Earth Science for Kids
We all want to know what the weather is going to be like. It helps us to plan out our days. We want to know how warm to dress, if we should bring an umbrella, or if it will be a good day for a picnic. Although it may sometimes seem like weather forecasters are just guessing, there is a lot of science that goes into predicting the weather.
Meteorology is the study of the Earth's atmosphere. Scientists who study the atmosphere are called meteorologists. By studying the Earth's atmosphere, meteorologists are able to predict what the weather will be. However, there are a lot of variables that goes into predicting the weather. For this reason, the predictions are not 100% accurate.
Meteorologists measure and study many aspects of the Earth's atmosphere. In order to forecast the weather, they study high and low pressure systems and the boundaries between them called weather fronts. We describe these in more detail below.
Highs and Lows
Knowing areas of high and low air pressure is important to predicting the weather because differences in air pressure causes wind to form.
High pressure system - A high pressure system generally means good weather because it attracts cool and dry air. On a weather map a high pressure system is shown by a blue H.
Low pressure system - A low pressure system generally means rainy or cloudy weather. This is because low pressure systems generally attract warm and moist air. On a weather map a low pressure system is shown by a red L.
The boundary between high and low pressure systems is called a weather front. It is where these two different masses of air meet that most storms form.
- Cold Front - A front where a cold air mass is replacing a warm air mass. When a cold front passes through, the temperature will drop. Cold fronts can cause a narrow line of storms and can cause the weather to change rapidly.
- Warm Front - A front where a warm air mass is replacing a cold air mass. Warm fronts tend to move more slowly than cold fronts. They often bring rain and clouds.
- Stationary Front - A stationary front is a front that stays in one place for a long period of time. Stationary fronts can bring long periods of rain.
- Occluded Front - An occluded front occurs when a cold air mass takes over a warm air mass.
- Dry line - A dry line is a boundary separating a dry air mass from a warm air mass. There can be large differences between the temperature and dew point on each side of the dry line.
Weather front symbols
1. cold front
2. warm front
3. stationary front
4. occluded front
5. dry line
A lot of technology goes into measuring and predicting the weather. Some of the tools meteorologists use are described below.
- Doppler radar - Doppler radar is a special kind of radar that can determine the rate of precipitation (rain, hail, snow) as well as wind speed and direction. This can help meteorologists in providing severe storm warnings.
- Satellites - Satellites can be used to see cloud formations over large areas of the Earth.
- Rain gauge - A rain gauge is tool used to measure the amount of rainfall.
- Anemometer - An anemometer measures the speed of the wind.
- Barometer - A barometer measures the air pressure and whether it is rising or falling.
- Computer Models - Weather forecasting uses computers to model the weather using the various measurements and information gathered.
- Doppler radar uses the Doppler effect to determine the speed and direction of objects. It is also used in non-weather applications such as police speed guns, the military, and healthcare.
- The dew point is the temperature where water begins to condense out of the air.
- Some people say they can predict the weather based on the pain in their joints such as their knees. This may be a result of the change in air pressure.
- Humidity is a measure of the amount of water vapor in the air.
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