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Weather: Definition & Types

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  • 0:01 Types of Weather
  • 1:44 Air Masses And Fronts
  • 3:30 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jeff Fennell

Jeff has a master's in engineering and has taught Earth science both domestically and internationally.

Talk about weather is everywhere: on the news, in the papers, and in almost every conversation. What causes it all, though? In this lesson, we will define weather, take a look at the different types, and learn what causes weather changes to take place.

Types of Weather

Weather is the state of the atmosphere at a given place and time in regards to heat, cloudiness, dryness, sunshine, wind, and rain. Weather can vary greatly and largely depends on climate, seasons, and various other factors.

Most people find sunny days pleasant. With the absence of clouds, the sun is able to shine through and provide warmth. A sunny day doesn't always mean it's warm, though. Cold temperatures and wind can be present on sunny days.

On a cloudy day, the sun's rays are blocked from reaching Earth's surface. However, it can still be warm on a cloudy day because cloud cover can trap in heat near the ground. Almost always, rain is associated with clouds. A cloud is nothing more than a large mass of water vapor. As the temperature drops, the water vapor in the cloud cools and coalesces into raindrops.

Windy days are primarily formed as a warm air mass rises upward and cold air rushes in to fill the vacuum. Wind gusts also form as air is pushed into smaller and smaller spaces. For example, Chicago is infamous for this; the Windy City gets its nickname because of air rushing in from Lake Michigan. The rushing wind gets funneled into narrow paths throughout the city, causing strong wind gusts to blow.

Snow forms in a way similar to rain. As the temperature drops, water vapor in the clouds turns into snowflakes. Once heavy enough, the cloud will not be able to hold the snow anymore, and it will begin to fall to the ground.

Air Masses and Fronts

So, what is the primary cause of all these different types of weather? Most simply put, the cause is air masses and how air masses interact with each other. An air mass is a large area of air with the same characteristics.

There are two main types: hot air masses, which are large areas of hot air moving in the same direction, and cold air masses, which are areas of cold air moving together in the same direction. A front is where two or more air masses meet.

A cold front occurs when cold air pushes under a mass of warm air. Since the warm air is lighter, it is pushed up above the cold air. The rising warm air cools and condenses, sometimes causing rainstorms and mild temperatures.

Here is the weather symbol for a cold front:

A warm front occurs when a warm air mass moves over a cold air mass. The rising warm air condenses as it rises in elevation, creating clouds and light rain or snow.

Here is the weather symbol for a warm front:

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