What is Weather?

What is weather, how is it formed and how can future weather be predicted? Weather is the state of the atmosphere, to the degree that it is hot or cold, wet or dry, calm or stormy, clear or cloudy. Almost all weather conditions begin with the sun. It provides the energy to raise temperatures, and the uneven warming (water warms slower than soil and shady soil warms slower than soil in the sun) triggers air movement. Add to that a spinning earth and you have a weather producing machine.Weather forms when the air masses begin to move, based on air pressure (temperature and moisture) differences, interacting with the surface of the earth and one another. This air movement influences air throughout all levels of the atmosphere, not just close to the earth’s surface.Weather conditions have a profound influence on human life and humans have been thinking about it for centuries. Even today it is a frequent topic of conversation.

Weather Observations

Ancient weather forecasting relied on observed patterns. Over the years these observations became known as weather lore and were used as the basis of predicting weather. With the invention of the electric telegraph in 1835 modern forecasting began. The telegraphed reports of weather conditions from a wide area almost instantaneously allowed predictions of impending weather events to be made using the knowledge of what was going on upwind.3

The Weather Bureau, established in 1870, originally was assigned to the U.S. Army Signal Service within the Department of War. Twenty years later it was transferred to the Department of Agriculture. In the early 1900’s scientists proposed that the evolution and motion of the atmosphere was governed by complex mathematical equations, the laws of fluid motion and thermodynamics, could be used to calculate and thus predict the coming weather. Today we use supercomputers to carry out these calculations. Granted current weather forecasters do not always get it right, things have come a long way since 1870.4



Anticipating Weather Changes

How will we anticipate weather conditions in a survival situation? We will need to return to the knowledge base of observations in nature to help us guesstimate weather changes. An article in The Preparedness Review, Winter 2014 (TPR5-Winter 2014.pdf)includes some behaviors to note:

  • Wild animals tend to feed heavily before a storm.
  • Animals make noise before a storm.
  • Herding animals get together before a storm.
  • Bees are nowhere to be found before a storm.
  • “Red sky in the morning, sailors (and everyone else) take warning.”
  • Body aches and pains appear before a storm
  • The lower the clouds the greater the chances for a storm.

 Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Weather
2. https://www.scholastic.com/teachers/article/predicting-weather
3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Weather_forecasting
4. https://www.iweathernet.com/educational/history-weather-forecasting
5. https://www.wired.com/2014/12/nasa-best-earth-from-space-2014/#slide-id-1688839

Earth, Eastern Hemisphere
Part of NASA’s Blue Marble collection, this image is a composite built from images taken during eight orbits by the Suomi NPP satellite on March 30.

Billie Nicholson, Editor
February 2015


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