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

26,549 enrolled on this course

Summer storm
  • 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.

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

Learning on this course

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...

  • 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.

Learning on FutureLearn

Your learning, your rules

  • Courses are split into weeks, activities, and steps to help you keep track of your learning
  • Learn through a mix of bite-sized videos, long- and short-form articles, audio, and practical activities
  • Stay motivated by using the Progress page to keep track of your step completion and assessment scores

Join a global classroom

  • Experience the power of social learning, and get inspired by an international network of learners
  • Share ideas with your peers and course educators on every step of the course
  • Join the conversation by reading, @ing, liking, bookmarking, and replying to comments from others

Map your progress

  • As you work through the course, use notifications and the Progress page to guide your learning
  • Whenever you’re ready, mark each step as complete, you’re in control
  • Complete 90% of course steps and all of the assessments to earn your certificate

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