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How to Decipher the Weather Forecast

Each morning, your daily newspaper or favorite morning news show features a weather forecast. If you’re like most people, you just want to know, is it going to rain or not? These weather reports attempt to predict the weather both for today as well as several days out. By learning how to decipher the weather forecast, you can start making your own predictions. Instead of relying on the summaries offered by the newspaper or weatherman, you can look at the weather maps and come to your own conclusions.

In order to make an accurate weather forecast, you must have access to weather data. This information often comes in the form of a weather map such as a surface analysis map. For example, this type of map will show an outline of the United States along with colored lines and symbols representing pressure systems. “H” stands for a high-pressure system and “L” stands for a low-pressure system.

Reading a Weather Forecast
So, what does it mean if there’s an “H” or “L” hovering over your area? In general, high pressure indicates fair weather while low pressure indicates some form of precipitation such as rain, snow, dew, or hail.

The colored lines that you see in the weather report are fronts. Fronts can be cold, warm, occluded, or stationary. A cold front is represented by a blue line with blue triangles while warm fronts feature red lines with red semi-circles. These shapes point in the direction that the front is moving.

Tips For Reading Weather Maps

Weather Radar 101

Occasionally, a cold front will overtake a warm front and become an occluded front. This type of front is represented by a purple line and is often associated with more severe weather events such as thunderstorms.

Stationary fronts occur when two air masses aren’t moving. These fronts mean extended periods of weather events because the system isn’t going anywhere. Stationary fronts are represented by a blend of both blue and red lines with blue triangles pointing one way and red semi-circles pointing the other way.

Predicting Your Weather
When looking at a weather forecast and high- and low-pressure systems, you’ll also want to check the isobars. Isobars are the plain black lines that curve and extend their way from the center of the pressure system outward. Isobars indicate areas of equal pressure. Because air moves from high-pressure areas to low-pressure areas, wind is created. By looking at the distance between isobars, you can make an educated prediction about wind strength. The winds will be much stronger in sections that have close isobar lines.  Understanding Meteorology

Meteorologists use other data in addition to looking at the pressure systems in order to make an extended weather forecast. However, by understanding the basics of high and low pressure and learning how to read them on a map, you can quickly determine the weather forecast at a glance. If you see an “H” sitting over your city, you’ll know that the day should be a nice one. If you see an “L,” you might want to pack your umbrella or snow gear.

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A Modern Look at the Weather Almanac



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