Skip to 0 minutes and 7 secondsThe weather is all around us. Today, here at the University of Reading's Atmospheric Observatory. We're lucky enough to have a pretty nice day. The sun's shining. It's quite cold, but the weather's good. But, if you think about it, the weather affects us all the time. It affects what we eat. It affects what we wear. It affects just about every industry and every leisure activity. But what affects the weather? What makes it rain or what makes it windy or, sometimes even, what makes it sunny?

Skip to 0 minutes and 33 secondsOver the next three weeks, we're going to learn something about the processes that underlie the weather that we see every day, they weather systems that bring us our extreme weather, the weather systems that bring what we might think of as normal weather. And we're going to concentrate, to start with, on the weather of the UK, but we'll also move out and look at the weather around the globe, as well. In Week 1, we're going to start with looking at the difference between weather and climate. And then we're going to very much focus on depressions, so on low pressure weather systems.

Skip to 0 minutes and 59 secondsOne of the really exciting things about online courses like these is that you're able to interact with the other learners and the experts on the course. And in particular, on this course, there's a series of practical activities which we really encourage you to have a go at. The idea is that they'll really help you embed the things you've read about. So we really hope that you enjoy this first week of the course. We hope that you have a chance to read the articles, to watch some of the videos, and to have a go, in particular, at the practical activities.

Welcome to Week 1

Welcome to Come Rain or Shine: Understanding the Weather, a free online course produced by the Department of Meteorology at the University of Reading and The Royal Meteorology Society.

The course will introduce you to some of the physical processes underlying the weather systems which impact on many aspects of our lives. You will explore the UK’s characteristic weather patterns; for example the low pressure weather systems or depressions which bring us most of our rain, wind and storms. You will also investigate the larger scale processes which control the weather and climate globally, as well as weather phenomena in other parts of the world.

This course offers an ideal opportunity to discuss both the daily and more exceptional weather events with learners worldwide.

What can you expect from completing this course?

We hope you’ll enjoy reading the articles, watching the various videos, animations and joining in with courses discussions and activities. After completing this 3 week course you will be able to:

  • Describe the weather features associated with depressions, anticyclones and the four main air masses which affect the UK.

  • Interpret a synoptic chart (also known as a weather chart) to provide details about wind speed and direction, precipitation and cloud cover.

  • Describe some of the physical processes which give rise to weather, such as convection, condensation, pressure gradients and the Coriolis force.

  • Investigate local weather conditions using readily available instruments.

  • Explain some of the processes which transfer energy through the Earth system, including the transient effects of volcanoes and changes in the Earth’s orbit, and how these processes relate to the Earth’s climate.

  • Apply your understanding of mid-latitude weather systems to the analysis of weather data and images.

Please note

This course includes video content and other visual teaching methods. Some information is displayed in tables, diagrams, graphs and weather maps. Blind and visually impaired learners may need a helper.

Meet the team

The course is led by Dr Peter Inness (University of Reading) and Dr Sylvia Knight (The Royal Meteorology Society):

Dr Pete Inness is a lecturer in the Department of Meteorology at the University of Reading - the only university department in the UK to offer a full range of undergraduate and postgraduate courses in meteorology. The department is staffed by world-leading meteorologists, oceanographers and climate experts and internationally renowned for its excellent research and teaching in atmospheric, oceanic and climate science.

Dr Sylvia Knight is the Head of Education at The Royal Meteorological Society. The Society serves not only those in academia and professional meteorologists, but also those who have a general interest in the weather. The Society also runs the website MetLink, which specialises in materials for teaching weather and climate to children. This includes: lesson plan downloads for weather and climate, information on the latest IPCC findings and much more.

Throughout the course, you’ll spot comments from our course Mentors who are Students in the Department of Meteorology at the University of Reading. It’s worth following the Mentor’s (click the link to their profile and then the pink button under their biography), to view their responses to common queries. By following other profiles, any comments made will appear in your activity feed on your profile, which you can filter by ‘Following’.

Tom Eldridge

Holly Turner

Demonstrate what you’ve learned with a certificate?

If you want a record of your course, you can buy a Certificate of Achievement from FutureLearn.

The Certificate of Achievement is a great way to demonstrate what you have learned on the course and as evidence of your Continuing Professional Development (where appropriate). This is a personalised certificate and transcript, detailing the syllabus and learning outcomes from the course. It comes as a printed certificate as well as a digital version which you can add to your LinkedIn profile. To qualify, you must have marked at least 90% of the steps in the course complete.

There is also the option to purchase a personalised Statement of Participation, to celebrate taking part. To be eligible for the Statement of Participation, you must mark at least 50% of the steps on the course as complete. This also comes in a printed and digital format and you can add it to your LinkedIn profile.

We are grateful for the support from Thames Water in making this course possible.

Getting started

Before we get started and if you haven’t already done so, we’d be grateful if you could complete the pre-course survey Now you’ve met the team and know what to expect from the course, we’d really like to meet you.

What interests you most about the weather and climate? What are you hoping to gain from the course?

Share your thoughts in the discussion area. You can ‘Like’ and reply to other learners’ comments. You can also filter comments to see the ‘Most liked’ and find your own by selecting ‘My comments’.

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This video is from the free online course:

Come Rain or Shine: Understanding the Weather

University of Reading