Get ready to explore the exciting world of meteorology as you earn your Weather Merit Badge! In this guide, we’re going to uncover the mysteries behind our daily weather forecasts. This isn’t just about knowing if it’s sunny or rainy; it’s about understanding how the science of weather affects everyone — from farmers to pilots to you! 😀
In earning your Weather merit badge, we’ll also cover how different industries rely on accurate weather predictions, as well as the importance of preparing your family for various weather disasters. You’ll even start to understand the science behind atmospheric phenomena like high and low-pressure systems, and how they shape our climate.
Best of all, once you’re finished earning your Weather mb, you can tell all of your fellow Scouts some cool (and mildly infuriating) facts the next time you get caught in a sudden downpour at camp! 😛 This is a super interesting badge, and one that I’d highly recommend most Scouts earn because of how often knowing about the weather will come in handy.
So, let’s embark on this meteorological adventure with curiosity and Scout spirit! By the end of this, you’ll be more weather-wise and one step closer to earning your Weather Merit Badge. To kick things off, let’s take a second to read through each requirement. Then, it’ll be time to start learning!
What Are The Weather Merit Badge Requirements?
- Define meteorology. Explain what weather is and what climate is. Discuss how the weather affects farmers, sailors, aviators, and the outdoor construction industry. Tell why weather forecasts are important to each of these groups.
- Name five dangerous weather-related conditions. Give the safety rules for each when outdoors and explain the difference between a severe weather watch and a warning. Discuss the safety rules with your family.
- Explain the difference between high and low pressure systems in the atmosphere. Tell which is related to good and to poor weather. Draw cross sections of a cold front and a warm front showing the location and movements of the cold and warm air, the frontal slope, the location and types of clouds associated with each type of front, and the location of precipitation.
- Tell what causes wind, why it rains, and how lightning and hail are formed.
- Identify and describe clouds in the low, middle, and upper levels of the atmosphere. Relate these to specific types of weather.
- Draw a diagram of the water cycle and label its major processes. Explain the water cycle to your counselor.
- Identify some human activities that can alter the environment, and describe how they affect the climate and people.
- Describe how the tilt of Earth’s axis helps determine the climate of a region near the equator, near the poles, and across the area in between.
- Do ONE of the following:
9a. Make one of the following instruments: wind vane, anemometer, rain gauge, hygrometer. Keep a daily weather log for 1 week using information from this instrument as well as from other sources such as local radio and television stations or NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards, and Internet sources (with your parent’s permission). Record the following information at the same time every day: wind direction and speed, temperature, precipitation, and types of clouds. Be sure to make a note of any morning dew or frost. In the log, also list the weather forecasts from radio or television at the same time each day and show how the weather really turned out.
9b. Visit a National Weather Service office or talk with a local radio or television weathercaster, private meteorologist, local agricultural extension service officer, or university meteorology instructor. Find out what type of weather is most dangerous or damaging to your community. Determine how severe weather and flood warnings reach the homes in your community.
- Give a talk of at least five minutes to a group (such as your unit or a Cub Scout pack) explaining the outdoor safety rules in the event of lightning, flash floods, and tornadoes. Before your talk, share your outline with your counselor for approval.
- Find out about a weather-related career opportunity that interests you. Discuss with and explain to your counselor what training and education are required for such a position, and the responsibilities required of such a position.
1) Define meteorology. Explain what weather is and what climate is. Discuss how the weather affects farmers, sailors, aviators, and the outdoor construction industry. Tell why weather forecasts are important to each of these groups.
Meteorology is the study of the atmosphere and the things that go on there, like weather and climate. It largely focuses on forecasting (think of the news) and does this through atmospheric chemistry and physics. A meteorologist studies the weather, atmosphere, and their effects to better understand the science of our planet’s climate! 😀
By the way, What do you call a snowman on a sunny day?
For more hilarious jokes that you can share with your troop, be sure to check out my favorite Clean Scout Jokes article!
Weather and Climate
You’ve probably heard of the terms weather and climate before. Often, they’re discussed together, for example, as they are with climate change. You’ll often hear that because of climate change, the weather is hotter. But what does this mean, and how are weather and climate different?
Weather is the day-to-day state of the atmosphere and its short-term variation in conditions such as temperature, humidity, precipitation, wind, and visibility. It involves minute-to-minute changes that can occur in atmospheric conditions at any given place and time.
Understanding the climate allows us to foresee weather patterns, as changes in our planet’s climate are more predictable than weather. It is long-term, based on averages taken typically over the course of 30 years. The climate is what tells us that summer is warmer than winter, but it cannot tell us which days will be warmer or when it will rain.
|Weather is the conditions of the atmosphere.||Climate is the average weather conditions of a location over a long period of time.|
|The main types of weather conditions are:|
|The main types of climate conditions are:|
|“It has been rainy all day today.”||“England has cold, wet winters.”|
Effects of Weather
As you might have guessed, the weather is super important! Many of us will check the weather before leaving the house to see if we need an umbrella, jacket, shorts, and so on. Plus, if we’re going camping, we’ll definitely want to see a forecast beforehand! This is just how the weather affects us on an individual level.
But weather determines more than what we wear or how pleasant it is to walk down the street. Weather has a huge impact on important industries such as farming, sailing, aviation, and outdoor construction! Here’s how weather affects these industries directly:
- For farmers, weather affects when they plant, cultivate, and harvest their crops. Too much or too little rain can be harmful, and severe weather like hail can destroy a season’s work.
- Sailors and anyone involved in maritime activities depend heavily on accurate weather forecasts. Conditions at sea can change rapidly, and severe weather can be incredibly dangerous. Winds and waves, two factors greatly influenced by weather, can determine routes and speeds for ships.
- Aviators need to know about weather conditions for safe flight. Turbulence, icing conditions, visibility, wind speed, and direction all factor into a pilot’s ability to control their aircraft. Accurate forecasts can inform decisions about flight plans.
- Outdoor construction industry
- The outdoor construction industry also depends on the weather. Weather conditions can affect worker safety and productivity, and can also impact scheduling. Certain types of work cannot be done in the rain, or if temperatures are too low.
As you can see, a lot more depends on weather forecasts than whether we know to bring an umbrella. The individuals involved in the industries above depend on forecasts for their safety and livelihoods. Let’s review the importance of weather forecasts to each of these groups:
Farmers: Forecasts assist farmers in organizing their tasks, including when to sow or harvest crops, control irrigation, and safeguard livestock and crops from bad weather.
Sailors: Accurate route planning, avoiding hazardous sea conditions, and guaranteeing the safety of the crew, passengers, and cargo are all made possible by weather forecasts.
Pilots: Pilots can plan their flight paths, landing times, and probable weather-related issues with the help of forecasts. It aids in preserving flight schedules and assuring the safety of passengers and crew.
Construction managers: Construction managers may better organize their schedules, protect the safety of their employees, and minimize any weather-related delays or damage with the use of weather predictions in the outdoor construction sector. It can help determine the best times to carry out specific building tasks.
2) Name five dangerous weather-related conditions. Give the safety rules for each when outdoors and explain the difference between a severe weather watch and a warning. Discuss the safety rules with your family.
Weather is both beautiful and dangerous. We have all seen survival films or sci-fi films in which the weather is an important part of the plot. Dramatic tsunamis, powerful hurricanes, terrifying thunderstorms, and even shark-filled tornados make an appearance! 😛
While movies and shows aren’t always realistic, weather really can be dangerous. Weather is a powerful force of nature, and understanding what precautions to take may even save your life or the lives of the people around you. Always heed warnings to take cover or evacuate, and be prepared to handle these 5 dangerous weather-related conditions:
Thunderstorms can be dangerous due to lightning, strong winds, and hail. If you can hear thunder, you are within range of a lightning strike and should take the precautions below.
- Seek shelter immediately, preferably in a substantial building.
- Stay away from windows and do not use electrical equipment.
- Avoid plumbing.
Tornadoes are violently rotating columns of air that can cause devastating damage. If you are under a tornado warning, it is extremely important to take cover.
- Find a secure location in the lowest part of your home, away from windows. This could be a basement or a small, windowless room on the lowest floor.
- Protect yourself from flying debris with a heavy coat or blanket.
- If you’re outside and can’t get to a safe building, lie flat in a ditch or depression and cover your head with your hands.
The torrential rains of thunderstorms or tropical cyclones can cause flooding. Some floods occur when winter or spring rains combine with melting snow to fill river basins with too much water too quickly.
- Monitor the weather radio, or follow the local news or a trusted website for flood information.
- Evacuate if necessary when a flood warning is issued.
- Do not walk or drive through flooded areas.
- If flash flooding is a risk in your location, then move immediately to higher ground if you believe you are in danger.
Hurricanes are intense storm systems characterized by a large low-pressure center and numerous thunderstorms that produce strong winds and flooding rain. If a hurricane warning is issued for your area, you may be in the path of the storm.
- Be prepared to evacuate.
- Know your evacuation route beforehand.
- Secure your home: close storm shutters, secure outdoor objects, and turn off utilities if instructed to do so.
- Don’t forget to take your emergency supply kit.
Blizzards are severe snowstorms with high winds, dangerously low visibility, and bitterly cold temperatures. If you are stuck outdoors during a blizzard, you’ll need to take action to stay safe.
- Try to find shelter to stay dry.
- Cover all exposed parts of the body.
- If it’s cold, avoid making yourself sweat. Wet clothes make you lose body heat, increasing your risk of hypothermia.
Now, here’s a handy table to recap all of this life-saving information for you! 🙂
|Weather Condition||Safety Rules|
|Thunderstorms||If you are within range of a thunderstorm, seek shelter immediately, stay away from windows, do not use electrical equipment, and avoid plumbing, including sinks, baths, and faucets.|
|Tornadoes||If you are under a tornado warning, find a secure location in the lowest part of your home (a basement, windowless room) and protect yourself from flying debris with a heavy coat or blanket. If you’re outside and can’t get to a safe place, lie flat and cover your head with your hands.|
|Floods||During floods, evacuate if necessary when a flood warning is issued. Do not walk or drive through flooded areas. If flash flooding is a risk in your location, then move immediately to higher ground.|
|Hurricanes||If a hurricane warning is issued, prepare to evacuate. Secure your home: close storm shutters, secure outdoor objects, and turn off utilities. Take your emergency supply kit.|
|Blizzards||To be safe from blizzards, try to find shelter to stay dry if you are outside. Cover all exposed parts of the body. Avoid making yourself sweat.|
The Difference Between A Severe Weather Watch vs. Warning
Have you ever gotten a message on your phone saying your area is under a “watch” for tornados, flooding, or other conditions? What about a “warning”? These alerts may sound similar, but there is a very important difference between a severe weather watch and a severe weather warning.
|Severe Weather Watch||Severe Weather Warning|
|Conditions are favorable for severe weather. You want to be aware and prepared, so make sure to review your safety plan and have multiple ways to receive alerts if a warning is issued. This is the time to prepare.||A warning means that severe weather is happening now! Take action immediately and get to your safe place. Severe weather is usually spotted by a trained spotter and/or is radar-indicated. This is the time to take action to prevent weather-related damage.|
Discuss these rules with your family and create an emergency plan. This could include an evacuation plan, a meeting place, a communication plan, and an emergency supply kit with food, water, and necessary medications. Hopefully, you’ll never have to use your plan — but as Scouts know, it’s vital to be prepared!
Below is a quick video (6:13) on the things that you and your family should have stocked away to be better equipped to handle any weather-related emergency. For more info, also be sure to check out my guide to earning your Emergency Preparedness merit badge!
3) Explain the difference between high and low-pressure systems in the atmosphere. Tell which is related to good and to poor weather. Draw cross sections of a cold front and a warm front showing the location and movements of the cold and warm air, the frontal slope, the location and types of clouds associated with each type of front, and the location of precipitation.
The Difference Between High and Low-Pressure Systems
In the field of meteorology, pressure systems are areas of the Earth’s atmosphere that are defined by their atmospheric pressure. There are high-pressure systems and low-pressure systems. These systems affect the weather, and I’m about to tell you the differences between each of them!
High-pressure systems, also called anticyclones, are generally associated with clear skies and calm weather. This is because the high pressure at the surface pushes air downward, preventing cloud formation. As a result, the weather in a high-pressure system is usually sunny and clear!
Low-pressure systems, or cyclones, on the other hand, are usually associated with unsettled, stormy weather. This is because the low pressure allows air to rise. As the air rises, it cools and forms clouds and precipitation.
For all you visual learners out there, below is a quick and informative video (1:40) explaining pressure systems and how they affect the weather systems on our planet!
Cold and Warm Fronts
The terms “cold front” and “warm front” refer to the boundaries between air masses of different temperatures. A cold front occurs when a cold air mass pushes into a warmer air mass, whereas a warm front occurs when a warm air mass pushes into a cooler air mass.
In a cold front, the cold air (which is denser) pushes under the warm air, forcing the warm air to rise rapidly. This can cause the formation of cumulonimbus clouds and is often associated with heavy rain, thunderstorms, or hail. After the front passes, the weather tends to be cooler and drier.
The cross-section of a cold front shows the cold air mass (on the left), pushing under the warmer air mass (on the right), forcing the warm air upwards. The frontal slope is steep because the cold air is advancing aggressively. The clouds tend to be cumulus or cumulonimbus, producing potentially heavy precipitation that occurs at or near the frontal boundary.
——————- Rain showers
\ Warm air
\—————– Scattered clouds
In a warm front, the advancing warm air rises over the denser, cold air. The warm air cools as it rises, which can form clouds and, often, precipitation. As the warm front passes, the weather tends to become noticeably warmer and humid. Warm fronts are often associated with stratus or cirrus clouds, and any precipitation is generally light to moderate.
——————- High cirrus clouds
\ Cold air
\—————– Light rain or drizzle
that diagram may be a little hard to follow, so here’s a great video (2:26) that shows how both cold and warm fronts work. It’s pretty short and has a great diagram! Cold fronts are explained from the start of the video to minute 1:25. Warm fronts are explained from 1:25-2:26.
4) Tell what causes wind, why it rains, and how lightning and hail are formed.
What Are the Causes of Wind?
Wind is caused by differences in pressure in the atmosphere. When a high-pressure area (where the air is denser) is next to a low-pressure area (where the air is less dense), the air moves from the high to low-pressure area. This equalizes the pressure differences, and is also why low-pressure systems tend to be more stormy and unstable!
Wind direction and speed are determined by something called the Coriolis effect. Put simply, this effect means that wind direction and speed are influenced by the rotation of the Earth. The National Geographic website provides a great explanation of the Coriolis effect if you want to learn more!
Why Does It Rain?
Rain is caused by the condensation of water vapor in the Earth’s atmosphere. This a a process known as the water cycle, in which water moves from the surface of the Earth into the atmosphere and back again. The water cycle consists of four steps:
- Evaporation: It starts with the Sun heating the Earth’s surface, causing water in oceans, lakes, and rivers to evaporate and turn into water vapor.
- Condensation: The water vapor rises into the atmosphere and cools as it gains altitude. Cooler air cannot hold as much water vapor, so the excess water vapor condenses into tiny water droplets.
- Cloud Formation: As more and more water droplets gather, they form clouds. These clouds are made up of countless tiny water droplets suspended in the air.
- Precipitation: Within the cloud, the water droplets continue to grow by combining with one another. Eventually, they become large and heavy enough to fall from the cloud as precipitation, such as rain, snow, sleet, or hail, depending on the temperature and conditions in the atmosphere.
How Is Lightning Formed?
You’ve probably watched lightning strike and briefly light up the sky during a storm. It’s kind of beautiful, and kind of freaky, too! 😜 But how does this dramatic phenomenon work? Lightning is a discharge of electricity in the atmosphere. Here are the steps that cause lightning to occur:
- Charge Separation: Within a thunderstorm cloud, there are often areas of strong updrafts and downdrafts. The updrafts carry small ice crystals and hailstones upward, while downdrafts bring precipitation (raindrops or ice) downwards. This process causes charge separation in the cloud.
- Build-Up of Charge: As the ice crystals and hailstones move through the cloud, they collide with each other and transfer electrons. The lighter ice crystals become positively charged, while the heavier hailstones become negatively charged. This charge separation creates an electrical potential difference within the cloud.
- Lightning Discharge: When the electrical potential difference becomes large enough, a lightning bolt is created. A channel of ionized air travels from the clouds to the ground. When it gets close to the ground, a positively charged streamer comes up from the ground. When the ionized air (also called a stepped leader) connects with the streamer, the lightning bolt is created due to the electrical current.
Helpful Link: As we discussed in requirement 2, thunderstorms and lightning can be as dangerous as they are fascinating. Check out these articles from the National Weather Service to learn more about how lightning works and how to stay safe!
How Is Hail Formed?
Hail comes in many sizes — as small as a pea or as large as a grapefruit! — and can cause a lot of damage to both property and people. Hail is formed in thunderstorm clouds, particularly those with intense updrafts of air.
- Updrafts: Hail forms in intense thunderstorms with strong updrafts. These updrafts carry raindrops upward into the colder regions of the cloud, where temperatures are below freezing.
- Freezing: As the raindrops rise, they encounter supercooled water droplets (water that remains liquid at temperatures below freezing) or ice nuclei. Upon contact with these supercooled droplets or ice nuclei, the raindrops freeze and become small ice pellets.
- Hailstone Growth: The newly formed ice pellets are then caught in the updrafts again and carried back up into the cloud, where they collide with supercooled water droplets or other ice pellets, adding another layer of ice. This process of rising and falling continues, adding layers to the hailstone until it becomes too heavy for the updrafts to support, and it falls to the ground as hail. The stronger the updrafts, the more times the hailstone will be carried up and down, resulting in larger hailstones.
|Wind is created when air moves from a high-pressure area to low-pressure area in the atmosphere.||Rain is caused by the condensation of water vapor in the Earth’s atmosphere.||Lightning is a discharge of electricity in the atmosphere.||Hail forms in thunderstorm clouds, particularly those with intense updrafts of air.|
Ready to move on to requirement 5) of the Weather mb? Click here!
Congrats on Finishing Part 1 of the Weather Merit Badge!
Great work, Scout. We’re now halfway done with earning the Weather merit badge! We just covered a ton of useful info on meteorology, disaster preparedness, and the scientific reasons behind different weather phenomena. I hope you’re feeling more confident about your understanding of the weather! Give yourself a huge pat on the back. 🙂
Also, if you’re interested in the difficulty rankings for every Eagle-required merit badge, you can check out my full guide here! PS: The article also links to my other ultimate badge guides that’ll help you complete your merit badge worksheets.