Weather & atmosphere education resources


The term weather describes the state of the atmosphere at a given point in time and geographic location. Weather forecasts provide an estimate of the conditions we expect to experience in the near future and are based on statistical models of similar conditions from previous weather events. Temperature, amount and form of airborne moisture, cloudiness, and strength of wind are all different components of our weather. Severe weather events such as tornadoes, tropical storms, hurricanes, floods, lightning strikes and extremes of heat or cold can be costly and deadly. Knowing how to recognize threatening weather conditions, where to get reliable information, and how to respond to this information can help save lives. In addition to weather, NOAA also monitors and forecasts other atmospheric processes that effect our planet such as ozone levels, changing climate conditions, and variables outside Earth's atmosphere such as solar winds.

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Hurricane Arthur developing an eye east of South Carolina.

The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1st to November 30th, and the Eastern Pacific hurricane season runs from May 15th to November 30th. The term “hurricane” has its origin in the religions of past civilizations. The Mayan storm god was named Hunraken. The Taino people of the Caribbean considered the god Huracan evil. Hurricanes may not be evil but they are one of nature's most powerful storms. Their potential for loss of life and destruction of property is tremendous.

El Nino

Sea surface temperature anomalies in the Tropical Pacific in December 2015. A strong El Niño continued during December 2015 with well above average sea surface temperatures across the central and eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean.

By influencing global temperatures and precipitation, ENSO significantly impacts Earth’s ecosystems and human societies. El Nino and La Nina are opposite extremes of the ENSO, which refers to cyclical environmental conditions that occur across the Equatorial Pacific Ocean. These changes are due to natural interactions between the ocean and atmosphere. Sea surface temperature, rainfall, air pressure, atmospheric and ocean circulation all influence each other. 

Space weather

Images of the sun from NOAA's Space Weather Prediction Center showing coronal holes which may impact Earth.

When storms in outer space occur near Earth or in Earth's upper atmosphere, we call it space weather. Rather than the more commonly known weather within our atmosphere (rain, snow, heat, wind, etc.), space weather comes in the form of radio blackouts, solar radiation storms, and geomagnetic storms caused by disturbances from the Sun.

Weather systems & patterns

PHOTO - A storm darkens the sky at the mouth of the Russian River, north of Bodega Bay, Calif. The storm was driven largely by an "atmospheric river" over California.

This of course is not the case; if it were, the weather would be very different. The local weather that impacts our daily lives results from large global patterns in the atmosphere caused by the interactions of solar radiation, Earth's large ocean, diverse landscapes, and motion in space.