We all need to know what the weather will be like from one day to the next to plan ahead. If we’re planning an outdoor trip, we will need to know how to dress, and what to pack. Will we need an umbrella and gumboots or a hat and flip-flops?
When planning a picnic, what is the first thing that comes to mind? Maybe it’s delicious pies and ice cream but usually, we want to know what the weather will be like on our picnic day. Will it be sunny and fine or cold and wet? Knowing what the weather forecast is will help us to plan to have the best time whether we pack ice cream or hot chocolate.
Have you watched the weather forecast on television or perhaps looked at the weather predictions on a weather app? Have you wondered how all this information was gathered and how future weather is predicted? Well, a lot of science goes into the investigation of the earth’s atmosphere known as meteorology.
Meteorologists are scientists who study the earth’s atmosphere to predict what the weather will be like days ahead. There are so many variables to consider though and sometimes things change unexpectedly. For this reason, these predictions aren’t always 100% accurate. At best, they’re a good guess.
Today, technology is used to measure and predict the weather, but have you wondered how the weather was forecast centuries ago? Here are some old-fashioned weather predictions:
- If there is dew on the grass in the morning, it might not rain that day.
- If smoke rises straight into the air, it’ll be a fine day. If the smoke curls, then a low-pressure system is on its way.
- When birds fly low to the ground, the air is heavy and rain is on the way.
- When birds fly high in the sky, the air is calm and the weather will be fine.
- If cows huddle together in a corner, a storm may be on the way.
- Sometimes, low-pressure systems can be felt in injured joints when they start to ache.
And just for fun, here are some weather predicting rhymes to experiment with:
- “Red sky at night; sailor’s delight.”
- “Red sky in the morning; sailors take warning.”
- “Halo around the moon means rain is coming soon.
- “Dew before midnight; the next day will be bright.”
- “If it rains before seven, it will clear by eleven.”
- “If the cat washes her face over her ear, the weather is sure to be fine and clear.”
First Nation People have been predicting the weather for centuries by reading the signs of the country and observing flora and fauna. Watch THIS video to learn more. Visit the Indigenous Weather Knowledge website to explore seasonal calendars and weather indicators for an Indigenous community in your area.
Now, let’s get to the science of weather forecasting by researching weather instruments used to gather atmospheric information.
- A barometer is an instrument that measures the pressure of the air. If the air pressure rises, the day will be fine, but if the pressure falls, the day may be stormy.
- A thermometer measures the temperature of the air.
- A windsock will show which direction the wind is blowing.
- A Rain Gauge is a tool used to measure rainfall.
- Anemometer measures wind speed.
- Doppler Radar is an electronic instrument used to track precipitation; where it falls, how much falls, and the direction it falls. It can predict severe weather systems.
- Satellites track and collect information on weather patterns high in the atmosphere.
- Computers collect all the data from these various instruments for meteorologists who use it to plot weather maps for the week ahead. Explore weather maps with Jo who has created weather symbol cards to help us read these maps. Jo has gathered further forecasting and mapping activities HERE.
Let’s investigate weather forecasting and predictions with the following resources, activities, and experiments.