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How Far Ahead Can You Forecast The Weather?

How Far Ahead Can You Forecast The Weather

It would be great to be able to predict the weather a month or more in advance. Unfortunately, this is not possible, not yet anyway. We take a look at how far ahead we can realistically make a weather forecast.

There is absolutely no doubt that today's weather forecasts are vastly improved and more accurate & reliable than those from thirty years ago. And it continues to improve.

A wealth of historical data, better forecast models, a vast array of atmospheric sensors (on and above the Earth), and technological advances are all making remarkably precise weather predictions possible. 

Even with all these advancements, there are still limitations on how far weather conditions can be forecasted or predicted in advance.

How Far Ahead The Weather Can Accurately Be Forecasted

The weather can be predicted to a high degree of accuracy for up to five days in advance. The vast majority of meteorologists agree on this period, and some weather experts even feel confident that weather tendencies can be forecasted with a fair amount of accuracy for up to ten days in advance.

But there are limitations. Not so much in the accuracy, but more in the length of time weather can be predicted into the future. Not so long ago, a popular weather service (who will remain nameless) widely used on mobile devices around the world started issuing 90-day weather forecasts. What, 3 months!?

Needless to say, this move caused widespread shock and unanimous condemnation among meteorologists and climatologists alike. And with very good reason...

No matter how far and advanced weather predictions have become, there are simply too many variables influencing current and future weather conditions to make these extreme long-term forecasts accurate or even possible. These variables can appear or change in a very short time and, in many instances, are impossible to predict.

To understand why forecasting weather over a period of a month or more is not just unrealistic, but for all intents and purposes basically impossible, we need to look at some of the elements that can unexpectedly change weather conditions in a short period of time. 

Why Long-Term Forecasts Are So Difficult

Forecasting weather more than 10 days into the future is seen by many weather experts as a calculated guess at best. There several factors making long-term predictions very tricky.

1) Different Forecasting Models

The first factor is a simple question of who you want to believe. If you are not a weather enthusiast, you probably are not aware that there are two major weather forecasting models many meteorologists rely on to track and forecast weather conditions: The European and American Weather Forecasting Models. 

Both models use a wealth of historical and current weather data from around the world that are inputted into their weather models. However, the 2 models use different algorithms to process the data and calculate future weather conditions.

European and American Model

The European Model has always been seen as slightly superior and the more accurate of the two models. When the two models agree on the weather outcome, it's a positive reinforcement for all involved.

It is when the two models predict substantially different weather conditions that some controversy and difficulties arise. Every meteorologist has their own preference as to which model they trust. And completely relying on the wrong model can have far-reaching results. 

(In 2012, the American Model forecasted that Hurricane Sandy would die down over the ocean, while the European Model predicted it would hit the East Coast. We are all too aware of the devastation and loss of life as a result of Sandy slamming into the American Coastline.)

This is not to say that one model is always superior to another one. It just goes to show that things are not as simple as it seems.

Then we still have to deal with the "Biggest Culprit" influencing weather forecasts... 

2) The Chaotic Nature Of The Weather

The earth's atmosphere and the weather systems operating within it is just naturally chaotic and unpredictable. In other words, meteorologists are constantly trying to predict something that is, for all intents and purposes, unpredictable.

Chaotic Weather

We have more weather satellites with better imagery sensors orbiting the earth than ever before. We have access to a wealth of historical and current data, and computers able to perform millions of calculations per second (more than a 2.89 quadrillion to be a bit more precise) to process all this data. So yes, weather forecasts have become very accurate and reliable.

But there are just too many small undetectable variables that can have a huge impact on the weather over the long term.

Just bear with me as I use the following analogy to explain it properly...

Most of you would have heard of the Butterfly Effect. But I will bet most of you don't know where the term originated from...

In 1961, after inputting a very small miscalculation into a weather model and realizing how big a difference it made to the forecasted weather, meteorologist Edward Lorenz noted in a paper that "one flap of a seagull’s wings could change the course of weather forever."

Over time this morphed into the now well-known "Butterfly Effect"

Ok, long story short, the smallest little weather phenomenon (like the slightest change in wind direction or a small drop in temperature) that will not even be able to be picked up by a weather sensor can have a ripple effect and end up in large-scale weather events in the future.

And like a ripple growing larger in a pond, the further it stretches over time, the bigger its effect on the weather. This analogy will help you better understand why short-term weather forecasts are much more accurate than trying to predict weather conditions in a month's time.

Are you still with me? Good! 

3) Other Factors Influencing Long-Term Predictions

Apart from the 2 previously mentioned factors that make long-term weather forecasts (e.g. 30-day or 90-day forecast) unreliable and inaccurate, there are weather variables and phenomena which behavior may unexpectedly change or not change.

This can lead to weather conditions that differ substantially from what a long-term weather forecast may suggest. Here is just a few examples:

Temperature

Temperature has a huge impact on the weather and sometimes are the main driving force of large weather systems. We are very unaware of the amount of weather element influence the temperature around us. We see a clear, cloud-free day and immediately think of warmer temperatures.

There are dozens of unpredictable forces influencing the weather around us though. For example, a solar flare at the sun's surface millions of miles away, can cause the surface of part of the ocean to rise by a fraction of a degree.

This seemingly insignificant change is big enough to completely change weather systems and their forecasted behavior in the affected region. It may cause weather conditions to die away or intensify and become much more severe.

There is obviously a lot more complex processes involved in the changes of temperature, but this is just one example of how one unpredictable event can make long-term forecasts almost impossible by changing one of its biggest driving forces, temperature.

Air Movement (Wind)

Wind, also a major driver of major weather systems, is influenced to a large extend by temperature. And as we have just seen, the temperature can be very fickle and at the mercy of many unpredictable forces.

As a result, wind patterns can be unexpectedly influenced to a smaller or larger extent. 

Wind

At the convergence of ocean and land, offshore and onshore winds may change, causing approaching weather systems to reach land or stay over the ocean.

In more severe cases, the additional heat over the surface temperature of the ocean water in the Tropics may cause a tropical depression to strengthen to a tropical storm or even a hurricane due to the increase in wind speed.

Almost all of these events just mentioned would have been completely "ignored" by long-term weather forecasts that were issued long before the unexpected change in wind direction and speed even occurred.

Global Warming

Yes, this is a very controversial topic, but I trust if you are reading this article, you don't need to be convinced of the dangers and devastating consequences it poses. (We are already seeing its impact during recent years in ever-increasing extreme weather events.)

Apart from the physical evidence we see on a yearly basis, global warming is also making consistent long-term forecasts very difficult. It is impacting the weather on so many levels that I am just going to highlight one prominent weather phenomenon to illustrate the point: Jet Streams.

As mentioned in an earlier article (which you can read here), Jet Streams are long narrow bands of high-speed speed winds, circulating the earth at high altitudes.

The 2 Jet Streams at the North and South Pole respectively, have a huge impact on global weather patterns. They don't flow in a straight line, but rather in a meandering way with high and low points, resulting in warm, cold, dry, and wet weather as they interact with different weather systems and the earth's surface below them.

Global Warming at both Poles (which is resulting in the breaking up of the ice caps and warmer ocean water temperature), is having a huge influence on the 2 Jet Streams above them.

A notable weakening of these winds, as well the development of a wobble in the flow, are two disturbing patterns that is a result of this influence. The wobble in the flow is having a severe and prolonged impact on the regions they effects, causing severe conditions like cold snaps, heatwaves, and flooding.

These weather conditions are very unpredictable, and making weather forecasts, especially long-term predictions, very difficult for meteorologists. And these occurrences are getting more common and widespread globally.

So How Far Ahead Can Weather Be Accurately Predicted

So how far ahead can weather then be realistically be predicted. It depends to a large extent how accurate a weather forecast you want to get.

5 day weather forecast

As already stated at the beginning of the article,  meteorologists agree that weather can be predicted with a relatively high degree of accuracy for up to five days into the future. Most weather experts even feel confident that weather tendencies can be forecasted to a certain degree of accuracy for up to ten days in advance.

Emphasis should be placed on the fact that the latter "forecast" this far into the future should be seen as a prediction into the "weather tendency or direction" rather than actual weather conditions during this period. 

As already stated, the weather can be predicted with much more accuracy today than 20 years ago, which in turn was much more accurate than the previous 20 years. And it will keep on improving, but incrementally and mostly in accuracy, not so much in length of time.

For example, today, we can make a 5-day weather forecast with the same amount of accuracy a 3-day forecast was made in the 1990s. Similarly, we can make a fairly accurate prediction of future weather tendencies up to 10 days in advance, compared to a maximum of a week in the early 1980s.

Conclusion

Ok, as you can clearly see, predicting the weather is not as simple as you might have thought. It is literally taking millions of bits of data from weather stations around the world, buoys in the ocean, satellites in the sky, and combining that with historical data to be fed into complex weather forecasting system to give us surprisingly accurate forecasts.

Do they get it wrong? Off course. But this is not due to bad weather forecasting, but mostly due to unforeseen events, some of which I highlighted in this article. Rest assured, weather forecasting keeps on improving, and we are way better off than a few decades ago!

However, making bold predictions far into the future is a horse of a different color altogether. The "dark art" of trying to forecast the weather a month in advance (or 90 days in some weather service's case) is a very risky business and a bit ambitious at best.

I went to great lengths throughout this post to highlight all the different factors that make it almost impossible to accurately forecast weather over such a long period.

At some point in the future, we may be able to detect and include many of these "unpredictable events" into our forecasting models, but we still have a long way to go.

So no, as much as I love and encourage everyone to get their own home weather station, they will NOT be able to tell you how to dress 3 months from now...

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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11 Weather Terms And Phenomena You Should Know And Understand

11 Weather Terms Heading

Over the years, weather forecasts helped us familiarize ourselves and better understand the weather around us. But there are 11 weather terms you need to know to best understand atmospheric conditions.

  1. 1
    Low & High Pressure Systems
  2. 2
    Cold Front
  3. 3
    Warm Front
  4. 4
    Jet Streams
  5. 5
    Severe Weather
  6. 6
    Thunderstorm
  7. 7
    Dry Spell
  8. 8
    Wind Chill
  9. 9
    Heatwave
  10. 10
    Tornadoes
  11. 11
    Climate Change

It is important to get to know and better understand these terms, as it will help you gain an even better understanding of how and why we are affected by different weather conditions.

Especially if you have your own personal weather station or are a weather enthusiast keen on better understanding how everything fits together, the following information will be especially useful.

We are going to discuss the 11 terms listed in more detail since they make up some of the most important and relevant weather terms and weather phenomena. 

We start with some weather terms some of you may already be familiar with:

1) Low & High Pressure Systems

Low & high-pressure systems are probably one of the most well-known and widely-used terms in meteorology. We first need to understand what air pressure is before we can delve into low and high-pressure systems.

Air Pressure

Air pressure is defined as the weight of the air molecules in a specific space pushing down on the surface below as a result of the Earth's gravity. 

It can be seen as the number of molecules present in a certain volume of air at any given moment or a specific period of time.

Air pressure is created in a variety of different processes, which in turn leads to different changes in weather. This leads us to low and high-pressure systems.

What Is A Low-Pressure System?

Low Pressure System

A low-pressure system is defined as a specific area where the weight of the air (or amount of molecules present in this volume of air) is lower than that of the air in the surrounding areas.

The process through which a low-pressure system is formed is called cyclogenesis, which is the umbrella term for the different circulation processes involved in the formation of a low-pressure system.

(We don't need to look at all of them for the purpose of this article, though. Just know that the term "cyclogenesis" is representative of all these different processes.)

Development

For a low-pressure system to form, certain elements must be placed to cause a drop in air pressure. A low-pressure system is normally formed as a result of 2 different processes:

  1. Wind Divergence Aloft
  2. Thermal Lows
1) Wind Divergence Aloft

Wind Divergence Aloft causes the air in the upper troposphere to move in opposite directions, creating a suction effect that allows the air at the surface to start lifting.

(The effect counteracts the laws of gravity by creating a vacuum in the upper troposphere, which makes the lifting of the heavier surface air possible).

Low-pressure systems that are formed as a result of this effect mainly take place in 2 places:

  1. To the east of upper troughs (Which normally have long wavelengths)
  2. In front of shortwave troughs
2) Thermal Lows

Many of you familiar with tropical depressions (and the resulting tropical storms, hurricanes, cyclones, etc.) will be familiar with the way in which these low-pressure systems are formed.

As the surface of our oceans and landmasses are warmed up by the sun, it causes the air above it to heat up as well. The warmer air starts to rise, leaving less air at the surface, which causes a low-pressure system to occur as a result.

Characteristics Of A Low-Pressure System

Low-pressure systems are almost always associated with cloudy and rainy weather. (You only need to look at any weather forecast to notice how often a low-pressure system is mentioned in the same breath as cloudy & rainy conditions.) There is a good reason for this.

As the air above the low-pressure system continues to rise, it starts to cool down. As the moisture-carrying air cools down, condensation and cloud formation takes place, which normally results in precipitation.

As air normally flows from an area of high-pressure to low-pressure, winds tend to blow inwards towards the area of low pressure.

This inward circulation of air is influenced by the earth's rotation. This effect is more commonly known as the Coriolis Effect. As a result, the winds rotate clockwise around a low-pressure system in the Southern Hemisphere and counterclockwise around a low-pressure system in the Northern Hemisphere. (Also referred to as cyclonic flow.)

What Is A High-Pressure System?

A high-pressure system can be defined as a body of air which weight (or amount of molecules present in the volume of air) is more than that of the air in the surrounding areas.

Development

High Pressure System

In many ways, a high-pressure system and its development can be seen as the direct opposite of a low-pressure system. This is especially evident in the way it is formed...

Warm air that has risen from the equator cools down, and the resulting precipitation dries out the air, which then starts moving towards the poles.

The cold, dry air from the upper troposphere starts descending (as the cooler air weights more than the surrounding warmer air). The air converges at the top of the high-pressure system, strengthening the descend of the cooler air.

As the cool air continues to descend, it starts compressing as well as it nears the surface level. This results in a high-pressure system forming where the descending air reaches the surface center of the weather system.

Characteristics Of A High-Pressure System

Low-pressure systems are normally associated with clear sunny weather and light surface winds. (The cool, dry air, combined with the air heating up as it descends, prohibits any formation of clouds and precipitation.)

As air always moves from an area of high pressure to low pressure, winds blow outwards and away from the center of the high-pressure system.

Just like low-pressure systems, the winds rotating around a high-pressure system are influenced by the Coriolis Effect (caused by the rotational spin of the earth).

Unlike low-pressure systems, though, the winds rotate in a clockwise direction around high-pressure-systems in the Northern Hemisphere and counterclockwise in the Southern Hemisphere.

2) Cold Front

A cold front occurs when the leading edge of a mass of cold air moves into a region of warmer air. The boundary between these two air masses is called a cold front. A cold front is normally associated with wet and stormy weather conditions.

Cold Front

This characteristic stormy weather that accompanies a cold front is a direct result of the "collision" between the 2 air masses. As the edge of this fast-moving cold air mass reaches the warmer air, the cold (and heavier) air undercuts and starts lifting the warmer (lighter) air up into the atmosphere.

As the warm air is lifted, it starts to cool down, causing the moisture in the air to start forming micro-droplets as a result of condensation. If enough moisture is present in the rising air, this will lead to cloud formation and precipitation.

Please note that this is a very broad description of a cold front. For example, a cold front that meets and lifts a body of warm air that carries little or no moisture may not display any of the normal characteristics associated with a cold front (e.g. rain, clouds, and wind).

Many different weather systems can be responsible for a cold front to form. We will discuss this in more detail in another article.

3) Warm Front

A warm front occurs when the leading edge of a mass of warm air moves into a region of colder air. The boundary where these two air masses meet is called a warm front. 

A warm front is normally associated with slow-moving stratus-type clouds producing light rains for a sustained period of time. (Similar to a stationary front.)

As the warm air cannot replace the denser and heavier body of colder air, it is forced to rise and move over the boundary of the colder air mass. This process is called overrunning.

Warm Front

If there is enough moisture in the air (which is not always the case), the rising warm air will start to cool down as it moves up and over the mass of cold air. As a result, condensation and cloud formation will occur, which normally produces sustained light rain, often followed by a light drizzle later on.

As a warm front moves much slower than the more disruptive cold front, the weather changes associated with it are also more prolonged and not that severe. It is normally preceded by high forming clouds that slowly get replaced by lower cloud formations as the warm approaches.

The actual arrival of the warm front is normally accompanied by a sudden drop in air pressure. The light rain previously mentioned normally arrives with the cold front, and as the front passes over, it turns into a light drizzle.

As in the case of a cold front, the conditions described above are fairly broad characteristics of weather normally associated with a warm front. (As a result, a variety of different weather conditions can occur due to specific characteristics of a warm front, as well as the part of the word it occurs in.)

4) Jet Streams

Jet streams are defined as long narrow bands of strong winds, blowing at high velocities above the earth's surface, normally found in the upper troposphere at heights of 9 to 16 kilometers (30 000–52 000 feet) above sea level.

There are 4 major jet streams present above the earth's surface, and they all have a huge influence on the global climate and the formation of various weather systems.

The 2 strongest jet streams are found at the south and north pole, respectively, at heights of 9–12 kilometers (30 000–39 000 feet). The 2 weaker subtropical jet streams occur at a height of 10–16 kilometers (33 000–52 000 feet).

Jet streams are mainly formed as a result of 2 processes.

  1. Solar Radiation (the heating up of the atmosphere) resulting in the influential Hadley, Polar, and Ferrel circulation cells
  2. The Coriolis Effect (a result of the earth's rotation, affecting global air movement)

Not always moving in a straight line, but rather in a more meandering manner, as it moves between areas of hot and cold air, jet streams form a boundary between these pockets of warmer and colder air.

Jet streams are also influenced to a large extend by the difference in temperature between these areas of hot and cold air. A bigger difference in temperature between the warmer and colder air masses will result in a substantial increase in the velocity at which the jet stream is traveling.

Jet streams are especially important to the aviation industry and closely monitored by major players in the industry. Using jet streams flowing in the same direction a plane is traveling in is beneficial for saving fuel & reaching a destination on time (or making up lost time). 

(Get it wrong, however, and airlines may end up with their planes flying directly into an opposing jet stream flow, leading to additional fuel being used and flights potentially arriving late at their destination.)

5) Severe Weather

Severe weather refers to any meteorological phenomena that are dangerous and potentially destructive. This can lead to severe damage, disruption of large areas of infrastructure, and even loss of life. This includes thunderstorms & lightning, hail, heavy rain & flooding, tornadoes, and severe wind conditions.

thunderstorm

Depending on where on the planet you are situated, you will be affected by severe weather conditions that are common to that specific region.

For example, areas in India may be very susceptible to flash flooding due to the seasonal summer monsoon bringing with it huge amounts of rainfall.

Similarly, if you live in Tornado Alley (the area found in the Great Plains of the Central United States), you are more likely to suffer the devastating effects of tornadoes forming during the spring and summer months. 

No matter where you find yourself, it is always important to pay attention whenever severe weather condition warnings are issued. You and your family's life may literally depend on it.

6) Thunderstorm

Thunderstorms are violent and fairly short-lived disturbances in the atmospheric conditions, normally associated with lightning and thunder, strong winds, heavy rains, and even hail. They are normally associated with & a result of a sudden buildup of cumulonimbus clouds.

For thunderstorms to occur, three key ingredients need to be present:

  1. Moisture
  2. A Lifting Mechanism (normally in the form of heat)
  3. An Unstable Rising Air Mass

With these 3 ingredients present, a thunderstorm will go through three phases of development to complete the process:

  1. Developing (Cumulus) Stage: Warm air with low pressure at the surface starts to rise. As it continues to rise, it cools down, and the moisture in the air condenses and form micro-droplets. If the air is unstable enough and continues to rise, it leads to the formation of cumulus clouds. Through a process of convection, the air is driven higher into the atmosphere by updrafts, creating a low-pressure zone.
  2. Mature Stage: The air continues rising until it reaches a region of warmer air, which stops it from rising any further. It starts spreading out horizontally, and large amounts of moisture combine to form large droplets. As they start falling, they cause downdrafts, which, combined with the updrafts, result in the formation of cumulonimbus clouds. This causes severe internal disturbances within the clouds, resulting in the severe conditions we commonly associate with thunderstorms.
  3. Dissipating Stage: At this stage, a process called a downburst can occur as the downdrafts overwhelm any more updrafts and air inflow into the thunderstorm. This process happens very rapidly as this downburst carries air quickly to the ground and then spreads out, after which the thunderstorm starts to dissipate relatively quickly.

You also get more than one kind of thunderstorm. Single-cell, multi-cell clusters, and Supercells are just a few well-known examples. (We will discuss these different types of thunderstorms in a separate article.)

There is one more important fact to take note of. Even though most thunderstorms look violent and spectacular, in order for them to be officially classified as severe thunderstorms, they need to fulfill the following criteria:

  • Wind speeds of at least 93 kilometers per hour (58 mph)
  • Hail with a diameter of 25 millimeters (1 inch)
  • The presence of tornadoes

7. Dry Spell (As Opposed To A Drought)

A dry spell can be defined as a sustained period of dry weather with lower water and soil moisture levels due to a lack of rainfall. A region with significant lower rainfall figures during its rainy season compared to previous seasons can be regarded as experiencing a dry spell.

Dry Spell

A dry spell should not be confused with a drought, however. There are much debate and confusion about the difference between the two, and depending on which region you find yourself on the planet, definitions may vary.

In general, a dry spell does not last as long as a drought. Although it puts a strain on natural resources, especially in the agricultural sector,  it normally does not pose an immediate threat to human or animal life.

A drought, on the other hand, is a much serious condition with severe consequences. Probably the most important feature setting it apart from a dry spell is the length of time over which it occurs.

It can last over a multiple series of dry spells, sometimes taking years or decades to fully develop. The results are normally devastating. Water and resources depending on the water can be completely depleted.

Often this results in the destruction of the agricultural sector, the lifeblood of any country region. This will directly threaten the livelihood of the region's inhabitants and cripple the sustainability of all processes necessary for growth and survival.

As a result, one should be very careful to refer to sustained dry spells putting a strain on any region for a period of time as a drought.

(Something the news media is sometimes quick to jump on for dramatic effect, often causing undue panic in the process.) They may have similarities but are very different in their extent and level of seriousness.

8) Wind Chill

Wind chill (or wind chill factor) refers to the phenomena where you experience temperatures around you as much colder than it actually is due to the presence of wind. It is caused by wind blowing surrounding cold air against you, causing you to perceive temperatures as colder than it actually is.

You are experiencing the temperature to be that much colder because your body's natural heat creates a layer of warm air around your skin to provide a form of insulation from the surrounding cold air. Wind blowing against your skin, however, removes this insulation layer, making you experience the temperature to be much colder.

When you hear or read the term "feels like..." next to the temperature given, it refers to the wind chill "temperature" in case you were wondering.

9) Heatwave

A heatwave refers to a period of prolonged exceptionally hot weather, often accompanied by high humidity levels. It is often determined when compared to the hottest average temperatures from the region during the same period measured during previous seasons.

heat wave

The precise definition differs between different regions and different weather services. Sometimes this can lead to much confusion. (For example, in certain parts of Australia, a heatwave is defined by 5 consecutive days of temperatures exceeding  35 °Celsius (95 °Fahrenheit) or 3 consecutive days of temperature exceeding 40 °Celsius (104 °Fahrenheit).

The South African Weather Service again, define a heat wave as the maximum temperature in a specific area to be 5 °Celsius hotter than the average maximum temperature of the hottest month of that specific area for at least 3 consecutive days.)

As you would have noted from the 2 samples above, definitions can vary widely from one region to another. Rather than relying on specific numbers, the definition highlighted in bold at the start of this section should be considered to be a more accurate determination of a heatwave in your area.

Heatwaves are a result of the formation and strengthening of high-pressure systems in the upper atmosphere (3 000–7 600 meters or 10 000–25 000 feet). As weather patterns move much slower during the summer months compared to winter months, they tend to linger over a specific area much longer.

The air under the high-pressure system dries and warms as it is forced down and sinks towards the surface. This, in turn, forms an inversion layer, preventing convection from taking place and trapping the hot, humid air beneath it.

You can learn more about a heatwave in this article.

10) Tornadoes

A tornado is a funnel-shaped, rapidly rotating moving column of air. They normally form at the base of cumulonimbus clouds and can cause various degrees of damage, depending on the wind speeds' scale and strength. 

tornado

Tornadoes are classified on a scale from F0 (the weakest form doing minimal damage) to F5 (the strongest form of the system able to rip houses clean off their foundation and do significant damage to infrastructures).

Wind speeds are normally around 180 km/h (110 mph) or less, but in Category F5 storms, wind speeds of over 450 km/m (300 mph) can be reached with catastrophic consequences. Tornadoes are also around 250 meters (80 feet) in diameter but can be as big as 3 kilometers (2 miles).

Tornadoes are formed due to a convergence of downdrafts and updrafts below a cloud base, which starts the rotating air movement. As the updrafts intensify, it causes an area of intense low pressure, which is pulled to the surface.

This results in the familiar funnel cloud with the section reaching the surface containing strong updrafts and high wind speeds, leading to severe damage often associated with strong tornadoes.

You can find in-depth information about tornadoes in this article.

11) Climate Change

As you will be very well aware, Climate Change is a very controversial topic and a subject for a whole series of articles on its own. Since it has been widely used over the past few decades in the same breath as global warming (with its different causes and its effect on the environment and the planet as a whole), an explanation of this term is warranted.

In a nutshell, climate change refers to the changes in the state of the earth's atmosphere over a period of at least 3 decades and more. This includes global temperature changes, the flow of our oceans' currents, and rainfall, to mention a few variables.

Climate change has gone through natural cycles of Global Warming and Ice Ages through millions of years during the earth's history.

What makes Climate Change that much more relevant and important to us is the unnaturally accelerated pace at which it is taking place now and the close ties with human intervention and the impact on the environment since the Industrial Revolution and our continued release of fossil fuels and gasses into the atmosphere.

But this is a topic for a whole other conversation.

Conclusion

11 Very important weather terms were addressed in this article. Hopefully, this will clear up many elements of the weather you were unfamiliar with.

You will note that some terminologies received a lot more attention and got explained in more detail than others. Those were the terms I regard as important to understand and will help you to better understand many other weather terms and occurrences.

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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9 Ways To Predict The Weather Without A Weather Forecast Or Personal Weather Station

How To Know If Its Going To Rain heading

Most of us rely on weather forecasts to tell us how the weather will behave. But by observing certain atmospheric conditions, nature, and even animal behavior, we can make a fairly good prediction without it.

9 Ways To Predict The Weather Without A Weather Forecast

  1.  Cloud Color
  2.  Cloud Height
  3.  Cloud Type
  4.  Humidity
  5.  Changes In Vegetation
  6.  Smell
  7.  Wind
  8.  Animal Behavior 
  9.  Insect Behavior

You probably heard the stories of old people saying it is going to rain because "they can feel it in their bones." And also when your mother or aunt complained about the thousands of ants invading the house because "there is probably some rain on the way again." 

They are actually all correct, and there is an explanation for it. It is possible to tell whether significant changes in weather, especially rainfall, is on its way.

By observing your surroundings, especially specific elements of the weather, nature, and even animal behavior, you will be able to get a very good idea of how the weather will change in your vicinity in the immediate feature.

The nine elements listed above can all be excellent indicators of changes in weather. You will be able to make a surprisingly accurate forecast of how the weather will change in the coming hours by observing them. We take a close look at each one.

1) Cloud Color

One of the most visible ways of telling how the weather will react is by observing the clouds. Knowing the different types of clouds will definitely help you make more accurate assessments, and its actually not as difficult as you may think. More on that shortly. 

It is not just the different types of clouds that will determine the weather. By also observing their altitude and color, you will be able to get a good indication as to when to expect possible rainfall, as well as how heavy it may be. 

As you know, clouds are nothing more than moist air that has risen high enough to cool down, causing condensation and small raindrops to form. The amount of raindrops/moisture present in a cloud has a direct effect on its color.

Cumulonimbus Clouds

In general, the darker the cloud, the more moisture it contains. That is why rain-bearing clouds like cumulonimbus and nimbostratus clouds have a dark gray, sometimes almost a black base. This normally indicates imminent and heavy rains.

Very light-colored clouds, like cirrus clouds, normally indicate clear weather for the foreseeable future. If they form out of nowhere in an otherwise clear sky, it may indicate possible rain within 36 hours, but does not indicate any imminent rainfall, and they carry very little moisture themselves.

2) Cloud Height

The height of a cloud has two aspects to it that determine its behavior: The actual height of the cloud base (altitude) and its vertical extent.

Clouds with their bases high in the air (cirrus, cirrocumulus, and cirrostratus) are generally not associated with rain, whereas low-lying clouds are more commonly associated with rainfall. This is just a very rough indication, though.

A much clearer indication of how a cloud will behave is the extent of the cloud density. Clouds like cumulonimbus clouds with a low base in the troposphere but with a massive vertical buildup almost always indicate some kind substantial rainfall. 

In contrast, very thin clouds (clouds with a small vertical extent) are normally very unlikely to result in rainfall by themselves.

The best way to make an accurate assessment of approaching weather is by looking at the cloud color, height, and density combined. This way, you will be able to get the most complete picture of what to expect.

3) Cloud Type

Being able to identify the different types of clouds and their characteristics will make it much easier to know how a cloud formation will affect you and potentially how much or how little rain you can expect.

Lets quickly run through the list of most important cloud types, from the ones potentially producing the most rainfall, down to those producing none.

Nimbostratus

These mid to low-lying dense cloud formations are synonymous with large-scale rainfall. They are characterized by their dark color and are so dense that they can completely block out the sun. Depending on the wind speed, they can produce persistent rainfall for sustained periods of time.

Cumulonimbus Clouds

Although they have a fairly low-lying base, these clouds build up vertically to spectacular heights of up to 39 000 feet (12 000 meter). They are commonly referred to as thunderclouds and are associated with thunderstorms and very heavy rainfall. 

Due to the huge vertical buildup in these cloud systems, they contain a lot of moisture, which can lead to downpours so heavy that flash flooding can occur. Although intense, the rainfall normally doesn't last very long and normally dissipates within 20 minutes.     

Altostratus Clouds

These mid-level clouds are characterized by a large featureless blanket of clouds that can spread for thousands of square miles. (This is the cloud type that comes to mind when people talk about a typical dreary winters day).  

Altostratus clouds are normally associated with widespread light rain. Although they don't normally produce heavy rainfall by themselves, they are often seen as precursors for nimbostratus clouds.

Cumulus Clouds

Probably the most well-known (and loved) clouds around the world are the cumulus clouds. These well-defined cotton-like clouds are low-level clouds that are normally an indication of pleasant and clear weather.

Cirrus Clouds

Cirrus Clouds

Cirrus Clouds

As already mentioned, these streaky white clouds are formed higher up in the atmosphere and are considered high-level clouds as a result. They contain mostly light ice crystals and don't pose any danger of rain themselves. They are, however, often seen as indicators that rain might be expected within 36 hours.

Obviously, there are many other cloud types and sub-categories of the clouds just mentioned. They all fall within the spectrum of the 5 cloud types mentioned in this section, though, so for the sake of this article, we don't need to go into further detail.

Being able to recognize the different clouds as they approach will help you to get a better picture of what to expect in the coming hours.

You can get more detailed information about the different types of clouds and their characteristics in this article.

4) Humidity

Approaching rain is almost always preceded by an increase in humidity (the amount of moisture in the air). There are several ways you can detect an increase in humidity. You can find tell-tale signs on both your own body and in the environment around you:

  • "Damp" Feeling: It's hard to explain, but we all know the damp sensation when the air contains a large amount of moisture. The moist, sweaty feeling on our skins is another dead giveaway.
  • Changes In Hair Structure: You may start to notice that your normally smooth straight hair suddenly starts feeling a bit frizzy, which is a direct result of more moisture in the air.

There are some other less obvious indicators of a buildup of moisture in the air, but the three just mentioned are some of the most obvious and easily detectable ones.

5) Changes In Vegetation

Nature is sometimes the best possible indicator of changes in weather. The cones on pine trees automatically close to protect themselves when the air becomes moist.

The leaves of maple trees start curling. In areas with high humidity, the wood starts to swell and warp. Even smelling the flowers will help you to detect humidity. Normally the smell of flowers is more powerful as scents are much stronger in moist air.

6) Smell

Stronger Scent Of Flowers

Yes, you are reading this right. The smells in the air can give you a very good indication of approaching weather. I already touched on the strong smell of flowers and the typical "wet smell" that is associated with the rise in humidity preceding rainy weather.

There are further indicators, however, especially from nature, that present themselves in the form of strong scents that points to approaching rainy conditions:

  • Ozone: That typical smell preceding rainy weather is the smell of ozone.
  • "Compost" Smell: A smell very reminiscent of decaying compost is very evident in the air, which is a result of plants releasing their waste.
  • Swam Gasses: If you happen to live near a swamp, you may become very aware of swamp gas that the low-pressure system allows to rise and drift with the wind. (These gasses have a smell very similar to rotten eggs, so unfortunately not a very pleasant experience.)

As you start becoming more aware of these smells associated with rainy weather on a regular bases, you can actually pick up indications of changes in weather conditions without even looking or going outside.

7) Wind (Or Lack Of It)

One of the strongest indicators of approaching rain is the picking up of wind or, a change in wind direction. There is a small catch, however.The wind direction that brings with it the rain-bearing clouds, depends completely on where on the planet you are located. It means you have to know which winds are associated with rain or bad weather in your region.

In an area in the Northern Hemisphere, the wind will blow in completely the opposite direction than in an area in the Southern Hemisphere. If you have been living in a town/city for some time, you will most probably be familiar with the wind direction associated with rainfall. (Or you can find out from neighbors or older people very familiar with the region.)

Similarly, a lack of airflow (wind) very often points to approaching rain. Especially in a normally windy area, if the wind suddenly dies down and everything becomes very still, it more often than none is literally the calm before the storm. This is a direct result of the low-pressure system that moves in and pushes the normal wind patterns out of an area.

8) Animal Behavior

Ant Invasion

The behavior of animals and insects that are out of the norm can also be a clear indication of rain or stormy weather. This is because all of them have senses far superior to humans or even some instrumentation.

Thousands of years of evolution helped them to develop these lifesaving senses. They are able to pick up atmospheric changes and act long before the actual weather arrives. Here are just a few examples of animals & their behavior you can watch out for:

  • Bird Behavior: If you are living in an area with plenty of bird activity, you may already be familiar with this behavior. Very often, before rain or stormy weather arrives, bird activity dies down very quickly. As they are able to sense the approaching weather conditions long before we can, they seek shelter and stop flying around.
  • Livestock Behavior: If you live on a farm or in a rural area, you may be surprised how even more "domesticated" animals like cattle are able to pick up on an approaching storm long before there is any physical evidence. Very often, before a rainstorm arrives, you will see a herd of cattle huddle together and lie down for protection in the middle of a field.

These are behaviors that have been well documented and proven over the years and are pretty reliable indicators of approaching bad weather.

Then off course, you get quite a few unsubstantiated claims, like frogs sounding louder before a storm, and dogs eating grass.

The point is, by paying attention to how the wildlife and even some domestic animals around you suddenly change behavior, you can be provided with valuable information about approaching changes in weather conditions.

9) Insect Behavior

Insects too, can give one a good indication of upcoming weather events. Here are a few examples of insects and their behavior you can watch out for:

  • Ant Invasions: This probably one of the most well-known phenomena throughout the world. Many of you have experienced your homes being invaded with ants sometimes more than a day before heavy rains arrive.
  • Noisy crickets: There is a reason you hear crickets on hot summer nights. These cold-blooded creatures' metabolism increase as heat rises, allowing them to chirp more often than usual during warm weather. As a result, an increase in cricket noises may point towards a rise in temperatures.

Like animals, you also get some unsubstantiated claims, like spiders coming down from their nets being an indicator of rainy weather.

Conclusion

So yes, you definitely will be able to make a fairly accurate forecast of what the atmospheric conditions will be like at your location within the coming hours. As discussed, you achieve this by looking at the cloud formations, smelling the air, observing animal behavior, paying attention to the wind, and assessing the humidity.

Even better. By taking all these elements and combining all the "data" you get from them and analyze them together, you should be able to form an even more accurate picture of how the weather will behave for sometimes up to 12 hours.

Will you be able to make an accurate 24-hour forecast? Probably not. Will you be able to make a 5-day forecast? Off-course not. (except if you have your own personal weather satellite orbiting the earth. Most home professional weather stations are not even able to forecast beyond 24 hours!)

But having the ability to judge how the weather conditions around you may change is a pretty handy skillset to have.   

Feel free to join my  Mailing List  to be informed whenever a new article is released, and share new developments and helpful hints & tips.

Until next time, keep your eye on the weather!

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What Does A Weather Station Measure? And The Instruments Used To Measure Weather

What Does A Weather Station Measure heading

Personal and home weather stations are becoming increasingly popular in homes and businesses. Many of them are capable of measuring a surprisingly wide range of weather variables.

The following table list the primary atmospheric elements weather stations measure, as well as the instruments used to measure them:

Weather Variable

Instrument

1

Temperature

Thermometer

2

Humidity

Hygrometer

3

Rainfall

Rain Gauge

4

Wind Speed

Anemometer

5

Wind Direction

Weather Vane / Windsock

6

Air Pressure

Barometer

7

Light Intensity

Photometer

8

UV Index

Solar Radiometer

When you think about how the weather is measured, it is actually not just one, but a combination of measured variables. Combined, these variables form the atmospheric conditions we experience as a specific type of weather at any specific time.

The most common elements measured by a home weather station are temperature, humidity, wind speed and direction, rainfall, and air pressure. 

(You will notice that, in the table above, Light Intensity and UV Index are also mentioned. Although more advanced weather stations are capable of measuring these parameters, they are not as critical to weather and forecasting as the other five variables.)

To better understand them, we will look at each of these different elements that make up the weather. Under each category, we also look at the different instruments used to measure it, as well as how it measures the specific aspect of weather.

1) Temperature

Temperature is measured by a thermometer. You get different types of thermometers, but to keep things simple, let's just focus on the two more familiar ones.

thermometer

The traditional thermometer consists of a tube filled with a liquid that expands or retracts in response to changes in temperature. One of the most well-known examples is the mercury-filled thermometer. As the temperature rises, the mercury expands and pushes higher up in the tube, giving you a measured reading. As the temperature drops, it contracts, and the level indicator in the tube drops accordingly.

The majority of modern thermometers, however, including the ones used in weather stations, use thermocouples. They measure temperature by the amount of electrical resistance that is flowing between two different metals. Let me explain...

Two different alloys are joined together. Each alloy's electrical resistance responds differently to any changes in temperature. An electrical current flowing through these two metals will be influenced directly by this difference in resistance created by these alloys. By measuring the changes in the current, an accurate reading of temperature can be obtained.

2) Humidity

Humidity is the amount of moisture present in the air and is measured by a hygrometer. A variety of different hygrometers exist, but again I will just focus on the two most important ones to stay on point.

The psychrometer is a well-known earlier example that uses two thermometers (one being covered with a wet cloth and the other to open air.)

The bulb of the thermometer covered with the cloth will give a lower reading due to the evaporation of the moisture on the cloth, which rate of evaporation, in turn, depends on the amount of moisture present in the air. The different readings between the two thermometers are then used to determine the relative humidity of the air.

hygrometer

Clearly this is not a very accurate way of measuring humidity, but luck,ily the invention of the electronic hygrometer made everything a lot easier and more accurate.

As with thermocouples (used for measuring temperature), the electrical resistance is again used to make an accurate reading, but in this case, humidity is the target.

A capacitive and resistance hygrometer operate slightly different but are both based on the same principle. Material able to absorb moisture is used to measure the amount of electricity flowing through it.

The more moisture a material contains, the better it is able to carry an electrical current. The amount of humidity in the air will determine how much moisture the material is able to absorb. As a result, the relative humidity can be determined by measuring the strength of the electrical current flowing through the material.

3) Rainfall

Rainfall is the amount of precipitation measured in a specific area over a certain period of time and measured by a rain gauge.

Professional weather stations use a cylindrical funnel with an aperture of 8 inches (203mm) which is placed about 12 inches (300mm) above ground level. It can normally hold up to 1 inch (25mm) of rainfall.

After a 24 period, the content is collected and poured into a calibrated glass for accurate measuring, while the empty cylindrical funnel is repositioned in place to record the next 24 hours of rainfall.

Tipping Bucket Rainfall Gauge

Naturally, not all rainfall gauges can be manned and emptied regularly, especially when it comes to personal weather stations and weather stations placed in remote areas. As a result, almost all modern homes and remote weather stations use Tipping Bucket Rain Gauges.

Tipping Bucket Rain Gauges have the advantage of recording rainfall automatically and never needs to be emptied. It consists of two buckets that are balanced on a fulcrum (and works in a see-saw action). 

A funnel collects the rainfall, which is collected in one bucket. Once the bucket reads a specific amount of rain, it tips and empties its contents into a runoff area. As it tips, it triggers a switch that sends a signal to the base station to record the reading. At the same time, the empty bucket on the opposite side lifts into position to record the same amount of rainfall before it also tips, the measurement is recorded, and the process is repeated.

4) Wind Speed

Wind speed is simply the rate at which air is moving at any specific location and is caused by a difference in air pressure, as air flows from an area of high pressure to an area of low pressure. The instrument used for measuring wind speed is called an anemometer.

3-cup anemometer

The most well-known and commonly used anemometer is the 3-cup anemometer (or 4-cup), where cylindrical cups are attached to horizontal arms that pivot around a center pole.

As the wind speed increases, the cups start rotating faster. By measuring the speed of this rotation, the wind speed can be calculated. The actual measuring can be done in more than one way, but are all based on the speed at which the cups are rotating. 

There are other ways of measuring wind speed, like using a hot-wire anemometer or tube anemometer, but are not important for normal everyday wind speed measurement.

5) Wind Direction

Wind direction obviously refers directly to the direction of air movement (wind). It may not be as obvious as you think, though. Wind direction refers to the direction the wind is coming from, and not the direction it is blowing in. (This means when the weather reports refer to a southerly wind, it means it is coming from a southern direction. Many people understand this the other way around.)

weather vane

Wind direction is measured predominantly by a windsock or wind vane. Windsocks are often seen at airports, but the weather vane is used on a regular basis in professional and personal weather stations.  

Most of you know what a weather vane looks like. Very often seen on top of tall buildings, it consists of a horizontal pole spinning freely around a central axis with an arrow (or similar pointing device) on the one side, and a big flat vertical surface on the opposite side that responds to any changes in wind direction.  

6) Air Pressure

Air Pressure (also called barometric or atmospheric pressure) is the number of molecules present in the air. To put it another way, the air around us has weight, which is determined by the number of molecules present in the air. 

Air pressure is closely related to gravity, which means that the air closer to the ground is exposed to stronger gravitational forces, making it much heavier while air higher up in the stratosphere are exposed to very little gravity and is much lighter as a result.

(This is the reason jet airliners fly at such high altitudes of around 30 000 feet. The low air density allows it to fly much faster and economical through the thinner air, keeping fuel usage much lower than it would have to fly at low altitudes and having to push through denser air. It keeps them out of more turbulent air closer to the earth's surface as well.)

The instrument used for measuring air pressure is called a barometer. There are basically two kinds of barometers. The Mercury and Aneroid barometers.

Mercury barometers date back centuries. It consists of a glass tube partially filled with mercury. It is placed upside down in a container (reservoir), also containing mercury. The container is exposed to the surrounding air. 

As air pressure increase (gets heavier), it pushes down on the mercury in the reservoir, forcing the mercury inside the glass tube to rise. This change in mercury levels is measured, and air pressure can be calculated as a result. Naturally, as air pressure drops, the opposite occurs.

As mercury is very poisonous and the setup requires a fairly controlled environment, this kind of barometer is not a very safe and practical solution.

barometer

Aneroid barometers solve all these problems and are used in almost all modern weather stations (and even in your smartphone!) It consists of a partially vacuumed sealed metal container. This is attached to a spring and levers, which is connected to a needle or electronic measuring device.

As the air pressure increases, it causes the container to contract, causing the attached spring/levers to expand or move, which is registered the measuring device and either displayed or transmitted to the base station. When the air pressure decreases, it causes the container to expand, causing the opposite reaction, which is also measured and recorded.

Conclusion

Now you have a clear understanding of what variables a weather station measures, as well as which instruments are used to measure them and how they are measured.

Also, take note that not all home/personal weather stations can measure all these variables. Normally they can contain any combination of measuring tools. (The more comprehensive weather stations come standard with all of these measuring capabilities though.)

Some personal weather stations even read more variables than the ones mentioned in this post, like solar radiation and soil moisture. These are advanced functions and not a necessity for the majority of your weather measuring requirements. 

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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How To Install A Personal Weather Station

Receiving & unpacking a new weather station is an exciting part of owning a weather station. However, there are a few very important things to consider when installing your home weather station.

Although the majority of quality home weather stations come packaged with a proper instructions manual, some universal principles and general guidelines apply to all weather station installations and are not always included in the device's documentation. In this article, we take a closer look at them.

The Different Parts Of A Personal/Home Weather Station

Home (personal) weather stations come in a variety of shapes and sizes and vary from a single all-in-one unit to a system consisting of several separate components.

Personal Weather Station

For the purpose of this article, we will focus on the typical professional home weather station, which consists of 2 units.

The first unit is the base station (control unit), housing the "brain" and display of the weather station, with build-in sensors also forming part of the unit.

The second unit consists mainly of an array of sensors, housed inside or attached directly to the device. The bulk of atmospheric measurements and readings are performed by this second unit.  

The two units are connected to each other via either a fixed wired or wireless connection. (We will take a closer look at these two types of connections later on in this article.)

Positioning Your Sensors Correctly

The process of choosing the correct position for placing your weather station is called siting. Siting is probably the most important part of any weather station installation. It is the most significant part of ensuring the accuracy with which you will be able to measure all the different atmospheric conditions.

The two most important factors that should be taken into consideration for optimal siting is the height of the sensors as well as their distance from other objects. We will look at each one separately.

1) Distance

Distance is the first crucial factor that should be taken into consideration when setting up your weather station. There are two different distances that are of particular importance during the setup process.

The first one is the distance between the outside unit (containing the sensors) and surrounding objects. The second distance is the actual distance between the outside unit and the base station.

Distance Between Outside Unit And Surrounding Objects

The distance between the sensors and surrounding tall objects can influence your readings substantially. Especially variables like temperature, wind speed, and rainfall can be negatively affected by placing your unit too close to such an object like a house or tree.

Rain Shadow

Trees and walls can cover or throw a "rain shadow" over the unit, giving you a completely false rain gauge reading. The effect of a tree should be obvious, but the "rain shadow" deserves some further explanation.

Say, for instance, the wind is blowing from the house's direction while it is raining, with the rain gauge placed too close to the wall on the opposite side of the house. The wall causes a "rain shadow" where the wind blows the rain over the gauge, causing it to receive only a fraction of the actual rain.

The same applies to wind speed and direction. Large objects will not just influence the wind speed, but also cause the wind to twirl around, making it very difficult to get an accurate wind direction reading. As a result,  the anemometer and wind vane should also not be placed close to any tall or large structures.

At this point, you might be getting frustrated and start to wonder where you can actually put you weather sensors where it will NOT be influenced by something. You will be happy to know there is a rule of thumb to follow.

What you may not be so happy to know is that the rule of thumb follows a 4 X 1 rule. This simply means that the weather sensors should be placed four 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.

Yes, I know most of us don't have a backyard the size of a small field, so an open space furthest away from the structure is a good option. (There is a better option. Many weather station owners use their rooftops as a good solution to solve the problem. More on that later on in the next section.)

Distance Between The Base And Outside Unit

I briefly touched on the two ways the base unit and "sensor unit" can be connected to each other earlier in the article, wired and wireless. Both have their advantages and disadvantages.

Base Unit And Sensor

Wired connections have the advantage of having a constant connection, as well as not being influenced by the different obstacles and barriers that may influence a wireless signal.

The technical difficulties of actually laying a cable, especially if the two devices are several hundred feet apart, combined with the labor and costs involved, can make this a tricky and expensive exercise.

Wireless connections are becoming the standard for most mid-range to high-end home weather stations. The ability to place the sensors anywhere outside the home and seamlessly communicate with the base station without the need for cables or any additional installations makes them very appealing to most home users.

Usually, the maximum distance between the two devices is claimed to be around 300 feet in general. Normal barriers and obstructions like concrete walls or metal and roofing materials bring this distance down to a more realistic 100 feet. Some barriers and other factors (like electronic and radio interference) can cause a loss of connection between the two devices. To any professional relying on a constant, reliable flow of data, this can be a big problem.

2) Height

The second crucial factor during siting for determining the accuracy of your sensors' readings, is your unit's actual physical height above the ground.

The first reason for this is to get an accurate humidity reading. Especially when placed in the back garden or any area that contains plants, grass, or even bodies of water, the accuracy of the hygrometer may be severely influenced. The amount of humidity that plants and bodies of water add to the atmosphere, must never be underestimated.

Another variable that can also be influenced by the surface below the sensors is the temperature. Whether the sensor unit is installed on the ground or on a roof, the surface of each still absorbs and reflects/radiates a lot of the heat from the sun back into the surrounding atmosphere.

As a result, when the sensors are placed too close to the surface, the accuracy of the thermometer will not be able to give an accurate reading. (The reflected/radiated heat from the ground below will add to the atmospheric temperature that is picked up by the thermometer.)

Luckily you don't have to get completely despondent here, as the solution to this problem is not that hard. You just need to ensure that the sensor array is approximately 6 feet above the surface below. This height is sufficient to make the influence of any surrounding objects and surfaces negligible.

Most quality weather systems come standard with brackets to fit the sensor unit (usually to fit around a standard pole). You will be able to source an appropriate pole from many of these manufacturers. You can even save money by purchasing a long enough galvanized pole (to prevent rust) from your local hardware store.

(Remember to take note of the width or type of pole/surface your weather sensor array's brackets will make use of before buying any accessories. Your personal weather station's documentation should be able to supply you with this information.)

Final Recommendations

By now, you should have a pretty clear idea of how to set up your home weather station, what to look out for, and how your surroundings can affect your sensors' readings.

In summary, remember the 4 X 1 rule for distance, and the 6 feet rule for height.

sensors roof

Recommendation: As I already pointed out, most of us don't have a big enough backyard to place the sensor far enough away from any obstruction. Placing the sensor unit on your roof or fixed to its side on a pole about 6 feet clear of the bottom of the roof will give you the best possible readings for all atmospheric conditions.

Please note! This is clearly a potentially dangerous exercise, so have a professional installer do it for you if you are not fully confident and able to do this safely on your own. 

Remember that you have to replace the batteries approximately every two years, so make sure the sensor unit is still reachable to replace them, as well as doing the occasional maintenance.

The one last point I quickly want to touch on is the positioning of the thermometer. In general, the temperature should be measured in the shade with plenty of circulation present. As a result, the thermometer should not be placed in direct sunlight.

Luckily, most quality weather stations come standard with the thermometer placed within an isolation shield to protect it from direct sunlight. (Some even have a small fan for air circulation.) As a result, I don't want to go into more detail and confuse you even further with "thermometer protection."

Conclusion

Hopefully, you now understand how crucial the placement of your personal weather station is, as well as how exactly surrounding objects and surfaces can influence the readings of the different sensors that form part of your system.

Luckily, choosing the right placement is not really rocket science, especially if you follow the few simple guidelines laid out in this article. Weather systems have come a long way over the years and have many built-in capabilities that allow it to get the most accurate readings, despite their surroundings. But you can always help it to get even more accurate readings.

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 Home Weather Station

Most of us have a pretty good idea of what a weather station is, specifically those used by large weather bureaus. A home weather station, though, remains somewhat of a novelty.

Actually, home weathers are not dissimilar from their much bigger brothers used for national and regional forecasts.

What Is A Home Weather Station?

A home weather station is a compact meteorological device designed to measure weather variables at a specific location to determine current and feature atmospheric conditions. It is intended for domestic or personal use without requiring any meteorological expertise for setup or observations.

Indoor Sensor

It uses at least one or more sensors to measure and display atmospheric conditions (temperature, air pressure, humidity, wind speed, etc.) in their immediate vicinity. Based on build-in algorithms and calculations, most of these devices are also able to make short-term localized weather forecasts.

Technically, a simple analog thermometer placed against the wall inside your house to measure the temperature can be considered a home weather station. On the opposite end of the scale, you get a display console inside the home connected to an outside sensor array measuring up to 5 different atmospheric conditions.

And off-course, you get a wide variety of weather station combinations in between these two extremes. You are really spoiled for choice here. (From highly functional to simply decorative.)

It may be all good and well knowing what a home weather station is, but knowing exactly how it works will help to understand it better.

This includes why it can be so invaluable to a growing number of users and why enthusiasts (or weather nuts like me) get so excited about it and turn it into a full-time hobby. 

List Of Weather Elements Measured By Home Weather Stations

The following list highlights some of the critical weather elements that are used in an increasing number of home weather stations to increase their versatility and accuracy. It shows the atmospheric variable first, followed by the type of instrument used to measure it.

Weather Element

Instrument Sensor

Temperature

Thermometer

Atmospheric Pressure

Barometer

Humidity

Hygrometer

Wind Speed

Anemometer

Wind Direction

Weather Vane / Windsock

Rainfall

Rain Gauge

Light Intensity

Light Sensor

UV Index

UV Sensor


How Does A Home Weather Station Work

In all honesty, there is not that big a difference between a home weather station and the professional ones used by weather services.

The biggest difference is that one measures weather conditions at a local level, while the other is used to help measure weather conditions at a regional or national level. 

(This is apart from the quality and variety of instruments available on a professional station compared to a home system.) 

Control Unit

A typical home weather system consists of two components. The control unit houses the "brain" and display of the system and is placed somewhere inside the house where it is easily accessible to you. (It also contains one or more sensors for measuring conditions inside the home).

The second unit is normally a single component with multiple sensors build into or attached to it. It is placed outside in a position and height where it can get the most accurate atmospheric readings.

All the data measured by the different sensors is sent back to the control unit inside the house at set intervals, normally measured in seconds.

An intricate set of algorithms and calculations build into the controller allows it to combine and interpret the various sensor readings. In turn, this enables the unit to make several "predictions" and determinations based on these calculations.

The displays on the majority of the advanced systems can display a combination of the data the control unit receives from the various sensors, indoors and outdoors. (These include variables like temperature, wind speed, humidity, barometric pressure, etc.) 

Apart from displaying current weather conditions, home weather stations are also able to show a 12-24 hour local weather forecast, based on the data they received from sensors and the algorithms/calculations based on this data.

These forecasts home weather stations are able to make can be surprisingly accurate (if set up correctly). Advances in technology over recent years, combined with a continuing increase in/ understanding of weather conditions, is making this possible.

Difference Between Home And Professional Regional Weather Systems

If you are wondering why home weather stations are limited to only forecast local weather over such a relatively short period of time, it has all to do with the limitations of its sensors. It is also one of the ways in which home weather stations differ from large professional regional & national systems.

The sensors of home systems are located in one area, typically your back garden. It means they can only measure weather conditions in one location over a certain period. To be able to forecast the weather conditions accurately over several days, you literally need a much broader view.

weather satellite

Regional and national weather services have access to multiple remote sensors hundreds (and thousands) of miles away, which makes it possible for them to make long-term forecasts.

It comes in the form of satellites, a network of remote weather stations scattered over a large area, weather balloons, and even weather buoys located throughout our oceans.

Satellites are able to pick up weather systems hundreds of miles away from a certain location, the speed at which it travels, and even the amount of humidity within these systems.

Combined with changes in water temperature monitored by ocean buoys (and additional data from remote weather stations & weather balloons), national and regional forecasts can be made for any large area over a number of days with astonishing accuracy.

In other words, big regional and national weather stations simply have a MUCH bigger reach than home weather systems, that allow them to make these extended forecasts. It's not a reflection of the quality and accuracy of home weather stations in any way. They simply "can't see far enough" to make these forecasts.

How You Can Benefit From A Home (Personal) Weather System

It should become clear by now how anyone can benefit from a home weather system, but there are some instances where such a weather station can be much more beneficial to some than to others.

Living in an area that does not receive local weather reports (or very inconsistent ones) can be very frustrating for professionals working within roughly 15-25 miles from home. Regional forecasts are too broad to give you a clear picture of your local weather.

(You can read more about the difference between local and regional weather in this article.) 

Especially if the weather at your workplace is very similar to your home conditions, having access to a home station can be invaluable for planning your day.

wine farm

Many farms and big plantations are already benefiting from the use of home weather stations. Spread out over a relatively large area, they rely on local weather conditions to plan anything from irrigation to the ideal time for planting seeds, to mention just a few. 

Many of the more advanced home systems can also receive data from more than one remote station. This allows you to have more than one sensor array situated at different locations on your property to provide you with even more accurate readings.

Nurseries and similar facilities that rely heavily on local weather to plan their activities (like irrigation) can also use a home weather system to their advantage and help with their planning and scheduling.

Large outdoor venues like stadiums and sports centers who need to know how weather conditions will change over a short period of time at their specific location will find such a weather station installed invaluable for short-term planning and event scheduling.

Finally, any weather enthusiast will love the addition of a home weather system for obvious reasons. Apart from having access to accurate real-time data, modern weather stations also store up to a year of meteorological data that can be downloaded to a computer. 

As a result, weather patterns and tendencies can be determined and keep a record of. Even for someone who may not have been "bothered by the weather" in the past, it can suddenly become a fascinating subject.

Conclusion

After this post, you should have a very clear idea of what a weather station is, how exactly it functions, and how it differs from bigger regional and national weather stations.

You will also have a better understanding of what institutions and individuals can benefit from installing these home weather stations.

You will be surprised how interesting the weather can get once you are able to have access to so much data about your local weather conditions.

You know the saying, "The more you know, the more interesting it gets"? This is especially true with home weather systems. You may just surprise yourself.

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

Until next time, keep your eye on the weather!

Also Read

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What Is The Difference Between Local And Regional Weather, And How Does It Affect You

Difference Between Local And Regional Weather

It's fair to say that every single one of us has been more than annoyed with our weather service's forecaster on more than one occasion. And much of it is due to the difference between local & regional weather.

Local weather primarily refers to the atmospheric conditions in your immediate vicinity at a specific period in time, like a small town or suburb, while regional weather refers to the atmospheric conditions in a broader geographical area like a county or state.

wet man

The weather forecast predicts "sunny conditions, with a light south-easterly breeze with high of 75 degrees Fahrenheit." Great! You dress accordingly, light and comfortable, and head off to work 12 miles away...

As you jump out of your car in the drizzling rain and run for your office to try and make it before getting completely soaked, you mumble a few "choice words" towards the weather forecaster whose advice you took the previous night while a shiver runs through you from the surprisingly chilly gust of wind also hitting you. What light breeze and sunny conditions!?

Sounds familiar? You just experience one aspect of the difference between local and regional weather. What may sound just as familiar is talking to your spouse/partner later the day, who just happens to work 15 miles away from home, but at the opposite side of town.

cafe outside

As you complain and describe your miserable morning, spending more than an hour getting dry and still cold, you are more than a little surprised to hear that he/she is having lunch with a few work colleagues outside at their local coffee shop, since its "such a nice day"...

This scenario takes place across the world every single day and in many cities and rural towns, so please don't feel alone. The weather gods and forecasters are not out to get you, I promise. The question, though, is, was the weather forecast wrong? Probably not, and I will explain why in a moment.

Let's just get a few technicalities out of the way that will help you better understand everything as I continue helping you make sense of this everyday occurrence. Let's start with the term "weather" and what it is:

Weather can be summed up as a description of atmospheric conditions in a certain area over a fairly short period of time. This includes variables like humidity, temperature, atmospheric pressure, and air movement (wind.) Local weather is the atmospheric conditions in your immediate vicinity, while regional weather covers a much larger region like a county or state.

In other words, it simply tells you how hot or cold, rainy or sunny, and windy it is or going to be in a certain area over a short period of time. This is something we all know and considered common sense. Having said that, the weather is a lot more complex and volatile, and especially difficult to forecast over a small, localized area. (As the scenario described at the start of this article clearly showed and we all experienced .)

The Difference Between Local And Regional Weather

Local weather primarily refers to the atmospheric conditions in your immediate vicinity at a specific period in time, like a small town or suburb, while regional weather refers to the atmospheric conditions in a broader geographical area like a county or state.

Now we can have a closer look at the difference between local and regional weather.

Regional Weather

Regional weather is normally focused on a specific region within a country. For example, looking at the weather of Northern California is a good example of regional weather.

regional weather

Although much more targeted than the overall weather condition of any country, it still covers a fairly broad area, sometimes spanning a few hundred miles. (And it's within this broad area that so many local variations in the weather can occur. More on that shortly.)

Meteorologists (weather forecasters) make use of a huge amount of data gathered from numerous sensors on the ground, in the air, and from space.

Various different data (temperature, humidity, air pressure, etc.) is collected from a network of weather stations spread out throughout the region. This is combined with satellite images showing weather systems hours or even days away. Data is even collected from devices such as weather balloons send up to collect very specific data in the lower and upper atmosphere.

All this data, combined with looking at a logged history of weather patterns and tendencies over the years, allow meteorologists to make very accurate regional forecasts. (Using satellite images that show weather systems still days away allows meteorologists to even provide us with the 3-5 day weather forecasts we often see during forecasts.  This is not as accurate a 24-hour forecast, though, due to the continuously changing nature of weather systems.)

And please take note, we are referring to regional, NOT local weather here. 

Local Weather

Local weather is normally focused on a "small location" like a city or town and surrounding areas. For example, Los Angeles and its immediate surroundings are one example of a "small location."

local weather

Local meteorologists make use of the same data that their regional colleagues use. Additionally though, they also make use of sensors located in the immediate vicinity, normally from weather stations located at places like the local airport. Using a combination of regional and locally obtained data, they are able to make a much more accurate forecast for your specific area.  

This can be very helpful, as within a big weather system, like a cold front spanning more than a hundred miles and moving very slowly, there may be pockets of warm and sunny conditions that can influence a smaller area within the bigger system. This can cause a specific city or town to experience sunny conditions, while the bigger surrounding region is experiencing the expected cold and wet conditions of the cold front.

(You should now be able to better understand why scenarios like the one described in this article introduction occur.)  

The term "local weather" has started to become a bit vaguer lately, as some local forecasters are trying to be even more specific, realizing that weather conditions can vary substantially, even in a fairly localized area.

As a result, some local radio stations and Weather Apps can focus on specific areas within a city or town. In Los Angeles, for example, some "experts" can focus on the weather in Northridge or South Los Angeles.

They may make use of personal/home weather stations (or network of weather stations) situated in their area and combine that with the official local forecast to make a more specific forecast of their own. 

Modern personal/home weather stations have become much more accurate during recent years, enabling users to make fairly accurate 12-24 hour forecasts. (If installed and interpreted correctly, which is often not the case.)

As you can see for yourself by now, local weather forecasts can be a mixed blessing. 

What Does This Mean For You?

Now that you have a clear idea of what exactly the difference between local and regional weather is, you may still be wondering how this influences you more directly.

Let me first point out that not all weather forecasts are created equally. Whether you use a weather app on your smartphone, read the forecast on your laptop, or get your forecast from a radio or television broadcast - make sure you vet and test each one over time to test its accuracy and reliability.

Naturally, if your daily movements are in and around your city or town, paying attention to your local weather forecast is important. Similarly, if you tend to travel within a broader region on a daily or weekly basis, keeping an eye on the regional weather should be a priority for you.

Useful Tip: Getting a local and regional weather forecast from different credible sources is always a very good idea to get the best possible picture of what to expect, especially if weather conditions are important to you.

Now, you can get even more specific, especially for the weather enthusiasts among you. (Or if you are a bit of a weather nerd like yours truly.) As personal/home weather systems are much more accurate and affordable than in the past, many users opt to install their own systems to monitor the weather in their immediate vicinity.

Combined with the data you get from general local forecasts, you are able to get a much better indication of weather conditions over the next 24 hours at your location. This may seem like a bit of overkill for you but can turn out to be a valuable investment and an interesting hobby.

This is especially useful for people living in remote areas, farms, nurseries, and other places where up-to-date weather information at their specific location is of the utmost importance.

(I will cover home weather systems and their uses in detail on this site, so make sure you check back regularly to see what is new. You may just realize how interesting the weather actually is and may just get hooked!) 

Conclusion

An there you have the two different types of weather explained in more detail to help you better understand how each one influence you.

In summary, regional weather covers a large area with many fluctuations within it but tends to be very accurate. Local weather targets a more specific location which can benefit anyone who needs more information about their immediate vicinity but can be more unreliable due to sudden small weather changes within the larger system (as well as slightly less comprehensive and accurate measuring equipment.)

So next the weather forecaster gets it wrong and you are soaked in rain, rather then basking in sunshine, don't be too hard on him/her. It's not always as easy as it looks!

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

Until next time, keep your eye on the weather!

Also Read

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