Weather is influenced by many things, including temperature, precipitation, and even location. Temperature is how hot or cool an area is. Precipitation is rain, snow, sleet or even hail. Location is where people live.
Temperature isn’t the only thing that affects how hot or cold a place will be. Cloud cover, land, and water all affect how warm an area becomes. If there is more cloud cover in an area, the temperature will be cooler, and if there is less cloud cover, then the area will be warmer. Land warms and cools about five times faster than water.
Clouds are made up of tiny water droplets that form when warm, moist air rises up into the sky and is then cooled. Clouds can form in a few minutes, or they could take up to an hour to be created. Colder clouds can be made up of ice crystals. There are four main classifications of clouds: cirrus clouds, which are the thin, wispy clouds; stratus, which are the clouds that look like layers; nimbus, which are rain clouds; and finally, cumulus clouds which are the fluffy, pile-like clouds. There can also be a combination of different kinds of clouds.
Wind can also affect the temperature of an area. Wind is made up from air pressure from one point to another. Wind is what balances that air pressure.
Humidity is another thing that makes a place feel warmer or cooler. Humidity is the amount of moisture and water in the air. The higher the humidity, the damper and warmer the air feels.
Let’s talk about rain next. Rain is caused by the condensation of water vapor into droplets of water. The droplets become too heavy and then fall from the clouds. Two processes help make the rain fall. One is the cooling of the air and the second is adding water vapor to the air. Rain can vary in size from small pancake-size in large droplets to tiny dots in small droplets.
What would rain be without a rainbow? Rainbows happen when the sun shines at the same time as it is raining. The light refracts from the sun and the millions of little water droplets form a rainbow. Sir Isaac Newton first discovered the seven distinct colors of the rainbow: red,orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet.
Another form of weather is hail. Hailstones form when rain gets blown high into a cloud, and the temperature is below 32 degrees Fahrenheit. If the temperature is below 32, the raindrops freeze, and as they start to fall to the ground, they get blown back up into the clouds where they refreeze. This process continues until the hail is too heavy to stay in the cloud. It then falls to the ground at speeds of up to 120 miles per hour. The size of hail varies from about pea-sized, around ¼ inch, to softball-sized, around 4 ½ inches. The largest on record was 7 inches.
Sleet is when frozen raindrops hit the ground in frozen ice pellets.
Snow crystals form inside the clouds when temperatures fall below the freezing point. Snow is water droplets that have frozen on small crystals of ice. As the crystals fall through the clouds, the ice crystals collide with others, forming a snowflake. Although no two snowflakes are exactly alike, each one has six sides.
Now, let’s take a giant leap and study some more severe weather. Let’s start with thunder. Thunder is caused when a bolt of electricity produced by lightning strikes. That loud boom you hear is made from the air around the lightening bolt heating up to temperatures of up to 60,000 degrees F. It then expands, creating a shock wave that is the rumble of thunder. The closer the lightening, the louder the thunder.
Lightning is next. Lightening is the discharge of electricity in the atmosphere. It usually occurs during a thunderstorm. The lightening bolt can travel up to 140,000 miles per hour (mph) and can have temperatures of up to 54,000 degrees F.
Now, we are getting into even more severe weather. Our next study is tornadoes. Tornadoes are formed when moist, warm air and cool, dry air meet. Tornadoes form during thunderstorms when the wind in the thunderstorm starts to swirl. As the air swirls around, it gets faster and faster, creating a funnel. The funnel then creates a low pressure area that sucks air and other objects in its path into it. Tornadoes can form year ’round, but May is the month that usually sees the most. April, however, is when the tornadoes are reported to do the most damage. Tornadoes vary in severity, but not necessarily because of their size. The Fajita Scale measures a tornado based on wind speed and damage path length and width. The scale is from an F-1, which is the lowest, to an F-6, which is the highest.
Our final stop on our look at weather is hurricanes. A hurricane is a giant, spiraling tropical storm. They are also known as cyclones in the northern Indian Ocean and the Bay of Bengal, and in the western Pacific Ocean, they are called typhoons. Whatever they are called, these storms can produce wind speeds over 160 miles per hour and can dump about 2.4 trillion gallons of rain on an area in a single day.
Atlantic Ocean hurricane season is at its peak during mid-August until late October. There are, on average, five to six hurricanes each year. Hurricanes begin by being known as tropical disturbances. They are low pressure systems fed by warm, tropical air. If the wind speed of this tropical disturbance reaches speeds of at least 38 mph, it is upgraded to a tropical depression. It is then given a name and becomes a tropical storm if the wind speeds reach more than 39 mph. If the sustained winds then reach over 74 mph, the tropical storm becomes a full-fledged hurricane.
If it becomes a hurricane, it is given a category based on the Saffir-Simpson scale. Categories are based on the storm’s intensity and wind speeds at the time. The hurricane can be upgraded and downgraded as its intensity increases or declines. The categories range from the lowest Category 1, to the highest Category 5. Hurricanes are capable of producing torrential rains, mudslides, flooding, and even high winds that could produce tornadoes.