Weather station in Iceland

Weather station in Iceland (subtik, iStockphoto)

Measuring and Forecasting Weather

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Summary

Learn about different weather instruments that meteorologists use to measure weather.

Meteorologists are people who analyze and forecast, or predict, the weather. Weather forecasts might be for the general public. There are also special weather forecasts for people like farmers, sailors and pilots.
Meteorologists need a lot of data to predict weather conditions. This information comes from different weather instruments. 
Here are some examples of weather instruments:

  • Thermometers measure the temperature.
  • Barometers measure atmospheric pressure. Atmospheric pressure is also called air pressure. 
  • Hygrometers measure humidity. Humidity is the concentration of water vapour in the air.
Several different measuring tools may show their measurements using needles on dials.
Several different measuring tools may show their measurements using needles on dials. These include thermometers (left), barometers (centre) and hygrometers (right) (Sources: 1-1111 [CC BY-SA 3.0] via Wikimedia Commons, sarawutk via iStockphoto and Cjp24 [CC BY-SA 4.0] via Wikimedia Commons).
  • Anemometers measure wind speed. The stronger the wind, the faster the anemometer spins.
  • Windsocks measure wind speed and wind direction. You often see them at airports. They help pilots and air traffic controllers choose flight paths.
  • Wind vanes measure wind direction. They often have an anemometer attached.  
Several different tools are used to measure wind speed and direction. These include anemometers (left), windsocks (centre) and weather vanes (right)
Several different tools are used to measure wind speed and direction. These include anemometers (left), windsocks (centre) and weather vanes (right) (Sources: RitaE via Pixabay, Olaf Oliviero Riemer [CC BY-SA 3.0] via Wikimedia Commons and Karsten Paulick via Pixabay).
  • Rain gauges measure rainfall. Snow gauges measure snowfall. 
  • Weather balloons are filled with hydrogen or helium gas. They float up into the atmosphere carrying other weather instruments. They gather information on temperature, humidity, atmospheric pressure and wind speed.
Other measuring tools include rain gauges (left), snow gauges (centre) and weather balloons (right)
Other measuring tools include rain gauges (left), snow gauges (centre) and weather balloons (right) (Sources: Famartin [CC BY-SA 3.0] via Wikimedia Commons, CambridgeBayWeather [Public domain] via Wikimedia Commons and U.S. Navy [Public domain] via Wikimedia Commons).

Did you know?

A rising barometer means atmospheric pressure is high. This usually means sunny and dry conditions are on the way. A falling barometer means atmospheric pressure is low. This usually means stormy or wet weather is on the way.

Meteorologists also interpret maps, photographs and radar data from the ground, from airplanes, and from satellites in space. They use all of this information to make predictions about the weather. These predictions might be for the next few hours. Or they might be for the next seven days. 

How do you become a meteorologist?


There are different ways to become a meteorologist. Some people get a university degree in atmospheric science. Some people get a degree in meteorology. Other people get a degree in math or physics.

The weather presenters you see on TV aren’t always meteorologists! 


What is a weather station?

Weather stations collect data from weather instruments. There are almost 1 100 weather stations in Canada. Meteorologists can use this information to predict the weather. 
Some weather stations are located on land, including along the shore. Others are located offshore, on ships and buoys. Satellites also provide information on the weather.

Did you know?

Alert, Nunavut, is home to the world’s most northern weather station. The station is located 800 km from the nearest town. About 200 people work there!

What is Environment Canada?


In Canada, the government department that makes weather forecasts is called Environment Canada. It collects weather data from various sources. Some examples of sources are:

Learn More

A Day in the Life of…” a Meteorologist (2018)

This video by Public Services and Procurement Canada features meteorologist Daniel Blouin talking about his work, his education and his interests. (subtitles in English)

Weather Instruments (2014) 

This video by Mike Sammartano explains how six common weather instruments work: thermometers, barometers, sling psychrometers, anemometers, wind or weather vanes and rain gauges.

 

 

References

American Meteorological Society. (n.d.). What is a meteorologist? A professional guideline.

Cahir, J. J. (2019, January 17). Weather forecasting. Encyclopaedia Britannica.

Government of Canada. (2019, June 26). Data services.

Science Daily. (n.d.). Weather forecasting.

Weather Wiz Kids. (n.d.). Weather instruments.