Introductory Meteorology

Lesson 9: Severe Weather


a tornado
A tornado touches down south of Byers, Colorado.
Credit: Joyce Babb

Weather affects everyone, every day. Weather affects the clothes you wear, your personal comfort (either directly or through your heating and cooling bills), and the prices of many goods that you buy. Those are just a few big ways that weather can affect you (some of which you may have taken for granted). But, have you really thought about the many ways that weather can affect your very life itself?

We've already discussed a few ways that weather can be dangerous, in terms of winter weather and lightning. But, those certainly aren't the only ways that weather can hurt or kill you (or damage / destroy property). Have you thought about the many other dangers posed by the weather? Sadly, people are hurt or killed by the weather on a daily basis around the world, in most cases because they're caught off guard by some type of severe weather event. It's pretty common to see headlines that say that a dangerous weather event occurred "without warning," but such headlines are often misleading. Weather forecasting has advanced to the point where relatively few dangerous weather events truly hit "without warning" (although unfortunately not everyone receives critical weather warnings in a timely fashion).

That's right: In the vast majority of situations, weather-aware individuals can take steps to keep themselves safe (or at least reduce the risks posed by weather). So, what can you do? Well, for starters, you can stay "in touch" with the weather on a regular basis by having a reliable source of regular weather forecasts and warnings. Furthermore, you can you arm yourself with weather awareness and weather knowledge so that if a dangerous weather situation arises, you can maximize your chances of survival.

In short, this lesson is all about severe weather. We will look at various types of threatening weather like hail, flash flooding, and tornadoes along with the types of conditions and storms that produce these phenomena. Finally, you will learn about weather watches, warnings, and safety tips that you can use to avoid becoming a victim of severe weather. This lesson may be the most important one in the course because it could literally save your life (or the life of a loved one) at some point. Armed with knowledge about severe weather, I believe that you will be more aware of potential severe weather threats and know what to do in order to minimize potential threats to you and your family if severe weather occurs in your area. Let's get started!