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clouds at sunset

I cannot command winds or weather! ~ HORATIO NELSON.

Whether it's a gentle rain tapping on the window, or a fierce and howling wind brought about by a hurricane or tornado, everybody talks about the weather.

For many of us, it's the first thing we check in the morning, and the last thing we check at night. In summer, it may be time to slather on the sunscreen. In winter, it's good to know about school closings or road conditions as we prepare for an approaching blizzard.

Yet other than looking up at the sky -- how in the world are weather forecasts created?

Weather tools of the trade

From thermometers that measure temperature, to barometers that measure atmospheric pressure - to weather vanes that measure wind direction - mankind has been monitoring the weather for centuries.

barometerWant to know how much moisture there is in the air? Try using a hygrometer, an early invention of Leonardo da Vinci who was the first to make detailed sketches of the ancient weather tool in 1481.

In the US, the Farmer's Almanac has become famous for its yearly weather predictions based on a "secret formula" dating back to 1792.

The study of weather data over generations has been more reliably used in other ways, like keeping track of the four seasons or knowing when to plant crops after the last frost date across various weather zones. Today, daily forecasts are arrived at with the use of weather satellites and Doppler radar which also continue to help in the quest to predict weather patterns months in advance.

Wind and weather

old weather vaneWind is what makes predicting weather difficult at times. Alternatively, prevailing winds can also help create an entire seasonal forecast. The annual hurricane season for the Eastern US, for example, can usually be ascertained by studying the trade winds that regularly blow off the African coast.

More irregularly, the twin coupling of weather patterns popularly known as El Niño and La Niña are Pacific coast weather patterns that have been observed occurring roughly every five years. The resulting variations in temperature often causes huge shifts in weather ranging from massive flooding (from the warming caused by El Niño) to widespread droughts (from cooling caused by La Niña).

Prevailing winds world map :

prevailing winds world map
Major prevailing winds throughout the world include the westerlies (in blue); the northwesterly
trade winds (in yellow); and southwesterly trade winds (in brown). The meeting of these winds
are often responsible for forming (1) Atlantic hurricanes and (2) Indian Ocean cyclones.

Weather fun facts

snow• Averaging about 10,000 thunderstorms and 1,000 tornadoes per year, the United States has more violent weather than any other country.

• Some theories point to negative ions in the atmosphere, or maybe it's chemicals and atmospheric odors picked up in the air by ice crystals, but no scientific study has ever been put to the test to explain why people say "it smells like snow".

• The colors in a rainbow are red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet.

• The windiest spot on Earth is Antarctica, where cold icy winds can reach up to 200 miles per hour.

• Even with scientific advancements, folk forecasts still remain fairly accurate to this day, as witnessed by aching joints during barometric pressure changes, or when unmanageable hair frizzes up as humidity rises.

also see -> How do they name hurricanes?

More about the weather around the Web:

From tornadoes, cyclones, hurricanes and blizzards to the latest reports on solar winds and global warming - around the Web check out complete up-to-the-minute weather tracking from around the globe, along with more fun facts, educational resources, satellite pictures, and webcams ...


NOAA - National Weather Service
- The complete, current U.S. weather picture with hurricane, tropical storm, blizzard, aviation, marine and fire weather reports with current warnings, weather education/outreach center and kids weather page.

CIMSS Tropical Cyclones - The latest updates from the University of Wisconsin in Madison featuring tracking pictures and videos from cyclones forming in the Pacific, North Atlantic and Indian Oceans and Australia plus a FAQ and related links to more info on typhoons, cyclones and hurricane watches around the Net.

UM Weather - One-stop browsing for weather sites around the Web including links to tropical weather reports, skiing, travel-related, weather cams, weather tracking maps, satellite pictures and weather forecasting software.

Met Office - Weather and climate change - The UK's weather central with up-to-the-minute forecasts and warnings, satellite images and webcams, special features, educational resources and an extensive directory of related weather resources by topic.

BBC Weather Centre - Expert reporting from the BBC with weather from the British Isles as well as weather news from around the world, feature stories, message board, webcam, site FAQ. - The latest reports and great photos of sunspots, solar flares, current solar wind conditions, meteor showers and geomagnetic storms with an excellent cache of links to further information.


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