Knowing your weather elements
Have you ever considered if you can actually understand a weather report? When listening to or watching one, we often encounter weather terms that may be unfamiliar.
Weather refers to the condition of the atmosphere at a particular place over a short period of time. Due to several factors, the weather in a specific radius or area might be different from another area, and this is what we refer to as localized weather.
Meanwhile, climate refers to the weather pattern in a place over a long period of time. Climate information may be used for bigger and longer-term decisions while weather information for immediate decisions such as picking out your outfit for the day or whether you should cancel an event (due to bad weather).
While your area can have a specific climate, it is still important to consider the day-to-day changes of the various weather parameters.
Here is a rundown of different weather parameters that we typically see in a weather report or when accessing weather applications such as the WeatherPH mobile app (https://weatherph.org/mobile-app/):
- Incoming solar radiation (insulation) – This refers to the solar (sun’s) energy (in the form of waves) that are scattered, reflected, or absorbed when it reaches the Earth’s atmosphere. Its scattering occurs when solar waves strike very small objects such as air molecules, tiny water droplets, ice crystals, or other small airborne particles in the Earth’s atmosphere. Upon striking these particles, the waves are dispersed in all directions. Meanwhile, solar waves are reflected when the waves are directly sent backward from a surface. A fraction of the solar waves are usually reflected back to space, and this is known as albedo, which varies among different locations on the Earth (depending on the type of surface e.g. land, ice, water). While scattering and reflection involve changes in the direction of the solar waves, absorption is different as it consists of the conversion of electromagnetic radiation into heat energy.
- Temperature – This refers to the degree of hotness or coldness of the air. While temperature measures the actual rating of heat or cold, heat index or “apparent temperature” refers to the approximation of “how hot it feels” for a given combination of air temperature and relative humidity. For example, the temperature might indicate 27°C, which refers to the actual heat rating, but the heat index could be at 33°C. This means that despite the temperature of 27°C, the body feels hotter (33°C), because the humidity has been factored in.
- Humidity – This refers to the amount of water vapor in the air, indicating the likelihood of rain. Higher humidity reduces the effectiveness of sweating in cooling the body by reducing the rate of evaporation of moisture from the skin. This means, when the humidity is high, sweat is harder to evaporate, leaving us feeling hot.
- Air Pressure – This refers to the weight of the atmosphere pressing down on the Earth. Air pressure decreases as the altitude of a location increases.
- Wind Speed – Wind refers to the movement of air relative to the Earth’s surface, caused by horizontal and vertical differences in atmospheric pressure. With this, wind speed is the speed of the weather-related air movement from one place to the next in an outside environment.
- Wind Direction – This refers to the direction of the wind: where it comes from (e.g. northeasterly) or where it is going (e.g. northeastward).
- Clouds – Clouds are visible mass of liquid droplets or frozen crystals made of water suspended in the atmosphere. There are ten main types of clouds identified based on their position or level in the atmosphere: high (cirrostratus, cirrus, and cirrocumulus), middle (nimbostratus, altostratus, altocumulus), and low (stratus, stratocumulus, cumulus), and the cumulonimbus that are generally present in all levels. This cumulonimbus cloud is the one responsible in generating thunderstorms.
- Precipitation – This refers to any product of water vapor condensation that falls on the Earth’s surface. This could involve rain, snow, hail, or sleet depending on the general weather conditions or locations where precipitation is formed.
There is an established science and methodical process of gathering the measurements of the above-mentioned weather parameters. While one could set up their own weather monitoring stations at home for these parameters, there are readily-available data providers that can give you these metrics at the tip of your fingertips!
WeatherPhilippines provides localized weather data such as temperature, heat index, wind speed, wind direction, and chance of rain for your specific locations of interest. You may find these information at weatherph.org. You may also download the WeatherPH app (https://weatherph.org/mobile-app/) for free for Android and iOS devices.