Also known as a ‘dust devil’, a willy-willy is a vortex of dust formed by wind. (Source: http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/learning/learn-about-the-weather/weather-phenomena/willy-willy)
At least 3 days of heavy rainAt least 4 days of heavy rain and winds of 35mph+A seasonal wind shift
A monsoon is a seasonal wind shift that mostly occurs in tropical parts of the world, not just a period of heavy rainfall as it often seems to be dubbed in the media. Monsoons commonly occur in India, East Africa and South-East Asia. These wind shifts, which persist for months, can bring moist air from the sea to land which leads to “monsoon rains”. However some monsoons are dry and can cause droughts. (Source: http://education.nationalgeographic.org/encyclopedia/monsoon/)
Snow with winds or gusts at 35mph+Snow that frequently reduces visibility to <1/4 of a mileContinuous snow for 3+ hoursAll of the above
All 3 of the criteria must be met for such a weather formation to count as a blizzard. (Source: http://glossary.ametsoc.org/wiki/Blizzard)
About once a weekAbout once a monthAbout once a yearAbout once a decade
We frequently see headlines like “UK hotter than [somewhere that sounds hot]”. Greece, Spain and other Mediterranean locations are popular targets, and sometimes Australia is mentioned (where it is usually winter AND night time). There are so many places to choose from that you could write a headline like this most days. For more details on this, get in touch with enquiries[at]senseaboutscience.org.
October 1987 (the “Great Storm”)August 2014 (Bertha)October 2015 (Joaquin)Never
The UK is often hit by strong storms, some with hurricane-force winds (>74mph). However the UK has never been hit by a hurricane and probably never will be. Hurricanes are tropical storms that only form in the tropics and are much stronger than anything we experience. They get their energy from warm seas, and can produce half-a-metre of rain in a day (roughly equivalent to London’s rainfall in a year) and wind gusts over 200 mph. Sometimes these storms head towards the UK, but when moving across the cooler North Atlantic, they lose much of their energy (fortunately for us). Sometimes they will still be known as ‘ex-hurricane XXXX’, but this is for ease of reference rather than because they are any more significant than other storms we experience. (More information on hurricanes: http://blog.metoffice.gov.uk/2013/10/26/the-severe-storm-this-weekend-and-why-its-not-a-hurricane/)
Hurricane-force winds come in at a whopping 74mph, about as fast as a cheetah. But remember, just because the winds are hurricane-force it doesn’t mean it’s a hurricane! (More info on hurricanes: http://blog.metoffice.gov.uk/2013/10/26/the-severe-storm-this-weekend-and-why-its-not-a-hurricane/; http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/weather/tropicalcyclone/hurricane)
Beginning in December and lasting until March, the UK experienced its coldest winter for over 200 years in 1962-1963, and it is still the coldest winter recorded since 1740. Temperatures dropped below -20 degrees, lakes and rivers froze over, animals starved, and villages were cut off. Visit the MET office website to find out more (http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/learning/learn-about-the-weather/weather-phenomena/case-studies/severe-winters).
Although relatively rare, thundersnow is the term given when a thunderstorm produces snow. Thunderstorms require a lot of energy (usually hot air) and so they rarely form in winter. (Sources: http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/learning/learn-about-the-weather/thunder-and-lightning/thundersnow; http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2009/03/090303-thunder-snow-storm.html)
…5 degrees for 5 consecutive days”…5 degrees for 7 consecutive days”…10 degrees for 1 day”
We often hear a a spell of hot weather called a ‘heatwave’. But if it doesn’t match the criteria above then strictly speaking it can’t be classed as a heatwave. (Source: http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/learning/learn-about-the-weather/weather-phenomena/heatwave)
There is an 80% likelihood that it will rainThere will be rain in 80% of that areaThere will be rain for 80% of the time
Meteorologists use models to make predictions about the weather and these are improving all the time. However, weather is very unpredictable at small scales (e.g. it might be raining on one side of a town but not the other), so even the most advanced models can’t be 100% certain. Visit the Met office website to find out more about their modelling systems for forecasts (http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/research/modelling-systems), and read our ‘Making Sense of Uncertainty’ guide to find out more about the role of uncertainty in science (http://bit.ly/1ZlUsf4).
Haven't The Foggiest
We don’t want to rain on your parade, but you may want to brush up on your meteorological know-how. Not to worry, you can check out the Met office website (http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/public/weather) for some clarity, or contact Sense About Science at enquiries[at]senseaboutscience.org with your weather questions and we can get in touch with a scientist on your behalf!
Not bad but don’t turn off your fog lights just yet! If you want to brush up on your weather knowledge why don't you check out the MET office website (http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/public/weather). Not found what you're looking for? Contact Sense About Science (enquiries[at]senseaboutscience.org) with any terms that you think are being misused or are made up and we can contact scientists to find out!
Nice! Your weather knowledge is pretty bright with just the odd patch of cloud. Why not have a scroll through the MET office website (http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/public/weather) for those terms you’re not so familiar with.
Amazing! You have breezed through our weather quiz, but keep an eye out. Tomorrow there could be a flurry of misused or fake terms on the headline horizon. If you see any terms that you're not sure of, either check the MET office website (http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/public/weather), or get in touch with Sense About Science (enquiries[at]senseaboutscience.org) and we can put any questions you have to a meteorologist.
Fantastic! You stormed through our weather quiz, so here’s a fun fact for you – the second rainbow of a double has the colours in an inverted order. But you already knew that, didn’t you?