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Identifying air masses on a weather map

In this activity, your task is to work out what the weather was like in the UK, from the three weather maps provided below. Your answers must be based, only, on what you know about where the air over the UK has come from.

Be careful not to get caught up trying to work out what the weather was like before or how it will change in the future. For this task we’d like you to focus on what’s happening on each map, at the moment it was recorded. Start by working out which way the wind is blowing on the isobars, then follow the isobars back to see where the air has come from. Finally, consider the time of year and the characteristics of the air mass, to work out the weather.

For each of the maps, we would like you to consider the following:

  • What is the wind direction over the UK?

  • What is the air mass affecting the UK?

  • Would you expect convective activity?

  • Describe the weather, in terms of wind speed, direction, temperature, cloud and precipitation. Why do you think this?

  • Would you expect any difference between day and night?

  • Would you expect any difference in the weather between the sea/ the windward coast and inland regions?

Map 1 - November 2010

Black and white weather map from November 2010

Map 2 - End of September/Beginning of October 2011

Black and white weather map from the end of September/Beginning of October 2011

If you’d like to find out more about this event you may find this BBC weather video helpful. Please note, you may not be able to access this if you’re outside the UK.

Map 3 - End of January/Beginning of February 2015

Black and white weather map from the end of January/Beginning of February 2015

Hint: When answering the questions above, ignore the occluded front on this map

If you’d like to find out more about this event, watch this BBC weather video. Please note, you may not be able to access this if you’re outside the UK.

All three maps come from occasions when the weather was memorable. Once you’ve looked at the maps above, you may like to search for each date to see what the weather was actually like.

How did you get on? Share your answers for each of the three maps in the comments area below.

If you get stuck, need more help or just want to check your answers don’t worry. You’ll be able to see Sylvia work through the solutions in Step 2.9.

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This article is from the free online course:

Come Rain or Shine: Understanding the Weather

University of Reading