Contact FutureLearn for Support
Skip main navigation
We use cookies to give you a better experience, if that’s ok you can close this message and carry on browsing. For more info read our cookies policy.
We use cookies to give you a better experience. Carry on browsing if you're happy with this, or read our cookies policy for more information.

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’ll 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. Although many of the case studies in the first two weeks will be taken from the British Isles, they could equally well be taken from any mid-latitude location. In Week 3, you’ll 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 course discussions and activities. After completing this three 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.

Additional resources

To help you as you move through this course, we’ve provided a course supplement and a glossary which you may like to keep to hand as you work through the materials. The course supplement provides some pointers to help you get to grips with the terminology and concepts you’ll be encountering each week.

When we ran this course for the first time, many learners commented that a PDF with all the diagrams would be useful for this course. We’ve created a weekly supplement for all the diagrams which you can find under the Welcome videos in each week. Here is the supplement for Week 1.

We’ve also provided a comprehensive list of online teaching resources to accompany each week, which you may find useful- particularly if you are a teacher. Keep an eye out for these in the last Step of each week.


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

Share this video:

This video is from the free online course:

Come Rain or Shine: Understanding the Weather

University of Reading