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Thunderstorm near Garajau, Madeira

Weather is the state of the atmosphere, describing for example the degree to which it is hot or cold, wet or dry, calm or stormy, clear or cloudy. Most weather phenomena occur in the lowest level of the atmosphere, the troposphere, just below the stratosphere. Weather refers to day-to-day temperature and precipitation activity, whereas climate is the term for the averaging of atmospheric conditions over longer periods of time. When used without qualification, "weather" is generally understood to mean the weather of Earth.

Weather is driven by air pressure, temperature and moisture differences between one place and another. These differences can occur due to the sun's angle at any particular spot, which varies with latitude. The strong temperature contrast between polar and tropical air gives rise to the largest scale atmospheric circulations: the Hadley Cell, the Ferrel Cell, the Polar Cell, and the jet stream. Weather systems in the mid-latitudes, such as extratropical cyclones, are caused by instabilities of the jet stream flow. Because the Earth's axis is tilted relative to its orbital plane, sunlight is incident at different angles at different times of the year. On Earth's surface, temperatures usually range ±40 °C (−40 °F to 100 °F) annually. Over thousands of years, changes in Earth's orbit can affect the amount and distribution of solar energy received by the Earth, thus influencing long-term climate and global climate change.

Surface temperature differences in turn cause pressure differences. Higher altitudes are cooler than lower altitudes, as most atmospheric heating is due to contact with the Earth's surface while radiative losses to space are mostly constant. Weather forecasting is the application of science and technology to predict the state of the atmosphere for a future time and a given location. The Earth's weather system is a chaotic system; as a result, small changes to one part of the system can grow to have large effects on the system as a whole. Human attempts to control the weather have occurred throughout history, and there is evidence that human activities such as agriculture and industry have modified weather patterns.

Studying how the weather works on other planets has been helpful in understanding how weather works on Earth. A famous landmark in the Solar System, Jupiter's Great Red Spot, is an anticyclonic storm known to have existed for at least 300 years. However, weather is not limited to planetary bodies. A star's corona is constantly being lost to space, creating what is essentially a very thin atmosphere throughout the Solar System. The movement of mass ejected from the Sun is known as the solar wind.

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A tornado near Anadarko, Oklahoma

A tornado is a violent, dangerous, rotating column of air which is in contact with both the surface of the earth and a cumulonimbus cloud or, in rare cases, the base of a cumulus cloud. The most intense of all atmospheric phenomena, tornadoes come in many shapes and sizes but are typically in the form of a visible condensation funnel, whose narrow end touches the earth and is often encircled by a cloud of debris and dust. Most tornadoes have wind speeds between 40 mph (64 km/h) and 110 mph (177 km/h), are approximately 250 feet (75 m) across, and travel a few miles (several kilometers) before dissipating. The most extreme can attain wind speeds of more than 300 mph (480 km/h), stretch more than a mile (1.6 km) across, and stay on the ground for dozens of miles (more than 100 km).

Various types of tornadoes include the landspout, multiple-vortex tornado, and waterspout. Waterspouts have similar characteristics to tornadoes, characterized by a spiraling funnel-shaped wind current that form over bodies of water, connecting to large cumulus and thunderstorm clouds. These spiraling columns of air frequently develop in tropical areas close to the equator, and are less common at high latitudes. Other tornado-like phenomena which exist in nature include the gustnado, dust devil, fire whirls, and steam devil.

Tornadoes have been observed on every continent except Antarctica. The vast majority of tornadoes in the world occur in the Tornado Alley region of the United States, although they frequently occur in a large portion in North America. They also occasionally occur in south-central and eastern Asia, the Philippines, east-central South America, Southern Africa, northwestern and southeast Europe, western and southeastern Australia, and New Zealand. Tornadoes can be detected before or as they occur through the use of pulse-Doppler radar by recognizing patterns in velocity and reflectivity data, such as hook echoes, as well as by the efforts of storm spotters.

There are several different scales for rating the strength of tornadoes. The Fujita scale rates tornadoes by damage caused, and has been replaced in some countries by the updated Enhanced Fujita scale. An F0 or EF0 tornado, the weakest category, damages trees but not substantial structures. An F5 or EF5 tornado, the strongest category, rips buildings off their foundations and can deform large skyscrapers. The similar TORRO scale ranges from a T0 for extremely weak tornadoes to T11 for the most powerful known tornadoes. Doppler radar data, photogrammetry, and ground swirl patterns (cycloidal marks) may also be analyzed to determine intensity and assign a rating.

Recently selected articles: April, Christmas 1994 nor'easter, Evansville Tornado of November 2005, More...

Did you know...

...that a SIGMET is an advisory issued for airline crews regarding weather that may impact the safety of the aircraft, including atmospheric convection, icing conditions, or even dust storms?

...that the Antarctic Circumpolar Wave is thought by some scientists to be a very slow-moving wave in the atmosphere and ocean of the far southern hemisphere that circles the globe once every 8 years?

...that the Papagayo Jet is a strong wind that often blows across the Gulf of Papagayo west of Central America, sometimes reaching speeds as high as 30 meters per second (110 km/h; 67 mph)?

...that atmospheric optics is the study of different optical phenomena in the atmosphere, including sunsets, rainbows, and sun dogs?

...that the GME was a numerical weather prediction model run by Deutscher Wetterdienst, the German national meteorological service?

...that a consistent thunderstorm that forms over the Tiwi Islands of Australia is given the name Hector by local residents and pilots?

Recent and ongoing weather

This week in weather history...

July 9

2007: A severe cold snap culminated in a rare snowfall for parts of Argentina.

July 10

2009: A total of eleven bolts of lightning struck the launch pad of the Space Shuttle Endeavour, one of many delays which plagued shuttle mission STS-127.

July 11

1892: The Tête Rousse Glacier on the Mont Blanc massif unleashed an outburst flood of meltwater, killing at least 200 people in the valley near Saint-Gervais-les-Bains, France.

July 12

2006: An F2 tornado struck parts of New York and Connecticut, causing several million dollars in damage.

July 13

1951: The Great Flood of 1951 reached its peak at 2 million acres (8096 km²) flooded in Kansas and Missouri.

July 14

2000: The Pine Lake tornado, the deadliest in Canada since 1987, killed 12 people in central Alberta.

July 15

2003: Hurricane Claudette came ashore near Port O'Connor, Texas, destroying more than 200 homes along the Gulf Coast.

Selected biography

Edward Norton Lorenz (May 23, 1917 – April 16, 2008) was an American mathematician and meteorologist, and a pioneer of chaos theory. He discovered the strange attractor notion and coined the term butterfly effect. Lorenz was born in West Hartford, Connecticut. He studied mathematics at both Dartmouth College in New Hampshire and Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. During World War II, he served as a weather forecaster for the United States Army Air Corps. After his return from the war, he decided to study meteorology. Lorenz earned two degrees in the area from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where he later was a professor for many years.

Recently selected biographies: Vilhelm Friman Koren Bjerknes; Anders Celsius, More...

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WikiProject Meteorology is a collaborative effort by dozens of Wikipedians to improve the quality of meteorology- and weather-related articles. If you would like to help, visit the project talk page, and see what needs doing.

WikiProject Severe weather is a similar project specific to articles about severe weather. Their talk page is located here.

WikiProject Tropical cyclones is a daughter project of WikiProject meteorology. The dozens of semi-active members and several full-time members focus on improving Wikipdia's coverage of tropical cyclones.

WikiProject Non-tropical storms is a collaborative project to improve articles related to winter storms, wind storms, and extratropical weather.

Wikipedia is a fully collaborative effort by volunteers. So if you see something you think you can improve, be bold and get to editing! We appreciate any help you can provide!

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