Measuring Temperature; Keeping Warm

Keeping warm

Upper Primary Science, Geography and Maths
Using a thermometer

Overview

In activity one, children will be introduced to thermometers and their uses, and have the opportunity to practise taking temperature readings using thermometers with different scales. They will link the measurement of temperature to how hot or cold things are.

In activity two, children will take careful readings of outside temperature during the day and try to explain findings in terms of weather conditions. Only a short time is needed at hourly intervals to take the temperature readings throughout the day.

Objectives

Children should learn:

to use a thermometer to make careful measurements of temperature, using standard measures.
that temperature is a measure of how hot or cold things are and that something hot will cool down and something cold will warm up until it is the same temperature as its surroundings.
to explain temperature and temperature changes using scientific knowledge and understanding

Lesson plans

Activity one

Introduction to using thermometers
Using slides 1 and 2 the children discuss uses of thermometers and are taught how to handle thermometers safely. They are then given a selection of thermometers to handle and examine.

Teach the children how to read the thermometer scale using the thermometer ITP.

Activity
Have containers of water at different temperatures ready, positioned so that all the children will be able to take temperature readings during the activity. Tell the children they will be practicing taking temperature readings for each container of water and the empty container which will be at room temperature. Remind the children that care will be needed when measuring the temperature of very hot water. Children record their measurements using the measuring temperatures worksheet and note the time. They will take a second reading an hour later.

While waiting to take the second reading, use the rest of the slides to practice reading temperatures, discuss temperature as a measure of how hot or cold things are and predict what will happen to the temperature of the water in the containers (the water will cool down or warm up to reach room temperature).

This will be a good time to introduce activity two, using slides 9 and 10 in preparation for starting the activity at 9a.m. when planned.

Plenary
Ask the children to measure the temperatures again and complete the worksheet.

Lower ability groups will need support to take temperature readings and complete the worksheet.

Lesson resources

Using a thermometer slideshow

You will need:
Containers of water at different temperatures including below room temperature and an empty container at room temperature.

Measuring temperatures worksheet

Activity two

Measuring the outside temperature
Place a thermometer in a safe place outside in the shade, away from direct sunlight.

Children take temperature readings at every hour and record them, using graph with or without scale.

Plenary
When children have completed all readings and constructed their bar graphs, discuss the results and ask children questions about their findings.

Ask the following:

What was the temperature at 9am?
What was the temperature at playtime?
How did the temperature change during the day?
What was the warmest time of the day?
Can you explain why the temperature changes during the day?

You will need:

Slides 9 and 10 from using a thermometer slideshow (above)

Outside temperatures worksheet

Outside temperatures worksheet(without scale).

Web page reproduced with the kind permission of the Met Office

Handling Data and Measurements

Handling data and measurements

Key Stage 2 Mathematics
Handling data and measurements

Overview

Children measure the outside temperature at the same time on each day for a week. They use ICT to record the temperature each day, in a suitable data handling program. At the end of the week they use the program to display the results on a bar chart. They answer questions such as:

On which days was it warmer than 15 degrees?
What is the difference between the temperature on the hottest day and the temperature on the coldest day?

Objectives

Children should learn:

to read, to the nearest division and half-division, scales that are numbered or partially numbered. Use the information to measure and draw to a suitable degree of accuracy.
to answer a question by collecting, organising and interpreting data.
to use ICT to create a bar chart.

Lesson plans

Activity

Mental starter
Use slide 1 to ask questions about the temperature data.

Main teaching
Use the thermometer ITP, to teach the children how to measure temperature to the nearest degree.

Using slides 5–9 go through temperature, rainfall and wind speed measurements.

Tell the children they will be keeping a weather diary for one week and measuring the outside temperature at the same time every day.

If you have a weather station at school show them how to measure the wind speed and rainfall. Otherwise, show the children how to find the information using the latest weather data on the internet.

Demonstrate how to record the temperature each day in your chosen data handling program.

Lesson resources

Keeping a weather diary (Temperatures) slideshow.

Link to the Met Office latest weather forecast for the UK.

Main activity
Children measure the outside temperature in groups at the same time every day for one week and complete their individual weather diaries.

On the last day, when all the information has been collected, using ICT, children record the temperatures for the week in the chosen data handling program and use the information to display as a bar chart, which can then be printed.

Your own weather diary worksheet.

You will need:
Access to computers or laptops

Plenary
Using slides 10–14 ask the children to answer questions with the help of their bar charts. Can they think of any other questions to ask? What does the chart tell us about the weather during the week?

You will need:
Slides 10–14 of keeping a weather diary (Temperatures) slideshow (above)

Web page reproduced with the kind permission of the Met Office.

Poems and Songs

Poems and songs about the weather for children and schools

There are lots of songs and poems about the weather. Why not practise singing the ones here on this page? Or you could make up your very own song using your favourite weather words!!

TIPS: Tapping your fingers on a table sounds like raindrops, stamping your feet sounds like thunder, blowing sounds like the howling wind and you could even make shivery noises for the cold!!

Poems


Rain & Sun
Christina Rosetti


Wind
Christina Rosetti


Rain
Robert Louis Stephenson


Raindrops
Anon

Wind Poem 2
Wind Poem 2
Christina Rosetti

We also like the following poems by more recent poets – see if you can find them in a poetry book!

Anything from The Book of Clouds Juris Kronbergs
The More it Snows A.A. Milne
Snowflakes Helen Moore
Snow Alice Wilkins
Winter Ocean John Updike
Winter Morning Ogden Nash
It s never Fair Weather Ogden Nash
Fog Carl Sandburg
Winds light to disastrous Spike Milligan
Storm Roger McGough
Rain George MacBeth
Glass Falling Louis MacNeice
Clouds Aileen Fisher
The Fight of the Year Roger McGough

Floods

Flooding may result from a large amount of rain or from rapid thawing of snow and in coastal regions may also be caused by a storm surge or a combination of high tide and high river level. The consequences of flooding are often disastrous but there can also be beneficial effects of flooding.

Download Floods Fact File

Storm surges

Storm SurgeStorm surges are mainly caused by the effect of the wind on the sea, not changes in atmospheric pressure. The effect of wind on the sea surface is known as wind stress. The wind stress on the surface of the sea causes the water level on a coast to rise if the net transport of water is towards land and to fall if it is away from land.

Many coasts are at risk from storm surges and these include the Atlantic side of the United States, the Bay of Bengal area around India, Thailand and Indonesia, the coastal areas of the Netherlands and eastern England coastline. At the head of the Bay of Bengal large storm surges (up to 4m in height) are initiated by hurricane force winds coupled with low pressure tropical cyclone systems. Fortunately for the UK surges large enough to bring about catastrophic flooding of these North Sea coasts are experienced only a few times each century, and improved sea defences should stop all but the most extreme surges. On the Indian sub-continent, especially near the mouths of the River Ganges, death tolls from storm surges caused by tropical cyclones have been huge. In 1970, for example, more than 200,000 died when such a surge struck the area. Here, as in other places where storm surges occur, the sam

Examples of storm surges in the UK and their effects


A FerryFlooding of the Thames on 6th -7th January 1928 highlighted the need to find ways of forecasting storm surges. However, the real push to investigate storm-surges was on 31st January and 1st February 1953, when, a surge exceeding 2.7 metres at Southend in Essex and 3.5 metres in parts of Holland killed 307 people died in eastern England and 1,800 in the Netherlands. The storm that caused the 1953 surge was among the worst to hit the UK in the 20th century. Before the storm’s low pressure and storm-force northerly winds raised water levels in the southern North Sea, hurricane-force winds blew down more trees in Scotland than were normally felled in a year; and a car ferry, the Princess Victoria, on passage from Stranraer in Scotland to Larne in Northern Ireland, sank with the loss of 133 lives. Only 41 of the passengers and crew survived. Nowadays, surges are forecast with considerable accuracy and storm-surge barriers are in place in the most vulnerable places in the Low Countries and eastern England, one of them on the Thames a (south of Greenwich).

The effects of pressure on sea level

The Thames BarrageWhen pressure falls by one millibar, sea level rises by one centimetre. Thus, a deep depression can cause sea level to rise 60 or 70cm above the level predicted purely on the basis of tidal theory. The pressure-induced rise in sea level caused by a tropical cyclone can be much greater, maybe a metre or more.

Flash flooding

FloodingOne of the most energetic and destructive of all weather systems are tropical cyclones. The hurricane-force winds can reach 50m/s and torrential rain falls from their towering cumulonimbus clouds.flooding The winds can cause disastrous surges on coasts and the downpours of rain can cause serious flooding. Power and water supplies are disrupted, buildings are damaged, crops are destroyed, people and livestock are drowned, bridges collapse, roads and railways are undermined or blocked by debris, and beaches are scoured. Tropical cyclones nearly always leave behind a trail of destruction and misery.

Flash floods are exceedingly dangerous. When water cannot percolate into the ground, it runs off the surface as it would from impermeable concrete. This is particularly so when the ground is very wet or when baked hard after a hot dry spell. Potholers can be especially at risk, such as on 24 June 1967, when five drowned in Yorkshire. The water which fell in a heavy thunderstorm after a spell of dry weather ran off rapidly into underground streams and caverns at Mossdale. The rise in water levels below ground was too rapid for the potholers to scramble to safety.

Floods resulting from persistently wet weather and thawing of snow case studies

Raining In terms of water flow, the Mississippi is the sixth largest river in the world. Its annual average flow rate is 14,000 cubic metres per second and it discharges into the Gulf of Mexico 580 cubic kilometres of fresh water per year. The greatest flows occur in the period March to May and the least in the period August to October. A large proportion of the United States is drained by this river.

To protect against flooding, which would otherwise occur frequently, the Mississippi River is constrained by levees (embankments) all the way from the State of Missouri to the sea. This barrier, much of it concrete, has isolated the river from a lot of the surrounding countryside, but without it and other means of dealing with excess water in the river, low-lying cities such as New Orleans could not exist.

Tragically, some of the levees around New Orleans were breached on 29 August 2005 when they failed to withstand the battering imposed by the waves and a storm surge generated by Hurricane Katrina. Flood depths reached six metres in places and more than 1,000 people died.

Despite levees, spillways, reservoirs, pumping stations and other constructions, flooding does still occur. The flood-control system proved incapable of containing the flood of 1973, for example, and again proved inadequate in the summer of 1993, when abnormally high rainfall over central parts of the United States caused extensive flooding of the upper and middle Mississippi and lower Missouri rivers. The city of St Louis was particularly badly affected. Discharges of water from the Mississippi into the Gulf of Mexico in the late summer of 1993 were abnormally high. A study using satellite imagery showed that water from the Mississippi spread out far and wide off the States of Louisiana, Texas and Alabama. Indeed, some of the Mississippi water passed through the Florida Strait into the Atlantic.

There was rain, more rain and even more rain in northern California soon after Christmas 1996. From 29 December 1996 to 4 January 1997, depression after depression from the central Pacific brought rain to northern California. As the air was unusually warm, a consequence of the precipitation was that large amounts of snow melted. During the week of the storms, 61 cm of rain was recorded. Significant flooding occurred in northern California and southern Oregon and 43 counties were declared disaster areas. Flooding occurred rapidly because soils became saturated and amounts of snowmelt were large. Flood-control reservoirs could not cope, as their storage capacity was no more than moderate because of near-normal rainfall and run-off prior to the onset of the severe weather. Levee failure occurred on several rivers.

After the United Kingdom’s snowy winter of 1947 came the thaw. In many parts of the British Isles in February and early March 1947, deep drifts of snow, some five metres or more deep, caused villages and hamlets to be cut off for days on end. Then, on 10 March, warm air and rain edged into south-west England and advanced across the British Isles. By 13 March, floods were widespread. Vast areas of Fenland, the Severn Valley and other parts of Britain were submerged. At Selby, Yorkshire, three-quarters of all the houses were under water. A severe south-westerly gale on 16 March drove water ahead and caused dykes in the Fens of eastern England to burst. Warm air and rain are much more effective at thawing large quantities of snow than sunshine. The albedo of old snow (proportion of light reflected) is about 55%. The albedo of fresh snow is about 80%.

On 9 and 10 April 1998, just before Easter, prolonged heavy rain fell over a wide area of Wales and central England. In the Midlands of England, there was serious flooding, with Northampton and Leamington Spa badly affected. In these Easter Floods, as they have come to be known, 4,500 homes were inundated, five people died and the estimated cost of the damage exceeded £350 million. The culprit was a slow-moving depression centred over Brittany. North of it, lying east-west across the Midlands, there were two parallel fronts which were almost stationary, producing prolonged heavy rain that fell on a catchment that was already saturated.

snowflakeIn coastal regions, flooding may be caused not only by a storm surge but also by a combination of high tide and high river level. An example of the latter occurred in South Wales in 1979. On 26 and 27 December of that year, falls of rain exceeded 100mm in many places, especially over the hills. Extensive flooding occurred on the 28th. Cardiff was badly hit when the River Taff in spate met a high tide from the Bristol Channel. Hundreds of homes and offices near the city centre were inundated. Flooding with sea water is bad enough, not least because the salt in the water is left behind when the water evaporates, but the flooding in Cardiff on this occasion was particularly unpleasant, as the water welled up into streets and houses through the sewers.

Health Risks after Flooding

A RatIn many parts of the world, there are serious health risks after disastrous flooding. Mosquitoes, flies and other insects may become more abundant than usual, as the filth, debris and stagnant water left by the floods provide suitable breeding conditions. Consequences may include out-breaks of typhoid, dysentery and encephalitis. Rats and mice displaced from their natural habitats may find conditions to their liking in houses, sheds, barns and other buildings.

a snakeIn some parts of the world, snakes also become a problem after flooding, as they, too, are displaced from their natural homes by the water. Quite often, they appear inside houses. However, snakes can be beneficial, as they help to reduce populations of rodents.

Beneficial Effects of Flooding

The NileSome of the most fertile land in the world lies beside rivers, the Nile valley being the classic example. For thousands of years, the people of Egypt have relied upon the waters of the Nile to overflow their banks every year, carrying with them fertile silt that makes agriculture possible. The flow of this river is nowadays controlled by means of the Aswan High Dam, an operation that can have its advantages and disadvantages. Salinity levels in the Nile Delta have increased, for example, because the outflow of fresh water from the river is much less now than before the High Dam existed. On the other hand, availability of water from the lake behind the dam, Lake Nasser, has allowed water levels downstream to be maintained in drought years, thus benefiting agriculture when in olden times crop failure and famine might have occurred.

A River ValleyThe Ganges Delta is another place where flooding brings benefits for agriculture. Here, every June to October, the waters of  the Ganges, Brahmaputra and other rivers overflow and inundate the countryside. There is, however, no equivalent of the Aswan High Dam to control the waters of the Ganges Delta. Sometimes, crops are destroyed, hamlets ruined and humans and animals drowned.

In some arid regions (e.g. Namibia and central Australia), floods occur very occasionally. When they do, glorious displays of flowers follow. In these areas, seeds can lie dormant for many years and germinate (grow) very rapidly when the rains come.

A TreeThe heavy rains brought by tropical cyclones can help revive crops and replenish water supplies. Sometimes, fruit trees have flowered and borne fruit a second time after the passage of a cyclone. Sometimes, floods have flushed away mosquito breeding areas. There is a danger, however, that residual pools of water will, in turn, become mosquito breeding areas.

Drought

Download Drought Fact File

What is a drought?

Droughts are not very easy to define. A drought is not just a lack of water for a period of time. In fact there are a whole range of types of drought including; agricultural (farming), meteorological (weather), hydrological (surface water) and socio-economic (ones which affect humans).

Agricultural Drought

A Combine HarvesterThis is a drought which affects how farmers can use their land. An agricultural drought usually means there is not enough water for the crops to grow as there is a lack of soil moisture. It can also affect livestock such as cows and sheep.

Hydrological Drought

Water DropletsHydrological droughts are ones which there is a lack of water at the surface of the earth, resulting in less water in streams, lakes and reservoirs and can impact on the use of water for houses and industry

Meteorological Drought

DropsThis is usually simply defined as a period of time where there has been less rain recorded. Rainfall amounts can vary by duration (i.e. time the rain fell for) and the intensity of rainfall (how hard it was raining). Meteorological drought is usually recorded in the time there has been little or no rain for e.g. months or years.

Socio-economic Drought

Pound SignA Socioeconomic drought is when physical water shortages affects the lives of people; such as their health and quality of life. It can also affect the supply of food and materials and so affect the economy.

Deserts

What is a desert?

A desert is an area of land where rainfall is not sufficient to support vegetation. There are usually large temperature difference between day and night, known as the diurnal temperature range. Deserts can be hot or cold!

What is Desertification?

This is when an area on the boundary of a desert which loses its vegetation and the land becomes filled with sand dunes. Possible causes include climate change and variability, human pressure on the land and overgrazing by livestock (animals).

Where are the Main Deserts in the World?

Deserts are areas of very low rainfall and are often described as drought regions of the globe. But do you know where they are?

A World Map of Deserts

Climate Change Schools’ Project Resources

craft modelThe Climate Change Schools Resources were developed by the Climate Change Schools Project, based at the then Science Learning Centre in Durham and led by Krista McKinzey. A large number of teachers and schools in North East England were involved in their development.

They have subsequently been updated by the Royal Meteorological Society.

 

Climate Change Teaching Resources for Schools

Resources for KS2/ upper primary

Resources for KS3 (some can also be used at KS4/ GCSE)

Resources for A level/ more advanced students and teacher CPD

 

Climate Literate person;

  • Understands the essential principles of Earth’s climate system and knows how to assess scientifically credible information about climate,
  • Communicates about climate and climate change in a meaningful way,
  • Can make informed and responsible decisions with regard to actions that may affect climate.

Weather People (upper primary)

What do Weather People do?

The Met Office was formed in 1854, with the aim of helping sailors know what was happening to the weather. Even before this time people kept weather diaries.

Who uses weather data?

The general public
Millions of people watch or listen to the weather forecast every day, or look in a newspaper or on a web site to see what the weather is going to be like. They can also get information over the telephone from services such as Weathercall or Marinecall.

Fig 1: Man listening to the radio.
Fig 1: Man listening to the radio.

Aircraft
It is very important that airports and aircraft receive the most up-to-date information on the weather. Airline pilots receive information from weather forecasts, to help them plan how much fuel to carry and which route they should fly.

Farmers
It is vital that farmers receive information about the weather. If they are spraying crops, they need to know the direction and speed of the wind. If they are harvesting, they will need to know when fine weather is due.

Fig 2: Bearded farmer.
Fig 2: Bearded farmer.

Shipping
The Met Office provides special information for ships and small boats. On BBC radio 4 the Shipping Forecast tells them what the conditions will be like out at sea. The Inshore Forecast tells yachts and small boats what it will be like nearer land.

Fig 3: Bricklayer.
Fig 3: Bricklayer.

Builders
Builders need weather forecasts when they are working on the construction of new buildings. They need to know what the weather is going to be like because they may be bringing in specialist equipment or laying concrete. High winds can stop cranes from working.

Warnings
Bad weather can cause a lot of damage and so the Met Office issues special severe weather warnings; these go out on television, radio and web sites. The Storm Tide Forecasting Service watches for high tides and sends out warnings to areas which might be flooded.

Defence
The Met Office provides information about weather conditions to the RAF and Army, to ensure that their operations are carried out safely.

The Royal Navy has its own forecaster network.

 

Web page reproduced with the kind permission of the Met Office

Fig 4: Royal Air Force pilot.
Fig 4: Royal Air Force pilot.

Sailing Weather

Sailing Hazard

Sailing is one of the most weather-dependent sports. Unfortunately, wind is not just a useful source of power for sailing craft but also a hazard. Strong winds can capsize boats, either directly or in combination with the waves they may produce.

The wind is never steady. It always fluctuates between gusts of higher wind speed and lulls that may be so light as to be near-calm. However, sudden increases of wind on a larger scale can sometimes occur. These are called squalls and are often associated not only with strong, gusty wind but also with heavy rain.

The importance of any hazard varies with the skill level of the crew, the type of boat and the kind of sailing being undertaken. For example, a novice crew in a small boat may underestimate wind strength before setting off. This is an easy mistake to make, especially if they are launching from a relatively sheltered location. Sailors who are more experienced are unlikely to be caught out like this but are still vulnerable in other ways. Hard sailing, especially in colder conditions, can tire a crew very quickly. Exhaustion or exposure can creep up on them before they know what is happening. For example, a dinghy crew might be having great fun practising sailing across the wind, only to find when they feel they have had enough that they do not have the reserves of energy for a long struggle upwind or a tricky run downwind.

These days, yachtsmen do not have to rely on old folklore or gamble on good weather. All sailors should pay attention to weather forecasts. These are available through radio, television, the internet and other means of broadcasting.

The particular forecast that is most appropriate depends on the kind of sailing being planned. The shipping forecast broadcast on the radio is perhaps the most useful to offshore sailors. The terms used in it are precisely defined, and the information that is included in it on pressure changes and movements of weather systems is very useful to anyone with a deeper than average understanding of meteorology.

When yachtsmen study meteorology as part of a training course, either at sea or ashore, they are often asked to create a weather map from a recorded shipping forecast as an exercise. The Royal Yachting Association can provide forms called ‘Metmaps’ that make recording and interpreting the shipping forecast a lot easier. Completing one of these is a good exercise for anyone who wants to go into meteorology seriously. The ‘Metmap’ is a two-sided A4 form. On one side, a shipping bulletin broadcast by the BBC can be taken down. On the other, a simple up-to-date weather map can be drawn from the information contained in the bulletin.

The shipping forecast gives a lot of information about visibility at sea. This is because poor visibility can sometimes be a greater hazard than strong winds. The forecast will not only give a guide to overall visibility in terms of ‘good’, ‘moderate’ or ‘poor’ but will often indicate if visibility is poor for a specific reason, such as ‘visibility poor in showers’. This particular occurrence can give a sailor a real fright, as views of nearby vessels or navigation marks can be lost suddenly when showers occur.

Two possible hazards are not often mentioned in weather forecasts for sailors but usually are in forecasts for land areas:

old illustration of ship lighteningOne of these is lightning, though the possibility of its occurrence may be indicated indirectly in a forecast or station report as ‘thundery showers’. In fact, lightning is not such a risk to sailors as it might at first appear. Boats are surrounded by a very good conductor of electricity – water – and unless the boat suffers a direct hit, which is unlikely, the current is dissipated much more quickly than on land.

The other neglected hazard is exposure to sunlight and sunburn. Sailors are at particular risk for two reasons. First of all, yachtsmen can get an increased dose of sunlight because of reflections from the water. Secondly, they may not notice this because the wind will make them feel cool and unaware they are ‘cooking’. Many a sailor has returned to work on a Monday morning with a ‘yachtsman’s tan’ (from the neck up!). This might seem a nice problem to have, but all sailors should note the example of the America’s Cup crews, who often display extremely colourful suncream to protect against harmful solar radiation.

Despite the apparently long list of hazards described, sailing is, in fact, a very safe sport. It is also a sport where knowledge of meteorology can increase a participant’s enjoyment and even give a competitive advantage!

Acapulco in 1968, sailors competing in the Olympic Games had an unusual surprise from the weather. While not actually hazardous, it was certainly not pleasant. One day, following a sudden squall, the covers of the boats were covered with maggots, which had, presumably, been drawn up into clouds by a whirlwind or waterspout, only to fall out in a downpour of rain.

The year 1979 is famous to yachtsmen for the worst possible reason. In August of that year, during the Fastnet Race (from Cowes on the Isle of Wight to the Fastnet Rock [51°24’N 9°35’W] off south-west Ireland and back again to Plymouth), the fleet of yachts ran into severe storms and rough seas. Fifteen lives were lost. Despite ‘survival conditions’, many crews kept records of the severe conditions, based on their barometers and wind instruments. To the meteorologists who have analysed the Fastnet Storm and its structure, these records have proved invaluable. For a recent analysis of the storm, see the article by D.E.Pedgley in the August 1997 issue of Weather (Volume 52, pp.230-242).

Shipping forecasts are currently broadcast four times a day on BBC Radio 4 Long Wave. They are also available via the websites of the Met Office and the BBC Weather Centre. In shipping forecasts, the Beaufort Scale is used for describing wind strength. This scale originated in the days of sail but is now defined precisely in terms of the wind at a height of ten metres averaged over a ten-minute period.

Mountain Weather

MountainsEvery year people go and enjoy the wonders of the mountain scenery but for some the experience isn’t so pleasant as they venture onto the mountain unaware of the weather they may met. Every year, even in the UK people die on mountains as a consequence of the weather.


Some underestimate the mountain weather; some are unaware of the mountain weather and some leave decisions on the weather too late when on the mountainside.

Download mountain hazard Factfile

Clouds on the Mountains

big mountainsMountain tops are often hidden by clouds, which can result in people getting lost. But why does this happen? Clouds are formed by the condensation of water vapour in rising air. Air is very moist (holds lots of water) when it is near the sea or when there is persistent rain. In the UK the cloud base (i.e. the bottom of the clouds) is often below 1000m, so low in fact that much of the time the clouds cover the mountain tops. Cloud cover on the mountains is particularly common in the west of the UK where the moist air blows in across the Atlantic. Clouds can be supercooled i.e. water remains as a liquid even when the temperature is below freezing (0°C)! these droplets of water freeze when they hit solid objects such as fences and even people. The soft ice can build up into a think layer, known as rime which can cause as much difficulty for walkers as lying snow.

clouds in the mountainsThe rain and snow which falls over mountains tends to come from nimbostratus clouds, and occasionally cumulonimbus clouds, tend to be heavier and longer lasting than over nearby low lying areas. This is because the air is forced to rise over the mountains, causing the air to cool as it rises condensing the water from a gas to liquid; forming more clouds. However strong winds at the mountain top can blown the heavier rain over the mountain top, so the heaviest rain will not necessarily be at the highest point. Waterproof clothing and footwear on mountains is essential as there can be heavy rain, driving winds and mountain streams can become deep quickly. Deep depressions coming in from across the West coast of the UK can bring heavy rain and strong winds to the UK. Snow combined with wind can be life-threatening on a mountain top.

Wind chill on the mountains

wind in the mountainsThe higher up the mountain we climb, the colder and windier it usually gets so that the wind chill factor increases. Warm clothing on the top of mountains is definitely needed. On the Munros (the Scottish mountains with tops above 3000m) it can be 10°C cooler at the top of the mountain in comparison to the valley bottom below. In fact air can cool by 6°C in every 1000m and sometimes as much as 10°C. But why does the air get cooler and windier? It is windy high up in the atmosphere as the effect of gravity is reduced and cooler because air temperatures decrease as you get closer to the poles. Therefore gale force winds are stronger and more common at the top of mountains than at sea level. Winds also get faster around mountains as they do around tall buildings in our towns and cities. Over the Himalayas winds of 150km/hr (approximately 42 metres per second) are not uncommon!

What is a whiteout?

mountain whoteoutSnow combined with poor visibility in cloud also causes problems because shadows disappear. Navigation becomes almost impossible and can lead to blundering into dangerous places ‘ even over the edges of cliffs. This is known as a ‘whiteout’. If there is already much lying snow and a risk of the cloud base descending onto the hills, many climbers often consider it wise to abandon the trip.

Local Winds

Clouds Wind CumulusLocal winds occur on a small spatial scale, their horizontal dimensions typically several tens to a few hundreds of kilometres. They also tend to be short-lived lasting typically several hours to a day. There are many such winds around the world, some of them cold, some warm, some wet, some dry. There are many hazards associated with the winds.

The main types of local winds are sea breezes and land breezes, Anabatic and katabatic winds, and Foehn winds.

You can discover different ways to measure wind speed on our Experiments and Demonstrations page, or on our Top 10 Ideas for Weather Fieldwork page.

Anabatic winds

Anabatic Wind DiagramThis wind is caused by thermal (heat) processes. Anabatic (upslope) winds occur over slopes which are heated by the sun. Air which is in contact with slopes that are warmed expands upward and cool and sinks over neighbouring valleys (see diagram). Anabatic winds are usually slow, at only 1-2m/s and are rarely important expect near coasts where they can increase the strength of sea breezes.

Katabatic Winds

katabatic wind diagramKatabatic (downslope) winds occur over slopes which are cooled. Katabatic winds occur where air in contact with sloping ground is colder than air at the same level away from the hillside over the valley (see diagram). Katabatic winds are nocturnal phenomena in most parts of the world (i.e. they tend to happen at night) as there is surface cooling, especially when there is little cloud and due to lack of heating by the sun.

Katabatic wind speeds do not typically not exceed 3 or 4 m/s. However, where the ground is covered with snow or ice, katabatic winds can occur at any time of day or night with speeds often reaching 10 m/s, or even more if funnelling through narrow valleys occurs. Katabatic winds may lead to the formation of frost, mist and fog in valleys.

Sea Breeze

Sea breezes are the result of differential heating of the land and the sea. Sea breezes occur by day, when the land becomes warmer than the sea.

Warm air from the land cannot expand into the sea as the air is cooler and more dense, so it expands up into the atmosphere. Cumulus clouds tend to form as the warm air rises over the land to about 500-1500m.

The diagram below shows the whole sea breeze process.

Air in sea breezes is cool and moist compared to the air over the land. Sea breezes can move 70km inland in temperate climates by 9pm in the evening. Sea breezes can be noticed several kilometres out to sea. In the tropics they can be felt 20km from the land. Wind speeds from sea breezes can be about 4-8m/s but can be even stronger.

Sea Breeze Diagram

Land Breezes

Land breezes occur at night and in the early morning, when the land is cooler than the sea. This is because as the air cools in the night time (as there is less heating from the sun) it contracts. Pressure is higher over the land than the sea. This causes the air to flow from the land to the sea which is known as a land breeze. The circulation is completed by air rising and moving towards the land at 100-300m.

This is shown on the diagram below.

wind over land

Cumulus clouds from where there is rising air. Land sea breeze fronts tend to only affect a small area of 10-15km out to sea, in comparison to the much larger effect of sea breezes. Wind speeds are also lower at 2-3m/s.

 

 

 

As well as local winds and local weather phenomena, the following list includes seasonal winds with local names:

The Bise

A cold dry wind which blows from the north-east, north or north-west in the mountainous regions of southeastern France and western Switzerland in winter months. The bise is accompanied by heavy cloud.

The Bora

car overturnedThe bora is a strong, cold and gusty north-easterly wind which descends to the Adriatic Sea from the Dinaric Alps, the mountains behind the Dalmatian coast (the coast of Croatia). It is a winter phenomenon that develops when a slow-moving depression is centred over the Plain of Hungary and western Balkans so that winds are blowing from the east towards the Dinaric Alps. These mountains form a barrier which trap the cold air to the east of them whilst the Adriatic coast remains comparatively mild. Gradually, though, the depth of the cold air increases until the air flows over passes and through valleys to reach the Adriatic Sea.

The bora begins suddenly and without warning and the cold air typically descends to the coast so rapidly that it has little time to warm up.

The bora can reach speeds of more than 100 km/h and has been known to overturn vehicles and blow people off their feet.

The Chinook Wind

A warm, westerly wind found in western North America – Canada and the USA, when air from the Pacific blows over the Rocky Mountains and other upland areas. On January 15th, 1972, the Chinook caused the temperature in Lorna, Montana to rise from -48°C to 9°C in 24 hours! The fastest wind speed recorded during a Chinook was 107mph, in Alberta, Canada.

The Crachin

The name given to the drizzly weather with low stratus, mist or fog which occurs from time to time during the period January to April over the China Sea and in coastal areas between Shanghai and Cape Cambodia. It occurs when cool, moist air from the north encounters warm, moist air, and it is intensified by orographic lifting and/or by coastal convergence.

The Etesians/ Meltemi

The strong northerly winds which blow at times over the Aegean Sea and eastern parts of the Mediterranean Sea during the period May to October. The winds are known as meltemi in Turkey.

The Föhn (or Foehn)

foehnThe Föhn is a warm, dry, gusty wind which occurs over the lower slopes on the lee side (the side which is not directly exposed to wind and weather) of a mountain barrier. It is a result of forcing stable air over a mountain barrier. The onset of a Föhn is generally sudden. For example, the temperature may rise more than 10°C in five minutes and the wind strength increase from almost calm to gale force just as quickly. Föhn winds occur quite often in the Alps (where the name Föhn originated) and in the Rockies (where the name chinook is used). They also occur in the Moray Firth and over eastern parts of New Zealand’s South Island. In addition, they occur over eastern Sri Lanka during the south-west monsoon.

danger symbolThe danger of a Föhn where there are steep snow-covered slopes is that avalanches may result from the sudden warming and blustery conditions. In Föhn conditions, relative humidity may fall to less than 30%, causing vegetation and wooden buildings to dry out. This is a long-standing problem in Switzerland, where so many fire disasters have occurred during Föhn conditions that fire-watching is obligatory when a Föhn is blowing.

An explanation of the Föhn effect in the UK from BBC weather.

The Gregale (or Grigale)/ Euroclydon/ Euraquilo

A notorious wind of the western Mediterranean which also blows across central parts of the Mediterranean Sea. It is a strong and cold wind from the north-east and occurs mainly in winter. It is most pronounced on the island of Malta, where it sometimes reaches hurricane force and endangers shipping.

The Bible tells us that the ship which carried St Paul and other prisoners across the Mediterranean en route to Rome was driven by a storm from Crete to Malta, where it was eventually wrecked.

The ship set sail from a bay called Fair Havens near Lasea on the south coast of Crete, having put into this bay to wait for favourable conditions after being delayed by contrary winds. As the bay was exposed to storms, it was not considered a safe place to remain at the time of year in question, which was either late September or early October. The harbour at Phoenix on the south-western coast of Crete was considered a safer place to spend the winter. Soon after the ship left Fair Havens, however, a severe gale began to blow. So violent was the storm that the sailors could do no more than drift with the wind. The Bible tells us that the ship reached Malta fourteen days later.

Paul experienced a gregale. As these winds normally last no more than four or five days, the storm he experienced appears to have been unusually persistent.

The Harmattan

A dry and comparatively cool wind which blows from the east or north-east on the coast of North Africa between Cabo Verde and the Gulf of Guinea during the dry season (November to March). It brings dust and sand from the Sahara Desert, often in sufficient quantity to form a thick haze which hinders navigation on rivers. Dust and sand are sometimes carried many hundreds of kilometres out to sea.

The Helm Wind

An easterly wind found in Cumbria, N. England, where the winds blow over Cross Fell and then descend into the Eden Valley. A bank of cloud forms over the hill tops, and the roaring of the wind can be heard as far away as Penrith.

Discovering Britain A walk across Great Dun Fell from the RGS, exploring the Helm wind and lots of other weather, as well as stories of sheep, socks, snow and spies and a relevant article from Weather: The Helm wind of Cross Fell .

The Kaus/Suahili

The name given to the south-easterly winds which prevail in winter (December to April) in the Persian Gulf. They are accompanied by gloomy weather, rain and squalls and are sometimes followed by very strong south-westerly winds called suahili.

The Khamsin

A hot, dry, dust-laden, southerly wind over Egypt, the Red Sea and eastern parts of the Mediterranean Sea ahead of eastward-moving depressions. It occurs during the period February to June, being most frequent in March and April. The Khamsin is a Sirocco wind, whose name comes from the Arabic word for ‘fifty’, which is approximately the length of time the wind blows for. In the nineteenth Century, the plague was worst in Egypt when the Khamsin was blowing.

The Kharif

A strong south-westerly wind which blows daily over the Gulf of Aden from about 22:00 hours until about noon the following day. It occurs in June, July and August (during the south-west monsoon) and frequently reaches gale force.

The Leste

A hot, dry, southerly wind which occurs in winter and spring between Madeira and Gibraltar and along the coast of North Africa ahead of an advancing depression.

The Levanter

A moist wind which blows from the east over the Strait of Gibraltar. It is frequently accompanied by haze or fog and may occur at any time of year, though it is most common in the period June to October. A feature is the occurrence of a ‘banner cloud’ extending a kilometre or more downwind from the summit of the Rock of Gibraltar.

The strength of the Levanter does not normally exceed Beaufort Force 5. When it is strong, however, complex and vigorous atmospheric eddies form in the lee of the Rock, causing difficult conditions for yachtsmen and the pilots of aircraft. The levanter can also cause persistently foggy weather on the coast of Spain.

The Levenche

A hot, dry, southerly wind which blows on the south-east coast of Spain ahead of an advancing depression. It is typically laden with sand and dust, and its approach is often heralded by a belt of brownish cloud on the southern horizon.

The Libeccio

A strong, squally, south-westerly wind which occurs over central parts of the Mediterranean Sea, most common in winter.

The Maestro

The name given to north-westerly winds over the Adriatic Sea, the Ionian Sea and coastal regions of Sardinia and Corsica.

The Marin

A strong south-easterly wind over the Golfe du Lion. It is usually accompanied by warm, cloudy weather with rain.

The Mistral

mistralThe mistral is also a strong and often violent wind. It blows from the north or north-west down the Rhône Valley of southern France and across the Rhône Delta to the Golfe du Lion and sometimes beyond. Though strongest and most frequent in winter, it may blow at any time of year and develops when stable air is forced through the Rhône Valley. It occurs when a depression is centred over north-west Italy and the Ligurian Sea and a ridge of high pressure extends north-eastward across the Bay of Biscay.

It may blow continuously for a day or two and attain speeds of 100 km/h, causing considerable damage to crops and making driving conditions difficult in the Rhône Valley. It clears clouds and pollution out of the air. In the Rhone valley in France, trees lean to the South because of the force of the Mistral.

The Norther

This name for a wind is used in more than one place. In Chile, a Norther is a northerly gale with rain. It usually occurs in winter but occasionally occurs at other times of year. Typically, it can be identified by falling air pressure, a cloudy or overcast sky, good visibility and water levels below normal along the coast.

Over the Gulf of Mexico and western parts of the Caribbean Sea, Northers are strong, cool, northerly winds which blow mainly in winter. Over the Gulf of Mexico, they are sometimes humid and accompanied by precipitation, but over the Gulf of Tehuantepec they are dry winds.

Pampero

The name given to severe line squalls in Argentina and Uruguay, particularly in the Rio de la Plata area. They are associated with marked cold fronts and are usually accompanied by rain, thunder and lightning, a sharp drop in temperature and a sudden change of wind direction from northerly or northwesterly to southerly or south westerly. They are most likely to occur during the period June to September.

Roaring forties

Strong westerly winds found in the Southern Hemisphere between 40 and 50 degrees South. Sailing ships have always made use of them. The winds are much stronger in the Southern Hemisphere because there is very little land to slow them down – only Tasmania, New Zealand and the very bottom of South America.

The Santa Ana

A hot, dry, strong, blustery, föhn-type wind which blows from the north-east or east over southern California and carries with it large quantities of dust. It is most frequent in winter but may also occur in spring or autumn. It may get its name from the Santa Ana Mountains or the Santa Ana Canyon but other possibilities are that it derives from santanas, meaning ‘devil winds’, or the Spanish Satanás, meaning Satan. These winds can cause a great deal of damage. As they are hot and dry, they cause vegetation to dry out, so increasing the risk of wildfires; and once fires start the winds fan the flames and hasten the spread of the fires. In spring, Santa Ana winds can cause considerable damage to fruit trees.

Shamal

Strictly, the shamal is any north-westerly wind over the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman, but the term usually refers not to the normal prevailing winds but to the squally gale-force winds accompanied by rain and thunder which occur in winter.

The Scirocco/ Sirocco

A hot, dry wind southerly wind which blows from the Sahara in northern Africa into the southern Mediterranean. It picks up moisture as it crosses the Mediterranean and can reach Spain, France, Italy and Greece bringing Saharan dust and hot, windy, damp weather, often with fog or low stratus cloud. In spring, the Sirocco can bring gale force winds. There are many local names for the Sirocco, including chom, arifi, Simoom, Ghibli, Chili, Khamsin, Solano, Leveche, Marin and Jugo.

The Solano

An easterly or south-easterly wind, with rain, which occurs in the Strait of Gibraltar and over south-eastern coasts of Spain.

Southerly-buster

The name given to the violent squalls which are associated with well-defined active cold fronts over coastal regions of southern and south-eastern Australia. They are accompanied by lightning, thunder and gale-force winds and are similar to pamperos. They are most frequent in summer but may also occur in spring and autumn.

Sumatra

These are characteristically squally local winds which occur over the Malacca Strait several times a month during the period April to November. They are always accompanied by heavy rain from cumulonimbus clouds and are almost always accompanied by lightning and thunder. They are initiated by katabatic winds and therefore tend to occur at night.

Tehuantepecer

A violent squally wind from the north or north-east in the Gulf of Tehuantepec in winter. It originates in the Gulf of Mexico as a norther and blows across the Isthmus of Tehuantepec.

The Trade wind

Easterly winds in the Tropics (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn). The Trade winds helped European explorers reach America.

Tramontana

A cold, dry, northerly or north-westerly wind over the coast of Catolina and a cold, dry northerly or north-easterly wind over the west coast of Italy and the north coast of Corsica. It is typically a strong wind but does not often reach gale force.

The Vendavales

Strong, squally, south-westerly winds off the east coast of Spain and in the Strait of Gibraltar. They occur mainly during the period September to March and are often accompanied by violent squalls, heavy rain and thunderstorms.

Williwaw

A sudden, cold, violent wind found in Alaska and Cape Horn which blows from the mountains to the sea.

Willy-Willy

A willy-willy is a dust storm over north-west Australia. More information.

The Zonda/Sondo

This term applies to two different phenomena. It usually refers to a dry and often dusty föhn wind that occurs over the eastern slopes of the Andes in central Argentina in winter months. It is also the name (or sondo) given to a hot, humid, northerly wind over the Pampas region of South America in advance of an eastward-moving depression and preceding a pampero occurrence.

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