Fred Jaicks  Written and compiled by Fred Jaicks


Weather is an important part of the world around us. The weather helps determine whether to take umbrellas at the start of a day, sunglasses and sunscreen, or a heavy woolen coat and mittens. For the most part meteorologists can predict the weather, but many times weather can be unpredictable as well. There may be a day when the patio umbrella is up, the picnic table is out, the grill is on, and suddenly the sky turns dark and the rain begins to pour with no warning. Weather is certainly not an exact science. Meteorologists collect weather data, interpret weather maps, and use observation to predict, as accurately as possible, weather patterns. These patterns are used to determine which way a particular storm will go. Patterns can change, though, and that is where the unpredictability comes in. We would be ill prepared for storms and their resulting power outages much less often if weather was fully predictable. Luckily, technology today allows for quick alert and response when weather turns, and many times widespread damage can be averted. But who exactly are these meteorologists and what does it take to do their job?

Bureau of Labor Statistics: This occupational handbook describes very thoroughly the job title of “atmospheric scientist.” The nature of the work is explained, the qualifications and training are outlined, and future job outlook is predicted. For those who are possibly interested in a career in weather, this is an excellent site to become a little more educated on the profession.

Now that you know what it means to have a career in weather forecasting, it’s time to learn about weather itself. Check out the following list of common terms, weather conditions and sites at which more information can be found:

Doppler Radar

  • Buzzle: Explains the Doppler effect, the history of the Doppler effect, and the development of Doppler radar. An explanation is given as to how the Doppler radar is used in predicting weather and why the Doppler radar is much more advanced and accurate than older methods.
  • Tornado Chaser: Doppler radar is especially important in the prediction of the intensity of storms. It can also detect the locations and where a storm is heading. Naturally, this is most important when trying to avoid tornados and other severe weather conditions.


  • Web Weather: Fun site that illustrates high and low pressure and allows the user to slow down and speed up virtual molecules in order to demonstrate pressure.
  • The Physical Environment: Air pressure is explained, how it is increased and decreased by nature; also, how it can be measured by a mercury barometer.


  • Blue Planet: An explanation of climate, what determines an area’s climate, and what is determined by an area’s climate. The Köppen Climate Classification System is identified, and each climate and subgroup is explained in detail.
  • Climate Connections: News page updated by National Geographic and NPR dealing with climate issues. Articles, concerns, podcasts, and suggestions to save the environment are linked to this page with pictures and sidebars.


  • Vision Learning: The history of “temperature” beyond just hot and cold, and a breakdown of the three scales of temperature: Fahrenheit, Celsius, and Kelvin.
  • Weather Wiz: Includes online temperature conversions as well as definitions of the wind chill index and heat index and insertable charts to figure that as well. Finally, there are safety tips for various weather conditions.


  • Daphne Palomar Edu: Shows ways to express humidity and the relationship between humidity and temperature.
  • Physical Geography: Gives us the definition of humidity and the three main measures of measures of humidity: mixing ration, saturation mixing ratio, and relative humidity. Several different instruments can be used to determine humidity, and these are explained relative to the humidity they measure.


  • US Geological Survey: Good explanation of precipitation and how it varies over different geographical areas and over time. A chart is included which categorizes precipitation as fog, mist, drizzle, light rain, moderate rain, heavy rain, excessive rain, and cloudburst, and the parameters of those categories.
  • University Corporation for Atmospheric Research: Several different kinds of precipitation are linked in this text to different pages with nice pictures of each. There is a good explanation of precipitation and why it is necessary to the earth.


  • University of Illinois: Gives the Latin root words for the kinds of clouds that we see and a description each as well as beautiful pictures.
  • WX Dude: Includes some fun facts about clouds, such as the atmosphere must be a little dirty to form clouds. Each kind of cloud is also described in detail.


  • Exploratorium: Lightning is electricity, and this is a good explanation of how the electricity is generated. Also, there are some safety tips as well as some interesting historical facts.
  • Micro Magnet: This short site features a wonderful photograph of positive and negative charges between the sky and ground. As these charges meet, lightning occurs, giving off an electrical charge.


  • Energy Facts: Gives us a definition of wind, a history of wind, and explains how the power of the wind can be harnessed and used as energy for use on the earth.
  • Wild Wild Weather: Goes over wind and the jet stream, a river of air that snakes along the earth. Also, explains the anemometer and its use in measuring wind speed.


  • FEMA: Tells what a hurricane is, how it is formed, and shows the damage it can do. Links to photos of damage from hurricanes, things to do in the event of a hurricane, what to do with a pet during a disaster, and recommendations for a disaster supply kit.
  • Carolina Environmental Diversity Explorations: Slightly more scientific site that explains how hurricanes are formed.


  • Scholastic: Explains what a tornado is and what conditions must exist for a tornado to form.
  • Chase Day: Beautiful pictures of tornados exploring the different shapes of the tornado.

El Niño

  • NASA: Tells us about Southern Oscillation and El Niño, duly named because it occurs normally around Christmas. NASA seeks to explain, to some extent, the phenomenon of El Niño, but admits that there is still much that baffles scientists.
  • Meteora: Gives us an explanation for El Niño and its weather pattern, its causes, how it minimizes in strength, and its effects and length.

Other Resources for Studying

  • Mr. Jopp: Earth science resources for students.
  • Weather Meteorology: Seventh grade science links including weather, light & sound, force & motion and space.