I have put together my top 9 tips (I couldn’t think of a 10th!) to help beginners to learn how to forecast the weather.
- Even the professionals often get it wrong. The Met Office gets its rain forecast right just 25% of the time, so don’t get disheartened if your predictions are incorrect.
- Understand that we get most of our bad weather from depressions, which are areas of lower pressure that track across the country bringing wind and cloud. These depressions contain fronts, which carry rain.
- Know that clouds come not only in all shapes and sizes but also at different heights. Cloud height is important as it indicates how long until different weather arrives. The highest clouds, known as cirrus indicate that poor weather is about a day away but the lowest pannus clouds indicate that rain is coming in just a few minutes.
- Learn the clouds that indicate the approach of a depression. Depressions never come without warning. There is always a series of clouds which march through the sky, flying the flag of an impending depression. First, you will see the highest clouds, which are wispy cirrus clouds that indicate the front is about a day away. Next what you will often see is a thin featureless sheet of cirrostratus cloud, which can form a halo around the sun. This cirrostratus then thickens and lowers into altostratus clouds. Altostratus clouds are featureless clouds that partially obscure the sun. Finally, you will have nimbostratus clouds, which are dull rainy clouds that can last for a few hours.
- Learn to recognise fair weather cumulus clouds. They are fluffy cotton wool clouds which are less tall than they are wide. If you see them after mid-morning you won’t have any rain showers that day.
- Learn to recognise cumulonimbus clouds, which are the towering shower clouds. They often have soft or fibrous tops and they always have rain underneath them. Make sure you get under shelter quickly if you see these clouds upwind of you.
- Learn to recognise pannus clouds, which are dark wispy or fibrous clouds that are found below the cloud base. If you see these clouds then it means that there are less than 10 minutes until it will rain.
- Learn some old weather folklore, much of the weather folklore doesn’t work, but there are some important ones to learn that do work. “A halo around the sun or moon means rain or snow coming soon.” and “A sunny shower won’t last an hour”.
- Once you get more experienced at forecasting the weather you should try to learn the most important clouds and what weather they indicate. I have put together a cloud identifier and forecaster below to help you with this.