A Weather Glossary for KidsWeather plays a big role in people’s lives. It affects everything from if they will be able to play sports outside that day to how well the food they eat grows and even if they will be safe in their homes. Many different elements make up the weather, from the amount of moisture in the air to the pressure of the air pushing down on where you live. Weather is different from climate: The weather is what happens on a certain day, while climate describes the conditions in one place over a long period of time. There are also lots of other words that people use to talk about how weather works and how it affects people’s lives.

  • Advisory: The National Weather Service issues different sorts of notices to let people know when or if bad weather could be heading their way. An advisory warns people to be cautious, but it’s not something that’s currently life-threatening.
  • Air Pollution: Air pollution is made up of chemicals in the atmosphere that shouldn’t be there and that can hurt people or other living things.
  • Air Pressure: The air that presses down on Earth has a weight, and that weight sometimes changes. Often, a change in air pressure means the weather is going to change. This is also known as barometric pressure.
  • Almanac: Almanacs use weather data from previous years along with information from the study of astronomy to forecast the weather each day for the upcoming year. An almanac also lists information like the position of the stars and data about the tides for each day.
  • Arctic Air: Arctic air is very cold, very dry air. An arctic air mass develops far up north and moves south, bringing bitterly cold weather.
  • Atmosphere: The atmosphere is the layer of gases that surrounds Earth. The atmosphere is divided into five layers: the exosphere, thermosphere, mesosphere, stratosphere, and troposphere.
  • Barometer: Air pressure is measured using a barometer.
  • Blizzard: Blizzards are intense snowstorms that have winds higher than 35 mph and blowing snow that reduces how far people can see to less than 1/4 of a mile. These conditions must last for at least three hours for a storm to be called a blizzard.
  • Ceiling: The lowest layer of clouds is known as the ceiling.
  • Climate: Climate refers to the average weather in a specific location during a certain season.
  • Clouds: Clouds are made up of very small droplets of water or ice crystals floating in the air. Clouds can be a variety of shapes and sizes. At ground level, clouds are known as fog.
  • Coastal Flooding: When tides or winds cause the sea level to rise, flooding low-lying coastal areas, it’s known as coastal flooding.
  • Cold Front: Where a mass of cold air bumps into a mass of warmer air, it’s called a cold front.
  • Cumulus Clouds: Cumulus clouds are the kind that look fluffy, like piles of cotton balls.
  • Cyclone: Dust storms, hurricanes, strong winds, and tornadoes that emerge from low-pressure systems are called cyclones.
  • Dense Fog: When ground-level clouds are thick enough that people can see less than 1/4 of a mile from where they are, this is called dense fog.
  • Disturbance: Low-pressure systems cause things like changes in wind, precipitation, and heavy clouds. These are disturbances.
  • El Niño: When the waters of the eastern Pacific Ocean warm to unusual temperatures, this causes the wind patterns to change, which impacts weather all around the world, a phenomenon called El Niño.
  • Environment: An environment is the setting where someone or something lives, including the things that are there as well as the weather and climate.
  • Flash Flood: When floodwaters rise suddenly in the hours after heavy rain, it’s known as flash flooding, and it can be very destructive.
  • Front: The boundary between two air masses of different temperatures (typically warm and cold) is known as a front.
  • Frost: Frost consists of ice crystals that form on the ground, plants, or other objects. This happens when there is moisture in the air and the temperature of the air falls below freezing.
  • Gulf Stream: The Atlantic Ocean has a warm, swift current of water that flows from the Gulf of Mexico along the eastern shoreline of the U.S. and then over toward the northeastern part of Europe, and it’s called the Gulf Stream.
  • Hail: Hail falls in stones made up of layers of ice. Hailstones can become very large as they are blown around inside of clouds before falling to Earth!
  • Heat Index: The reading on a thermostat and what the heat feels like to a person or animal can be quite different because things like humidity impact how hot a day feels. The heat index measures how hot the weather actually feels on any given day.
  • Humidity: Humidity is the measure of how much water vapor is currently in the air.
  • Hurricane: Hurricanes are huge storms, up to 5,000 times larger than tornadoes. Around the world, hurricanes have other names, including typhoons.
  • Jet Stream: A jet stream is a strong wind that’s very high up in the atmosphere and pushes weather systems around.
  • Low-Pressure System: Where the air pressure is really low, a low-pressure system can form. These weather systems usually feature high winds and storms.
  • Meteorology: Meteorology is the study of anything to do with the atmosphere, including weather. Those who study weather and learn how to make weather forecasts are known as meteorologists.
  • Nor’easter: Low-pressure systems that build up power as they travel north along the East Coast are known as nor’easters.
  • Precipitation: Any water (rain, hail, sleet, or snow) that falls from clouds is known as precipitation.
  • Warm Front: When a warm air mass runs into a colder one, the meeting point is known as a warm front.
  • Warning: The National Weather Service sends out a warning when dangerous weather has been spotted and is headed for where you are.
  • Watch: The National Weather Service sends out a watch when the conditions are right for dangerous weather to happen.