Have you always wanted to know more about what makes the weather like it is? If you ask your weather app what the weather is like in the Lake District every time you head north, you may be very interested in knowing what makes the weather nice or appalling. Why there is so much rainfall in Seathwaite or how you can tell when it’s going to rain?
Weather is a series of day-to-day changes occurring in the earth’s atmosphere that lead to rainfall, wind, storms, hail, clear skies, and much more. Occurring only in the lowest rung of the atmosphere, the troposphere, weather is unique to the surface of the earth. It is the changes in temperature and pressure in this 8 to 14 kilometres thick band around the planet coupled with the topological variation of the surface of the earth that gives rise to weather changes.
According to latitude (distance from the equator) and sometimes longitude, a series of weather bands exist across the globe. These weather bands are known as climates that encompass a certain pattern of weather unique to a stretch of latitude.
There can be several exceptions to the climate rule, often within a single country. A well-known example of this heterogeneity is the US that experiences every climate. The wide latitude range of the US naturally leads to these many climates, but there are also notable climate changes depending on whether a state is midland or coastal. The weather of coastal areas can differ greatly from more inward conditions due to the surrounding body of water. Oceans and seas experience temperature changes much slower than dry ground. This lag of time between both earth and water leads to slower temperature rises in coastal areas during the summer and slower drops in temperature during the Winter. Ocean or sea currents created by the unequal heating of the planet by the sun depending on latitude can also lead to minor weather and climate changes for coastal areas.
It is the unequal heating of the planet that leads to wind. As the sun’s rays naturally strike the equator of the earth at a higher angle, this area will typically experience more heat. The angle with which the sun’s rays hit the atmosphere varies with latitude and is very low in polar regions leading to shorter days and lower temperatures. The air tends to rise when heated, which leads to lower pressure weather systems that are related to clear and mild conditions. As the air at the equator rises, it travels north or south and condenses upon contact with cooler air. This leads to thunderstorms, rain, and high-pressure systems that create wet and windy conditions.
When a warm front meets a cold front, the warm air naturally rises. Any moisture in the warm front will cool up above and turn to cloud. Think about that for a minute, instead of hitting a cold front, what will happen to that warm moisture as it rises up the side of a mountain, a big mountain?
Mountains play a part in the variation of a weather system. Hikers will experience lower temperatures as they ascend, due to the fact that air thins out at higher altitudes, a degree per 100m of ascent in fog-free conditions (fog holds on to heat). Sparse air has a decreased ability to absorb and retain heat from sun rays. The moisture-containing wind rises as it blows towards a mountain and loses its ability to hold water. The air, losing its moisture content, leads to rain on the windward side of the mountain. The air is condensed and warmed as it blows over the other side of the mountain (leeward side) leading to drier and warmer weather conditions.
An example of this effect is the difference in conditions between the wet hilly area of the Cotswolds and the nearby lower altitude town of that experiences warmer temperatures. A more prominent example, however, is the stark contrast between the warm tropical climate of Nepal and the snow found among the summits of the Himalayas. It is this phenomenon that requires that mountaineers or hikers consider the changing temperature and weather conditions of a mountain before undertaking a trek or climb. Rainproof, insulative, and loose-fitting clothing is often paired with heavy boots to trek through any weather.
Climates that exist close to the surface of the earth are called microclimates. These narrow climates are mainly based on the ability of different surfaces to absorb, store, or reflect light rays from the sun. Depending on the surface, this leads to changes in the humidity and temperature of the microclimate. This variation leads to some areas becoming increasingly or decreasingly windy, warm, dry, or wet.
Microclimates can be found in areas such as cities where the concrete pavement or tarmac is able to absorb the sun rays and thus create heat at a faster rate than grass or earth. Microclimates can also be found in forests, lakes, valleys, and even gardens. These small-scale climates can cover anything from a metre to vast swathes of water such as Windermere or Ennerdale.
The wettest inhabited area of England is Seathwaite with 3500 mm of rainfall in a year. This is a perfect example of a micro climate’s affect.
Next time you ask, ‘What’s the weather like in the Lake District?’, at least you’ll know WHY the weather is like it is in the Lakes.
Now learn how to predict the weather, and more importantly, what’s coming next and when it’s going to rain.