Common Weather Misconceptions (Bonus Material)

  • Common Misconception: Humidity

Students may have some misunderstandings when it comes to humidity. They probably have heard that relative humidity is the amount of moisture in the air compared to what the air can hold. While this demonstrates a basic understanding of humidity, it does not accurately explain what is happening. Air does not have an attractive force with the water to “hold” it. Water molecules are lighter and move faster than nitrogen and oxygen.

  • Common Misconception: Fronts

Students may have the impression, from looking at weather maps, that a front is a thin wall of weather. This is not the case. The map needs to represent the front in a visual manner. The actual weather conditions associated with the front may stretch for miles beyond the edge of the front.

  • Common Misconception: Water Spout or Tornado

Some students may have seen photographs of water spouts and assume that they are merely tornadoes that form over the water. This is not the cases. A true waterspout forms in a different type of cloud than a tornado. Water spouts form in cumulus clouds, tornadoes forming cumulonimbus clouds.

  • Common Misconception: Tornadoes and Cities

Students may have heard that tornadoes do not hit cities. This is not the case. Cities such as Dallas, Nashville, Oklahoma City, and St Louis have all experienced at least one hurricane. It is true, however, that cities take up a small portion of the land area. So therefore the chances of a tornado hitting a city are smaller than a rural area. It is also believed that an urban area gives off excess heat, which may deflect smaller hurricanes.

  • Common Misconception: Learning Weather Forecasting

Students may think of weather forecasting as a topic that can be studied and learned and mastered. This is not the case. Explain to students that forecasting is not an exact science. The weather is constantly changing and there is always some degree of uncertainly in weather data. Learning to forecast and to make good interpretations of data is a personal and individual skill. There are things that are taught but there are other things about weather forecasting that cannot be taught.

 

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