Weather & atmosphere

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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By influencing global temperatures and precipitation, the El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) significantly impacts Earth’s ecosystems and human societies. El Niño and La Niña 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. 

Hurricanes are one of nature’s most powerful storms. They produce strong winds, storm surge flooding, and heavy rainfall that can lead to inland flooding, tornadoes, and rip currents.

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Did you know that there are storms always occurring in space? Not rain or snow, but winds and magnetic waves that move through space! This is known as space weather. Sometimes their impacts can reach Earth or Earth's upper atmosphere. Rather than the more commonly known weather within our atmosphere (rain, snow, heat, wind, etc.), space weather can come in the form of radio blackouts, solar radiation storms, and geomagnetic storms caused by disturbances from the Sun.

Observing the daily weather is part of a regular routine for many of us, helping us decide what to wear and which activities we will do each day. Similar observations of atmospheric conditions are also required by meteorologists to develop those weather forecasts with which we are all familiar.

Imagine our weather if Earth were completely motionless, had a flat dry landscape and an untilted axis. 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.