Understanding Weather

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Understanding the weather
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What you will study Entry Regulations If you have a disability Study materials Teaching and assessment Future availability Students also studied How to register Student reviews Distance learning This course provides an introduction to weather patterns and events around the world, explaining the main drivers that determine the weather on a seasonal and daily basis. You’ll explore how the professional weather forecasts for your area have been made and how reliable they are likely to be. Understanding the weather is one of a series of short, five month 10-credit courses introducing fascinating topics in science. You can try out an area of study before you commit yourself to a longer course, or top up your knowledge and skills between longer courses.

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April 2013 is the final start date for this course. For more information, see Future availability. What you will study
The weather arises from physical processes within the atmosphere as it responds to the rotation of the Earth and the heating effect of the Sun. In this course you will discover how these processes determine the weather, how they vary depending on location and time of the year and the extent to which they can be forecast. You will also consider some of the ways in which typical variations in the weather and extreme weather events affect a wide range of human activities.

Scientific concepts relating to temperature, humidity, air pressure, air density, clouds, precipitation and wind will be explained and you will see how many factors operate together in the atmosphere to produce various types of weather system. This in turn will give you a better understanding of the information conveyed by weather maps. You will also learn about the ways in which meteorological data, including surface and upper-air measurements as well as satellite information, are collected and fed into the computer models that underlie weather forecasting. This will enable you to understand how the professional weather forecasts for your area have been made and how reliable they are likely to be. You will be able to apply this knowledge in making your own short-term predictions of your local weather. There will be plenty of opportunity to consolidate your understanding of the scientific concepts by investigating different weather systems in a variety of climatic zones across the world.

By the end of the course you will have developed a range of study skills associated with retrieving and interpreting information in the form of tables, charts, maps and graphs. You will be required to undertake some small projects in which you will develop your ability to observe your local weather in a systematic way and to interpret forecasts.

The course is based on a specially written Open University (OU) study book, together with a website with online activities using images, videos and other material and links to particular weather stations. The study book will provide questions and activities to help you to test your understanding, and that you can use for self-assessment as you progress through the course.

The course is produced in partnership with the Royal Meteorological Society.

Entry
The course is designed for people who are coming new to science and to meteorology, and all you really need is an interest in how the weather works and the motivation to find out more about the science underlying meteorological phenomena and forecasting. You must be prepared to study some physical science and to learn how to interpret satellite images, maps, weather charts and graphs. You will need to access various types of forecast through the internet. You must also be willing to make some observations of the weather in your own locality and to keep a record of what you see.

Mathematically, you need to be able to add,...
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