radio-waves were the only way to communicate over long distances. As it requires "line-of-sight" to communicate, radio waves are limited by the natural curvature of the earth.

Radio operators then discovered the unique characteristics of the ionosphere. The electrically charged ions act as a giant mirror for radio waves. This simply means radio waves can now travel vast distances by simply bouncing them off the ionosphere.

(There are still limitations, and the use of radio waves has been replaced by digital forms of communication in most cases, but it still remains very important and relevant.)

3) The Ideal Environment For Space Utilization & Exploration

As already mentioned, the thermosphere is home to the ISS (International Space Station) and almost a thousand active low orbit satellites orbiting the earth.

The thermosphere's location and environment make it ideal for us to be able to put objects in a permanent (or semi-permanent) orbit in space.

International Space Station

It is high enough for gravity to have very little effect on a spacecraft, yet still close enough to the earth's surface to use less powerful rockets to reach the thermosphere. This makes it much more affordable and economically viable to use the advantages of space.

(In order for a spacecraft to break completely free from earth's atmosphere and travel into outer space, it needs much more powerful rockets that would have been too expensive to make the launch & maintenance of satellites and NASA's Space Shuttle Program economically viable)

In the future, platforms may be built in the thermosphere that will serve as launching pads for deep space exploration. The thermosphere really provides endless possibilities, especially with the increase of companies from the private sector entering the space arena.

Like all the layers below it, the thermosphere is separated from the exosphere above it by a thin layer. The thermopause forms the last layer below which the atmosphere can be seen as active on the insulation received. This is mainly due to the presence of heavier gasses like monatomic oxygen.

Above the thermopause, you will find the atmosphere's fifth and last layer, the point where the atmosphere truly turns into space...

The Exosphere

Taking the prize as the topmost layer of our atmosphere is the exosphere. It is devoid of all substances, except for a small hint of hydrogen and a few atmospheric gaseous particles spread very apart from each other. 

It can, for all intents and purposes, be regarded as the layer that has all the properties of space and almost none of those of atmospheric layers.

This layer may not play such a vital role in the earth's atmosphere but is still relevant.

Diagram Of The Exosphere

Composition Of The Exosphere

As I already mentioned, the exosphere is almost completely devoid of any substances and atmospheric gasses. This makes the composition of the exosphere resemble that of the vacuum of space very closely. More so than that of any other atmospheric layer.

Mainly due to its inaccessibility and the very little research that could be done as result, very little is known about the precise makeup of the exosphere.

The only elements that can be found in any significant numbers in the exosphere are helium and hydrogen. They are so widely dispersed, however, that their presence is of no real importance or relevance.

Characteristics Of The Exosphere

The exosphere starts just above the thermosphere (and thermopause) at a height of 500 km (310 miles) and extends up to a height of around 10 000 km (6200 miles).

Temperatures are generally very cold and constant. In direct sunlight, it can get very hot and in the shade freezing cold, though. (There are no particles present to conduct heat or cold, which accounts for the extreme temperatures and the generally perceived cold conditions.)

As a result, temperatures vary quite dramatically, from 0° Celsius (32° Fahrenheit) all the way up to 1700° Celsius (3092° Fahrenheit). The biggest temperature difference takes place between daytime and nighttime.

In this vast space, the last traces of elements associated with the atmosphere blends gradually and seamlessly into the vacuum of space.

Many planets and moons (like Mercury, our own Moon, and the Galilean satellites of Jupiter) have no atmosphere, and all have an exosphere starting at surface level.

Since the last remnants of the atmosphere blend so gradually into outer space, no clearly defined upper boundary can be determined.

Importance Of The Exosphere

The exosphere may not play any significant role in supporting and maintaining life on earth, but as I mentioned in the introduction, it is still relevant.

Hubble Space Telescope

Just like the thermosphere, the exosphere forms the ideal environment for spacecraft to be placed into orbit around the earth.

It has the added advantage of allowing satellites and other objects to be placed in a much higher orbit than communication satellites and the International Space Station placed in lower orbits around the earth. 

This higher orbit allows satellites to get a better global view of various activities on earth. The bigger distance from the earth's surface also minimizes the amount of light reflecting off the planet into the atmosphere to cause any kind of interference.

This is why the Hubble Space Telescope and a variety of weather and other scientific satellites can be found orbiting the earth at this altitude. They are also much safer in the exosphere, as there is a lot less "space traffic" to contend with, as well as more room to maneuver in.

Conclusion

Now that you have a very clear understanding of how many layers are present in our atmosphere, each one with its unique properties, you may never look up at the sky in the same way again.

You will also be able to understand why each layer is so unique and important in its own way. The way weather behaves, the height at which airliners fly, and even where we put our satellites... All should become a lot more clear. 

I trust this article helped you to better understand the complex but fascinating structure of layers that make up our atmosphere. I am pretty sure quite a few facts might have caught you off-guard but in a pleasant and intriguing way.

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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The Difference Between Ice, Snow, And Hail – And How Each One Is Formed

The Difference Between Ice And Snow And Hail heading

Yes, they are all white or transparent and form in subzero temperatures. They are, however, very different not only in the way they actually look and feel, but in the way were formed in the first place. But what are the real differences between snow, ice, and hail? 

Water in its different solid states develops in the atmosphere as well as on the ground, and there is a multitude of factors involved in its formation. As a result, it can be difficult and confusing to distinguish between the different ice formations & their development.

The Difference Between Snow And Hail

Snow forms in subzero temperatures when water vapor turns directly into ice crystals, which cling together to form snowflakes. Hail forms in thunderclouds where updrafts carry water droplets into subzero temperatures causing them to freeze into hailstones & bind to other waterdrops.

Readers living in Scandinavian countries, Canada, Russia, and other regions close to the Arctic Circle will probably find this subject very amusing. There are many readers, though, who experience the phenomena of ice, hail, and snow very seldom (if at all).

This article examines what ice, snow, and hail are and how they differ from each other by looking at how they are formed and defining their characteristics and structure.

It also takes a look at other forms of water in its solid state and how they relate to ice, snow, or hail. This includes well-known formations like sleet, ice rain, graupel, rime, and frost.

Ice - Definition And Formation

What Is Ice?

ice

Ice can be seen as the umbrella term used to describe all forms of water in its solid state. When water in its liquid state is exposed to temperatures below freezing point (32° Fahrenheit or 0° Celsius) for a certain period, depending on time and temperature, it results in the hard, solid, and transparent substance we know as ice.

Apart from the hard and transparent (or semi-opaque if the ice contains impurities) nature of ice, it also differs from its liquid form in other ways.

Physical Nature Of Ice

Technically, ice still consists of 1 oxygen atom combined with 2 hydrogen atoms, which maintains water's transparent nature.

One important and sometimes overlooked difference between ice and water, is the fact that ice has a lower density than water. This is a result of the orientation of the hydrogen atoms as the temperature is lowered, pushing the water molecules further apart as it freezes and ice is formed.

iceberg

This decreased density of ice also makes it lighter than water. This is why ice objects always floats on top of water. (Two examples are the icebergs floating  in the ocean, and the ice covering and floating on top of a pond or lake.) 

Another important feature of ice, is that it expands as water freezes and turns to ice. This means ice occupies a larger volume of space than water, which can be a potential problem.

Water in the cracks of building materials like concrete or stone, will expand when it freezes. This often leads to and expansion of the cracks in these materials which can weaken them and cause structural instability and potential collapse.

Flooding in buildings due to burst pipes are common in regions experiencing long periods of temperatures below freezing point. As the water in the pipes freeze, it expands causing many pipes to burst under the pressure.  

As with all the other substances & phenomena in this article,  the composition and features of ice are in some way a result of the way in which it was formed.

Formation Of Ice

As earlier stated, ice are formed when water is turned from its liquid form to its solid form by being exposed to temperatures below freezing point.

There are variety of ways in which ice can be formed, both on the ground and in the atmosphere. There is no need to explain each one in detail as most of these processes occur very much in the same way.

By use an example of ice forming on the ground and another of ice forming in the atmosphere, you will be able to get a much better understanding of ice formation in general.

On the ground, the formation of ice very often takes place in bodies of water (dams, ponds and the ocean) due to a drop in atmospheric temperatures. This is often seasonal as well, coinciding with the colder winter months in many countries.

During these cold winter months, many countries in the Northern Hemisphere closer to the Arctic Circle starts to experience temperatures well below freezing point. As the winter months arrive and temperatures starts to plummet, smaller bodies of water (like ponds) are the first to turn into ice.

Larger bodies of water take much longer, but over time the surface water of larger lakes starts to ice over, and parts of smaller rivers stops flowing as the water turns into ice. 

A critical part of global ice formation, is the growth of the Polar Ice Caps in the Northern Hemisphere during winter months. As the temperatures continue to drop, the physical size of the North Pole increases by a significant margin as more ice is added on top and to the sides of this massive floating "continent" of ice.

sea ice

As the Northern IceCaps are not exposed to any direct sunlight during winter months, the temperatures drops very low.  This allows the North Pole to physically expand and the sea ice to cover 15 million km² (5.8 million square miles) of the Northern Hemisphere during March when the IceCaps has grown to its maximum size. 

The formation of ice on such a large scale annually, is vital for the regulation of the temperatures of the world's oceans, as well as helping to control the climate on a global scale.

In the atmosphere within cloud systems, ice is also formed when water is turned into its solid state as a result of subzero temperatures, but the process through which it takes place is quite different.

In big storm clouds, normally supercells or cumulonimbus clouds, a huge vertical buildup in the cloud system can occur where the clouds can reach heights well into the upper troposphere. This creates the perfect environment for the formation of ice.

These clouds normally contain a combination of powerful updrafts and downdrafts. As water vapor condensates into water droplets, it can be carried up higher into the clouds by updrafts.

With temperatures well below freezing point at these heights, the water droplets come in contact with supercooled water which cause ice to formed instantly on contact. It will start falling to the ground before being picked up by another updraft and come in contact with more supercooled water and other ice particles.

During this whole process, the ball of ice continues to grow in size until it becomes too heavy to stay in the air and falls to the ground, usually in the form of hail. (We will discuss hail in much more detail later on in the article.)

Sometimes though, temperatures are not below freezing point when water droplets are formed during condensation in a normal cloud. As they start falling, however, they sometimes travel through hundreds of meters of freezing air.

As a result, these waterdrops continue to be cooled to temperatures well below freezing point. These supercooled raindrops is called freezing rain (sometimes called ice rain), and as soon as these raindrops hit the ground or any other surface, it is instantly turned into ice.

From just these two or three examples just described, it should become very clear that there are a wide variety of ways in which ice can be formed, both on the ground and in atmosphere.

Variations Of Ice

But, at the end of the day, ice is just ice right? No matter how they are formed, the end result is still the same...

Well no, not exactly. When casually observed, all forms of ice may look the same, but if you took a closer look, you will notice some subtle but important differences.

What is even more important, is that different forms of ice has characteristics that makes them react differently to their environment. By just looking at a few examples, you will be able to understand why not all ice are "created equal."  

Freshwater Ice: This is probably the most common form of ice, as freshwater is the most abundant type of water found in our rivers, dams, lakes, reservoirs and households. They have the common characteristics of "normal" ice and also freeze consistently at temperatures below 32° Fahrenheit or 0° Celsius.

Sea Ice: At the name suggests, sea ice is formed when ocean water is turned into ice due to a drop in temperature to below freezing point. But it is here where its characteristics differ from freshwater ice. Due to the amount of salt in seawater, sea ice takes much longer to form than freshwater ice. (Seawater gets more dense as it cools down and sinks away from the surface.) The freezing point is also much lower at -1.8° Celsius (28.8° Fahrenheit) prolonging the formation of sea ice even further.

black ice

Glaze Ice: When supercooled waterdrops (ice rain) hits any surface it instantly form a thin clear layer of ice with a very smooth surface. This is a particularly dangerous form of ice when formed on surfaces like roads and pavements. They are almost invisible to the naked eye and very smooth, making it very easy for motorists, pedestrians and cyclists to slip on. 

Hail: We already discussed hail in some detail and will do so in much more detail later on in this article. But as we have already seen, hail is formed in the atmosphere in storm clouds when water droplets collide with supercooled waterdrops in the upper atmosphere in subzero temperatures, instantly turning them to ice in the process.

These are just four examples of many variations of ice and the many forms it take. Next time you see a piece of ice that didn't come out of refrigerator, remember "ice is never just ice".

Snow - Definition And Formation

What Is Snow?

ice

Essentially, snow is a collection of ice crystals that are formed around a pollen or dust particle as a result of the condensation of water vapor in sub-zero temperatures (below 32° Fahrenheit or 0° Celsius) in the atmosphere. When these ice crystals start clinging together snowflakes are formed. As more crystals are added to a snowflake, it grows in size and weight until it becomes too heavy and starts falling to the ground as a result of the earth's gravity.

The most obvious difference between snow and ice can be found in the way they are structured. A snowflake is much lighter and fragile than a similar volume of ice, which is much more dense and almost solid in structure.

Physical Nature Of Snow

The soft and light structure of a snowflake (or any piece of snow) is a direct result of the fact that it is made up out of a number of ice crystals with pockets of air trapped within them.

Each snowflake is hexagonal (six sided) in shape, simply because they are mainly made up out of hexagonal plates, prisms, star-shaped (hexagonal) ice crystals.

It is is important to note though, that even though they might have the same shape, no two snowflakes are the same. Each one has its unique properties.

Snow are also white in color as they reflect all the colors in the color spectrum, which creates a white color when combined.

If you look at a snowflake in detail, you will see that it is made up of many different elements when viewed under magnification. Naturally, the multitudes of ice crystals that are bound together play center-stage when looking at the snowflake up close.

Among some of the other elements found in a snowflake, includes microscopic pieces of pollen and dust (around which many of the ice crystals are formed), as well as pockets of air containing oxygen, nitrogen, and a few other elements commonly found in atmospheric air. 

Formation Of Snow

We are very familiar with snow falling from the sky in the form of snowflakes. Just like ice though, snow can be formed both in the atmosphere and on the ground.

In the atmosphere, ice crystals are formed when the temperature is already well below freezing point. Instead of forming micro water droplets, water vapor condenses directly around small particles of dust or pollen to form ice crystals (a process called deposition), creating their unique hexagon shaped structure.

ice crystal

As the ice crystals start to come in contact and cling to each other, a snowflake is formed. Snowflakes retain its hexagonal shape as already explained, resulting in plenty of "air pockets" to be trapped inside the snowflake.

This allows a snowflake to be much lighter and less dense than a similar sized ball of ice. The combination of the ice crystals' structure and air pockets inside, also allow snow to be easily transformed and compacted.

On the ground, snow is also formed through an accumulation of ice crystals in the form of hoar frost. The formation of hoar frost is very similar to that of snowflakes in the atmosphere but takes place on the ground via contact with objects with subzero temperatures.

On the ground, a variety of objects (lampposts, fences, leaves, branches among others) may be exposed to subzero atmospheric temperatures, lowering their own temperatures to well below freezing point.

As humid air containing water vapor comes in contact with these cold objects, it is instantly frozen and turned into ice crystals. As these ice crystals accumulate, the same type of "snow" found in the atmosphere, is formed on tree branches, fences, and other cold objects. This is called hoar frost.

Variations Of Snow

Just like ice, snow also comes in a variety of different forms that are very often a result of the way in which they were formed. Just by looking at a few different examples this will become very obvious.

Atmospheric Snow: The most common form of snow with which most of us are also familiar with. Ice crystals are formed in subzero temperatures in the atmosphere, starts clinging together and form snowflakes. After reaching a certain size and weight, the snowflakes fall to the ground as a result of the earth's gravitational force.

Hoar Frost

Hoar Frost: This process also involves water vapor that is turned directly into ice crystals. Unlike ice crystals in the atmosphere though, this process takes place on the ground where humid air comes in contact with objects with temperatures below freezing point, instantly allowing the water vapor in the air to be turned into ice crystals upon contact.   

Sleet: Another form of snow is called sleet (often confused with ice rain). When snowflakes are formed and starts falling to the ground, it sometimes fall through a warmer layer in the atmosphere which melts the snowflakes and are turned into waterdrops in the process.

As it continues to fall, it may travel through another layer of subzero atmospheric temperatures, causing the waterdrops to freeze and fall on the ground in the form of small ice pellets called sleet. (Unlike ice rain, it is already turned into ice pellets before hitting the ground, not in contact with the ground as is the case with ice rain.)

Graupel: Sometimes referred to as "snow pellets", graupel is formed when snow falls through an area of supercooled water. Upon contact, the supercooled water freezes around the snowflake and rime it, and graupel is formed as a result.

This process alters the shape and appearance of the snowflake, often resembling the appearance of hail. This is why graupel is sometimes referred to as "soft hail". It is still technically snow, as it is not nearly as solid as hail and the small layer of ice around the snowflake does not change the density of the snowflake itself.  

These four examples provide plenty of proof that snow are formed in a variety of ways and comes in all shapes and sizes.

Hail - Definition And Formation

Hail has already been mentioned a few times during the course of this article (and a few external articles on this website) and are essentially a subcategory of ice.

Yet, it differs in so many ways from other forms of ice, and is such a unique & important occurrence on its own, with its potentially devastating impact on the environment, it really deserves its own complete section.

As already mentioned, hail is essentially a form of ice. However, as you will soon discover, it differs so drastically in its structure and especially in the way it is formed, that in a way it can be seen as an entirely different entity.  

What Is Hail?

hail

Essentially hail is solid layered balls of ice formed as water droplets are carried up high into the atmosphere through updrafts in huge storms systems (like supercells and cumulonimbus clouds). At these high altitudes, they are exposed to temperatures well below freezing point, causing them to freeze and turn into hailstones.

A they are carried through additional updrafts and downdrafts in the storm clouds, additional layers are added until the hailstones grow too big to be kept in the air, and falls to the ground as a result of gravity.

Physical Nature Of Hail

Simply by looking at the structure a hailstone, it should become clear how much it differs from the "normal" ice commonly formed on the ground.

Upon closer inspection, it becomes clear very quickly that hailstones have a roundish, but more importantly, a predominantly irregular shape. This differs dramatically from the structured hexagonal shape of snowflakes (made up out of ice crystals)

This is a direct result of the fact that snowflakes are formed from the hexagon-shaped ice crystals which allow snowflakes to maintain this six-sided structure. Unlike snow though, hail is formed from waterdrops (and not ice crystals), and therefore has no fixed structure.

As supercooled water and other small ice particles attach themselves to a hailstone from different sides as it is carried through updrafts and downdrafts, a very irregular shaped hailstone is formed. 

A hailstone is formed through a series of supercooled waterdrops, small pieces of ice particles, and water droplets building up around it in a storm cloud. A result, the hailstone has a distinctly layered structure, very much like the peels of an onion. (This is very visible when looking at a cross-section of a hailstone.) 

hailstone

When you look at some of the other characteristics of hail, its translucent color is also very characteristic of this particular frozen form of ice. It is not fully transparent as it is made up of multiple layers of different ice, with some impurities also finding its way into the hailstone structure.

The irregular shape of hailstones also hinders its transparency and contributes to the translucent color commonly associated with hail.

Hailstones also come in a variety of sizes, from as small as 5 millimeters (0.2 inches) to 15 centimeters (6 inches) in diameter. The size of a hailstone is determined by a variety of factors including the size of the storm cloud, the strength of updrafts/downdrafts, the amount of moisture in the air, and the vertical extend (height) of the cloud system.

Bigger hailstones can cause severe damage to buildings, vegetation, as well as motor vehicles. It can also cause serious injuries and even be fatal if human beings are struck. This is especially the case once hailstones reach the size of tennisballs, baseballs or larger objects.

Formation Of Hail

We already briefly touched on the formation of hail, but let's take a more indepth look at how a hailstone is formed.

Before looking at the formation process, let me just quickly dispel a myth that exists surrounding hail. It does not need to be cold and stormy on the ground in order for a hailstorm to occur. The weather can be perfectly tolerable or even slightly warm right before a hail starts falling.

There are few conditions however, that needs to be in place to ensure the formation of hail:

  • A sufficient amount of moisture (water vapor) in the air.
  • Strong updrafts.
  • Storm clouds with a large vertical extent (distance from the cloud base to the upper region of the cloud), sometimes reaching up to 16 km (10 miles) in height
  • Hail embryos in the form of very small pieces of soft ice or frozen raindrops sometimes referred to as graupel.
  • Supercooled water droplets in the upper regions of the cloud system. 
  • Lowered freezing level heights.

Not all of these conditions needs to be present for the formation of hail. Neither will the presence of each and every one of these conditions guarantee the formation of ice.

What it means is simply that the presence of these conditions provides the best possible environment for hail to form. Each one's role will soon become clear.

Cumulonimbus Clouds

As already mentioned, a strong storm cloud (preferably in the form of a supercell or cumulonimbus cloud) forms the ideal environment for hail formation. These clouds contain strong updrafts as well as a large vertical buildup that is conducive to hail development.

As water vapor rises up into altitudes with lower temperatures, condensation takes place and water droplets are formed. These water droplets get caught by updrafts and carried up high into the atmosphere (sometime 16-17 kilometers), with temperatures well below freezing point, where the water droplets are turned into ice.

As the updraft weakens or the frozen raindrop gets caught in a downdraft, it is pulled back down to the ground. As it falls through the cloud, it comes in contact with supercooled water droplets and water vapor, which builds up around frozen raindrop, adding to its size and weight and a hailstone starts forming.

When the hailstone is caught by another strong updraft, it is carried back up into the cold upper atmosphere where the process repeats itself. This cycle will continue until the hailstone becomes too big and heavy for the cloud to hold it in the air and the hailstone falls to the ground.

The size of the hailstones reaching the ground largely depends on the size and extent of the storm cloud itself, the strength of the updrafts, and the amount of moisture in the air.

Variations Of Hail

Since hail is already a subcategory of ice, breaking it further down will be confusing. There are, however, two substances closely related to and often confused with hail. I already discussed them earlier in the article, but need to emphasize their difference from hail as it relates to their structure and formation:

Sleet: Often mistaken for smaller hailstones, sleet is actually something completely different. The small frozen ice pellets hitting the ground is actually snow that has melted into water as it fell through a warmer section of air, only to subsequently fall through a layer subzero temperatures which caused them to be frozen into ice pellets.

Graupel: As previously mentioned, graupel is formed when snow falls through an area of supercooled water. Upon contact, the supercooled water freezes around the snowflake and rime it, which forms graupel. It may resemble hail, but is nothing more than ice covered balls of snow which can be easily deformed and crushed.

Conclusion

If you managed to read through this whole article without your head spinning, congratulations! This topic can be very confusing and can lead to debate and disagreement. 

For this very reason I broke this article up into the differences between ice, snow and hail. They cover the major types of water (or water vapor) in its frozen form.

Naturally, as you have seen, there are many more variations, mostly based on physical characteristics and formation. There is also a lot of overlap between the different categories, but all of them can essentially be placed in one these 3 main categories.

I trust this article helped you to better understand all the different forms of water in its frozen form, as well as clear up any confusion you may have about it.  

Feel free to leave me any comments, questions or suggestions, and I will get back to you as soon as possible.

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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Weather Balloon Facts: What They Are And How They Work

What Is A Weather Balloon heading

Weather balloons are often mentioned during weather forecasts and meteorological discussions. For many readers, though, it is unclear exactly what these devices are and how they function.

A weather balloon is a meteorological device that carries instrumentation into the upper troposphere and stratosphere. It consists of a balloon attached to a radiosonde that measures various atmospheric conditions, which are sent back to a base station on the planet's surface for analysis.

Although thousands of these "mobile weather stations" are launched every month across the world, not that much is known about exactly what they are and how they work.

Balloons are one of the oldest forms of aviation technology that have been around for centuries, but it is only during the 20th Century that they were getting utilized on a large scale to take meteorological measurements.

What Does A Weather Balloon Look Like?

At first glance, or just glancing at it briefly, you will think a weather balloon is nothing more than a regular oversized balloon. Although there are many similarities, weather balloons differ in quite a few ways.

Before taking a closer look at the finer characteristics of a weather balloon and its different functions, one first needs to define exactly what it is.

What Is A Weather Balloon?

weather balloon

A weather balloon (or sounding balloon) is a device that carries meteorological instrumentation into the atmosphere. It consists of a radiosonde attached to a balloon that measures temperature, humidity, air pressure, wind, and other data, which are sent back to a base station on Earth for analysis.

This data is transmitted back to earth via a device called a radiosonde, which is used by meteorologists to analyze current and forecast future weather conditions.

The first obvious difference is the size of a weather balloon. It can be anything from 6 to 8 feet (1.40 to 2.40 meters) in diameter, depending on the weight of the instrumentation and the height the balloon needs to reach. 

What A Weather Balloon Looks Like

Made of a highly flexible and tough latex material, weather balloons normally have a white or transparent color. (Although they can also be obtained in red, blue, yellow, or normal latex tan.)

The shape and size of a weather balloon largely depend on its altitude. On the ground, many weather balloons seem to be a bit deflated with an oval shape. But meteorologists know it will rapidly expand as it gains altitude and doesn't want it to burst too early in its ascent.

The ones you view high up in the atmosphere will be round in shape. This happens because the air pressure outside the balloon continues to drop as the altitude increases, allowing the air inside the balloon to continue to expand as the balloon keeps rising up higher.

At the bottom, an array of weather instruments called a radiosonde is connected to the balloon. (With a built-in orange parachute to lower the radiosonde safely to the ground.)

How Does A Weather Balloon Work?

The latex material is normally filled with either hydrogen or helium to lift the balloon to the desired height required by the meteorologists. The radiosonde is connected to the bottom of the balloon, and the balloon is then released from the appropriate launch site.

The launch site is normally in a large open area where there is no danger of drifting into any large vertical objects like tall buildings or mountainous terrain. Airfields are a very popular location to launch weather balloons from.

As soon as the balloon is released and starts rising into the air, the radiosonde starts sending data back to the base station, which the meteorologists can start to analyze.

As it gains altitude, the air inside the balloon starts expanding, and the balloon grows larger as it rises into thinner air.

View From 100 000 Feet

Weather balloons are capable of reaching heights of 100 000 feet (30 480 meters) within an hour after being launched from the surface. Reaching this height gives them the ability to record weather data that no other weather data-gathering device can, which makes them invaluable to meteorologists worldwide.

You might wonder what happens to weather balloons after they reached this height. Well, they explode, literally. There is so little pressure in the air at this height that the air inside the balloon expands to such a point that the latex cannot be stretched any further, and the balloon literally explodes.

The weather balloon's (radiosonde) payload starts falling to the ground, but a small orange parachute attached between the radiosonde and balloon gently guides it down back to Earth.

It's important to try and preserve the radiosonde, as it can be reconditioned and used again. This will lead to a huge saving in cost. (Especially if you take into consideration that a weather balloon is launched twice a day from 92 weather stations in the United States alone. This is a total of 67 160 weather balloons released yearly in one country!)

Unfortunately, only 25% of all radiosondes are recovered and returned to be reconditioned.

And that is the lifecycle of a weather balloon, lasting for a total of about 2 hours after being launched. Yet, you have to take into consideration the fact that the onboard instruments start sending back precious data from the moment the balloon is launched all the way until it reaches a height of 100 000 feet an hour later.

Conclusion

And now you know exactly what a weather balloon is and what it does. Even more so, you will now realize what an important role weather balloons play in the meteorological field and how vital they are to gather very important data needed by meteorologists to understand current weather conditions and forecast future weather events.

Yes, they use aviation innovation more than a century old. Yet, they still fulfill a role unable to be fulfilled by any other device or instrument available today.

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 .

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The Effect Of Weather On Your Health – How Weather-Related Illnesses Affect Us

The Effect Of Weather On Your Health-heading

Most of us will remember a parent or teacher calling us inside while playing outside in the rain "before we get a cold or flu." It was also not uncommon to spend warm summer days playing outside for hours. (Sometimes during the hottest part of the day). Although times have changed, and society as a whole is more "informed," how much do we really know about weather related-illnesses?

So how much truth is there in these warnings and dangers we grew up with? Actually, as scientific research has proven over recent years, there is a lot of truth in many of these warnings, and some dangers are very real.

As this article will explain, some weather conditions have small but noticeable effects on our health. Others, however, have a far more serious and lasting impact, but we don't even realize it at the time.

The aim of this article is to give you a broad overview of the different weather related illnesses. To keep things short and simple, we will stick to a brief description and explanation of each topic.

What Are Weather Related Illnesses?

A weather-related illness is a disease/infection or other adverse health condition that is the direct or indirect result of severe atmospheric conditions such as heat, cold, humidity, or dry weather.

(Once you are aware of the various dangers, you will always be able to and learn more about it here online, or if you are really concerned, seek the advice from your physician.)

By categorizing each section under the following weather conditions, you will be able to quickly find what you are looking for if you are just scanning through this article for some specific answer.

Each section will be divided up under the four major weather conditions:

four weather conditions
  1. Warm Weather
  2. Cold Weather
  3. Dry & Hot Weather
  4. Rainy (wet) Weather

As you will see, there can be quite a bit of overlap between certain health conditions and different weather variables. This is simply because some health conditions are affected by various different weather elements.

Heat Related Illnesses

The effect of heat on our bodies is probably one of the most noticeable weather effects. We very quickly become aware of these warm conditions making us feel being hot, tired, thirsty, or even lethargic during a hot, humid day.

There are some hidden dangers as well, some of which we only become aware of years later. We examine both the visible and hidden dangers while trying to focus on the most important and relevant ones.

  1. 1
    Dehydration
  2. 2
    Migraines
  3. 3
    Heat Stroke
  4. 4
    Sunburn
  5. 5
    Fatigue And Exhaustion

1) Dehydration 

dehydration

As we perspire a lot more during warm weather, we need to rehydrate on a regular basis. Although we often become aware of being thirsty, dehydration often sneaks up on you, and you only feel its effects after becoming lethargic and exhausted. 

During physical activity, cramping of the muscles is a very quick reminder that you probably neglected to stay properly hydrated.

Although normally considered a short-term condition, dehydration can have serious effects. Being constantly dehydrated over the long-term puts a lot of stress on your organs, especially your kidneys. Left unchecked, it can even lead to permanent organ damage.  

2) Migraines

If you are one of the unfortunate people who suffer migraines, this may not be new information to you at all, but the weather is actually one of the main causes of migraines.

And it's even more sobering when you have to consider that it's not just one but a variety of weather conditions that can trigger a migraine. Changes in temperature, high winds, and stormy weather can all contribute to the development of a migraine.

It is mostly warm weather, and it's and all the factors surrounding it, that is the biggest contributor to migraines. The heat and humidity themselves are very often the triggers of this painful condition.

Direct sunlight is often a double blow to someone whose eyes are sensitive to sunlight and also suffer from migraines. Being directly exposed to the bright sun is almost guaranteed to be followed by a migraine attack.

Then, ironically, two very different conditions related to heat, extreme humidity, and very dry weather can both contribute to migraines to varying degrees.

You will, therefore not be imagining things when you find that you always develop a migraine when certain weather conditions occur.

3) Heat Stroke

Heat Stroke (also called sunstroke) is one of the most serious heat-related injuries and can be fatal. This occurs when a person is exposed to the sun and heat for a prolonged period of time and often coincides with humidity.

This can result in the body to shut down its temperature control system. If it is not caught in time or treated immediately, it can lead to death or permanent brain damage.

Tell-tale symptoms include fainting or completely losing consciousness. There are warning signs, however. Feelings of dizziness, nausea, rapid heartbeats, and being hot without sweating are all warning signs that should not be ignored.

This is a very serious condition, so when you experience these symptoms or notice someone else displaying them, don't ignore it. Especially after a prolonged period of exposure to the sun, this can really be a matter of life or death.

4) Sunburn

Apart from those of you who live close to Arctic regions and have never taken a holiday near the tropics or a sunny country, we have all experienced the painful result of sunburn.

Sunburn

Sunburn occurs when the skin is exposed to the dangerous UV radiation from the sun for an extended period of time. This results in painful red skin discoloration, which is the body's inflammatory response to the damage. The diluted blood vessels are the start of the repair process by the body's immune system.

The evenings and following days after a day of very long hours in direct sunlight without proper protection (sunscreen and proper clothing), will be a painful reminder of this danger we will don't easily forget. (And yet, sometimes still not learn from it.)

There is a hidden and much more dangerous result of sunburn, though. One we very often only discovered decades later. The close relationship between skin cancer and sun exposure has already been well researched and known for decades in the medical community.

The biggest danger is that skin cancer (as a result of sunburn) very often only manifests itself decades later, even though the damage was done in our early years.

I can testify to this myself. At 47, I recently developed strange looking growths on my skin, only to discover it was solar keratosis, a form of precancer. (Luckily, it was treated and burned off with liquid nitrogen).

Being fair-skinned, I used to "bake" in the sun for hours in my teens in my attempts to look healthy and not stick out like a sore thumb. My mother, also fair-skinned, already got treated for skin cancer several times, so you will think yours truly would get the message...

Fortunately, most skin cancers are not deadly and treatable when caught in time. It can have deadly effects, though, especially in its most dangerous form, melanoma. But why take the risk when you can prevent the cause of it all from doing the damage in the first place?

Sunburn is something that should be taken seriously, though, so make sure especially children are adequately protected and stay out of the sun during the hours when the sun's UV radiation is at its highest. They may not thank you now but will thank you later.

5) Fatigue And Exhaustion

We all know how tired we are after a long warm day at the beach or out in nature. Even just commuting or sitting in your office in warm weather conditions can be exhausting and lead to fatigue and drowsiness.

exhaustion

Dehydration is one of the main causes, as it makes you feel tired and fatigued very quickly. The warm weather heats your body. It responds by perspiring to cool the body down. It very often happens over time without you even noticing it.

As a result, your body starts dehydrating, and if you are not aware of this and don't drink enough fluids, you will inevitably start feeling fatigued.

As the body tries to cool the body in various ways, it also uses up energy. The longer your body needs to stay cool, the more energy is used up. This leads to a lack of energy, which is another reason why you start to feel tired and exhausted.

Warm temperatures also lead to a drop in blood pressure. This is normally not dangerous in an otherwise healthy person. The drop in blood pressure, however, does make you feel tired and drowsy.

A combination of all these factors can make a warm, humid day very tiresome, exhausting, and very unproductive.

Cold Related Illnesses

Before delving into the various health conditions in this section, I need to clarify that the cold weather diseases or health conditions discussed here are not necessarily the ones associated with "normal" cooler winter temperatures.

I am referring to those countries and regions closer to the northern and southern arctic regions, which are experiencing exceptionally cold weather. (This will obviously include any country that also experiences extreme cold weather during the winter months.)

  1. 1
    Compromised Immune System
  2. 2
    Hypothermia
  3. 3
    Heart Attacks
  4. 4
    Frostbite
  5. 5
    Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

1) Compromised Immune System

Just as your body spends energy in its attempt to cool down in warm weather conditions, it also spends a lot of energy trying to warm your body during cold weather conditions.

It just spends that much more energy trying to stay warm than it does cooling down. Perspiring is a more passive action, while shivering is nothing more than your muscles contracting and relaxing at a rapid rate. So it's basically a form of exercise, like going to the gym.

Shivering over a long period of time, combined with muscle movements to help you stay warm you may not even be aware of (like rubbing your hands together or shoveling your feet), really use up a substantial amount of energy.  

As you would have noticed, I often talk about people with weak or compromised immune systems throughout this article. Unfortunately, it is true that they are the ones who are most vulnerable to changing weather conditions.

And this the case with cold conditions as well. A child or elderly person with a developing or weakened immune system will be weakened even further in cold weather conditions.

As a result, an individual with a weakened immune system is now much more prone to infections and diseases that would have easily been fought off under normal circumstances.

2) Hypothermia

hypothermia

As the air temperature drops, your body is in a constant battle to keep your body temperature up. There are some instances, however, where the body is simply not able to keep its temperature at a sustainable level.

Once your body's core temperature drops below 35° Celsius (95° Fahrenheit), hypothermia sets in. If not treated quickly, this can lead to a shutdown of your organs and nervous system, which can be fatal.

Hypothermia is classified in various stages, from mild to severe. The seriousness and form of treatment are mostly determined by the stage of hypothermia experienced.  

People with a weakened or underdeveloped immune system, like children and the elderly, have the biggest risk of experiencing hypothermia during very cold conditions.

3) Heart Attacks

The number of heart attacks per year shows a significant rise during the cold winter months. This has been confirmed by the American Heart Association, but in reality, it is actually a worldwide phenomenon.

This is partly due to the compromised immune system I mentioned in the section above. Especially when performing physical activity, the heart is forced to work harder.

This puts anyone with an existing heart condition at risk as the body is less able to cope with the additional stress than under warmer conditions due to a weakened immune system.

Additionally, cold weather also causes blood vessels in the human body to be constricted. This inhibits blood flow to the heart, which puts it under additional stress.

This, in turn, can increase the likelihood of a blood clot restricting or completely blocking any blood from reaching the heart, which can trigger a heart attack.     

4) Frostbite

This also a very serious condition that occurs under extremely cold conditions. Under these icy conditions, the exposed areas of the skin and underlying tissue are frozen by the cold temperatures. (It can also happen to the skin underneath clothing.)

frostbite

The areas most affected are the toes, fingers, nose, ears, and chin. In more severe cases, larger parts of the body can also be affected.

Symptoms include a tingling sensation, feelings of numbness, and general clumsiness due to the stiffening up of the muscles.

Physical symptoms can mostly be observed in the discoloration of the skin. From a red, white, to a bluish-white and grayish-yellow color can be seen and may indicate various stages of frostbite. A hard and waxy-looking skin may also point to possible frostbite.

Various stages of frostbite occur, with the most severe case resulting in the death of the skin and underlying tissue. This is the result of a complete loss of blood flow for a prolonged period as a result of the tissue being frozen.

At this point, gangrene has set in, and the skin has turned black and hard as a result of the dying tissue. In most cases, at his point, amputation of the affected area may be the only source of treatment.

This a worst-case scenario, though, and in most cases, the affected areas be treated and are able to recover.

The biggest danger, however, is that this condition may occur unnoticed and therefore not treated in time. This is because the affected area turns numb quickly, which means you may not even be aware of the worsening condition if it's not pointed out to you.

5) Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Although this is considered an indirect result of cold weather conditions, it is still serious enough and should be taken note of.

During cold weather, staying warm door indoors often coincide with creating sources of heat. Especially in less developed countries, furnaces, fireplaces, and stoves are often used.

During the burning process, carbon monoxide is released. It is an odorless but deadly gas, which means it is sometimes not picked up until it's too late.

For this reason, care should be taken for proper ventilation of these gases, and having a meter that measures carbon monoxide levels at all times, is always a sensible option.

Dry Weather Related Illnesses

  1. 1
    Dry Skin Conditions
  2. 2
    Upper Respiratory Problems
  3. 3
    Nosebleeds

1) Dry Skin Conditions

Like most other parts of our body, our skin contains and actually needs a certain amount of moisture to stay healthy and sustain its elasticity.

Cracked Skin

During dry winter months (or summer in some countries), the dry air directly affects our skin and leads to a loss of the amount of moisture it contains.

Its symptoms include the itchiness and sometimes burning sensation many of us are familiar with. Visible scratch marks and a red discoloration after friction with another object are also tell-tale signs of dry skin.

Dry air can also lead to some individuals developing painful cracks on their skin and chapped lips. If left untreated, it can worsen and actually start to bleed, which can leave the affected areas prone to infection.

2) Upper Respiratory Problems

Your upper respiratory system, specifically your nose and throat, is lined with moist membranes. The main task of these membranes is to capture small particles like pollen, dust, and bacteria before they reach your lungs.

When the weather becomes very dry, these membranes can start losing humidity as well. This severely limits their ability to effectively perform their jobs.

Many upper respiratory infections and conditions like asthma, sinusitis, and bronchitis can be severely affected when these membranes start to lose their ability to perform their tasks optimally and effectively.

It is, therefore, quite common to see an increase in occurrences of these ailments during dry weather conditions.

3) Nosebleeds

Since we do the majority of our breathing through our noses, the amount of moisture present in the air has a direct effect on our nasal passages.

During the dry season, the air passing through our nasal passages causes the inside of the nose to become dry as well, which is uncomfortable and quite painful in many cases.

This also often leads to nosebleeds among some individuals. That is also why it is not uncommon at all to see more people suffering from nosebleeds when the weather remains predominantly dry.

Wet Weather Related Illnesses

  1. 1
    Colds And Flu
  2. 2
    Asthma
  3. 3
    Waterborne Diseases
  4. 4
    Athlete's Foot

1) Colds And Flu

We all know that "rainy and cold weather causes colds and flu."

colds and flu

Do they really?

Nope, this claim is actually a myth. Cold and rainy weather do contribute to colds and flu, but not in the way you think!

During winter months, people tend to stay indoors and spend a lot more time in close proximity to other people. This creates the ideal environment for viruses to spread.

With over 200 viruses responsible for colds and flu, the rhinovirus is responsible for more than 50% of all colds contracted. It is also highly infectious and can be passed on through physical contact or via the air (sneezing and coughing).

Combine this with people concentrated into confined spaces and sharing the same air, and it is no surprise that the number of cold & flu instances increase dramatically over the cold and wet winter months.  

The wet and cold weather only contributes to this increase by forcing people indoors more often, as well as lowering immune systems as the human body is using up valuable energy while fighting to keep it warm.

2) Asthma

Although this can fall under upper respiratory health conditions, it is serious and different enough to deserve its own section. Over 300 million people worldwide suffer from asthma in some form.

It is therefore important to note that a thunderstorm can actually trigger an asthma attack. Pollen allergens, which are some of the primary triggers for an asthma attack, are picked by the wind swirling around in the storm.

As the storm travels, it carries these pollen allergens with them. This increases the likelihood of being inhaled by anyone in the path of the storm. In the case of an asthma sufferer, the chances are good of causing an asthma attack.

3) Waterborne Diseases

An often overlooked but potentially deadly consequence of the wet rainy season is the increase and spread of waterborne diseases.

This is especially prolific in regions experiencing heavy rainfall over short periods of time, for example, in India during the Monsoon Season.

mosquitoes

After a heavy downpour, flash flooding often occurs. This leaves large areas of standing water for days or even weeks. It is this standing water that is the ideal breeding ground for all kinds of waterborne diseases, which is spread through various forms of contact, including insects like mosquitoes.

Some of the deadliest diseases like typhoid, malaria, cholera, and dengue flourish in these conditions. These waterborne diseases are also responsible for more fatalities in India during the monsoon season than any direct weather event (like flooding, structural collapse, and mudslides).

4) Athlete's Foot

This indirect result of a particularly heavy rainy season is not that serious at all. I decided to include it just to put a little more of a lighthearted spin on an otherwise rather serious article.

Standing water as a result of a heavy downpour and flash flooding is ideal for the spreading of the fungus that causes athlete's foot. As a result, you see a substantial increase in this embarrassing and inconvenient fungal infection during rainy seasons.

Conclusion

A range of health conditions can directly be linked to specific weather occurrences. In many cases, as I stated at the start of the article, some conditions can be triggered or influenced by a variety of different weather variables.

If you were ever puzzled as to why you only experience certain health issues or feel the way you do at specific times over the years, I hope this article was able to shed some light on the situation and answer some questions.

There are obviously countless more health conditions that can be linked to specific weather variables. I tried to concentrate and isolate the most important ones, though.

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 Are Gale Force Winds And How Are They Formed?

What Are Gale Force Winds And How They Are Formed heading

Occasionally, strong, persistent winds occur that make just staying on your feet a battle. We all experienced them. But what are these gale force winds, and what are their characteristics?

A gale force wind (or gale) is a strong, persistent wind ranging from 50 km/h (31 mph) to 102 km/h (63 mph) and is typically associated with but not limited to coastal regions. According to the Beaufort Scale, there are four different categories of gale force winds.

Strong gusty winds are not uncommon and can be found in many major storm systems like hurricanes, thunderstorms, and tornadoes. Gale force winds are not limited to just major storm systems, though.

The strong, persistent gale force winds we are discussing in this article are the prolonged gale force winds with gusts strong enough to cause significant structural damage and the ability to literally blow you off your feet. 

These winds can sometimes occur without any apparent presence of a strong weather system and can last a whole day. One needs to investigate further and find out what exactly these gale force winds are to understand what is causing them in the first place. 

Gale Definition

The introduction already provided a brief description of what a gale force wind is. However, one needs to establish a more detailed definition to define exactly what a gale force wind is before looking in more detail at its development and characteristics.

What Is A Gale Force Wind?

What Is A Gale Force Wind

A gale force wind (or gale) is a strong, persistent wind with a minimum speed of 50 km/h (31 mph) and a maximum speed of 102 km/h (63 mph), which are typically associated with coastal regions. There are four different categories of gale force winds, according to the Beaufort Scale.

Typically, these strong winds are caused by a rapid drop in air pressure (indicated by a steep pressure gradient.) and usually associated with coastal regions.

It has to be noted that the US National Weather Service classifies a gale as a wind with speeds of 63 - 87 km/h (39 - 54 mph), so the classification of this type of wind may vary from one region to another.

Using the word gale to describe these strong winds is actually a very appropriate word choice when you look at the word's origins. The word gale stems from the Old Norse word "galinn," which literally means "frantic," "mad," or "tiresome."

Naturally, winds of this wind speeds can be very dangerous and destructive. As a result, whenever a gale is predicted, it is normal for weather forecasters to issue gale warnings.

The Beaufort Scale

Even though different countries and regions have different definitions of what a gale force wind is, using the Beaufort Scale has some clear advantages: 

Beaufort Scale

Diagram displaying part of the Beaufort Scale that contains the 4 categories of  gale force winds (highlighted in red). Click on image to view the full Beaufort Scale. 

It not only breaks down the different gale strengths into 4 separate categories, but each one is clearly defined with its own description and associated land & sea conditions highlighted.

It also shows where gale force winds sit in comparison with other wind strengths, which helps you to view any type of wind in context. It is helpful to assess the threat a gale poses and accurately convey relevant information to a third party familiar with this classification.

(The Beaufort Scale was created by Rear-Admiral Sir Francis Beaufort, a hydrologist in the Royal Navy in the 1830's. This scale was widely adopted throughout the Navy and even adapted for non-naval application in the 1850s.)


As is the case with most other weather phenomena, things are not as simple as the definition above may suggests. There are actually a number of different factors and weather systems that can form gale force winds in a variety of ways.

What Are The Cause Of Gale Force Winds

Wind is the result of air flowing from an area of high pressure to low pressure. This is the reason why there are almost always winds of varying strength present around a low-pressure system. 

(You can find out more about the formation of wind, as well as its relationship with high and low-pressure systems in this in-depth article.) 

tropical storm

Tropical storms, cyclones, and hurricanes illustrate this point very clearly. Depending on the low-pressure system's strength, winds of gale-force strength are reached very quickly and can quickly build up to reach hurricane strength wind speeds.

Gale force winds are not just formed as a result of storm systems, though. Sometimes, on a seemingly otherwise clear day and pleasant day, you can suddenly be hit by winds quickly building up to gale force speeds.

Anyone living at the coast, specifically in areas where the coastline's relief plays a part, may be very familiar with these winds. Simply put, a gale force wind in these areas can sometimes be seen as a "sea breeze on steroids"...

During summer months, both the surface of the ocean and land are heated up by the sun. The land heats up much more quickly than the ocean. During the afternoon, the land also cools down much quicker than the ocean.

A low-pressure system over land is created as a result. The warm air over the ocean flows towards the low-pressure system over land, and it is this air movement that is commonly referred to as a sea breeze.

This sea breeze can sometimes turn into a gale force winds in specific areas and under certain conditions. For example, Cape Town, South Africa, is notorious for its strong gale force winds often experienced during summer months.

These gale force winds at coastal regions are formed as a result of mainly 2 factors: 

  1. Occasionally, the difference between the low-pressure and high-pressure air over land and sea is so big that the breeze can quickly turn into a strong wind.
  2. The region's mountainous relief (like Cape Town) is responsible for amplifying the strength of these strong winds through a funnel effect. (The wind is being channeled through a narrow, low-lying area, substantially strengthening it and increasing wind speeds.)

This results in gale-force strength winds in certain areas among the Cape Peninsula. It is not that uncommon for winds to reach speeds of 120 km/h (75 mph).

San Francisco

Cape Town is just one example of this phenomenon that takes place in coastal regions all over the world. San Francisco is also famous for its strong gale-force winds during the summer months.

Here also, a combination of relief and the big contrast in ocean & land temperatures is also responsible for these strong winds. Especially in the San Francisco Bay Area, wind funnel through at the Golden Gate, reaching gale force speeds with gusts of up to 64 km/h (40 mph).

Conclusion

As you would have been able to conclude from this article, gale-force winds (or simply gales) are not winds specifically associated with any particular weather system.

Rather, winds are classified as gale force winds mainly because of the speed at which they are traveling. (Not where they take place or how they are formed.)

Therefore as already stated earlier, winds measuring between 7 and 10 on the Beaufort Scale,  indicating wind speeds of between 50 and 102 km/h (32 - 63 mph), are all considered to be gale-force winds.

We also touched on how these winds are generated, as well as briefly touching on the origins of the term to better understand its use.

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 Dew Point And How Does It Affect The Weather, Especially Rainfall?

What Is Dew Point heading

One often hears the term "Dew Point being discussed during weather forecasts. This post examines what precisely dew point is, how it is reached, and its effect on the weather.

Dew point is the temperature below which the air can no longer contain water in its gaseous state, and condensation takes place resulting in water vapor either turning into its liquid or solid state. It is also the temperature where evaporation and condensation occur at the same rate.

Whether it is the large-scale formation of clouds in the atmosphere, or the droplets forming on the outside of a glass of cold water, it all occurs when temperatures reach and exceed dew point.

This article examines what exactly dew point is and how it is formed. It also takes a closer look at the relationship between dew point and humidity.

Dew Point Definition

During the introduction, you already received a brief description of what dew point is. To better understand its characteristics and development, though, one needs a more detailed and thorough definition of this meteorological event:

Dew point is the temperature below which the air can no longer contain water in its gaseous state, and condensation takes place resulting in water vapor either turning into its liquid or solid state. It is also the temperature where evaporation and condensation occur at the same rate.

When dew point occurs at ground level, water droplets form on plants and other objects in the form of dew. Hence the term, dew point.

The same process happens higher up in the atmosphere, where the formation of clouds results from the temperature dropping to below dew point level.

Basically then, the clouds we see in the sky, as well as the dew we see on the ground in the mornings, are essentially one and the same thing. Especially when you consider the way in which they are formed.

(Clouds are nothing more than water vapor that reached dew point and formed small water droplets as a result. After all, it is these small water droplets that make clouds visible in the first place.)

How And When Dew Point Is Reached

Understanding what dew point is may not be that difficult. All the variables and conditions that need to be in place, however, is not that simple and need some explanation.

Let's first have a look at how dew point is reached. In order to do this, first understand that dew point is very closely linked to relative humidity. (To find out more about humidity, you can read all about it in this article.)

For the sake of this argument, let's assume the barometric pressure and volume of air is constant and do not change in this scenario. Now let's say the relative humidity is 50% at 30 Degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit). 

As the temperature starts dropping, the relative humidity starts to rise. (As you will discover in the linked article above, air with a warmer temperature can hold more water vapor than the same air at a lower temperature. This simply means the lower the temperature, the higher the percentage of relative humidity.)

Once the temperature drops low enough for relative humidity to reach 100%, Dew Point is reached. This is the point where the maximum amount of water vapor can be held without condensation taking place. (Also, at 100% humidity, the actual temperature and dew point temperature are also exactly the same.)

If the temperature continues to drop below this level, condensation will take place, and water droplets will start forming.

Please Note: The scenario above is just a hypothetical example. Relative humidity DO NOT need to reach 100% in order for condensation and rain to take place. As long as the actual temperature drops to below the dew point temperature with enough water vapor in the air, cloud formation and rain can occur.

Relative humidity is just an indicator of the amount of moisture in the air relative to the actual temperature. It is not uncommon for relative humidity to be below 70% when rainfall occurs.

The exact calculation of how dew point is calculated is beyond the scope and not the purpose of this article and may be addressed in an upcoming post.

The Relationship Between Dew Point, Relative Humidity And Comfort Level

We all heard and used the expression, "It's not the heat, it's the humidity." (Yep, I am guilty of it myself). The feeling we normally feel when we get hot and sweaty, yet the thermometer itself does not indicate an abnormally high temperature.

While it is partially true, and humidity does play a big part, the best way to measure the discomfort level we experience is actually best measured by the Dew Point.

Relative humidity can actually be 100%, yet it may still not be nearly as uncomfortable as a different situation where the relative humidity is around 70%. For this reason, relative humidity is a fairly poor indicator of comfort levels, and dew point is the chosen standard used by meteorologists to describe comfort/discomfort levels.

Relative Humidity And Dew Point

The illustration above will be used to try and best explain why this is the case. 

It is important that you keep in mind that the amount of discomfort or "humidity" you experience is a direct result of the actual amount of moisture in the air. And this is where relative humidity becomes a problem.

Relative humidity is the result of a calculation of the amount of moisture relative to the temperature in the air, NOT the specific amount of moisture actually present in the air. And this is what makes the dew point temperature a much more accurate and calculated indicator of the discomfort level you are experiencing. 

In the illustrator above, let's first take a look at Figure 1 to illustrate this. Both containers measure a relative humidity of 50%. Yet, it is clear that Container B contains much more water vapor than Container A.

Since the temperature in Container B is much higher, allowing the air to hold more moisture, the discomfort level is substantially higher than that in Container A. This is clearly indicated by the much higher dew point temperature of 26° Celsius (compared to the much lower dew point of 10 ° Celsius in Container A).

This point is reinforced in Figure 2. Even if the relative humidity is raised to 100% in Container A, and the air is fully saturated at a dew point of 21° Celsius, it is still below that of Container B, where nothing has changed, and the dew point remains at 26° Celsius as a result. 

This means in both cases, the level of discomfort in Container B is higher than that of Container A. This is evident as the relative humidity of Container A, even at a 100% in Figure 2, is still below the higher the dew point level of Container B. 

This simply shows that the higher temperature in Container B allows the air to contain a greater amount of water vapor, which is clearly reflected by the higher dew point temperatures in the illustration above.

The change from 50% relative humidity to 100% however, did not reflect the reality that the discomfort level (even at a 100% humidity), may not be as uncomfortable as the figures may imply. (As illustrated in the diagram above.)   

This is a bit of a mind-bender, and it takes a while to wrap your head around it. You may need to reread this part a couple of times to make sense of it all. 

Just know that humidity definitely plays a big part in the discomfort levels we sometimes feel, but the actual discomfort level is much better reflected by the dew point temperature than the relative humidity.

Conclusion

By now, you will have a much clearer picture of what exactly dew point is, how it is formed, as well as its effect on the environment.

We also delved into the more complex relationship between relative humidity and dew point and its role in the level of discomfort we feel.

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 .

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What Is The Coriolis Effect And How Does It Affect Our Weather?

What Is The Coriolis Effect heading

You may vaguely remember your Geography teacher mentioning the term "Coriolis Effect" at some point during your school years. But what is the Coriolis Effect, and how does it work?

The Coriolis Effect describes the force generated by the Earth's eastward rotation, which results in air movement to be deflected to the right in the Northern Hemisphere and to the left in the Southern Hemisphere. It is one of the primary driving forces of global climate and weather patterns.

The Coriolis Effect is so important, in fact, that it influences almost every significant weather event occurring around the world. And it all directly results from the Earth's rotation:

The Coriolis Effect is caused by the Earth's rotation from west to east. This causes a deflection in air movement as it travels away from Polar & Equatorial regions, respectively. 

This phenomenon is responsible for the formation of some of the world's largest weather systems like hurricanes, typhoons, and tropical storms, as well as repeating circulating air masses like Trade Winds.

The principle may sound simplistic, but understanding it is a bit more complex. If one simply tries to put it into words, it won't make sense. For this reason, we will use an analogy alongside the appropriate illustrations to explain the principle in practice.

We will then continue and illustrate how it applies to the earth's rotation and its influence on weather systems and events, wherever it is formed on the planet.

How Exactly Does The Coriolis Effect Works

To best understand the earth's rotation, and the resulting influences on global wind movements, the analogy of a playground merry-go-round will be used.

merry-go-round

You can use the illustration above to better understand the process. The merry-go-round is viewed from the top to best explain how the Coriolis Effect works.

Imagine the merry-go-round is spinning counterclockwise at a rapid speed. On the platform, the person in green and blue would have both completed one full rotation as the merry-go-round completed one rotation.

But, (as all of us who have been on the merry-go-round will know), the green figure would have traveled much faster and covered a bigger distance than the blue figure sitting closer to the center of the merry-go-round in the same period of time.

When viewed from the top, the earth works in exactly the same way. This means the blue figure will represent the two polar regions, while the green figure the tropical regions.

Global Surface Speeds

Now let's flip the map sideways as we would normally view a map of the world (as illustrated in the image above). The same principle explained in the previous section still applies, but from this view, the Coriolis Effect can be much better explained and viewed.

It is important to note that the speed of rotation in the tropics (indicated in green) is much faster than the speed of rotation at the poles (indicated in blue). This is the main driving force of the Coriolis Effect.

Global Wind Movement

The illustration above shows you exactly how the moving air is affected once it starts deviating away from the tropics and polar regions, respectively.

Atmospheric elements (like moist air and clouds) at the tropics will always move at the same speed as the planet's surface below. If it is pushed off course by any air movement and starts moving north or south, it starts drifting over an increasingly slower moving surface.

As a result, the clouds or moist air will move faster than the surface below it as it continues to drift further away from the center of the earth. (Indicated by the red arrows in the illustration above.)

A similar but opposite scenario occurs to atmospheric elements originating over the poles. Atmospheric elements (like moist air and clouds) at the polar regions will also always move at the same speed as the planet's surface below. In this case, however, if it is pushed off course by any air movement and starts moving north or south, it starts drifting over an increasingly faster-moving surface.

As a result, the clouds or moist air will move slower than the surface below it as it continues to drift further away to the north at the Antarctic and to the south at the North Pole. (Indicated by the blue arrows in the illustration above.)

So the question remains. How does the Coriolis Effect cause and influence global weather systems around the world?

Low Pressure System

The illustrations above will give you a clear example of how just one type of weather system is formed as a result of the Coriolis Effect.

We now know that air moving away from the equator moves faster than the earth's surface beneath it. At the same time, air moving away from the poles moves slower than the earth's surface beneath it.

Now let's introduce a low-pressure system to the scenario. The air from both the equator and polar region will be pulled towards and start rotating around the low-pressure system (Air always flow from an area of high pressure to an area of low-pressure)

In the Northern Hemisphere, as illustrated above, this forms a counterclockwise rotation of winds around the low-pressure system. Over a warm ocean, hot moist air feeds the low-pressure system, which in turn strengthens the wind rotation around it.

And this is exactly how a tropical depression is formed, which can develop into a tropical storm and even eventually form a hurricane if the weather system grows strong enough. 

(You can read in detail how exactly low-pressure systems and the surrounding winds develop hurricanes & typhoons in this article.)

In the Southern Hemisphere, the winds accelerate and rotate to the left as it moves away from the equator. This is indicated with the red arrows in the second illustration above.

As a result, the exact same weather systems that form in the Northern Hemisphere around a low-pressure system can form in the Southern Hemisphere. It applies to all low-pressure weather formations, from a small tropical depression to a typhoon. With one big difference...

This big difference being the rotation of weather systems. The wind in these systems is always clockwise as a result of the Coriolis Effect. This means all low-pressure systems in the Southern Hemisphere rotate clockwise, unlike their counterparts in the Northern Hemisphere.

Effects Of The Coriolis Effect

In explaining what the Coriolis Effect is, some of the biggest weather systems caused by this global phenomena has already been highlighted. Hurricanes, tropical cyclones, and typhoons (all basically the same thing) have already been mentioned, as well as how the Coriolis Effect assists in their creation.

It also has a similar but opposite effect on high-pressure systems around the world. Winds rotate away from the center of a high-pressure system (as opposed to low-pressure systems). As a result, high-pressure weather systems rotate clockwise in the Northern Hemisphere and counterclockwise in the Southern Hemisphere.

Another very important result of the Coriolis Effect is the creation of Trade Winds. As air is warmed in the Tropics and starts moving in a northerly direction, it is deflected to the right as a result of the Coriolis Effect.

As the air cools down, it descends back to earth (at about 30 degrees north latitude). As the air descends, it moves back to the equator from the Northeast to the Southwest. These big persistent circular air masses are called Trade Winds. 

A more indirect impact of the Coriolis Effect is the effect on the world's ocean currents. Ocean currents are mostly driven by global winds. As most of the earth's largest currents circulate around the high-pressure regions called gyres, the impact of the Coriolis Effect is very evident here too.

Conclusion

I honestly don't blame you if your head is spinning from reading through all the terms like "rotation, right, left, clockwise, counterclockwise and deviating" spread throughout this entire article.

If everything is a bit unclear, just read through the article a couple of times and use the accompanying illustrations to better understand exactly how the Coriolis Effect works. It gets easier and more understandable. Just give it time.

I hope this article managed to shed some light on this sometimes "mysterious" but very important part of our global weather and climate called the Coriolis Effect.

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 Tornado, How Is It Formed, And What Are Its Main Characteristics?

What Is A Tornado Heading

Whether you live in a region frequently experiencing tornadoes or never saw one in your life, you will be familiar with this extreme weather event. We examine what a tornado is and how it forms.

Not only are they famous (or rather infamous) for their dramatic appearance and destructive power, but they have also been made more famous and "glorified" by Hollywood in more than a few of their "disaster movies."

What Is A Tornado?

A tornado is a funnel-shaped fast rotating column of air, which forms at the base of a storm cloud and extends to the ground. It is characterized by an intense low-pressure center surrounded by rotating high velocities winds. It typically develops in a supercell with strong up and downdrafts.

Although they can occur anywhere across the world, the central plains of the United States experience an unusually high concentration of tornadoes every year in a region commonly known as Tornado Alley.

This article examines what exactly a tornado is and how it forms. It also looks at its characteristics and where it typically occurs.  

How A Tornado Is Formed

The majority of tornadoes are formed in violent thunderstorms, especially in what is called supercells. (The most intense and violent form of a thunderstorm.)

The conditions in a supercell need to be ideal in order for a tornado to develop. This means a tornado needs a supercell to develop, but not all supercells can produce tornadoes.

The specific conditions needed for the formation of a tornado is actually a specific combination of wind movements. A combination of both downdrafts (sinking air) and updrafts (rising air) is required for tornado development.

Tornado Formation

The illustration above shows you the complex interaction between cloud formation, wind speeds, and direction, as well as altitude that takes place during the formation of a tornado in a supercell.

Warm moist air near the surface of the ground starts to rise, creating a low-pressure system. As it continues to rise, it is hit by winds with different speeds and blowing in different directions. It is these winds that allow it to start spinning.

This alone is not enough, though. Air rotation near the ground is essential for the process to be completed. As the cold air from the upper atmosphere starts to descend (creating downdrafts), it comes in contact with the updraft, putting pressure on the rising air.

This pressure and friction caused by the downdraft force the space of the rotating updraft to be condensed. This increases the wind speed within the rotating column of air. 

The wind speed is further increased by the rotation towards the axis of the low-pressure system. (Remember, air always flows from an area of high to an area of low pressure)

This acceleration in wind speed towards the axis is called conservation of angular momentum (or spin). This is similar to a figure skater starting to spin on ice. As he/she starts pulling their arms in, they start rotating faster and faster (to conserve angular movement)

The supercell starts acting like a giant vacuum cleaner as the rotating column of air strengthens and sucks more air away from the surface of the ground.

If the combination of "downdraft pressure" and "updraft suction" is strong enough, the column of rotating air will reach the ground, which will complete the formation of the tornado.

As it touches the ground, debris and dirt sucked up by the tornado will form the visible funnel formation we all know so well. (Tornadoes can actually be invisible, but more on that in the next section).

Now that one have a better understanding of how tornadoes are formed, it is easier to understand why certain areas are so prone to the development of tornadoes. 

And this is why the area known as Tornado Alley is such an ideal breeding ground for tornadoes. As the cold, dry air from Canada moves south, it collides with the warm moist air from the Golf Of Mexico over this region.

Here, the Great Plains further contribute to creating this ideal environment, as the relatively flat landscape allows these two air masses to collide and form supercells. The resulting thunderstorms and unstable atmosphere is the perfect recipe for tornadoes to develop.

Characteristics Of A Tornado

Many readers, especially from the Central United States, will already be very familiar with the characteristics of a tornado, especially its almost unmistakable shape.

A tornado is characterized by the very recognizable funnel-shaped fast rotating column of air, with its narrow base touching the ground and then broadening out as it reaches up to the cloud base of typically a cumulonimbus cloud.

Not all tornadoes conform to this familiar image we are so familiar with. There are also a few characteristics of tornadoes that are not that well-known but still very relevant and important to those potentially affected. We take a look at a few of the most important ones:

1) Tornadoes Are Not Always Visible. 

Since a tornado is essentially a fast rotating column of wind, they are not naturally visible by themselves. What makes them visible is the objects on the ground they cross and pick up.

Water-Sprout

I already mentioned dust and debris are some of the common objects that are sucked up and give them their familiar grey-brown color. Other objects include vegetation and even water. In the latter case. (As mentioned earlier, when a tornado originates over water, it is referred to as water-sprout.)

A big danger and concern for meteorologists occur as the result of a tornado not being visible, or objects or the terrain masks its visibility. In a heavily wooded region with large trees, for example, it is tough to spot and identify an approaching tornado.

Two other factors that can completely mask a tornado is heavy rain and the cover of darkness. When a tornado occurs during heavy rainfall, the rain-wrapped funnel can be completely invisible until it is too late.

Also, if a tornado occurs at night, you may literally be unaware of it until it is right upon you. Although it makes a loud noise that many people have compared to freight trains or airplanes taking off,  it may be masked if it occurs during a heavy thunderstorm.

These are one of many reasons early warning systems should be in place in areas often affected by tornadoes and why people should always heed these warnings. (Luckily, the accuracy of early warning systems has been greatly improved over the last few decades.)

2) The Unpredicted Path Of A Tornado

People, even experienced observers, still look at an approaching tornado and the path it is following, to make a judgment call to flee/take shelter or stay putt. This is a terrible mistake.

One of the most dangerous aspects of a tornado is the unpredictability of the path it is following. There is a common perception that a tornado follows the path of the storm system it travels in, or that the majority of tornadoes moves from southwest to northeast.

Although there is some truth in these perceptions, tornadoes can veer off-course or completely change direction within the larger storm system without any warning. (Some have even been known to stop and double back on their path.)

Apart from the unpredictable path an established tornado follows, they also have the ability to suddenly appear from literally any direction. Observers have reported tornadoes appearing out of nowhere.

In this case, ideal conditions for the creation of a tornado have been building up, invisible to most observers. Once these conditions have intensified enough, a tornado can literally form and seemingly "appear out of nowhere."  

3) Speed And Size Of A Tornado

Tornadoes literally come in all shapes and sizes. (And don't forget about color, depending on the surface it covers and types of debris it picks up.)

In general, the average tornado is about 200 meters (660 feet) wide, with wind speeds of about 50 miles (80 kilometers) per hour. As far as distance goes, they very seldom travel further than 10 kilometers (6 miles).

Big Tornado

These are averages, however. Some tornadoes are so small and weak, they are almost unnoticeable. On the other side of the spectrum, some tornadoes are so big and destructive that they have the capability to destroy entire towns.

The most destructive ones can reach wind speeds of up to 300 miles (480 kilometers) per hour and be more than 3 kilometers (2 miles) in diameter.

An example of an extreme tornado that makes your "average tornado" look like a little breeze is the Tri-State tornado of 1925, mentioned earlier in this post. It traveled continuously through parts of Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana for a distance of approximately 362 kilometers (219 miles).

4) Funnel Clouds Creating False Assumptions About Tornadoes

Funnel clouds are a clear indication of the presence of a tornado. Many observers mistakenly use the size of the funnel cloud to try and determine its strength and size.

This is another easy mistake to make, as the funnel cloud is very often not an accurate indicator of size and strength.

In many cases, a hurricane's true size is much larger than the funnel cloud would suggest. In recent history, a tornado near Dodge City in Kansas, was observed with the actual width of the tornado being 3 times larger than the funnel cloud.

Similarly, the size of a tornado is not an indicator of its strength. In fact, a very narrow tornado only a few dozen feet wide can be much stronger and more destructive than one more than a mile wide.

The best way to measure the true impact of a tornado is by using proven standardized scales. The strength of a tornado is normally measured by the Fujita scale. The tornado strength is categorized from EF0 to EF5. 

(With EF0 indicating light damage to vegetation and no structural damage, and EF5 indicating the strongest form of a tornado, which has the ability to rip buildings off their foundation and cause major structural damage to skyscrapers.)

Where Do Tornadoes Occur?

Tornadoes can occur all across the world, especially in the presence of thunderstorms (which create the ideal conditions for the formation of tornadoes).

The highest concentration of tornadoes, however, can be found in North America, especially in Florida and an area called Tornado Alley.

("Tornado Alley" is a broad term coined by the media, and the region can be found in the Great Plains of the Central United States. It is not an official scientific term & meteorologists have not clearly defined the area, but the highest concentration of tornadoes occur here.)

Outside of North America, two of the highest concentrations of tornadoes can be found in Argentina and Bangladesh.

Conclusion

This article provided a clear description of how tornadoes are formed, what makes them work, as well as their most important characteristics. In the process, some misconceptions, dangers, and myths were highlighted. 

It also clearly highlighted the destructive nature and dangers of these meteorological phenomena and focused on their impact on all the areas they encounter.  

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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13 Surefire Ways To Make Sure Your Home Weather Station Fails And A Few Related Weather Misconceptions

13 Surefire Ways To Sabotage Your Weather Station

When setting up your home weather station, especially more advanced systems with an array of outdoor sensors, it can become very confusing to find the right location to place your various outdoor sensors (or where NOT to place them) to get the most accurate and consistent readings...

Similarly, when we watch weather forecasts on television, online, or on an app on your mobile device, we are bombarded by different terminologies associated with certain weather conditions. This can often lead us to form misconceptions about the weather that may lead us to make wrong conclusions and take the wrong actions as a result.

If this statement sounds a bit confusing, don't worry. It will become clear very quickly through the course of this article.

To make things interesting and help you get a better understanding of how things should or should not be done or perceived, I am taking a slightly different approach.

Instead of showing you what to do when it comes to installing your home weather station or how to correctly perceive some weather terminologies and phrases, I am going to the direct opposite. I am going to highlight the worst possible decision or deduction you can make in each case and then explain to you exactly why.

Why Choose This Approach And Why These Two Seemingly Unrelated Topics?

So Why Do I Use Such A Seemingly Ineffective Approach?  

This is a very fair and legitimate question to ask.  Why don't I just tell you what steps to follow to set up your outdoor weather sensors correctly? (By the way, I do just that in this article if you are interested.)

And why don't I just point out the correct way to interpret all the weather terminologies and lingo used in weather forecasts, as well as what else to keep in mind?

The answer lies in 2 simple reasons...

a) We Don't like To Be Told What To Do!

Do not like to be told what to do

It's just human nature and that little rebellious part we all have. Maybe it's from being told what to do from a young age by our parents and school teachers, which, to be honest, we hated most of the time.

As adults, our managers/supervisors continue this trend by telling us how and when to do our jobs. The last thing we want is a set of instructions telling us to do something to get a required result.   

b) Sometimes We Only Really Learn After Making A Mistake...

Yes, most of the time, we know or accept what to do. (And sometimes we don't have a clue don't want to admit it.) Yet, there's always that little voice in the back of your head (or the friend who always "knows better") telling you that maybe there's another or better way of doing things.

It's only after we made a mistake, sometimes more than once, that we realize that maybe getting some real and honest advice or following the instructions may not be such a bad idea after all. ( As you might have guessed, I am obviously talking from personal experience.)

Why Do I Combine Weather Station Setup Mistakes With Common Misconceptions About Weather Terminologies?

Maybe the answer may not be so unclear in this instance. After all, they are both weather-related. But there is a much closer tie between the two than just the general and very broad term, weather.

This can also be explained by looking at 2 specific points or explanations:

a) Incorrect Weather Sensor Setup Leads To False Readings & Forecasts

An incorrect outdoor weather sensor placement may seem fairly harmless and insignificant to you. The result, however,  may be enough to give your sensors readings so far removed from the real weather conditions that all the wrong data is recorded.

Wrong Weather Station Placement

A couple of things happen as a result. First, apart from getting false readings on your weather display console, your weather station gives you inaccurate forecasts as a result.

Naturally, the weather will not react the way it was "forecasted" by your weather station. You may start thinking you bought a useless weather station, or in the long run, develop the misconception that all weather stations are unreliable and pointless.

All of this because you didn't follow a few simple rules when it came to setting up your outdoor sensors correctly.

This brings me to my second point, as the way we use and measure our weather stations' capabilities is not just by seeing how accurately they display and forecast the weather and how the predicted weather actually turns out.

We also compare them to local weather forecasts and the current and conditions of future weather conditions they predict.

b) Using Weather Forecasts To Better Understand Our Weather Stations

One of the best ways to see how well your weather station is performing and how accurate it can forecast the weather is to compare to a trusted professional local weather service.

detailed weather forecast

Depending on a multitude of factors, the readings and forecasts of your home weather station and that of your local weather service can be almost identical. In some cases, however, they may have very different readings or forecasts.

Before you start getting alarmed, there are several reasons for these discrepancies between your weather station  weather service:

  • Your weather station's outdoor sensors may simply be set up incorrectly. 
  • Your specific location may have different atmospheric conditions than the much broader area a professional weather service's measurements and forecasts cover.
  • A home weather station can only accurately forecast weather conditions 12-24 hours into the future. The unpredictable nature of weather, specifically variables that may suddenly influence it, is often out of its "sensor range." This sometimes makes it difficult for home weather stations to consistently make accurate forecasts, especially long-term forecasts. (Professional weather services have access to long-range sensors like radar and satellite images and remote weather stations that takes all these variables into account, enabling them to make much more accurate forecasts, especially over the long term.) 

Combine all these factors, and you will begin to understand how closely connected your home weather station and local professional weather services really are.

Better understanding professional services and what the terms they use really mean (or nor mean) will go a long way to better understand and use your home weather station effectively.

So after this extensive introduction (and IF YOU ARE STILL AWAKE), let's dive straight into these mistakes and misconceptions and see how e can correct them.

Home Weather Station Mistakes To Avoid

It will be best to start off closest to home and take a look at some of the wrong decisions you can make when it comes to installing your home weather station, specifically when it comes to placing your outdoor sensors.   

1) Place Your Weather Station Close To A Body Of Water, Or Right In The Middle Of Some Lush Green Bushes

One of the three most important weather variables to be measured, is humidity. Combined with temperature and air (barometric) pressure, it provides the crucial data necessary for a weather station to make accurate weather forecasts.

Needless to say, it is therefore vital that you get an accurate reading of the general humidity in the surrounding air. And that is exactly why making this mistake is so important to avoid.

You need your sensor array's hygrometer to measure the humidity in the air without any type of outside (or artificial interference). Placing your sensor next to a body of water or in between lush green bushes is the worst possible thing you can do to achieve this.

weather station placement next to water

Due to the amount of moisture evaporating from the water's surface and the moisture released by the leaves from plants & bushes, the humidity in the surrounding air is much higher than the actual humidity present in the air in your location.

Especially during the day (but also during the night) when the heat from the sun causes water to evaporate at an accelerated pace, the humidity in water's direct vicinity can easily be more than three times that of the actual humidity in your area. 

You can imagine what effect this completely skewed reading will have on a weather's station ability to make even remotely accurate weather forecasts.    

The obvious solution will be to place your weather sensor array as far away as practically possible from any of these artificial sources of humidity. This is not always possible when you have limited space to move your sensors around in, like a very small or non-existent backyard or garden.

This where you can use the advantage of height. By placing your sensor array a minimum of six feet from the ground, you limit the interference from unwanted sources of moisture to a large extend.

Combine this with maximizing the distance you are able to put between your sensors and sources of moisture, and you have all but eliminate the negative influences of these sources.

2) Affix Your Sensor Array Against Or Underneath A Large Solid Structure 

The whole point of placing your weather sensors outside is to expose it to all the weather elements without any form of interference. These elements include temperature, barometric pressure, humidity, wind speed & direction, as well as rainfall.

So if you place your sensors right against the sidewall of a building or underneath a big tree, what are you actually doing?

The first thing a wall will do is obstruct or completely block the movement of air. So there goes your anemometer's ability to measure wind speed and your wind vane's ability to accurately measure wind direction.

Depending on the location of the wall in relation to the sun, its surface will either be directly exposed to the sun or shielded from it for a large part of the day. This simply means there is no way for a thermometer affixed next to the wall to get an accurate temperature reading.

Add to this the fact that an exposed wall will heat up & reflect some of this heat onto objects close to it, while a wall which has cooled down during the night though and is shielded from the sun will help to keep the temperature much lower than the surrounding air. 

It will become very evident how these factors mentioned above will serve to only amplify the already compromised readings of your sensor array's thermometer.

One last variable that is influenced to a large extend by walls and trees is rainfall. As painfully obvious as this mistake may seem to most of us, there may be some uninformed users who will still find it convenient to place a full sensor array, complete with rain gauge and hygrometer, underneath the thick canopy of a tree of the overhang of a roof next to a sidewall.

I don't even need to explain why this is such a bad idea when it comes to measuring rainfall. Apart from preventing the rain from reaching the rain gauge for accurate rainfall readings, you also need to take into consideration the fact that rain and wind often go hand in hand.

This means rain often falls at an angle and not always straight down. Therefore a wall, even without a roof overhang, can act as a shield to block any rain being blown from the opposite side and prevent it from being captured and measured by a rain gauge.

Wrong Weather Station Placement Next To Walls

Some other variables are also negatively influenced by placing sensors close to large structures. With the ones already mentioned, though, I think you get the idea.

So what can be done to avoid this mistake? Obviously, placing the sensor as far away as possible from any large structure will be the logical solution.

To be more specific, normally, a 4 X 1 rule is recommended. This simply means that the weather sensors should be placed 4 times the distance away from the height of the nearest structure. This means if the structure is 10 feet tall, the weather sensors have to be placed 40 feet away from it.

Unfortunately, very few of us have a backyard or garden that size, so this can be a very limiting factor for many users. Luckily there is a simple solution that solves this and many other sensor placement problems for many weather enthusiasts.  

Using height to eliminate almost any source of interference has turned out to be a lifesaver for many weather station users worldwide. Elevating your sensor array at least 6 feet above the nearest source of interference helps it to achieve the most accurate and consistent readings critical for reliable recording and forecasting. 

(To find out more about sensor placement, you can read in-depth information in this article.)

3) Place Your Indoor Display Console Anywhere You Want

Especially when owning an advanced home weather station with a complex outdoor sensor array, you may be forgiven for thinking that the placement of your indoor display console is not that important. 

This will be a huge mistake. In fact, the ideal location for your indoor display console should be the room or space that most closely matches the outside weather conditions and trends.

There are basically 3 main reasons for the importance of correctly placing your indoor weather station for optimal readings.

By having your indoor device closely resemble outside weather trends, you get a better and more complete picture of all weather conditions (both inside and outside), as well as a global overview of how these atmospheric conditions compare and interact with each other.

kitchen weather station placement

If you own a starter weather station, you may not even have the luxury of an outdoor weather sensor. In this case, it is absolutely critical to choose the right location, as the indoor weather station will rely solely on its own built-in sensor to take measurements and make forecasts. 

When you have a weather station that displays both indoor and outdoor weather conditions, it is very impractical and very confusing to have 2 completely different trending weather conditions displayed right next to each other. (This can happen very easily in rooms like bathrooms or kitchens, where variables like humidity and temperature fluctuate often and extensively, creating very inaccurate measurements.) 

I cover indoor weather placement (as well as the artificial sources that influence their ability to take accurate readings) extensively in this article. If you need more detailed information, feel free to go, and have a look. 

4) Use The Maximum Wireless Distance Stated To Place Your Indoor Weather Station And Outdoor Sensors Apart From Each Other

It is really no secret that many manufacturers use the maximum distance able to be obtained between an indoor base station and the outdoor weather sensors as a selling point for their products. There is a very important fact they don't tell you straight away and is often added as an afterthought, though.

The maximum wireless range between the display console and outdoor sensor array (normally around 300 feet or 100 meters), is measured under the ideal circumstances.

This means the two devices have a direct line of sight with each, with no obstructions between them, and the measurements are taken under ideal weather conditions. Unfortunately, these ideal conditions very seldom exist in the real world.

More often than not, there is at least a few walls, roof or other obstructions between the two devices which will limit the distance the signal can travel. The materials any obstruction consists of also have a large impact on the distance a signal can travel. (For example, a glass window will have very little effect on signal strength, while a metal construction will almost completely block a signal.)

Display Console And Sensor

The best way to make sure there is a strong & stable connection between your sensor array and display console is to start with the two devices next to each other. (Besides, need to have the sensor array and display console very close to each other when setting up for the first time to allow the two to synchronize/pair.) 

With the sensor array in position, you can start moving your display console inside and towards the position you have chosen for it to be placed. Make sure you keep an eye on the display console to make sure it is still receiving the signal at the set intervals from the sensors.

If you manage to reach your desired location with the display console still receiving the sensor signals, you are all set. If not, try and find a location closer to the sensor array where you will be able to start picking up the signal again.

This may be a process of trial and error at first and may feel a bit cumbersome and take up some time. It is very important, though, to ensure you keep a constant and reliable connection with your sensor array and accurate records and forecasts are able to be made.

5) When Setting Up An Advanced Home Weather Station, Always Use The Default Settings

I am very aware of the warnings that come with many electronic devices and appliances, telling you in no uncertain terms to leave the device in its default settings if you are not a specialist or advanced user. 

When it comes to advanced home weather stations, however, it is critical that you set up your device correctly. This means NOT leaving it in its default setting.

Most advanced weather stations actually need you to set it up correctly for your specific location to enable it to make the correct calculations, display the right information, and make accurate weather forecasts.

My Ambient Weather WS-2902A Osprey Weather Station for example, required me to set the correct date, time, and time zone. I also had to customize the barometric pressure to that of my specific location, and the setup even made me specify whether I am located in the Southern or Northern Hemisphere.

And unlike you might be thinking right now, it was actually a ridiculously easy and quick process with the easy-to-follow instruction guide. (Most modern-day systems make it very easy for you to set up and customize your personal weather system.)

Weather, especially air movement, reacts differently in the Southern and Northern Hemisphere. Barometric pressure also varies from one location to another. Setting the correct time zone also helps to calculate a variety of parameters.

You will now begin to understand the importance of giving your weather station the best possible information regarding your specific location. Using these inputs in conjunction with the different sensor readings allows it to make the best possible calculations and accurate forecasts for your specific location.

(Spending 10-15 minute setting up your weather device correctly and getting years of accurate readings, data recording, and weather predictions clearly outweigh leaving a weather device in "default mode" and end up with a very unreliable and inaccurate white elephant.)

6) Rely Solely On Your Personal Weather Station's Forecasts For All Your Local Weather Information

I have mentioned it in so many articles I have lost count, but if you are a regular reader of my posts, you know how enthusiastic I am and shamelessly I promote the use of home/personal weather stations.

But as much as I love them and promote their numerous benefits and features for any weather enthusiast, I am painfully aware of the limitations of personal weather stations.

Yes, they provide users with weather information specific to their location. They provide owners of large areas of land, like farmers and plantation owners, with invaluable rainfall and thermal readings to help them monitor & plan a variety of activities. 

Using a home weather station in isolation however, will be a very big mistake. Although it provides you with the most accurate and up-to-date data of your specific location's weather conditions, it can't match the capabilities of a professional weather service.

Professional Weather Services

The first and biggest advantage of a professional weather service is its access to a vast array of weather sensors. From satelliteradar images, weather balloons to remote weather stations, they have access to detailed data of approaching & changing weather conditions up to thousands of miles away.

By tracking and analyzing this wealth of information, they are able to make very accurate forecasts of weather conditions in your location 5-7 days in advance. Variables that your home weather station's sensors will only be able to pick up a day before your weather conditions are affected. 

The second advantage of professional weather services is the complex and powerful algorithms they use to process all the received data with advanced computing hardware. 

The sheer amount of data and computing power necessary to perform all these algorithms and weather predictions is simply out of reach for the wealthiest and most enthusiastic home weather station user.  

For these reasons, home weather stations should be seen as complementary to your region's professional broadcasting services. Combined, they provide you with a much more complete and accurate picture of current and future weather conditions in your area.

While your weather service can give you the big picture of upcoming weather events, your home weather station can fill in the gaps and show you all the fluctuations and weather conditions, as well as short-term forecasts of your specific locations.

Use these 2 resources at your disposal together, and you will always be one step ahead of the weather and become quite an accomplished weather expert.

7) The Amount Of Weather Sensors Determine The Quality Of Your Home Weather Station

Many modern-day home weather stations come with so many weather sensors attached to their outdoor sensor array that it can actually be a bit overwhelming. 

Is this a good thing? Well, I would say the answer is yes and no...

My latest weather station (Ambient Weather WS-2902A Osprey Weather Station) is equipped with a total of 10 weather sensors. To be honest, I very seldom pay attention to more than 5 of the readings.

I may find the remaining variables measured useful in the future, but there is no more than a handful of features really necessary to monitor and make accurate weather forecasts.

As already mentioned in other articles on this website, there are really 3 critical variables necessary to be measured and recorded:

  • Temperature
  • Humidity
  • Air (Barometric) Pressure

These 3 measurements are used extensively by most advanced weather stations to establish weather patterns and calculate forecasts.

There are a few other variables, however, that play an important role in establishing and recording weather patterns. Recording weather elements like rainfall, wind speed, and direction helps you establish specific patterns and associate certain weather conditions with these patterns.

As important as all these sensors are, it is the accuracy and consistency with which your weather sensors are able to take measurements that matter the most. This is literally a case of quality over quantity.

This does not by any means imply that making use of a sensor array with a comprehensive set of weather sensors will not be very beneficial, and give you the most complete picture of your weather conditions. (Especially if you don't need to sacrifice quality and price is not an issue.)

It simply means if you have to choose between fewer but better and more accurate sensors, or a full & comprehensive but inferior set of sensors, choosing the less but more accurate set of sensors will always be the better choice.     

Common Weather Misconceptions Leading To Confusion & Inaccurate Conclusions

As important it is to avoid making any of these weather station mistakes mentioned in the previous section is the knowledge and ability to correctly interpret weather forecasts, as well as the terms and weather systems mentioned in them.

Failing to do so will lead you to correctly interpret the different weather systems and variables mentioned while watching forecasts or reading a detailed online report from a professional weather service.

This, in turn, will lead you to make the same mistakes when trying to interpret your own weather station's readings or understanding the different variables measured.    

8) A Cold Front Leads To Rainy Weather, While A Warm Front Is Associated With Dry & Calm Weather Conditions

All meteorologists will immediately point out the mistake in this statement, but it's not so obvious to the normal observer. The word, "cold" is very often mentioned in the same breath as wet and rainy weather, while the word "warm" is mentioned just as often in the same breath as dry and pleasant weather conditions.

It actually happens so often, that it resulted in an almost unconscious tendency by most people to automatically associate cold with wet, and warm with dry weather conditions. This is completely normal, so you cannot really be blamed for making such an assumption. 

To put the record straight, both cold and warm fronts have the potential to bring cloudy and rainy weather with them. Their characteristics and the impact they have on their environment, is what sets them apart, however.

thunderstorm

The arrival of a cold front is normally very abrupt, accompanied by heavy rains and stormy weather conditions, including strong winds and thunderstorms, which normally moves very quickly and can dissipate as quickly as it arrived. 

(This dramatic and violent nature of cold fronts helped to establish this strong association many people have formed between cold fronts and stormy wet weather.)

A warm front, on the other hand, takes much longer to build up as it moves much slower than a cold front. It is also characterized by a light but much more sustained rainfall, which can last for several hours to even days.

There is a variety of reasons for the different characteristics of the two fronts. There are also much more complex mechanisms at work that are responsible for the formation and behavior of the different weather systems. 

For the purpose of this article, it is not necessary to examine these two systems in much more detail. If you are interested, you can read more in-depth information in this article.   

9) Hurricanes, Typhoons, And Tropical Cyclones. Why So Many Different Storm Systems?

I know it can be very confusing when weather forecasts often refer to different devastating storm systems around the world and randomly use terms like "hurricanes, typhoons, cyclones and tropical storms." 

Luckily there is a fairly simple answer to this complex looking question...

They are all one and the same type of storm!

So why all the different names. Luckily for this, there is also a fairly simple answer for this one, and it's all got to do with location. In the Northern Hemisphere, these storms are called Hurricanes, while they are called Typhoons in the Southern Hemisphere. 

The last term, "Tropical Cyclone," is the umbrella term used by meteorologists to describe all forms of these storms, from tropical depressions and tropical storms to hurricanes and typhoons. (All these storm systems originate over the warm waters of the oceans in tropical and subtropical regions.)

And that is really all there is to it when it comes to the different names given to what is basically the same type of storm system. 

There are obviously some small differences in their characteristics, but not really of much importance in the context of this article. I dedicated a complete article to the subject of hurricanes/typhoons, so if you are interested, you can read all about them in this article.

10) The Same Type Of Weather Systems Have Exactly The Same Wind Characteristics, No Matter Where On The Planet They Occur

This statement is mostly true as far as wind behavior is concerned. When it comes to wind direction, however, this is statement doesn't really hold up. 

In big storm systems like hurricanes and typhoons, the winds rotate in different directions depending on where on the planet you live. 

In the Northern Hemisphere, the winds rotate counterclockwise in a hurricane, while they rotate clockwise in a typhoon in the Southern Hemisphere. The reason for this phenomenon all has to do with the rotation of the earth...

The earth's rotation (the direction it spins in) is always in an easterly direction. Combine this with the fact that the diameter of the earth is much bigger at the equator than at the poles (which means the earth's rotational speed is much faster at the equator than at the poles).

The effect it creates is called the Coriolis Effect. And it is this Coriolis effect that is responsible for the counterclockwise rotation of hurricane winds in the Northern Hemisphere, and the clockwise rotation of typhoon winds in the Southern Hemisphere.

In fact, the Coriolis Effect can be applied to all wind movements around areas of low pressure. Even on much smaller systems, like cold fronts, this effect can be seen in the respective hemispheres.

As surprising as this bit of information may be, it should also serve as a word of caution for all our home weather station users. Whenever you look at weather reports and take note of the wind rotation and resulting weather conditions, always remember in which hemisphere you are, as well as the location to which the weather forecast is referring.

(Especially when you keep a record of your location's wind speed & rotation, as well as the resulting weather conditions, this will be crucial to keep in mind when you are trying to calculate accurate weather patterns over the course of time.)

11) When A Hurricane/Typhoon Passes Over You, It Is Safe To Go Out Once The Weather Suddenly Clears Up

If you are a weather expert or have been in the unfortunate position of having personally experienced the destructive power of a hurricane, you will know just how dangerous this assumption is.

This may actually be the most dangerous time to leave the safety of the location you were sheltering it. To best understand it, we need to take a look at the structure and characteristics of a hurricane.

Hurricane

As the picture above shows, a hurricane has a circular/oval shape. The low-pressure system in the center is called the eye of the hurricane,  which is normally a calm area with clear skies. (And therein lies the danger). The dense clouds surrounding the eye (called the eyewall) contains the strongest winds and heaviest rainfall. 

From there, the storm forms the typical bands of clouds spiraling out from the center in the shape that is so characteristic of a hurricane. (As previously mentioned, the winds in a hurricane rotate counterclockwise in the Northern Hemisphere and clockwise in the Southern Hemisphere.)

It is the eye of the hurricane that makes it so dangerous, as it causes the stormy weather to suddenly calm down and the skies to clear, creating the false impression that the storm has passed and it's safe to leave your shelter.

The eye is normally about 24 km (15 miles) in diameter, and it can stay over an area for up to an hour or more, depending on how fast the storm system is moving. When it has passed, the area is hit by the back eyewall of the storm, bringing with as much if not more devastating winds & rains.

People who didn't heed local warnings or are unfamiliar with hurricanes and their characteristics are often caught off-guard by this back eyewall, resulting in serious injury and even fatalities.

12) Flooding Is The biggest Cause Of Death As A Result Of A Monsoon

The very heavy rainfall during a monsoon and the resulting flooding is indeed a big contributor to a large number of fatalities in India and Southeast Asia. Especially the unexpected flash-flooding that occurs after a heavy downpour can be deadly.

Surprisingly though, flooding is not the biggest cause of fatalities as a result of a monsoon. In fact, the biggest and deadliest consequences of a monsoon occur long after it has passed.

By far the biggest cause of deaths in the aftermath or result is actually waterborne diseases.

Monsoons leave a lot of standing water in their wake, which serves as a breeding ground for many of these waterborne diseases.

Some of the potentially deadly diseases include Typhoid, Malaria, Dengue, and Viral Fever. These diseases can cause thousands of fatalities each year during the monsoon season.

They are also transmitted in a variety of ways, including bathing in contaminated water, contact with infected bodily secretions, and eating contaminated food.

13) Hiding Under A Highway Overpass or Crossing a River Will Protect You From A Tornado

When it comes to tornadoes, there are a wealth of theories out there telling you what to do and what not to do when confronted by this violent storm.

One very popular piece of advice that has been circulating for ages and even made popular by some disaster movies is to leave the relative safety of your car and take shelter underneath an overpass on the highway.

Tornado

Experts have now debunked this theory. Contrary to popular belief, the effect of the tornado can be made worse by the construction of an overpass. The overpass can cause the tornado to funnel and even accelerate underneath it, worsening its impact and potential to cause damage and harm.

Also, being completely exposed puts you at risk of being hit by flying debris, and the force of the tornado can also slam cars into the overpass.

The advice given is to rather take shelter in the nearest possible ditch, or if you don't have any other choice, stay in the relative safety of your car.

The second part of this section relates to another misconception, or popular belief that crossing a river will protect you from a tornado. It is unclear where this myth originated from. While it is true that the cool air near bodies of water can be disruptive to thunderstorms, which can lead to tornadoes, it has no clear impact on a tornado itself.

Actually, the lower friction over the water of a river or dam may actually help to increase the wind speed inside a tornado. In other words, you are no less safe after crossing a river or two in an attempt to escape a tornado.

(The Tri-State tornado of 1925 killed almost 700 hundred people and injured more than 2000, all while crossing both the Mississippi and Wabash rivers.)

Some tornadoes actually form over water. You may have seen videos and images of these water funnels, called water-sprouts. 

Conclusion

Ok, this article turned out to be a bit longer than expected. If you made it all the way through it, you can really give yourself a pat on the back.

It was important, though, to not just touch lightly on each subject. We dug a little deeper and explained exactly why making the mistakes you can with your home weather station can have such a big effect on the observations & conclusions you make.

Apart from the last 2 weather misconceptions, all the other misconceptions can also influence the way you view and interpret the data from your weather station.

It was therefore critical that the reasons for these misconceptions are thoroughly explained, as well as the correct way to interpret them.

I trust this post helped you to gain a better insight into the workings of your home weather station and how the way you view and understand weather terms and variables used in weather reports & forecasts impact your ability to make the best use of your own station and have a more complete understanding of weather interactions.

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 Get An Accurate Reading And Forecast From Your Home Indoor Weather Station

How To Get An Accurate Reading And Forecast From An Indoor Weather Station heading

For many of us used to working with personal weather stations, it's remarkable how accurate and advanced today's indoor weather stations have become. Most of them come standard with features that were only available on high-end and professional weather systems two decades ago.

Even some of those without an outdoor sensor unit are still able to make surprisingly accurate weather predictions from measurements taken indoors. 

That does not mean care should be taken when it comes to choosing the best location in your home to place your personal weather station. Choosing the worst location in your home can throw off even the best of indoor weather stations while choosing the best possible location will improve and maximize the measuring and forecasting capabilities of a quality station.

The best place to put a weather station is determined to a large extent by the space in your home, as well as some very important factors we will be addressing in the next section.  

Factors To Take Into Consideration

When it comes to choosing the best indoor location for personal weather station placement, a few very important factors should be taken into consideration.

Most home weather stations (and many professional weather systems) rely on a variety, but specifically, three weather variables, to determine current and forecast future weather conditions. They are temperature, humidity, and air pressure.

Advanced weather stations with an array of outdoor sensors make use of additional measurements. (Wind direction, wind speed, and rainfall.)

Since we are focusing on indoor weather stations, however, these three weather variables will play the biggest part in taking accurate readings and better weather forecasts. 

The best way to understand each one's importance is to take a closer look at how each one influence weather conditions:

1) Temperature

Temperature is probably the most familiar weather element all of us can associate with. We all know the feeling of being hot or cold, and that temperature is mostly responsible for it.

rainy weather

But temperature does a lot more than just determining how we feel. Changes in temperature can also be an indication of a change in weather conditions.

In many instances, a relatively fast and persistent drop in air temperature may be an indication of a cold front approaching, which is normally associated with moisture filled clouds which will result in cold and rainy weather.

This not always the case, though. Sometimes, depending on where you live, a persistent rise in temperature may also point to extreme weather conditions on the way.

This is one of the reasons it is so important to never use temperature on its own to try and predict future weather conditions, but always use it in conjunction with humidity and air (barometric) pressure readings.

The big takeaway here is that fairly rapid and persistent changes in temperature help to indicate changes in weather. That is why it so vital to place your weather station where it is mostly affected by natural changes in temperature and not by artificial elements like heaters, air conditions, stoves, etc. 

2) Humidity

Changes in humidity (or lack of it) is also a key indicator of changes in weather conditions. It also amplifies the effect of the temperature we are experiencing.

In a dessert, a high temperature may be quite tolerable. Experience the same temperature at the tropics and the coast where the humidity is much higher, and suddenly it becomes uncomfortably hot and draining.

The same applies to cold weather. A relatively cold temperature may be bearable in a dry location. The same temperature experienced at the Scottish Coast under misty conditions is experienced as much colder with a lot more "bite" than its cousin over dry land.

humidity

Back to its forecasting ability. A sustained increase in humidity more often than not points to rainy weather conditions approaching. (The rain-carrying air and clouds contain a high volume of moisture, which can normally be detected by increased humidity readings from your weather station, as the rainy weather conditions are preceded by increasingly humid air ahead of it.)

Similar to temperature, it is vital that you place your indoor weather station in a neutral location unaffected by artificial sources of humidity. Bathrooms or laundry rooms, for example, generate their own sources of humidity, which can result in false readings and inaccurate forecasts by weather stations.  

To learn more about humidity & the effect on its surroundings, you can find it in this article

3) Air (barometric) Pressure

The last important variable I want to touch on is air (barometric) pressure. Normally a drop in air pressure is an indication of rain and stormy weather on the way. A rise in air pressure, on the other hand, is an indication of approaching pleasant and sunny conditions.

barometer

Barometric pressure is very closely tied to temperature, and the two often go hand-in-hand. (You can learn more about how high and low-pressures systems are formed and the weather that is formed as a result in this article.)

Needless to say, a location in your house that has an unnatural/artificial effect on the temperature will impact air pressure as well.

As a result, the same advice given for accurate temperature readings applies to air pressure readings as well. This means, for an accurate barometric pressure reading, place your weather station in a location where the temperature is as stable as possible and unaffected by artificial heating and cooling.

You can learn more about air (barometric) pressure in this article.

Choose Your Room Carefully

Deciding on which room to place your weather station in will play a big part in determining how accurate your weather station's readings will be.

As you probably would have guessed, based on the factors mentioned in the previous section, there are certain rooms that are completely off-limits when it comes to indoor weather station placements. Time to expose the biggest culprits:

bathroom

The Bathroom: Something you will find in every bathroom is a shower or bath (or both). Even taking a lukewarm shower will cause a dramatic increase in humidity and temperature.

Even using the washing basin or flushing the toilet has a bigger effect on humidity than you think. So you can imagine the dramatic effect it will have on a weather station's readings. This room is a very big no-no.

The Kitchen: Similar to the bathroom, the kitchen is also a source of artificial influences on the air, especially the temperature. The stove, microwave, and even the back of your fridge generate a significant amount of heat.

Heated food from the stove and microwave can also generate enough steam to cause significant changes in humidity. These factors make the kitchen just as unsuitable as the bathroom for weather station placement.

Rooms Receiving Direct Sunlight: Many houses are built in such a way to make the most use of sunlight. (In the Northern Hemisphere, you will find many rooms facing south to receive more sunlight, and in the Southern Hemisphere many rooms are facing north for the same reason).

Although this helps to keep these specific rooms warm during winter times, it creates a much higher temperature than that of the outside air or the rest of the house.

Preferably, these rooms should be avoided. At the very least, place the weather station as far away from the window as possible and out of direct sunlight. 

So which room is the best suited to place your weather station then?

Obviously, you know by know which specific rooms to avoid.  Having said that, you know your house best. So you will know which room in it closely reflects that of the weather conditions outside. 

To put it more precisely, choose the room that reacts in the closest possible way to the way the outside weather reacts and changes. This will be the best possible location for your indoor weather station.

I am not oblivious to the fact that many weather enthusiasts do not have a house or big apartment with various rooms to choose from to place your weather station in.

Don't let this put you off. There is always something you can do to make your indoor measurements as accurate as possible, no matter how small your home environment. Even in a bachelor flat...

kitchen

Needless to say, if your apartment is big enough to house a separate bathroom and kitchen, please avoid them for the reasons already mentioned earlier in this section (with humidity and temperature being the biggest culprits). The same applies to any location in the apartment close to a window that receives direct sunlight for much of the day.

As the owner, you know your apartment best, so you will know which spot in it closely reflects that of the weather conditions outside. And like the most suited room in a house, this spot in your apartment will be the best location for your weather station.

A final note needs to be made on height. (This applies to both house and apartment owners.) The height of your weather station is as important as the location of your house/apartment you choose to place it in.

The air in your home reacts very much in the same way as the air outside in the earth's atmosphere. This means the colder (and heavier) air is located closest to the floor, while the warmest (and lightest) air is located at the ceiling or the highest point in the room.

(This is why your attic is always the hottest location in your house and the cellar the coldest.)

As you probably already guessed, the best possible height to place your weather station is about halfway between the floor and ceiling. Luckily and conveniently, this is normally more or less at eye level when seated, which makes it a very practical location.

A Word On Outdoor Sensors  

Ambient Weather WS2902 Installed

As we are focusing on indoor weather stations in this article, there is no need to go into any detail about outdoor sensor placement. If you need to get more information on optimal outdoor sensor placement, though, I dedicated a whole article on the subject You can read the full article here.

In summary, keeping the sensors as far away as possible from nearby objects that may interfere with accurate measurements is always the best practice to follow. (The article mentioned in the previous paragraph is packed with all the information you need to make informed decisions about outdoor sensor placement.)

Conclusion

By now, you should have a pretty good idea and overview of what location will be best to place your indoor weather station in. I made it pretty clear which variables have the biggest influence on their sensor readings, as well as which rooms to avoid.

Not only has the specific type of rooms to be avoided been highlighted, but the point has also been made that you will be able to find a suitable spot to place your weather station, no matter how small or limited your living space.

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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