Mrs. J's Science Site


Weather and Climate Vocabulary
Words highlighted in yellow may be on the retest.

Please note, vocabulary in the science notebook may be slightly different.  

Sun - original source of energy on Earth

water cycle  - cycle means  a process that goes around and around.  The water cycle is a continuous movement of water between the Earth's surface and the air, changing from liquid to gas to liquid.

groundwater  (water that seeps into spaces between bits of rocks and soil (underground) until it is blocked by a kind of rock that is so tightly packed the water cannot pass

water table- the top of water filled spaces in the ground

aquifer- an underground layer of rock or soil filled with water

spring- A place where groundwater seeps out of the ground

well-  a hole dug below the water table that water seeps into

atmosphere Layer of gasses surrounding the Earth

troposphere  The layer of gas closest to land.  Most clouds are formed here.

weather - What is happening at any given moment in a given place.

reservoir- a storage area for fresh water supplies

water vapor - water that is in a gas state (invisible, odorless, and tasteless)

evaporation  when liquid changes into a gas

condensation  when gas changes into a liquid

precipitation- any form of water particles that falls from the atmosphere and reaches the ground

run-off  precipitation that flows across the land?s surface or falls into rivers and streams 

stratus cloud  Stratus comes from a Latin word meaning to spread out. A stratus cloud looks spread out in a layer, covering most of the sky overhead.

cumulus cloud -    Puffy clouds that appear to rise up from a flat bottom.   They are "picnic" weather clouds.

cirrus cloud  Wispy clouds high in the sky that are formed from ice crystals and do not contain precipitation.

cumulonimbus- A thick and vertically developed cloud that produces thunderstorms. The cloud can bring heavy showers, hail, lightning, high winds and sometimes tornadoes.

rain- liquid precipitation in the form of rain drops.

snow- complex form of precipitation formed from ice crystals.

sleet- ice pellets formed from rain as it moves through freezing air.

hail-formed from layers of ice (see notes in content area)

fog A cloud at ground level.

nimbo or nimbus -added to a cloud's name if rain or snow fall from that cloud.

thermometer- an instrument used to measure heat

temperature- steadily decreases with altitude (measured with a thermometer) 

barometer  An instrument that measures air pressure

air pressure  Air is a mixture of gases and the weight of the gases exert a force on the area below the gases.

high pressure- A mass of cool, dry air that generally brings fair weather and light winds.

low pressure system- a mass of warm, moist air that usually brings storms and strong winds.

anemometer- an instrument used to measure wind speed

wind direction-the direction from which the wind is blowing

wind vane- shows the direction the wind is moving from

wind speed- the rate of the motion of the air on a unit of time (how fast it blows) measure with a anemometer.

rain gauge- an instrument used to measure precipitation

wind  Air that moves horizontally

updraft (rising air)  

downdraft (sinking air)

convection cell- A pattern of rising air, sinking air, or winds. Convection is the transfer of heat from one place to another.  This transfer can occur in a circular pattern. When this occurs in the atmosphere, winds are formed.

prevailing westerlies- winds that blow from west to east across the US

air mass  A large region of the atmosphere where the air has similar properties (wet/dry or cold/warm). 

polar air mass- large air mass bringing cold air from the poles

tropical air mass- large air mass bringing warm air from the tropics

continental air mass- large air mass originating over land bringing dry air

maritime air mass- large air mass originating over large bodies of water bringing wet air

front- the boundary, or line, where two air masses with different conditions meet

cold front Colder denser air that moves in under a region of warm air hemisphere. Cold fronts often bring brief, heavy storms. 

warm front- Warm air that moves in over a cold air mass. Warm fronts often bring light, steady rain or snow.

humidity - the amount of water vapor in the air.

relative humidity  is when you compare how much water vapor is in the air to how much the water vapor the air could hold at a certain temperature

latitude- The position of the Earth's surface north or south of the equator.

longitude- The position of the Earth's surface east or west of the Greenwich meridian.

hemisphere - the top or bottom half of the Earth (from equator to poles)

temperate- area of the Earth with not too cold or too hot climate

sea breeze- Wind that blows from the sea toward the land.

land breeze- Wind that blows from the land toward the sea.

stationary front- A boundary between two air masses that more or less doesn't move.

isobar an imaginary line on a map connecting places with equal air pressure

thunderstorm- The most common type of severe storm. Features of a thunderstorm are thunder, lightning, heavy rain tapering off to lighter rain .

tornado- a violent whirling wind that moves across ground in a narrow path

hurricane  large swirling storms with very low pressure at their center.  They form over tropical oceans near the equator.   

storm surge- A great rise of sea along a shore.   

jet stream - a river of wind that can blow in excess of 200 mph, usually occurring 6 to 9 miles above the ground. These winds often steer the movement of surface air masses and weather systems.

El Nino- The unusual warming of the surface waters of the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean. It causes changes in wind patterns that have major effects on weather all across the globe.  During El Nino, we may experience flooding across the US.

La Nina- A widespread cooling of the surface waters of the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean. It's the opposite of El Niño. And we may have more droughts across the US.

Gulf Stream- a swift current of warm water in the Atlantic Ocean that moves from the Gulf of Mexico up the Eastern coast of the US and then northeast toward Europe.

climate the average weather pattern of a region.

global warming- the theory that greenhouse gasses like carbon are trapping heat near the Earth's surface causing the Earth's average temperature to warm.