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Online course

Learn About Weather

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

What’s the difference between a free course and an upgraded course?

Free:

  • Access to the course for its duration + 14 days, regardless of when you join (this includes access to articles, videos, peer review steps, quizzes)
  • No certificate

Upgraded:

  • Unlimited access to the course, for as long as it exists on FutureLearn (this includes access to articles, videos, peer review steps, quizzes)
  • A Certificate of Achievement when you complete the course

Find out more

Learn About Weather

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 secondsHello, 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 secondsSo 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 secondswe'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 secondsWe 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 secondsOr 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.

What topics will you cover?

  • The large-scale processes that lead to our weather
  • Air masses and their characteristics
  • How to interpret a weather (synoptic) chart
  • Clouds and what they can indicate
  • Weather and climate for gardeners
  • Weather for photographers
  • Hazardous weather for walkers

When would you like to start?

  • Date to be announced

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 cover
  • 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?

Helen Roberts

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

Who developed the course?

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

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

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

What’s the difference between a free course and an upgraded course?

Free:

  • Access to the course for its duration + 14 days, regardless of when you join (this includes access to articles, videos, peer review steps, quizzes)
  • No certificate

Upgraded:

  • Unlimited access to the course, for as long as it exists on FutureLearn (this includes access to articles, videos, peer review steps, quizzes)
  • A Certificate of Achievement when you complete the course

Find out more

Get extra benefits, upgrade this course. For $59 you'll get:

Unlimited access

Upgrading will mean you get unlimited access to the course.

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  • Take the course at your own pace
  • Refer to the material at any point in future

If you’re taking a course for free you have access to the course for its duration + 14 days, regardless of when you join. If you upgrade the course you have access for as long as the course exists on FutureLearn.

Certificate of Achievement

Upgrading means you’ll receive a Certificate of Achievement when you complete the course.

Image certificate mobile

  • Prove your success when applying for jobs or courses
  • Celebrate your hard work
  • Display on your LinkedIn or CV
  • Includes free shipping

To receive a Certificate of Achievement you need to mark 90% of the steps on the course as complete.

Course highlights Get a taste of this course before you join:

  • Why the sky is blue
    Why the sky is blue
    video

    Why is the sky blue? Why does the sky go red at sunrise and sunset? This Met Office video explains how colour wavelengths affect how we see the skies.

  • Introducing weather fronts
    Introducing weather fronts
    video

    Weather fronts are the boundaries between air masses. Watch Met Office meteorologist Alex Deakin demonstrate a front using a tank of coloured water.

  • How clouds form
    How clouds form
    video

    This Met Office video explores clouds including; how cloud droplets are formed from condensation nuclei and how much a cloud can weigh.