Weather and Atmosphere Education

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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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.

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 the impact of these storms  can reach Earth or Earth's upper atmosphere affecting various technological systems including satellite-based positioning and navigation, high frequency radio communications, and the electric power grid. Rather than the more commonly known weather within our atmosphere (like rain, snow, heat, and wind), space weather can come in the form of radio blackouts, solar radiation storms, and geomagnetic storms caused by disturbances from the Sun.

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. 

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