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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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Ground fog is a type of fog formed by the ground cooling a warm layer of air near the surface to its dew point. This scene is in East Frisia, Germany just after sunrise.

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A surface weather analysis is a type of weather map which provides a view of weather elements at a specified time based on information from ground-based weather stations. Weather maps are created by plotting or tracing the values of relevant quantities such as sea level pressure, temperature, and cloud cover onto a geographical map to help find synoptic scale features such as weather fronts.

The first weather maps in the 19th century were drawn well after the fact to help devise a theory on storm systems. After the advent of the telegraph, simultaneous observations of weather became possible for the first time, and beginning in the late 1840s, the Smithsonian Institution became the first organization to draw real-time surface analyses. Use of surface analyses began first in the United States, spreading worldwide during the 1870s. Use of the Norwegian cyclone model for frontal analysis began in the late 1910s across Europe, with its use finally spreading to the United States during World War II.

Surface weather analyses have special symbols which show frontal systems, cloud cover, precipitation, or other important information. For example, an H may represent high pressure, implying good and fair weather. An L on the other hand may represent low pressure, which frequently accompanies precipitation. Various symbols are used not just for frontal zones and other surface boundaries on weather maps, but also to depict the present weather at various locations on the weather map. The surface weather analysis is useful for visualizing general trends in the weather across a relatively large geographic area.

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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...

May 16

1986: Severe flooding from an ice jam completely destroyed the town of Winisk, Ontario, which was subsequently abandoned. Two people were killed.

May 17

1996: The film Twister was released.

May 18

1902: A tornado killed 114 in Goliad, Texas.

May 19

1997: A tropical cyclone made landfall near Chittagong, Bangladesh, killing more than 1,000 people.

May 20

2010: Cyclone Laila made landfall in Andhra Pradesh, India, killing 65 people.

May 21

1976: Typhoon Pamela passed over the island of Guam, damaging or destroying 80% of the island's buildings but only killing one person.

May 22

1951: Hurricane Able, the strongest off-season Atlantic hurricane ever recorded, reached its peak strength of 115 miles per hour (185 km/h) off the coast of Cape Hatteras.

Selected biography

Portrait of William Ferrel

William Ferrel (1817 – 1891) was an American meteorologist who developed theories which explained the general mid-latitude atmospheric circulation in detail, now known as the Ferrel cell in his honor. Ferrel improved upon the concept of the Hadley cell by compensating for the Coriolis effect.

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Wikiprojects

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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