Skip main navigation

£199.99 £139.99 for one year of Unlimited learning. Offer ends on 28 February 2023 at 23:59 (UTC). T&Cs apply

Find out more

Welcome to Week 1

Welcome to Week 1
The weather is all around us. 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, if you think about it, the weather affects us all the time. It affects what we eat. It affects what we wear. It affects just about every industry and every leisure activity. But what affects the weather? What makes it rain or what makes it windy or, sometimes even, what makes it sunny?
Over the next three weeks, we’re going to learn something about the processes that underlie the weather that we see every day, they weather systems that bring us our extreme weather, the weather systems that bring what we might think of as normal weather. And we’re going to concentrate, to start with, on the weather of the UK, but we’ll also move out and look at the weather around the globe, as well. In Week 1, we’re going to start with looking at the difference between weather and climate. And then we’re going to very much focus on depressions, so on low pressure weather systems.
One of the really exciting things about online courses like these is that you’re able to interact with the other learners and the experts on the course. And in particular, on this course, there’s a series of practical activities which we really encourage you to have a go at. The idea is that they’ll really help you embed the things you’ve read about. So we really hope that you enjoy this first week of the course. We hope that you have a chance to read the articles, to watch some of the videos, and to have a go, in particular, at the practical activities.

Welcome to Come Rain or Shine: Understanding the Weather, a free online course produced by the Department of Meteorology at the University of Reading and The Royal Meteorological Society.

The course will introduce you to some of the physical processes underlying the weather systems which impact on many aspects of our lives. You’ll explore the UK’s characteristic weather patterns; for example, the low pressure weather systems or depressions which bring us most of our rain, wind and storms. Although many of the case studies in the first two weeks will be taken from the British Isles, they could equally well be taken from any mid-latitude location. In Week 3, you’ll investigate the larger scale processes which control the weather and climate globally, as well as weather phenomena in other parts of the world.

This course offers an ideal opportunity to discuss both the daily and more exceptional weather events with learners worldwide.

What can you expect from completing this course?

We hope you’ll enjoy reading the articles, watching the various videos, animations and joining in with course discussions and activities. After completing this three week course you will be able to:

  • Describe the weather features associated with depressions, anticyclones and the four main air masses which affect the UK.
  • Interpret a synoptic chart (also known as a weather chart) to provide details about wind speed and direction, precipitation and cloud cover.
  • Describe some of the physical processes which give rise to weather, such as convection, condensation, pressure gradients and the Coriolis force.
  • Investigate local weather conditions using readily available instruments.
  • Explain some of the processes which transfer energy through the Earth system, including the transient effects of volcanoes and changes in the Earth’s orbit, and how these processes relate to the Earth’s climate.
  • Apply your understanding of mid-latitude weather systems to the analysis of weather data and images.

Please note

This course includes video content and other visual teaching methods. Some information is displayed in tables, diagrams, graphs and weather maps. Blind and visually impaired learners may need a helper.

Additional resources

To help you as you move through this course, we’ve provided some additional materials which you may like to keep to hand as you work through each week:

Course supplement Some pointers to help you get the hang of the concepts you’ll be encountering each week. You can find this guide at the beginning of each week.
Glossary Get to grips with the terminology used within the course. The glossary can be found at the beginning of each week.
Weekly supplement A handy supplement containing all the diagrams for the week, found under the Welcome Steps.
Related links Some useful links suggested by previous learners from our past runs. These links can be found at the bottom of the relevant Step under the ‘see also’ tab. Please note we don’t take responsibility for the content or availability of external websites recommended by learners.
Teaching resources A comprehensive list of online teaching resources to accompany each week, which you may find useful – particularly if you’re a teacher. Keep an eye out for these in the last Step of each week

We’re grateful for the support from Thames Water in making this course possible.

This article is from the free online

Come Rain or Shine: Understanding the Weather

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Our purpose is to transform access to education.

We offer a diverse selection of courses from leading universities and cultural institutions from around the world. These are delivered one step at a time, and are accessible on mobile, tablet and desktop, so you can fit learning around your life.

We believe learning should be an enjoyable, social experience, so our courses offer the opportunity to discuss what you’re learning with others as you go, helping you make fresh discoveries and form new ideas.
You can unlock new opportunities with unlimited access to hundreds of online short courses for a year by subscribing to our Unlimited package. Build your knowledge with top universities and organisations.

Learn more about how FutureLearn is transforming access to education