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Weather Forecasting

Weather forecasting is one of the topics looked at in GCSE Geography. This quiz looks at some of the tools and methods used in weather forecasting, and also at the National Meteorological Office, which is better known as the Met Office.

In 1859 the sailing ship Royal Charter steamed past the safety of the port of Holyhead, trying to reach Liverpool in time to maintain her record as one of the fastest ships. She anchored off the coast of Wales to wait for a pilot to take her into Liverpool docks. There was no need to rush, the weather seemed calm and non-threatening. But appearances can be deceptive. A storm struck and by the morning the ship had been driven onto the rocks and 400 of her passengers were dead. In that one storm, which had hurricane force winds, 800 people died, 133 ships were sunk and most of the British fishing fleet was driven ashore.

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The tragedy, which became known as the Royal Charter Storm, was the catalyst for the start of a new type of national science, weather forecasting, and a new organisation, the National Meteorological (or Met) Office. Initial forecasting was done using visual observations and measuring the barometric pressure. Now computers, radar and satellite images can tell us exactly what is happening in the clouds and where they are. This gives us a prediction as to where those clouds are going. Networks of weather stations and weather buoys send information to the meteorological station. There is even a weather station on a set of moors in England that is frequently used by scientists to tell them the weather conditions for their experiments in how bodies rot.

The science of weather forecasting has developed massively in the 150 years plus since that tragedy, but the Met Office still on occasion gets it wrong!

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  1. Which of the following professions and industries are not offered specialist training by the Met Office?
    PIlots, road operators, water management industries, broadcasters, retail operators and climate change scientists are also offered training in weather forecasting and how to react to the changing conditions. Teachers just have to read the forecast themselves and make the best of it!
  2. What is an anticyclone more commonly known as?
    When anticyclones form in the summer we get warm, sunny and dry weather. During the winter the same conditions can be sunny, but extremely cold
  3. What is atmospheric or barometric pressure measured in?
    Atmospheric pressure is created by the weight of the air above us and is the amount of force it exerts downwards per square metre
  4. Lines of equal atmospheric pressure on a weather map or a synoptic chart are known as what?
    Air pressure tends to range between 890mb and 1060mb
  5. A synoptic chart summarises atmospheric conditions. Which of the following is not commonly shown on a synoptic chart?
    Synoptic charts commonly show temperature, precipitation, wind speed and direction, atmospheric pressure and cloud coverage
  6. How can ocean waves be predicted and forecasted?
    Ocean waves are driven by wind power. Sometimes the wind may have been driving the waves for hundreds, or in the Southern Ocean thousands, of miles
  7. Low pressure and tight isobars tend to lead to what sort of weather?
    In low pressure areas, water vapour rises, cools and condenses as precipitation, while tight isobars mean that the pressure is changing rapidly, leading to a greater wind speed
  8. Which of the following is not used in forecasting?
    The moisture content in the oceans is always 100%! The temperature of the oceans is measured though, as are the ocean currents
  9. Which of the following are not normally forecasted by the Met Office?
    River levels are commonly forecasted by the environment agency
  10. A radiosonde measures atmospheric parameters and transmits them to a receiver on the ground. What are radiosondes normally attached to?
    You may not have heard of a radiosonde but the question gives you some more clues. It hints at the idea that the radiosonde is above the ground, so it must be attached to a weather balloon

Author: Ruth M

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