## Air Pressure and Height

We can’t see or feel atmospheric pressure but rely on barometers to tell us how the pressure is changing.

Pressure changes with altitude. Changing weather patterns can also lead to changing atmospheric pressure.

For these exercises, you will need to download the phyphox app onto your phone or, if you are working in small groups, onto one person’s phone.

You will also need a tape measure (5m) and access to an open stairwell – the higher, the better!

Using the following information, calculate the theoretical atmospheric pressure at the surface of the Earth:

Total mass of the atmosphere: 5 x 1018kg

Radius of the Earth: 6370km (OR surface area of Earth = 5.1 x 10 14 m2)
Gravitational field strength, g = 10 ms-2

Pressure = force/ area
Pressure = mass x g/ (4 pi r2)
Pressure = (5 x 1018 x 10)/ (5.1 x 10 14)
Pressure = 98057 Pa

Alternative units: 1hPa = 100 Pa
1 millibar (mbar) = 1 hPa

Now open the app and select pressure:

Now use the forward arrow to start measuring the pressure:

Record the current air pressure in your classroom in Pa __________________________________

What proportion of the theoretical atmospheric pressure you calculated above it this (express your answer as a percentage)?___________________________

Move to an open stairwell and complete the following table, using a tape measure to record the vertical distance you have ascended between each measurement you make. Make sure that you make your first measurement at floor level.

Now draw a graph of change in atmospheric pressure (dependent variable) against height (independent variable).

Complete the following sentence “A pressure change of 1hPa indicates an altitude change of ____m”.

Extension Questions
Many smart phones, watches etc. are equipped with pressure sensors so that they can be used to calculate altitude.

1) If you used a phone (in flight safe mode) to measure the pressure inside an aeroplane in flight, why won’t it give you an accurate indication of the height you are flying at?

2) You are on a many-day expedition to the Himalayan mountains and you are using the pressure sensor in your watch to tell you how high you are. Why would it not be safe to rely on this information?

(resources created from ideas on https://phyphox.org/)

## Pressure and Rainfall

Investigating the Link Between Between Pressure and Rainfall

Teachers Notes

Here is some data collected by a weather station on the outskirts of Edinburgh, at the start of 2019.

 Date Atmospheric Pressure (hPa) Rainfall (mm) 10/12/2018 1025 0.0 11/12/2018 1020 0.0 12/12/2018 1019 0.0 13/12/2018 1022 0.0 14/12/2018 1017 0.0 15/12/2018 988 1.0 16/12/2018 1005 5.1 17/12/2018 1005 0.3 18/12/2018 996 1.5 19/12/2018 995 0.3 20/12/2018 995 0.5 21/12/2018 1000 0.5 22/12/2018 1014 0.0 23/12/2018 1027 0.0 24/12/2018 1032 0.3 25/12/2018 1026 0.3 26/12/2018 1023 0.0 27/12/2018 1023 0.0 28/12/2018 1022 0.0 29/12/2018 1030 2.3 30/12/2018 1030 0.3 31/12/2018 1026 0.0 01/01/2019 1044 0.0 02/01/2019 1043 0.0 03/01/2019 1041 0.0 04/01/2019 1039 0.0 05/01/2019 1034 0.0 06/01/2019 1031 1.0 07/01/2019 1024 0.0 08/01/2019 1033 0.0 09/01/2019 1031 0.0

Using this data, draw a graph of rainfall against pressure.

Now use this information to complete the following sentences:

The most it rained in one day was _______________mm.

It didn’t rain at all on ____________ days.

The highest pressure recorded was ______________hPa (a hPa is the same as a millibar).

The lowest pressure recorded was _______________hPa.

Does it always rain when the pressure is low? Use figures to justify your answer.

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Does it ever rain when the pressure is high? Use figures to justify your answer.

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Many weather apps assume that if the pressure is low, it will rain. Does your graph justify this assumption?

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Extension:

Here are the weather maps for 4 of the days when it rained: the first 3 show when the pressure was low and the 4th shows when the pressure was high and it rained.

1)

2)

3)

4)

## Air Masses: Case Studies

Pick one of the synoptic charts below.  Can you work out where the wind over the UK is coming from? Try to ignore any fronts, and don’t think about how things might have changed in the past or be about to change in the future.

What is the wind direction over the UK?_______________

What is the air mass affecting the UK?_________________

Describe the weather, in terms of wind speed, direction, temperature, cloud and precipitation.

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Would you expect any difference in the weather between day and night? __________________________________________________________________________________________________

Would you expect any difference in the weather between the sea/ the windward coast and inland regions? ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

February 2015

February 2018

May 2020

October 2011

October 2017

November 2010

October 2018

May/ June 2023

## UK Synoptic Charts: Pressure and Wind Skills Exercise

Skills Exercise

You will need an Atlas for these activities

1. Identify on the map a country experiencing HIGH pressure.
2. What type of air pressure is arriving in the UK?
3. What is the lowest value of pressure shown on the map?
4. What is the air pressure over Greenland?
5. What is the air pressure over Northern Africa?
6. Identify an area that would have STRONG winds (the isobars will be close together)
7. Identify an area that would have WEAK winds (the isobars will be far apart)

EXTENSION– can you draw simple arrows to show the pattern of wind over the UK on the small inset map? (recall that wind moves from high to low and is deflected to the left in the Northern hemisphere)

## Synoptic weather charts

The figure below shows the synoptic pressure chart at midnight on Wednesday, 17 May.

1. Name the pressure feature running from the Baltic States (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania) south to the Adriatic Sea.

2. What is the name of the pressure feature extending south from Iceland into Scotland, Wales and England?

3. What is type of pressure feature to the south-west of Greenland?

4. From which direction would you expect the wind direction to be blowing over south-west England?

5. Compare the pattern of isobars to the south-west of Iceland, with the pattern of isobars in the bay of Biscay.

(a) In which area might you expect faster wind speeds?

6. Imagine that the pressure system, observed at 1033 millibars, to the west of Ireland moved east in the next 12 hours and then remained over the United Kingdom for several days.

(a) What is the technical term given to this type of pressure system which remains stationary over the country?

(b) Outline the weather patterns and hazards associated if this was to happen in June or July.

(c) What differences in weather features might occur if this happened in November or December?

Web page reproduced with the kind permission of the Met Office

## Introduction

### Introduction

Weather charts consist of curved lines drawn on a geographical map in such a way as to indicate weather features. These features are best shown by charts of atmospheric pressure, which consist of isobars (lines of equal pressure) drawn around depressions (or lows) and anticyclones (or highs). Other features on a weather chart are fronts and troughs. These are drawn to highlight the areas of most significant weather, but that does not mean that there is nothing of significance elsewhere on the chart.

### Weather systemsHigh pressure or anticyclones

Anticyclones are areas of high pressure, whose centres are often less well defined than depressions, and are associated with quiet, settled weather. Winds blow in a clockwise direction around anticyclones in the northern hemisphere, this is reversed in the southern hemisphere.

### Low pressure or depressions

Depressions are areas of low pressure, usually with a well-defined centre, and are associated with unsettled weather. Winds blow in an anticlockwise direction around depressions in the northern hemisphere, this is reversed in the southern hemisphere.

### Fronts

Early weather charts consisted simply of station plots and isobars, with the weather being written as comments, like ‘Rain, heavy at times’. During the 1920s, a group of Scandinavian meteorologists, known collectively as the Bergen School, developed the concept of representing the atmosphere in terms of air masses. Since the air masses could be considered as being in conflict with each other, the term ‘front’ was used to describe the boundary between them. Three types of front were identified which depend on the relative movement of the air masses.

#### Cold Front

A cold front marks the leading edge of an advancing cold air mass. On a synoptic chart a cold front appear as a blue line with triangles. The direction in which the triangles point is the direction in which the front is moving.

#### Warm Front

A warm front marks the leading edge of an advancing warm air mass. On a synoptic chart a warm front appears as a red line with semi-circles. The direction in which the semi-circles point is the direction in which the front is moving.

#### Occlusion (or occluded front)

Occlusions form when the cold front of a depression catches up with the warm front, lifting the warm air between the fronts into a narrow wedge above the surface. On a synoptic chart an occluded front appears as a purple line with a combination of triangles and semi-circles. The direction in which the symbols point is the direction in which the front is moving.

#### Troughs

Fronts describe thermal characteristics. They also happen to be where there is significant precipitation. However, precipitation is not confined to fronts. Drizzle in warm sectors or showers in cold air occur fairly randomly, but occasionally, lines of more organised precipitation can develop. These are called troughs.

#### Isobars

Isobars are lines joining places with equal mean sea-level pressures (MSLP).

Weather systems and fronts

### Relationship between isobars and wind

Fig 4: Relationship between isobars and wind speed[/captio

### Understanding station plots on a weather map

Good quality observations are one of the basic ‘tools of the trade’ for a weather forecaster.

The weather conditions at each individual station can be represented on a surface chart by means of station plot.

This means that information which would take up a lot of space if written on to a chart can be displayed in a quick easy to understand format.

Figure 5 shows an example of a plotted chart.

The land station plot can represent all the elements reported from that station, these typically include:

 Air temperatureDew-point temperatureWind speedWind directionVisibilityAtmospheric pressure and three-hour tendency Cloud amountsCloud typesCloud heightsPresent weatherPast weather

Traditionally station plots for manned observing sites were based around a central station circle. However, increasingly, automatic weather observations are replacing these and being plotted on weather charts. To differentiate between the two, automatic observations are plotted around a station triangle. Each element of the observation, with the exception of wind, is plotted in a fixed position around the station circle or triangle so that individual elements can be easily identified.

### Plotting a station plot

Total cloud amount

The total amount of the sky covered by cloud is expressed in oktas (eighths) and is plotted within the station circle for manned observations or station triangle for automatic stations, by the amount of shading.

The symbols used for both manual and automatic observations are shown below.

#### Wind speed and direction

The surface wind direction is indicated on the station plot by an arrow flying with the wind. Direction is measured in degrees from true North. Therefore a wind direction of 180 is blowing from the south. The wind speed is given by the number of ‘feathers’ on the arrow. Half feathers represent 5 knots whilst whole feathers indicate 10 knots. A wind speed of 50 knots is indicated by a triangle. Combinations of these can be used to report wind speed to the nearest 5 knots. The symbols used are as follows.

#### Air temperature

Air temperature is plotted to the nearest whole degree Celsius, i.e. 23 would indicate 23 degrees Celsius.

#### Dew point temperature

Dew point temperature is plotted to the nearest whole degree Celsius, i.e. 18 would indicate a dew point of 18 degrees Celsius.

#### Pressure

Pressure is recorded in millibars and tenths and the last three digits are plotted. Therefore 1003.1 would be plotted as 031 and 987.1 would be plotted as 871.

#### Present weather

In total the Met Office has 100 codes for recording the current weather at the time of the observation. Different types of weather are represented using different weather symbols, a key to which can be found below.

#### Past weather

A simplified version of the present weather plots is used to indicate past weather.

#### Pressure Tendency

Pressure trend shows how the pressure has changed during the past three hours, i.e rising or falling, and pressure tendency shows by how much it has changed. The tendency is given in tenths of a millibar, therefore ’20’ would indicate a change of two millibars in the last three hours. Pressure tendency is indicated by the following symbols.

#### Visibility

Visibility, which is how far we can see, is given in coded format, in either meters or kilometres. Visibilities below five kilometres are recorded to the nearest 100 metres, whilst those above five kilometres are given to the nearest kilometre.

For visibilities equal to and less than five km:

 Code Distance (km) Code Distance (km) Code Distance (km) 00 <0.0 19 1.9 38 3.8 01 0.1 20 2.0 39 3.9 02 0.2 21 2.1 40 4.0 03 0.3 22 2.2 41 4.1 04 0.4 23 2.3 42 4.2 05 0.5 24 2.4 43 4.3 06 0.6 25 2.5 44 4.4 07 0.7 26 2.6 45 4.5 08 0.8 27 2.7 46 4.6 09 0.9 28 2.8 47 4.7 10 1.0 29 2.9 48 4.8 11 1.1 30 3.0 49 4.9 12 1.2 31 3.1 50 5.0 13 1.3 32 3.2 51 Not Used 14 1.4 33 3.3 52 Not Used 15 1.5 34 3.4 53 Not Used 16 1.6 35 3.5 54 Not Used 17 1.7 36 3.6 18 1.8 37 3.7

For visibilities greater than five km:

 Code Distance (km) Code Distance (km) 56 6 73 23 57 7 74 24 58 8 75 25 59 9 76 26 60 10 77 27 61 11 78 28 62 12 79 29 63 13 80 30 64 14 81 35 65 15 82 40 66 16 83 45 67 17 84 50 68 18 85 55 69 19 86 60 70 20 87 65 71 21 88 70 72 22 89 >70

#### Low cloud type

The type of low cloud present is provided in coded format, using the symbols below.

#### Medium cloud type

The type of medium cloud present is provided in coded format, using the symbols below.

#### High cloud type

The type of high cloud present is provided in coded format, using the symbols below.

#### Cloud height

Cloud heights are measured in hundreds or thousands of feet. The way these are plotted varies depending on whether the station is an automatic or manned observing site.

For automatic stations, indicated by a station triangle, the following codes are used.

 Code Height in feet 00 <100 05 500 10 1000 15 1500 20 2000 … … 50 5000 60 6000

For manned stations, indicated by a station circle, the following codes are used.

 Code Height in feet 0 0-149 1 150-299 2 300-599 3 600-999 4 1,000-1,999 5 2,000-2,999 6 3,000-4,999 7 5,000-6,499 8 6,500-7,999 9 8,000 or above / Cloud height unknown

#### Gust speed

Gust speeds are measured in knots and proceeded by the letter G. Gust speeds are normally only recorded if they exceed 25 knots and are plotted as whole knots, i.e. G35 indicates a gust of 35 knots.

#### Example

The decode of this station plot is as follows:

 Type of observation: Manned Total cloud amount: 8 oktas Wind Speed: 28-32 knots Wind direction: South-westerly Air temperature: 23 degrees Celsius Dew point temperature: 18 degrees Celsius Pressure: 1004.2 millibars Present weather: Continuous moderate rain Past weather: Rain Pressure tendency: Falling 0.5 millibars in the past three hours Visibility: 6km Low cloud type: Stratus Low cloud amount: 6 oktas Low cloud height: 1000 feet Medium cloud type: Altostratus High cloud type: Cirrus Gust speed: 45 knots

#### Exercise

Why not try decoding the following observational plots.

Web page reproduced with the kind permission of the Met Office

## Isotherms

The figure below is a map of isotherms, showing the average mean temperatures for January over the UK, based on average values for 1961–90.

1. Explain the reasons why Newquay is warmer than Ayr in January.

2. With reference to the Environmental Lapse Rate, outline why temperatures at Okehampton are lower than at Newquay.

3. In northern England, temperatures on the west coast near Keswick are similar to those at Middlesbrough on the east coast. Explain how the föhn effect might influence these temperature patterns.

4. (a) Outline how physical factors affect the shape of the 4 °C isotherm in the River Severn estuary and valley north of Gloucester.
(b) How does this pattern affect agriculture?

5. The 4 °C isotherm also bulges around cities such as London and Bristol. Explain the human factors which have caused these cities to be milder in January than rural areas with a similar latitude, such as Marlborough.

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

## Guide to shipping forecasts

This is a brief guide to the main terms used in the shipping forecasts that are broadcast on BBC Radio 4, and also as a reference to the main shipping areas (known as the coastal waters) surrounding the British Isles.

Shipping bulletin

Weather bulletins for shipping are broadcast daily on BBC Radio 4 at the following times: 0048 and 0520 (long wave and FM), 1200 and 1755 (normally long wave only). The bulletins consist of a gale warning summary, general synopsis, sea-area forecasts and coastal station reports. In addition, gale warnings are broadcast at the first available programme break after receipt. If this does not coincide with a news bulletin, the warning will be repeated after the next news bulletin.

A glossary of terms used in the shipping bulletin

### Forecasts for inshore waters

In addition, some bulletins include a forecast for all UK inshore waters, as distinct from the coastal waters. This can be heard on BBC Radio 4 at the end of programmes (approximately 0048), and on BBC Radio 3 at 0535. The forecast covers the area up to 12 miles offshore and is for the period up to 1800 the next day. It includes a general synopsis, the forecast of wind direction and force, visibility and weather. The broadcast on Radio 4 also includes the latest available reports of wind direction and force, visibility, sea-level pressure and tendency for approximately 20 stations around the UK.

Latest inshore waters forecast

### Beaufort scale

Specifications and equivalent speeds

Web page reproduced with the kind permission of the Met Office

Shipping Forecast weather system excercise notes and worksheet.

## Watch our Weather Systems Video with Pete Inness of Reading University

In this series Pete Inness explains what weather systems are, why they happen and how we can understand weather systems.