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Blog Teaching

New Teaching Resources – Tropical Cyclones

We continue to add new teaching resources to Weather and Climate: a Teachers’ Guide. 

Some of the latest are in the Tropical Cyclones section:

– A listening exercise extracting information from a hurricane warning podcast

– Grid reference practice based on the track of a Tropical storm. 

Categories
Blog Geography Secondary Teaching Weather

Air Masses

In this article we explore air masses – the idea that, by looking at where our wind is blowing from, and what has happened to the air in the wind on its way to use, we can begin to understand why we’re getting some particular weather.

We live on an island, and the weather can come at us from any direction, although in practice, it comes from some directions more than others  – this wind rose shows the direction the wind was recorded coming from at Heathrow airport, near London. The longer the bar, the more often the wind came from that direction, so you can see that our wind comes from between southwest and west most often.  

Lets take a step back and remember that warm air rises – whether that’s the air being heated in a hot air balloon or the air above a radiator (watch a simple demonstration).

What happens to the rising air? As it rises it cools. Cloud and rain are caused by warm air rising, warm air rising is called convection (watch a simple demonstration).

You can often see convection going on in the atmosphere – you get puffy cumulus clouds, with flattish bases and puffy tops where the cloud is bubbling up.

clouds

More generally, Clouds form when there is more condensation going on than evaporation in the atmosphere.

The colder it is, the less evaporation happens – so cloud forms when the air cools.

This isn’t just when warm air rises.

Now we can think about air masses, they are classified according to where they have come from, and what they have passed over:

One air mass generally covers the whole country.

However, it can bring different weather conditions to different places. For example, Tropical continental air can carry Saharan dust, but it mostly falls on the south of the UK – there isn’t much left in the air by the time it reaches Scotland.

Lets consider Polar maritime (Pm) air first (click on the map to start the animation):

Polar maritime air comes towards us from further North in the Atlantic. It starts cold, but is slowly warmed by the ocean below as it travels over progressively warmer water. It also picks up moisture from the ocean. 

As it is warmed, it becomes more unstable and inclined to rise, leading to convection and puffy Cumulus clouds, mainly over the ocean. As the air hits land (the western coast of Ireland, Wales, Scotland and England) the air, which was already inclined to rise, is forced up a bit more – forming more cloud, and giving rise to rainfall. 

Polar maritime air, our dominant air mass, brings cloud and rain to the west of the UK and relatively dry air to the east. 

This satellite image is typical of Pm air – you can see the puffy cumulus clouds over the ocean, and the belt of cloud over the western side of the country.  

Returning Polar maritime air (rPm) is air which is Polar in origin but which swings round to hit the UK from the west or even slightly south of west – but if you were to follow its path back, you would see that it was Polar. 

Arctic maritime (Am) air is extreme Polar maritime air, coming down to the UK straight from the north, over the Arctic ocean. It tends to bring wintry weather to Scotland and isolated snowy showers further south, triggered by air rising over the local orography. 

Polar Continental (Pc) air will also be cold to start with and get progressively warmer as it moves south, so you would also expect convection. However, the air will be very dry as it passes over continental Europe, so little cloud will form. The UK is a set of islands though and to reach us, the air must pass over the North Sea, picking up water vapour as it does so. The cloud and precipitation (typically snow in winter) it brings therefore primarily affect the east coast. The longer the path it takes over the North Sea, the more precipitation there will be. 

This satellite image is typical for Pc air – you can see the cloud free areas immediately to the west of the land masses, with cloud forming further east (ignore the front to the west of the UK and Ireland).

Of course, the characteristics of the air masses can be very different in the summer and the winter. Siberia, for example, is extremely cold in winter but relatively warm in summer – so a polar continental air mass can bring us bitterly cold weather and heavy snowfall (for eastern counties) in the winter, but much warmer weather in the summer.

The processes at work in Tropical Maritime (Tm) air are a bit different. This is warm air, which is being cooled from below as it moves north. You therefore wouldn’t expect any convection with air rising, cooling and forming cloud. However, the air is being cooled just by moving north and so eventually may reach the temperature at which cloud forms – flat, featureless sheets of stratus cloud because, on the whole, the air is staying at the same level.

As it is maritime air, there is plenty of water vapour available to form cloud droplets. The processes which give us big, fat raindrops are mainly associated with the vertical air motion and circulations in cumulus clouds. So Tm air at best gives a persistent drizzle.

The satellite image below shows the extensive sheet of stratus cloud over the Atlantic associated with Tm air.

We rarely experience Tropical Continental (Tc) air – air that flows up from the Sahara over continental Europe.  This is the warmest and driest air we can get – any moisture picked up over the Mediterranean will be rained out before it reaches us.

Tc air gives clear skies, as you can see in the satellite image below – again ignore the front to the west of the UK. In the summer, this can mean that some areas get particularly warm – maybe because of their colour (dark) or aspect (facing the Sun) – giving rise to late afternoon localised thunderstorms

A front is where two air masses meet. In the UK, the weather fronts associated with depressions usually separate polar and tropical maritime air.

If there is a front, then different parts of the UK can be experiencing different air masses. The weather on the fronts themselves is more extreme. 

Look out of the window now – what cloud types can you see? Does that tell you anything about where the air is coming from? You can have a look at earth.nullschool to see if you are right.

 

 

Categories
CPD Geography Teaching

Welsh Translation of Teachers’ Guide

welsh weather and climate

We are delighted to have been supported by the WJEC/ Eduqas, who have translated our Weather and Climate Teachers’ Guide for 11-14+ geography teaching into Welsh – Tywydd a Hinsawdd: Canllaw i Athrawon and made it available to schools for teaching across Wales. 

The full resource, together with background information for teachers and lesson resources can be found on MetLink

Categories
Books Climate Climate Change CPD Geography Microclimates Schools Secondary Teaching Weather

Weather and Climate: a Teachers’ Guide

weather and climate teachers guideIn this teachers’ guide and the accompanying online teaching resources, we aim to give UK geography teachers all that they need to deliver relevant, engaging and thorough weather and climate lessons to 11–14+ year old students. They are not linked to any specific curriculum but should be easily adaptable to all.

The book is accompanied by high quality online background information/professional development resources for teachers.

 

 

 

The Royal Meteorological Society believes that:

  • all students should leave school with basic weather literacy that allows them to understand the weather that affects them, their leisure activities and the careers they choose to follow
  • every student should leave school with basic climate literacy that would enable them to engage with the messages put forward by the media or politicians and to make informed decisions about their own opportunities and responsibilities.

To this end, we have embedded a climate change thread throughout the online resources, showing its relevance to both weather and climate. An understanding of weather and climate is fundamental to an understanding of climate change.

There is a progression of knowledge through the topics, supported by review and assessment activities. The resources also progressively develop key geographical skills such as data, mapwork, GIS, fieldwork and critical thinking.

In this guide, we include common misconceptions which should be challenged in the classroom.

There are 20 topics or chapters. Across these, there are three threads or paths which can be taken through the online resources, depending on the teaching time available:

Basic weather: Weather in our lives, weather measurements, weather and climate, global atmospheric circulation, global climate zones, air masses, pressure and wind and water in the atmosphere

Climate: Weather and climate, global atmospheric circulation, global climate zones, past climate change, polar climate, hot deserts, changing global climate, UK climate, changing UK climate, the climate crisis

Extending weather: Anticyclones, depressions, microclimates, urban weather, tropical cyclones.

Many of the online teaching resources are available with standard or easier versions, as well as extension or alternative activities.

Find the scheme of work, teaching resources, background information for teachers, as well as the Teachers’ Guide (copies of which may be printed on request), here

All the online resources will be updated and revised regularly.

Categories
CPD Teaching

Come Rain or Shine: Teacher CPD Wins Award

We are delighted that our online weather and climate teacher CPD course “Come Rain or Shine” has received the EMS Outreach & Communication Award 2018.

FutureLearn is a leading Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) platform delivering online learning to participants around the world, free of charge. Running a course on this platform has been a key way for us to engage new and harder-to-reach audiences than could otherwise be reached, and to be able to develop course content that is interactive and engaging. The only cost to participants is associated with extending access to the course materials beyond the initial, free, 5 week period.

The Royal Meteorological Society partnered with the University of Reading to develop a three week course entitled ‘Come Rain or Shine’ which focusses on the processes and phenomena which govern UK weather. The content of the course was developed with the needs of UK secondary geography teachers in mind, however the course was open and very much of interest to all.

An online course to reach secondary geography teachers was needed because:

  • Changes to the National Curriculum and exam specifications in the last couple of years have increased the requirement for the teaching of weather and climate in schools.
  • The knowledge, skills and confidence of current UK geography teachers to teach weather and climate is currently very low, following decades of little weather and climate teaching in schools and
  • The model of teacher training is moving from Universities to individual schools, making
    knowledge update days with trainee teachers increasingly difficult to deliver.

The course ran twice in 2016, three times in 2017 and will run three times in 2018, requiring participants to spend around 3 hours per week studying the dynamic materials. These materials consist of a mix of written articles, videos, fieldwork activities and other practical exercises written by Dr. Sylvia Knight, Head of Education at the Royal Meteorological Society and Dr. Pete Inness, a lecturer at the Department of Meteorology at the University of Reading. Registered participants benefit from peer-to-peer support. In addition, during the three week periods, additional support is available from expert mentors from the University and the Society given through integrated discussion areas at each step of the course.
Participant numbers have been high: in June 2016 over 9000 people registered for the course, in October 2016 over 4000 registered and through 2017 over 10,000 registered.

Learning Outcomes for Participants:

  • Describe the weather features associated with depressions, anticyclones and the four main air masses which affect the UK.
  • Interpret a synoptic or weather chart, to provide details about wind speed and direction, precipitation and cloud cover.
  • Describe some of the physical processes which give rise to weather, such as convection, condensation, pressure gradients and the Coriolis force.
  • Investigate local weather conditions using readily available instruments.
  • Explain some of the processes which transfer energy through the Earth system, including the transient effects of volcanoes and changes in the Earth’s orbit, and how these processes relate to the Earth’s climate.
  • Apply their understanding of mid-latitude weather systems to the analysis of weather data and images.
Categories
Geography Teaching

New Contour Drawing Resources

We’ve pulled all our contour drawing resources into one place, and made a short video guide to drawing contours onto maps.

Categories
Climate Change Primary Science Teaching

Post SATs Year 6 Weather and Climate Day

We have pulled together a set of Weather and Climate resources which could be used with a year 6 class after their SATs exams. Designed as a progressive set of engaging and interactive resources, they introduce skills and knowledge which will help prepare students for secondary school.

The resources can be used in independent lessons, or as part of a whole or half weather and climate themed day.

Categories
CPD Teaching

Free Weather CPD

rain or shine courseOur award winning, online weather and climate CPD course for secondary geography teachers, Come Rain or Shine, is starting its 9th run on the FutureLearn platform on the 10th of June.The course is also suitable for older students to take.

It will run for 15 weeks. During the 1st 3 weeks (until 30th June), expert mentors will be on hand to answer questions and respond to comments.

Access is free for 5 weeks from whenever you start the course.

The learning objectives for the course are:

  • Describe the weather features associated with depressions, anticyclones and the four main air masses which affect the UK.
  • Interpret a synoptic or weather chart, to provide details about wind speed and direction, precipitation and cloud cover.
  • Describe some of the physical processes which give rise to weather, such as convection, condensation, pressure gradients and the Coriolis force.
  • Investigate local weather conditions using readily available instruments.
  • Explain some of the processes which transfer energy through the Earth system, including the transient effects of volcanoes and changes in the Earth’s orbit, and how these processes relate to the Earth’s climate.
  • Apply an understanding of mid-latitude weather systems to the analysis of weather data and images.
Categories
Geography Secondary Teaching

Climate Negotiations wins Scottish Award

SAGT awardThe Society’s Climate Change Negotiations for Schools Resource – ‘Simulating a World Climate Conference’ – has been recognized and ‘Highly Commended’ at the SAGT Conference Awards 2018 hosted by Dollar Academy. Morven Neil, RMetS Scottish Education Representative was in attendance at the conference to receive the award and to run a number of seminars that gave conference attendees the opportunity to trial the resource. In these seminars, a number of Geography teachers from across Scotland worked together in designated country groups to decide their own greenhouse gas emission pledges, deliver these to the other assembled delegates and then negotiate. Despite some intense negotiation, they were not able to commit to emission reductions which would limit global temperature increases to within the recommended threshold, but will hopefully leave equipped to confidently deliver the resource in their own classrooms.

Categories
Climate Change Teaching

Climate Change Negotiations Wins Silver Award

We are delighted that our Climate Negotiations Resource has been awarded a Silver award at this year’s Geographical Association conference.

The citation from the judges read: “Simulating a world climate change conference is a free, online and multimedia resource, relevant for both GCSE and A level specifications. It provides a wealth of high-quality, sophisticated and up-to-date materials, including clear instructions and background information; vital for developing a full geographical perspective on the potential positions of the different countries. Particularly useful is video input from one of the British delegates to the Paris climate talks which lends authenticity to the process that the students undertake. The judges felt that while role play is a well-established approach to learning about geographical issues such as climate change, the quality of the resource would enable teachers to confidently set up an excellent simulation for their classes.”