Monday, January 5, 2015

Weather Monday 1/5/15 (What is weather?)

Since I have retired from my teaching job I have decided to write a blog each Monday on weather topics. I think that if you see this aspect of my personality you will understand some of the quilts that I make. I will try to keep these weather blogs short and simple so if you are reading you won’t have too much to absorb at once.


My northern lights quilt. Colors happening high up in the atmosphere. 12 in by 12 in. I just gave this quilt away to someone I worked with at my college.






So here goes my first Monday weather blog….we have to start with the basics.

What is the atmosphere? What is it made of?

The atmosphere is the blanket of gases that surrounds the Earth. The atmosphere is quite thin. If the Earth were shrunk down to the size of an apple, the atmosphere would be the thickness of the skin of the apple. Most people know that the atmosphere is made up of nitrogen gas, oxygen gas, and other gases like carbon dioxide and water vapor as well as what I like to call crud. These are things like dust, pollen, ash, salt particles that get suspended in the air. However, what a lot of folks get wrong is that they think oxygen is the most abundant gas in the atmosphere. Actually nitrogen is 77% of the air and oxygen is 21% of the air. So nitrogen is the most abundant. Things like carbon dioxide and water vapor are only found in small amounts in the air. And just because we breathe in oxygen it does not mean it is the #1 gas.

What is weather?

Weather is the condition of the atmosphere at a particular time and place. These conditions would include temperature, humidity(moisture), winds, clouds, precipitation (precip), air pressure. Weather conditions can vary a lot from place to place and from time to time. Weather can change slowly or quickly. Most of us can recall a time that it can go from warm and beautiful to yucky and cold in a very short time. I know when I first lived in Rock Springs, Wyoming people would say that if I did not like the weather now just wait a little and it would change. And they were right! Weather conditions are measured all over the world every hour on the hour every day of the year. The collection of all this weather information allows meteorologists to make forecasts of what the future weather will be.

What is climate? How is that different than weather?

Climate is the average weather for a location. It usually is a 30 year average. Sometimes weather people on TV call climate the normal weather. For example,  if you want to know the average temperature on the 4th of July in a city such as NYC you would take the temperature on this day for 30 years and do some math to find the average. Of course the temperature on the 4th of July in NYC this year could vary a lot from this average.

I like to think of climate as what you expect to have and weather as what you actually get.

On a test with an 80% average a student might expect to get an 80%. However, they might do better or worse than that. Maybe they actually got a 90%. So 80% was the expectation (climate) and 90% was the actual score (the actual weather).

Even climate can change over a long period of time. The Earth has had ice ages (colder climate) and currently we are warming the climate of the planet (even if FOX network denies it). The average temperature of the Earth is rising. I will discuss the evidence for that in a future blog.

The topic next Monday will address the question, why do we have weather on our planet? Why do we have winds, winter storms, hurricanes, thunderstorms, tornadoes, droughts, heat waves, cold spells?  These are all the interesting things we call weather. Also what county on Earth has the craziest weather?

Thanks for reading. If you have any questions just ask….



  1. Interesting, Chris! Did you teach meteorology? I really like your northern lights quilt! Coincidentally, I started a few sketches this past weekend for a northern lights quilt...

  2. Yes I did teach meteorology. I am just realizing how much I am going to miss teaching. So blogging might help.

  3. I can see what a good teacher you are. And I learned something (as opposed to having forgotten knowledge shaken loose from memory). I did not realize the averages were computed on such a short stretch of time. I thought they included info going back to when records began being kept.


Thank you for commenting on my blog. I am always thrilled when someone takes the time to comment.