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The Weather: Meteorology

Each day, we turn on our televisions and radios, link onto the Internet and read our local newspapers to learn about the weather. The information we find out helps us decide what clothes to wear and what actions to take for the day. The science behind our daily weather reports is part of a field devoted to the study the weather and atmospheric conditions: meteorology. Explore meteorology in this HLN unit packed with fun-filled lessons and activities!

Weather can be seen in many ways! The word meteorology comes the Greek terms meteros which means "high up in the air" or "lofty" and ology which means "the study of." Simply put, meteorology is the study of atmospheric conditions.

Brief History
The early history of meteorology dates back thousands of years. Ancient people were curious about the atmosphere, the clouds and the causes of weather. During the 4th B.C., the Greek philosopher Aristotle wrote Meteorolgica, a document that is believed to be oldest study on topics related to meteorology. Around 100 A.D., the astronomer Ptolemy used astronomy to make weather predictions.

Centuries later, meteorology began to develop as a science. During 1500s and 1600s, inventions such as the wind vane by da Vinci, the thermometer by Galileo and the barometer by Torricelli helped to advance meteorology. Theories related to meteorology, such as atmospheric pressure and gravity, were also introduced in this period.

In the 1800s, the invention of the telegraph allowed almost the instant collection and transmittal of weather reports. The number of weather stations across to the United States also grew.

In the early 1900s, a group of scientists from Norway used basic laws of physics to study the weather. Their work became the foundation for today's methods of forecasting the weather.

The 1930s and 1940s was a time for several important meteorological advancements. In the 1930s, the radiosonde, a small instrument that measures conditions high in the atmosphere, was developed. During the 1940s and World War II, radar became a critical instrument to study and predict the weather. In the late 1940s, computers were first used for weather forecasting.

In 1960, the first weather satellite was launched into space. Since then, weather satellites have provided important information about the Earth's weather, especially the detection of dangerous storms such as hurricanes.

In recent years, developments such as Doppler radar and supercomputers have proved to be invaluable in meteorology.

Meteorologists and Weather Forecasting
A meteorologist is a person who has special training to study the weather and atmospheric conditions. Some meteorologists work as researchers who collect and analyze information about weather conditions or develop methods to improve weather forecasting. Other meteorologists work as teachers who help people learn about meteorology and train future meteorologists.

Many meteorologists work as weather observers and forecasters who study weather maps and other data from a variety of sources. These meteorologists use the information they collect to develop weather reports.

Weather forecasting -- a prediction of what the weather will be like in the near future -- is a key component of meteorology. Modern weather forecasting requires the work of people and systems around the world. For example, thousands of meteorologists in weather stations across the globe to provide the information for the weather forecasts that we see each day on television. Weather observers at thousands of weather stations on land and on ships at sea record data about conditions in the atmosphere four times each day!

Meteorological Instruments
Meteorologists use numerous devices to study and forecast the weather. They include these instruments.

  • Weather Satellites. These are instruments that transmit pictures and information about a host of meteorological information such as cloud movements, storms, air temperature and humidity. Two important types of weather satellites are geostationary satellites and polar orbiting satellites.

    Geostationary satellites orbit the Earth at the same rate that our planet spins on its axis at a height about 22,000 miles (36,000 kilometers) above the equator. These satellites provide information and pictures of a wide area. Many of the images that we see on television weather reports come from geostationary satellites.

    Polar orbiting satellites circle the Earth about 530 miles (850 kilometers) above our planet's surface and pass over the North Pole and South Pole. These satellites take detailed pictures of clouds.


  • Computers. These machines quickly calculate mathematical equations dealing with atmospheric conditions, such as storms, air pressure and fronts. Meteorologists use high-speed computers to simulate the courses of action for different types of weather. Some the largest and fastest computers on Earth are used for weather forecasting and meteorological research


  • Weather Balloons. These are large balloons filled with helium or hydrogen that carry instruments to gather information about conditions in the atmosphere. Weather stations release weather balloons twice each day at the same time around the world.

    Each weather balloon carries a radiosonde to measure air pressure, temperature and humidity in the atmosphere. The radiosonde is just larger than a soda can and is attached to the balloon by a string. When the balloon breaks, a small parachute safely carries the radiosonde to Earth. Radar on the ground tracks the instrument package and processes the information collected.


  • Radar. The term radar stands for "Radio Detection and Ranging." Radar is used to find and measure precipitation in the atmosphere.

    Radar emits radio waves that bounce off falling precipitation such as snow, rain or hail. Some of the waves reflect energy back to the radar unit.


  • Doppler radar is a type of radar used to measure wind speed and direction. Meteorologists also use Doppler radar to find and analyze severe weather such as tornadoes and thunderstorms.


  • Airplanes. Some special airplanes are outfitted with instruments to study different types of weather. For example, aircraft called "hurricane hunters" are designed to allow meteorologist to fly directly into these large, strong storms. Other kinds of airplanes are designed to fly into hailstorms or over erupting volcanoes.

Some Studies Within Meteorology

  • Aerology
    the study of the layer of free air not close to the surface of the Earth


  • Aeronomy
    the study of the conditions of the upper atmosphere


  • Applied Meteorology
    the study of weather information for a specific application or purpose


  • Physical Meteorology
    the study of the physical processes of the atmosphere


  • Synoptic Meteorology
    the study of the of weather data collected at the same time over a wide area

Learn More!
General Resources about Meteorology

Online Resources

  • The Weather Channel
    An excellent resource for everything you want to know about weather and meteorology.


  • The Weather Dude
    Great educational resource about meteorology and weather created by a meteorologist who works at The Weather Channel. Site includes an online book, weather songs, recommended reading list and a host of weather-related links for children, parents and teachers.


  • National Weather Service
    This division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) provides current weather information and forecasts for the United States and its territories.


  • Meteorology Guide
    In-depth guide that includes animations and computer simulations to explain a variety of topics related to meteorology.


  • Weather
    Links to information about different components of weather from NOAA.


  • Yahooligans! Weather
    Find links to a host of resources about weather and meteorology.


  • Franklin's Forecast
    Find links to hands-on activities and references related to weather and meteorology.


  • Weather
    Long list of weather and meteorology references.


  • Weather Central
    Resource from Scholastic about weather forecasting


  • Mad About Meteorology
    In-depth unit for elementary-age children.


  • Whatever the Weather
    Links to across-the-curriculum activities related to weather geared for primary and elementary-age children.


  • Weather
    Find across-the-grades and cross-curricular resources that help students understand the weather.


  • Weather Here and There
    A cross-curricular unit with six hands-on, problem-solving lessons related to weather and meteorology for grades four through six.


  • ProTeacher! Weather


  • ProTeacher! Weather Forecasts
    Two resources with links to lessons and activities about the weather and weather forecasts.


  • Weather Worksheets and More!
    Find links to a host of printable cross-curricular worksheets and puzzles with weather themes.


  • Allaby, Michael. How Weather Works. Readers Digest, 1995. ISBN: 089577612X
    (Ages 9-12)


  • Anthes, Richard A. Meteorology. Prentice Hall, 1996. ISBN: 0132310449
    (Young Adult)


  • Christian, Sandra J. Meteorologists. Bridgestone Books, 2002. ISBN: 0736811303
    (Ages 4-8)


  • Fowler, Allan. What's the Weather Today? Children's Press, 1991. ISBN: 0516449184
    (Ages 1-3)
  • Gibbons Gail. Weather Words and What They Mean. Holiday House, 1992. ISBN: 082340952X
    (Ages 4-8)


  • Mandell, Muriel. Simple Weather Experiments With Everyday Materials. Sterling Publications, 1991. ISBN: 0806972955
    (Ages 9-12)

  • Monmonier, Mark S. Air Apparent: How Meteorologists Learned to Map, Predict, and Dramatize Weather. University of Chicago Press (Trade), 1999. ISBN: 0226534227.
    (Young adult and up)

  • Perez, Kim, editor. You Can Be a Woman Meteorologist. Cascade Pass, 2002. ISBN: 1880599570.
    (Ages 9-12)

Meteorology Vocabulary

Your children will learn vocabulary words related to meteorology.

What does cirrus mean? What is an anticyclone? Have the children learn meteorological terms from Meteorology Vocabulary. Use one or more of the following activities according to the children's grade levels or abilities.

Choose five to ten terms. Write the words in alphabetical order on a chart, large sheet of paper or dry erase board. Read the words with the children and discuss their meanings. Have children practice writing and spelling the words.

Have the children complete the Meteorology Vocabulary Worksheet. Use the Answer Key to check their responses

Extension Grades 3-12:
Encourage the children to complete the Weather and Climate Quiz.

Additional Resources:

Make a Weather Map Report

Your children will learn about weather maps.

Explain to the children that a weather map shows what the weather conditions will be in certain regions. People view weather maps during the weather segment on television news broadcasts and in newspapers.

Have the children read How to Read a Weather Map. Then save the weather page from your local newspaper for two weeks. Direct the children to study and discuss the maps each day. Place the maps in a folder. At the end of two weeks, instruct the children to write a summary report of the weather conditions highlighted on the maps. Tell the children that their reports must include the temperatures on warmest and coldest days, the range of temperatures and types of precipitation and the total number of days of sun and precipitation (any kind). In addition, direct older children to calculate the average temperature for the two weeks.

Have the children make a weather map of your city, state or United States. Check the resources below for outline maps.

As a follow-up, encourage the children to explore one or more of these weather map activities.

Additional Resources:

How Fast Does the Wind Blow?

Your children will learn how to calculate wind speed and review how to round numbers.

Explain to the children that a knot is a measurement of speed. Meteorologists measure the speed of the wind in knots using this formula: 1 knot = 1.15 miles per hour.

Review the rules for rounding numbers from Rounding Numbers. Have the children use the formula above and the rounding numbers rules to complete our two-part Wind Speed Worksheet. Let the children check their answers on the answer key.

Forecasting the Weather

Your children will learn about weather forecasting.

Review with the children that meteorologists make predictions or forecasts about future weather conditions. K-5: Have the children do the activities from Web Weather for Kids and create a book about weather forecasting. 6-12: Have the children complete Predicting Weather, a series of four lessons to help them gain a greater understanding about predicting weather. Then let the children test their weather forecasting skills with these activities.

  • Forecasting Temperatures
    Forecasting Precipitation
    Children take various conditions into consideration to forecast possible temperatures and probability of precipitation.
    (Grades 9-12)

  • Weather Prediction
    Children study weather maps, make predictions about the forecasts and compare their predictions with the correct forecast.
    (Grades 6-12)


  • Weather Patterns
    Children study a weather map and answer questions about possible weather predictions.
    (Grades 6-12)


  • Weather Lesson 5
    Children explore the process of weather predicting and use a weather map to make weather predictions.
    (Grades 4-6)


Additional Resources:

Weather Radar

Your children will learn about weather radar.

Review with the children that meteorologists use radar equipment to help them track weather conditions. The term radar stands for "Radio Detection and Ranging."

Have the children re-read the information about radar presented at the beginning of this unit. Invite the children to learn more radar from these sources.

Direct the children to study a weather radar map from North America Radar Image. Ask the children: "Which regions have light precipitation? Heavy precipitation? No precipitation? According to the map, what are the weather conditions for your state?" Ask: "What changes happened? Which regions had the greatest amount of changes? The least? What changes happened in your state?" (Note: You will need a free download of QuickTime to view the map in motion.)

After studying the weather radar map, encourage the children to complete one or more of these activities.

Extension: Have the children write a report about Christian Doppler, the scientist credited with discovering the Doppler effect. This principle led to the development of Doppler radar.

Additional Resources:

  • Hitzeroth, Deborah. Radar: The Silent Detector. Lucent Books, 1990. ISBN: 1560062010
    (Ages 9-12)

So You Want To Be a Meteorologist!

Your children will learn about careers in meteorology.

Review with the children that a meteorologist is a person who has special training to study the weather and atmospheric conditions.

Read the book Meteorologists by Sandra J. Christian with the children. Then help the children complete the activities from Becoming a Meteorologist?

Direct the children to explore careers in meteorology from these sources.

Discuss the information presented. Then arrange to visit a meteorologist who works for a local television station, radio station or newspaper. Prior to the visit, direct the children to prepare questions to ask the meteorologist. You may want to plan the trip with other homeschoolers. After the visit, invite the children to complete Weather Lesson 6 and create their own weather broadcast!

Extension for 9-12:
Have older children use print or online sources to write job description for a meteorologist who might work at a television station. They may start their research with the site Careers in Meteorology.

Additional Resources:

Cloud in a Jar and other Meteorology Experiments

Your children will learn about weather and meteorology through hands-on activities.

Who is Aesop?

Have the children read about clouds from Learning About Clouds. On a clear day, take the children outside to identify any of the clouds that they read about.

Next, let the children use a jar, ice, warm water and other household materials to demonstrate how clouds form in the project Cloud in a Jar. Note: Parental supervision is needed to complete this activity.

Then encourage the children to try some of these fun experiments to explore concepts of meteorology and weather.

  • Wind 1
    An experiment that shows how warm and cool air react to changes in their surroundings.
    (Grades 6-8)


  • Wind in a Bowl
    An activity about wind circulation.
    (Grades 6-8)


  • Lesson: Precipitation
    This experiment explores how rain forms.
    (Grades K-5) Note: Parental assistance is needed to complete this activity.


  • Weather Experiments!
    Try two easy experiments, one about the water cycle and the other about air pressure.
    (Grades K-5)


  • Make a Wind Vane
    Build a simple wind vane from a straw , an index card, a pencil with an eraser, tape and a straight pin.
    (Grades K-8) Note: Parental supervision is suggested when using the straight pin with younger children.


  • Measuring Relative Humidity
    Compare temperature readings for a wet thermometer and a dry thermometer.
    (Grades K-8)


  • Dew and Frost
    Explore the differences between dew and frost in this hands-on project.
    (Grades K-8)

Additional Resources:

Make a Weather Station

Your children will learn about making a weather station.

Explain to the children that a weather station is a research post with special instruments that collect and record information about current weather conditions. Instruments on weather stations usually include thermometers, barometers (measure air pressure), and hygrometers (measure humidity). Weather stations may be on land or on ships at sea. There are thousands of weather stations around the world that help meteorologists track the weather.

Encourage students to make their own weather station from common household materials! Direct them to follow the directions from one or more of the resources noted below to make a weather station.

Try more weather fun! Let the children also try one or more of these experiments to make a barometer or a hygrometer.

Article by Lois Lewis Curriculum Development
Article © Homeschool Learning Network, All Rights Reserved.

Last Updated on Monday, 20 February 2012 19:00

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