• University of Reading
  • Royal Meteorological Society

Come Rain or Shine: Understanding the Weather

Understand and explore the physical processes behind the weather

41,565 enrolled on this course

Come Rain or Shine: Understanding the Weather
  • Duration

    3 weeks
  • Weekly study

    4 hours
  • 100% online

    Learn at your own paceHow it works
  • Unlimited

    $15.83/monthLearn more

Weather affects our lives almost every day through what we wear, what we eat and what we do. But why is it rainy, windy or sometimes even sunny? Explore some of the physical processes driving UK weather systems and get hands on in the world of weather with practical activities and fieldwork. Try your hand at forecasting and have a go at interpreting weather maps and compare your results with our educator, Dr Sylvia Knight’s. You’ll also watch our educators carrying out simple but effective experiments including creating clouds, simulating hot air rising and demonstrating the Coriolis effect.

Hear from our course team

You can take this course at any time. However, if you’d like to engage with the course team, Sylvia will be joining the course discussions during the following period:

7 June 2021 – 27 June 2021

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Skip to 0 minutes and 6 seconds The weather is all around us. It affects what we eat. It affects what we wear. It affects just about every industry and every leisure activity.

Skip to 0 minutes and 16 seconds The weather is constantly in the news. So when there’s a major weather event, particularly an extreme weather event, people want to hear about it, because it affects their lives. 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 what affects the weather? What makes it rain? What makes it windy? Or sometimes even, what makes it sunny? These are the sorts of things that we’re going to explore in this course.

Skip to 0 minutes and 43 seconds Over the next three weeks, we’re going to learn something about the processes that underlie the weather that we see every day. We’re going to do that through a combination of written material, online searches, and practical demonstrations.

What topics will you cover?

Week 1:

  • Introduction to high and low pressure systems
  • Weather and climate differences
  • Depressions and anticyclones

Week 2:

  • Where does weather come from and why does it rain?
  • Air masses and types of rain
  • Measuring the weather

Week 3:

  • Global controls on weather
  • Global atmospheric circulation
  • Other weather systems: Monsoons, Tropical cyclones and El Niño/La Niña.

When would you like to start?

Start straight away and learn at your own pace. If the course hasn’t started yet you’ll see the future date listed below.

  • Available now

Learning on this course

You can take this self-guided course and learn at your own pace. On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Interpret synoptic charts and use them to describe weather details such as wind speed and direction, precipitation and cloud cover.
  • Explore depressions and discover why they are so significant in mid-latitude locations such as the UK.
  • Investigate the physical processes behind weather, such as warm air rising, cloud formation and the Coriolis effect with experiments you can do at home.
  • Record your local weather conditions and share your findings.
  • Reflect on the processes that affect the Earth’s atmosphere and therefore climate, both natural (volcanoes, orbit) and man-made (greenhouse gases).
  • Apply your understanding of mid-latitude weather systems to analyse weather data and images.

Who is the course for?

You don’t need any existing knowledge of meteorology, just an interest in learning about the weather. This might appeal to you if you’re a member of the Weather Club or signed up to Weather Watchers. There should be something for everyone – whether you are coming to the course with a fair amount of previous knowledge, or none at all. If this is the first time you’ve taken a meteorology course you may find some of the content challenging, but don’t worry there will be plenty of help available.

It also might appeal to you if you’re a geography teacher. For example, the amount of time devoted to weather within the English National Curriculum and GCSE and A level specifications has hugely increased; this course will help improve your confidence to teach the topics and may also be directly relevant to your students, some of whom may consider a career in meteorology.

Course image used with permission of NEODAAS/University of Dundee.

Who will you learn with?

I am a lecturer in the Meteorology Department at Reading University.
Prior to joining the University I worked for the Met Office in several different roles.

Head of Education for the Royal Meteorological Society - which involves supporting weather and climate teaching throughout the UK. I've got a physical Natural Sciences degree and PhD in meteorology.

Who developed the course?

University of Reading

The University of Reading has a reputation for excellence in teaching, research and enterprise.

The Royal Meteorological Society

The Royal Meteorological Society is the professional and learned society for weather and climate.

Endorsers and supporters

supported by

Thames Water logo

supported by

European Meteorological Society
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Billed at $189.99 for a year

Endless possibilities!

  • Access to this course
  • Access to ALL eligible short courses with additional benefits, for a year
  • Discuss your learning in comments
  • Digital certificate when you're eligible

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Sale price available until 6 December 2021 at 23:59 (UTC). T&Cs apply.

Find out more about certificates, Upgrades or Unlimited.

Sale price available until 6 December 2021 at 23:59 (UTC). T&Cs apply.

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