Weather Phenomena

Earth is a dynamic planet that changes daily. Weather patterns and events are a tremendous part of that change. While these patterns and events are necessary for our planet to continue to be life-sustaining, they can also cause substantial damage and sometimes cost billions of dollars in repair and rescue efforts.

Weather phenomena can be defined as natural events that occur as a result of one or a combination of the water cycle, pressure systems and the Coriolis effect. They often involve or are related to precipitation, wind or heat.

Examples of weather

It would be hard to find a day on the planet Earth when there was no weather. Day or night, North Pole or Sahara, to humans or animals, there’s always some kind of weather to deal with.

Heat waves are becoming more common, or at least more reported, all over the globe. Tornadoes blow down buildings. This coming winter blizzards will undoubtedly roar through the upper Midwest and monsoons will drench Southeast Asia. 

Weather types

Facts about the weather: On September 13, 1922, Al’Aziziyah in Libya recorded the world’s hottest 58°C maximum temperature ever.

The world’s coldest temperature was -89.6°C at Vostok Station in Antarctica on July 21, 1983.

Weather facts: Mawsynram in India is regarded as the wettest region on earth, receiving almost 11 meters of rain annually. In contrast, Antofagasta, Chile, is the driest place on earth, receiving less than 0.1mm of precipitation annually and experiencing years with zero precipitation. The sunniest place on Earth is Yuma in the state of Arizona, where there are over 4,000 hours of sunshine annually. Only 182 days a year receive sunshine at the South Pole, making it the least sunny location.

Facts about wind: Commonwealth Bay in Antarctica, where winds of 200 mph have been measured, is the windiest place on earth. The astonishing 231 mph wind speed record was set on Mount Washington in New Hampshire, USA. Approximately 2,000 thunderstorm cells are thought to be present across the world at any given time. Over 16 million thunderstorms occur worldwide each year, with over 100,000 occurring in the United States.

Instead of hitting the ocean, nine out of ten lightning strikes land. The longest-lasting tropical storm in the Pacific Ocean, John, lasted for 31 days. It went from being a hurricane to a typhoon to a hurricane twice as it passed the deadline. The longest-lasting tropical storm in Atlantic history, “Ginger,” circled the open ocean for 28 days in 1971.

Facts about Snowy Weather: The largest snowflake ever measured 38 cm wide and 20 cm thick, according to the Guinness Book of Records. On January 28, 1887, a snowflake landed at Fort Keogh in Montana, United States.  Residents of Bethel, Maine, USA, constructed the 34.63-meter-tall “Angus,” the tallest snowman, who had tires for his mouth and branches for arms. Building on “Angus” took two weeks, and it was finished on February 17th, 1999. The highest snowfall ever recorded was almost 30 meters on Mount Rainier in Washington State, USA, in the winter of 1972. 

Strange Weather: On April 14, 1986, Bangladesh was struck by the largest hailstones ever measured, weighing more than 1 kg each and leaving 92 people dead.

What causes weather?

Earth’s atmosphere and oceans cause most of the weatherly ruckus around. When the air is saturated with moisture from oceans, lakes, and rivers, it precipitates into rain, hail, sleet, or snow. When the ocean warms up enough it will breed hurricanes and typhoons. And let’s not forget the Sun. The heat it provides also causes winds to blow and glaciers to melt and suntans to appear on shapely figures – and that may not be weather, but it sure is more interesting!

1. Blizzard

Defined by visibility and not amounts of snowfall, blizzards pose a substantial threat to travel and safety. Learn more about the whiteout weather phenomenon here.

2. Cloud

Clouds are an important piece to most other weather phenomena. Rain, snow, lightning, hail and thunderstorms all originate from clouds. Find out about types of clouds, how they form, why they appear white, and more here.

3. Dust Devils

Dust devils are phenomena that occur when one area on the ground heats up more than surrounding areas. This hotter area then heats the air above it, creating a column of circulating air, which picks up dust and other debris from the ground.

4. Fog

Fog is a fascinating event that occurs when the air temperature cools and condenses water molecules from a gas to a liquid. Learn more about the type of weather famously described as ‘as thick as pea soup’.

5. Frost

Frost is a beautiful and majestic phenomenon that is usually one of the first signals that winter is on its way. It requires three things in order to form – higher levels of water vapor in the air, low wind speeds, and low temperatures overnight. Learn more about this frosty event here.

6. Haboob

Giant walls of dust that form in desert areas in front of a thunderstorm cell. They are created by downward thrusts of cold air inside the storm cell, which blows sand and dust outward. These events can be seen in places such as the Sahara Desert and southwestern United States.

7. Hailstorm

Forming at high altitudes in massive Cumulonimbus clouds, hail can grow as big as 8 inches or more and fall at velocities over 100 miles per hour. It has the potential to cause damage to vehicles and more.

8. Heat Wave

While less spectacular and less visible than other weather phenomena, heat waves can be considered among the most dangerous to humans and animals. Temperatures spike above normal and remain there for days or weeks.

9. Hurricane

With wind speeds exceeding 150 miles per hour and diameters over 350 miles, hurricanes are among the most devastating weather phenomena.

10. Lightning

Capable of voltage upwards of 1 Billion volts, lightning is spectacularly brilliant and dangerous at the same time. A thunderstorm’s static discharge, a number of steps must occur prior to an actual strike.

11. Rain

Rain is a necessary requisite for the survival of most life on Earth. In large quantities it can quickly become a disaster. Learn more about this essential weather event here.

12. Rainbow

Rainbows are as much atmospheric optical phenomena as they are weather events, and can only occur under certain conditions. A number of amazing physical processes occur in order for us to be able to see one.

13. Snow

The object of a substantial number of poems and Christmas carols, snow can be calming, peaceful, damaging or dangerous depending on circumstances. It’s unique properties allow it to accumulate at a much faster rate than rain.

14. Thunderstorm

When an unstable atmosphere gives way to Cumulonimbus clouds, and large electrical imbalances begin to form a thunderstorm is near. With potential for hail, high winds and tornadoes it is one of nature’s most dynamic events.

15. Tornado

Tornadoes require several conditions to develop, including a wind speed that increases with altitude and then a supercell. Once formed, the wind speeds have the potential to exceed 200 miles per hour.