Weather Terms From Everyday to Unusual

, Staff Writer
Updated September 21, 2022
lightning storm over water
    lightning storm over water
    Jure Batagelj / 500px Prime / Getty Images
    Used under Getty Images license

Did you know that the tiny tornadoes that stir up dirt on a windy road are called dust devils? Or that ball lightning occurs when lightning appears as an electric sphere? You'll have a new appreciation for weather around the world after learning common, severe and unusual weather terms.

Common Weather Terms

When you watch the weather on TV, the meteorologist might use terms such as high pressure or humidity. These terms are common, but what do they mean? Learn the meanings of these weather terms and how they are used.

  • autumn - the season between summer and winter characterized by falling temperatures
  • barometer - an instrument used in weather to measure pressure in the atmosphere
  • barometric pressure - the pressure found in the atmosphere caused by the force of the air
  • climate - the average weather found in a specific area over a long period of time
  • climate change - global changes in weather patterns
  • cold front - a cold air mass coming in and replacing warm air
  • current - the movement of air, wind or water
  • dew point - a temperature where water condenses and forms dew
  • evaporation - when water turns to vapor
  • forecast - weather predictions
  • frost - ice crystals forming on the ground
  • global warming - a gradual increase of Earth's temperature due to pollutants
  • heat lightning - lightning from a distant thunderstorm on a warm night
  • high pressure - above average temperature of the air
  • humidity - the measured amount of water vapor in the air
  • meteorology - the study of the atmosphere and weather
  • muggy - when there is excessive humidity in the air
  • overcast - when clouds cover the sun or fill the sky
  • precipitation - any weather condition where moisture is falling from the sky
  • rain - droplets of water falling to the ground
  • spring - the season between winter and summer characterized by increasing temperatures
  • summer - the season between spring and autumn with warm temperatures
  • temperature - the amount or intensity of heat in the air
  • water cycle - the movement of water from the ground into the atmosphere and back
  • weather - the atmosphere state including temperature, precipitation, humidity, and atmospheric pressure
  • wind - the movement of air across the Earth caused by the uneven heating of the planet
  • winter - the season between autumn and spring characterized by colder temperatures

Severe Weather Terms

No matter where you live, there is a risk of severe weather — and knowing how to describe it can be key to staying safe. See how many severe weather terms you already know and how many you should learn.

  • black ice - a transparent coat of ice covering the pavement
  • blizzard - a snowstorm characterized by high winds and heavy snowfall
  • cyclone - a rotating spiral of air
  • drought - a weather period characterized by uncharacteristically low rainfall
  • dust devil - a small air vortex or cyclone common in hot, dry areas
  • eye of a storm - the small calm area in the center of a storm
  • flash flood - sudden rising water levels
  • flood - water overflow in areas
  • fog - thick air full of water droplets and clouds near the ground that hinders visibility
  • hail - frozen rain pellets that can reach the size of golf balls
  • heat wave - an abnormally prolonged period of high heat
  • hurricane - a large, violent circular storm over water in the North Atlantic and East Pacific Oceans
  • ice storm - a winter storm causing a thick coating of ice
  • monsoon - wind carrying heavy rain to areas of Asia
  • mudslide - an earth mass falling down a slope
  • sleet - a mix of snow and rain
  • snow - crystals of ice falling to the ground
  • thunderstorms - violent atmospheric disturbances with thunder, lightning and precipitation
  • tornado - a destructive cyclone storm on land with a funnel-shaped cloud
  • typhoon - a large, tropical storm over water happening in the West Pacific and Indian Oceans
  • tsunami - a large, dangerous wave caused by storms or earthquakes

Unusual Weather Terms

You may know what evaporation is, but what's evapotranspiration? And what's the difference between El Niño and La Niña? Add these unusual weather terms to your vocabulary.

  • anomaly - conditions that deviate from normal
  • aurora - a natural phenomenon where multicolored lights appear in the sky
  • ball lightning - rare lightning in the shape of a ball moving across the sky
  • Beaufort Wind Scale - scale to measure wind speed
  • chinook - dry, warm wind blowing down the Rocky Mountains
  • Coriolis force - a force that deflects air currents to the right or left depending on the hemisphere
  • Doldrums - a region with unpredictable winds and sudden storms near the equator in the Atlantic Ocean
  • eclipse - when one celestial body like the moon moves in front of another like the sun blocking out light
  • El Niño - an abnormal pattern of weather from the warming of the Pacific Ocean close to the equator creating more clouds and rain
  • evapotranspiration - when water evaporates from land and goes into the atmosphere
  • gradient wind - horizontal wind blowing at a constant speed above 2,500 feet
  • La Niña - an abnormal weather pattern caused by the cooling of the ocean
  • rain shadow - an area with little rain due to winds from a hill range
  • ridge - an elongated high-pressure area
  • Southern Oscillation - cyclic atmospheric pressure over the Pacific and Indian Oceans linked to La Niña and El Niño
  • tropical air mass - air masses over warm tropical water that transport warm air to colder areas
  • trough - an elongated low-pressure area

Understanding Weather Terminology

The next time you're casually talking about the weather, work these weather terms into your conversation. They're a great way to speak accurately about the weather around you. Keep your meteorology terminology lesson going by looking at types of weather conditions.