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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El Niño

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, 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. 


Hurricane Humberto, as captured by a NOAA satellite September 15, 2019.

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.

Space weather

Two images of the sun from GOES-16 Solar Ultraviolet Imager (SUVI) on April 13, 2021. The image on the left was taken with a 171 Angstrom filter and the one on the right was taken with a 284 Angstrom filter. Different wavelengths of light capture different information about what is happening on the sun's surface and atmosphere. The GOES SUVI captures wavelengths in the ultraviolet spectrum.

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.


A tornado outbreak struck eastern North Dakota on June 27, 2015.

A tornado warning has been issued and you are in the path of one of the 1,200+ tornadoes that hit the United States each year. How quickly can you get to a safe place out of the severe weather? Do you have a plan? Where would you go? Will you, your family, your students be safe?

Weather observations

Lightning strikes the United States about 25 million times a year.

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.

Weather systems & patterns

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.

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.