Weather events happen because the sun heats the Earth's surface unevenly. More sunlight hits the equator than it does the North and South Poles. Uneven heating results in temperature differences, which cause air currents to form – blowing winds – that move the heated air from areas where the temperatures are high to regions where the temperatures are cooler. The sun constantly powers this process on the Earth that causes high and low air pressure systems, winds, clouds and a whole host of weather events.
Weather is Not Climate
A prediction of rain from the television forecaster tells you what the weather holds for the day, which is not the same as climate. Climate refers to long-term average temperatures, rain and snowfall data collected in a region over several years. To get the most up-to-date facts about weather, stick your head outside the door to see what's happening.
Weather Myths – Lightning Can Strike Twice
Most people believe that lightning doesn't strike twice in the same spot, but this is one of many weather myths, as lightning can strike tall objects like trees or antennas multiple times, especially in slow-moving storms.
The Sunshine State is Less Sunny than Arizona
Even though people have nicknamed Florida the "Sunshine State," areas in the Southwestern part of the United States receive more sun that Florida does. Phoenix, Arizona receives 211 days of sunshine compared with Tampa, Florida, which only receives 101 days.
Seattle Is Not the Rainiest City
Seattle, Washington is not the rainiest city in the United States, though it does have more days with rain than elsewhere. On average, Miami, Florida receives 61.92 inches of rain, New York, 49.92 inches while Seattle receives 37.41 inches of rain per year.
The Windiest City
Chicago, Illinois got its name as the windy city due to its hot-air, blustery politicians during the late 19th century, not because it receives more wind than other cities. On average, Dodge City, Kansas has wind speeds of up to 13.9 miles per hour, while Chicago only averages wind speeds of 10 mph.
Hurricanes and Typhoons
Many people think that hurricanes and typhoons describe different weather phenomena, but they are names for the same type of storm that occurs over the ocean. Both are known as tropical cyclones, the generic name used for these weather events, but hurricanes occur in the Atlantic and typhoons occur in the Pacific. This simple designation lets meteorologists immediately know the region of ocean where the storm occurs.
Tornadoes Don't "Touch" Down
Dr. Greg Forbes, weather expert for the Weather Channel, says that the winds that create a tornado form quickly at the ground level and work upwards, instead of working from the sky down. This means that saying a tornado touched down is an inaccurate description of how tornadoes work.
Waterspouts and Tornadoes
Weather for kids must include the fact that waterspouts and tornadoes are basically the same thing, as a waterspout is just a tornado over the ocean. The National Oceanic Atmosphere Administration describes a waterspout as "whirling column of air and mist." There are two kinds of waterspouts: tornadic and fair-weather spouts. Fair weather waterspouts form near where cumulus clouds develop and generally fall apart when they hit land.
Tornadoes Threaten a Larger Area than Just Tornado Alley
Tornado alley commonly refers to an area in the Midwest of the United States where tornadoes regularly form that includes Iowa, parts of Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, a corner of Wyoming, Colorado and Texas. But except for areas in the Northeast, all states east of the Rocky Mountains are essentially subject to tornado threats. Really, tornado alley should include the southern Tennessee Valley and the Gulf Coast states as well.
Most Americans Believe Global Warming is Real
Anthony Leiserowitz – Director of the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication – and his colleagues have regularly surveyed people in the U.S. on global warming since 2008. His March 2018 survey indicates that of the 1,278 people surveyed, 70 percent believe global warming is real. In 2015, only 63 percent of those surveyed thought it was real.
- North Carolina State University: Climate
- Weather.com: 25 Weather Myths-Faux Pas
- National Oceanic Atmosphere Administration: What Is the Difference Between a Hurricane and a Typhoon?
- National Oceanic Atmosphere Administration: What Is a Waterspout?
- Psychology Today: Earth Day 2018
- National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration: Weather Camp Inspires the Next Generation of Atmospheric Scientists
About the Author
As a journalist and editor for several years, Laurie Brenner has covered many topics in her writings, but science is one of her first loves. Her stint as Manager of the California State Mining and Mineral Museum in California's gold country served to deepen her interest in science which she now fulfills by writing for online science websites. Brenner is also a published sci-fi author. She graduated from San Diego's Coleman College in 1972.