Explore all things weather - from storms to climate - with this course that looks at the basic processes behind the weather.

23,490 enrolled on this course

Learn About Weather
  • Duration

    4 weeks
  • Weekly study

    3 hours

Understand the weather

Ever wondered what the difference between a hurricane, cyclone and typhoon is? Or what a ‘front’ is? Or asked how weather warnings are issued? Maybe you’ve even spoken about the weather today. The weather is one of the most popular topics of conversation, yet not many of us actually know how it works.

On this course you’ll explore all things weather, learning about the basic processes that result in the weather that we experience and how the weather affects people like photographers, gardeners and walkers.

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Skip to 0 minutes and 11 seconds Hello, I’m Helen Roberts and I’m a Senior Operational Meteorologist here at the Met Office. Learn About Weather is an exciting course that will guide you through the basics of how the weather works. I’ve put together a team of experts, including some familiar faces and together we’ll share our knowledge so that when you see a TV weather forecast or look at a weather chart online you’ll have a better understanding of why that weather’s happening and how that weather might impact you. Here are some of the questions we’ll be answering throughout the course. We’ll start by looking at the large-scale processes and ask the most fundamental of questions; why and how do we get weather?

Skip to 0 minutes and 50 seconds So we’ll explore the global circulation system and how this leads to different climate zones across the Earth, as well as the structure of our atmosphere. In the UK we’re sandwiched between a vast ocean to the west and a huge continent to the east, and between the cold Arctic to the north and the warm tropics to the south, meaning that the wind direction has big implications for the type of weather we can expect. So

Skip to 1 minute and 17 seconds we’ll be answering the questions: what are air masses, what are their characteristics and what do they mean for the weather in the UK, and have you ever wanted a better understanding of weather charts and the forecasts that you see on TV? Then this is the course for you. We’ll finish the first part of the course by looking at clouds, their types and names and what they can tell us about the weather to come and of course we want to understand what falls out of clouds, so we’ll talk about precipitation too. However that’s not where it ends, because then we have some additional learning to offer you. Are you a gardener?

Skip to 1 minute and 46 seconds We know that nearly half of the UK population garden on a regular basis. In partnership with experts from the Royal Horticultural Society, we can help you make the most of the weather forecast as well as understanding climate change and how you can help your garden adapt these changes. Perhaps you’re a photographer spending a lot of time outdoors trying to anticipate what the weather is going to do, and would like to understand more about the ways in which weather can affect your pictures and how you can use it to improve your shots, well the experts at the Royal Photographic Society have lots of advice and tips.

Skip to 2 minutes and 19 seconds Or maybe you’re a walker where being outdoors in the elements is the name of the game We’ll make sure you understand and avoid weather hazards and optimise your explorations. So we really do hope that you can join us on this fascinating course and not just learn about the weather, but help you to make more informed decisions about how the weather might impact you and your leisure activities.


  • Week 1

    Large Scale Processes

    • Welcome to Learn About Weather

      Find out more about this course, who will be teaching you, and what you can expect to learn over the next 4 weeks.

    • Global circulation

      In this activity we’ll learn how and why weather happens, including the implications of global temperature differences, in order to have a better understanding of weather patterns on a global scale.

    • The atmosphere

      We will find out about the atmosphere in which we live, and in which our weather occurs, in order to have a better understanding of the different layers of the atmosphere and what differentiates them.

    • The jet stream

      We often hear about the jet stream. In this activity we’ll learn what jets are and where they occur, including finding out about the polar jet which is a driver of weather in the UK.

    • Atmospheric buoyancy

      Atmospheric buoyancy or instability is a really important concept to understand, as it can have big implications for our weather. Here we’ll find out what it means and how it affects our weather.

    • Week 1 roundup

      Test your knowledge and recap what you’ve learned so far.

  • Week 2

    Reading a Synoptic Chart

    • Pressure, wind and coriolis

      In this activity, we look at weather charts in order to find out about pressure and isobars, the movement of air, and the effect that coriolis has on wind direction.

    • Air masses and fronts

      Here we learn what an air mass is and the different air masses that affect the UK. Then we look at the boundaries between air masses, which we call fronts.

    • Low pressure systems

      In this activity, we find out more about low pressure systems, including how they develop, and what happens when they turn into storms.

    • Week 2 roundup

      Test your knowledge and recap what you’ve learned so far.

  • Week 3


    • Clouds and how they form

      Here we learn about how and why clouds form.

    • Make your own cloud

      In this activity, we can have a go at making our own cloud, as well as finding out about how we measure cloud and how that can impact our photographs.

    • Cloud names and classification

      We look at clouds almost every day. Here we learn about different types of cloud, what they’re called, their height in the atmosphere and what they look like.

    • Precipitation

      Having found out about clouds, we then move on precipitation. Find out about the different types of precipitation including a handy guide for forecasting the rain in your locality.

    • Week 3 roundup

      Test your knowledge and recap what you’ve learned so far.

  • Week 4

    Weather for Leisure Activities

    • Weather types

      In this activity, we find out about the many different types of frost, as well as the interplay between the weather and your soil.

    • Interesting weather

      Here we learn about some interesting weather types and optical phenomena that you can try spotting when outside, or even better, catch on camera.

    • Being outdoors

      Being outside is really good for us; the fresh air, the exercise, and the vitamin D. But we have to be careful and aware of how it can have negative impacts on us. Here we learn how to be prepared.

    • Weather hazards

      Mother Nature can sometime catch us out. Here we find out about some of the hazards associated with the weather, and how we can mitigate against them.

    • Microclimates

      In this activity, we find out about local variations in weather and how the situation of your locality can make a difference to the type of weather that your experience.

    • Climate change

      We often hear about climate change, but do we really know what it means for us. Here we will find out what is causing climate change and what it means for the world, the UK and your garden.

    • Make the most of the weather

      The weather isn’t always kind to us, but with our newfound knowledge and understanding, we can be better prepared for the weather, and make the most of it.

When would you like to start?

  • Date to be announced

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What will you achieve?

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

  • Explain how heat is redistributed around the Earth, including circulation cells, and how they affect the climate
  • Describe the layers in the Earth’s atmosphere, including the troposphere in which most of our weather occurs
  • Explain atmospheric buoyancy, and how a buoyant atmosphere can result in showers
  • Describe the six main air masses which affect the UK including their characteristics
  • Explain what a front is, and understand their differences and characteristics
  • Interpret a weather chart (also known as a synoptic chart) to provide details about wind speed and direction, precipitation and cloud cove
  • Describe the weather features associated with high pressure and low pressure, including named storms which impact the UK
  • Explain how the National Severe Weather Warning System works
  • Explain the difference between hurricanes, cyclones and typhoons
  • Describe the different cloud types and explain how they can indicate changes in the weather

Who is the course for?

This course is for anyone looking for an introduction to the weather, as well as those with a particular interest in how weather affects photographers, gardeners and walkers. You don’t need any scientific knowledge or past experience.

What software or tools do you need?

You will need access to an internet browser. You will also be encouraged, with our guidance, to use simple online tools to aid, collate, publish and share your findings.

Who will you learn with?

My weather career has been incredibly varied, from working with the RAF, to presenting the weather on TV. I am currently a Media Advisor and Senior Operational Meteorologist at the Met Office.

I have great fun leading the Met Office’s award-winning Education Outreach programme. Twitter @FlissLiggins

Who developed the course?

University of Exeter

The University of Exeter is a Russell Group university. It combines world-class research with very high levels of student satisfaction.

Met Office

Working at the forefront of weather and climate science for protection, prosperity, and well-being.

The Royal Meteorological Society

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

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