Weather Data and Collection

GCSE Geography Resources

Are you looking for high-quality GCSE Geography resources? If so, you can save yourself a lot of time by downloading our modules below.

hazards

Compatible with the following exam boards

aqa
ocr
edexcel
cie

Weather

Weather Data and Collection

Weather is described as the state of the atmosphere at a certain place during a brief period of time. Weather is made up of numerous atmospheric phenomena such as air pressure, wind speed and direction, temperature, humidity, precipitation, and cloud cover. Weather pertains to atmospheric conditions over a shorter period of time compared to climate. On the other hand, the climate is the summation of all weather conditions over very long time periods. 

Weather occurs in the lowest region of the Earth’s atmosphere. This region, called the troposphere, stretches from the surface of the Earth 6–8 kilometres from the poles, and around 17 kilometres at the Equator. The troposphere is the part of the atmosphere where the great majority of clouds are found and where almost all precipitation forms. Usually, the weather happens within its range. Jet streams, upper-air waves, are phenomena that happen in the higher regions of the troposphere and beyond.

Weather data and collection explains these phenomena, which have prominent effects on atmospheric pressure patterns at sea level, simultaneously affecting weather conditions on land. Weather is also affected by geographic features such as mountains, lakes, oceans, and other large bodies of water. One prominent example of the interactions between the atmosphere and the ocean that affect weather is the El Nino/Southern Oscillation (ENSO).  

In general, the variability of weather has much to do with where in the world it occurs. Weather varies the most in the mid-latitude belts of westerly winds. In these areas, constantly changing weather patterns are produced by travelling high and low-pressure centres. Conversely, the weather in tropical regions hardly changes from day to day or even from month to month. 

The weather has significant implications on many human activities, such as patterns of settlement, food production and personal comfort. Weather events such as extreme highs and lows of temperature and humidity can cause discomfort and lead to the spreading of sickness and disease. Large amounts of rainfall can cause flooding, displacing people from their homes and disrupting economic activity. Other weather events such as tornadoes, thunderstorms, sleet storms, and hail cause significant damage to crops, roads and routes, vehicles, and transportation.

Powerful storms can result in the injury or death of people and livestock. In areas situated near the coast, tropical cyclones, known as hurricanes or typhoons, have the potential to damage areas with torrential rainfall, flooding, strong winds, large waves, and storm surges. In colder climates, heavy snowfall, snowstorms, and blizzards make transportation very difficult and also increase accident rates. In contrast, the absence of rainfall for long periods can result in severe droughts and dust storms

Weather Prediction

The variability of weather and its various phenomena have long inspired human interest in the prediction of weather conditions as well as weather forecasting. Historically, intense weather phenomena were once attributed to the ire of powerful gods and deities. Since the middle 1800s, however, weather prediction has advanced to scientific methods of measuring temperature, humidity, air pressure, wind speed, and wind direction. 

Since their development in the 1980s, weather satellites have allowed meteorologists to follow the movement of storms, cyclones, anticyclones and their fronts around the world. Meteorologists also use radar to monitor clouds, tropospheric winds, and precipitation. Computers combine weather models to predict the weather a week or more in advance. These models are based on physics principles along with measurements of weather variables like wind speed and current temperature. These scientific and technological advancements have brought significant improvements to the accuracy of local forecasts and the development of extended and long-range forecasts. 

Collecting Weather Data

Developments in science, meteorological methodology, technology, and data collection allow weather forecasts to be the most accurate to date. The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) claims that the present day’s five-day weather forecast is as reliable as a two-day forecast was 20 years ago.

At present, powerful computers process and synthesize meteorological data collected by advanced instruments to create accurate and complex atmospheric models. These models are then programmed to forecast how weather and atmospheric conditions would change. However, it is important to note that despite these advancements, weather forecasts are still not entirely accurate. Weather remains a complex and chaotic natural system that is difficult to predict. 

To create accurate weather forecasts, a given location and the surrounding area’s atmospheric conditions must be taken into account. Data pertaining to variables such as temperature, air pressure, and other atmospheric conditions must be collected using various meteorological instruments. 

Temperature

Temperature is the physical property of matter that expresses the hotness and coldness in quantitative measures. Temperature is an intensive property and is not dependent on the quantity of matter available. 

Relative Humidity

Relative humidity is the amount of moisture or water vapour present in the atmosphere compared to how much water vapour can be contained in the air at a certain temperature. 

Precipitation

Precipitation is any water particle, whether solid or liquid, that falls from clouds to the ground. Precipitation can come in the form of rain, snow, hail, drizzle, sleet, ice crystals, snow pellets, etc. 

Cloud Type and Cloud Cover

Clouds are masses of condensing water vapour found in the atmosphere. Clouds are formed from the evaporation of water from seas, oceans, lakes, rivers, and other bodies of water. Water vapour from these water sources ascends to the colder parts of the atmosphere through convective or frontal lifting. The water vapour then attaches itself to condensation nuclei, potentially dust or other small particles such as salt and debris. When the water vapour is saturated, it cools and condenses into visible clouds. 

Clouds are classified into three categories according to their formation process and physical characteristics. The cirrus cloud is formed at high altitudes and usually comes in the form of filaments. Stratus clouds are commonly observed in sheet-like shapes. Cumulus clouds are often regarded as the typical image associated with clouds. These types of clouds appear rolled, rippled, and heaped. 

Instruments that collect weather data

Thermometers

Thermometers are instruments used to measure temperature. Older, analogue thermometers are long, narrow, graded tubes, with a bulb at the end. These thermometers were commonly filled with temperature-sensitive mercury that expands when temperatures are high and contracts when temperatures are low. The sides of the tube are marked with gradations that correspond to the degree of air temperature. 

Modern temperatures mostly yield digital data that is easily inputted into a computer. Some modern thermometers utilise a coiled strip made up of two kinds of metal that each conducts heat differently. When the temperature rises or falls, the coil either curls up or unfurls. Another type of modern thermometer measures infrared radiation or electrical resistance to measure temperature. 

Barometers

Barometers measure air pressure. These meteorological instruments typically contain water, air, or mercury. However, much like thermometers, most modern barometers are digital. A change in air pressure as indicated by a barometer can mean that a change in weather is likely. A rise in air pressure signals an incoming high-pressure cell, which means that clear skies can be expected. A drop in air pressure indicates an incoming low-pressure cell which is almost guaranteed to bring storm clouds. The barometric pressure data recorded over a vast area can be used to spot fronts, pressure systems, and other weather systems. 

Weather Stations

Weather stations are commonly equipped with a thermometer and a barometer. Weather stations also have a variety of instruments that measure other atmospheric conditions such as the amount of precipitation, humidity, wind speed, and wind direction. These instruments are situated in many different locations to measure the characteristics of the atmosphere in those locations. The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) states that weather data is collected from 15 satellites, 100 stationary buoys, 600 drifting buoys, 3,000 aircraft, 7,300 ships, and 10,000 land-based stations.

Radiosondes

Weather Data and Collection

A Radiosonde is a weather balloon that moves through the air and measures many atmospheric conditions such as temperature, humidity and pressure as it floats by. Airborne radiosondes are tracked to measure wind speed and wind direction. These weather data-collecting instruments communicate the information they gather to computers through radio waves. From around 800 sites around the globe, radiosondes are launched into the atmosphere two times a day. Radiosondes can also be used to obtain measurements as they descend by releasing them from balloons or aeroplanes. This method is especially used for monitoring storms when it is dangerous for aeroplanes to fly. 

Radar 

Radar, short for radio detection and ranging, utilises radio waves to detect weather phenomena. Incorporated into this device is a transmitter that sends out radio waves in a certain direction. The radio waves then return to the transmitter after bouncing back from the first object it collides with. Radar used in weather data collection is effective in determining the aspects of precipitation. Characteristics of precipitation such as motion, location, intensity, and even the possibility of future precipitation can be detected and measured by radar. Meteorologists also use radar to determine the shape and structure of a storm and gauge its potential hazards and effects. 

Satellites

Since the launching of the first weather satellite in 1952, the usefulness and importance of these meteorological instruments have increased over the decades. Weather satellites are by far the best way to observe and monitor storms and other large scale weather systems. Satellites are also able to record changes that happen in the long term. 

Numerical Weather Prediction

Highly advanced computers, coupled with the analysis and interpretation by skilled meteorologists, make the most accurate weather predictions. These computers run large amounts of weather data through up-to-date mathematical models, calculating more predictions than scientists working by hand. Meteorologists use the computers’ calculations to produce more accurate weather and climate predictions. Numerical Weather Processing, like all weather forecasts, does not yield perfectly accurate predictions. However, its high level of accuracy is invaluable for disaster risk management and risk reduction.

Numerical Weather Processing (NWP) involves the collection of atmospheric data from a variety of sources, later synthesizing it using complex mathematical models on supercomputers. These computers effectively calculate the weather patterns that will occur over time at different altitudes. They then produce a grid composed of points spread out evenly, commonly 10–200 kilometres apart. The results of the model are then used to predict weather that may happen as far into the future as meteorologists like. A finished forecast is then broadcast by satellites, reaching over 1,000 sites all over the globe. 

Weather Maps

Weather maps, otherwise known as synoptic maps, are graphical illustrations of the meteorological conditions in the atmosphere from the perspective of space. The graphical representations depicted on a weather map are based on data gathered from computer models or human observations. Weather maps may either display a single atmospheric feature or many features at once. 

Resources

Collecting Weather Data. (n.d.). Retrieved from Lumen:                                https://courses.lumenlearning.com/geophysical/chapter/collecting-weather-data/

Collecting Weather Data. (n.d.). Retrieved from Virginia Department of Education:                                https://www.doe.virginia.gov/testing/sol/standards_docs/science/2010/lesson_plans/grade2/interrelationships_in_earth-space_sys/sess_2-6bc.pdf

Precipitation. (n.d.). Retrieved from Britannica:                                https://www.britannica.com/science/precipitation

Temperature. (n.d.). Retrieved from Britannica:                                https://www.britannica.com/science/temperatureWeather. (n.d.). Retrieved from Britannica:                     https://www.britannica.com/science/weather

Cite/Link to This Article

  • "Weather Data and Collection". Geography Revision. Accessed on May 26, 2022. https://geography-revision.co.uk/gcse/weather-climate/weather-data-and-collection/.

  • "Weather Data and Collection". Geography Revision, https://geography-revision.co.uk/gcse/weather-climate/weather-data-and-collection/. Accessed 26 May, 2022.

  • Weather Data and Collection. Geography Revision. Retrieved from https://geography-revision.co.uk/gcse/weather-climate/weather-data-and-collection/.