The Elements of Weather and Climate

Weather is nothing more than the different elements it is composed of, as well as the way they interact with each to create different atmospheric conditions or weather events. Eight primary elements/factors drive all weather:

    • Temperature
    • Air (Atmospheric) Pressure
    • Wind (Speed & Direction)
    • Humidity
    • Precipitation
    • Visibility
    • Clouds (Type & Cover)
    • Sunshine Duration


  • Temperature is a measurement of the amount of kinetic energy present in the air, which manifests itself physically through the experience of heat or cold.
  • The scales typically used to measure temperature, is Celsius, Fahrenheit, and Kelvin.
  • The instrument used to measure temperature is called a thermometer.
  • In more practical terms, it means that the particles in the air move or vibrate at a certain speed, which creates kinetic energy.
  • When the particles start to move/rotate around faster, temperature increases.
  • When the particles begin to slow down, the temperature also starts to decrease

Air Pressure

  • Air pressure is another essential element of weather, especially when it comes to creating or changing atmospheric conditions.
  • It is also one of the critical variables used to make accurate weather forecasts.
  • Air Pressure is the result of the pressure created by the weight of the air in the Earth’s atmosphere.
  • It is also called a barometric pressure, named after the instrument used to measure air pressure.
  • Although it may not be visible, air has weight since it is not empty. It is filled with small particles of nitrogen, oxygen, argon, carbon dioxide and a few other gases.
  • The weight of the particles in the air creates pressure due to the gravitational force of the Earth.
  • Since more air is present above the air close to the ground, air pressure is the highest on the planet’s surface and decreases as altitude increase.
  • The barometer is the instrument used to measure air pressure.

Wind (Speed & Direction)

  • The movement of air (wind) is one of the main driving forces of weather.
  • The majority of major and even extreme weather events like cold & warm fronts, clouds, thunderstorms, and hurricanes are all driven by wind.
  • Wind is the large-scale movement of air from an area of high to an area of low pressure in the atmosphere.
  • The speed and strength of wind are determined by the distance between the low pressure and high-pressure areas, as well as the difference in air pressure.
  • The anemometer is the instrument used to measure wind speed.
  • A wind vane (or weather vane) is the instrument used to measure wind direction.


  • Humidity is another weather element that cannot be seen but can be felt.
  • It not only plays a big part in weather formation but also directly influence our physical comfort levels.
  • Humidity is the amount of water vapor that is present in the atmosphere at any specific time.
  • Water vapor is nothing more than water in a state of gas (after the liquid has evaporated).
  • Although humidity and its effects can usually be felt, it is normally invisible to the naked eye.
  • Humidity can be challenging to understand and interpret correctly.
  • The hygrometer is the instrument used to measure wind speed.


  • Precipitation is water in all its different states, which is formed after condensation turned water vapor into its solid form, which falls to the ground after it becomes too heavy to stay suspended in the air.
  • Precipitation can take the form of rain, snow, hail, or graupel.
  • Precipitation is primarily the result of evaporation and condensation.
  • Instrument for Measuring Rainfall :A rain gauge is the instrument used to measure rainfall. It is essentially a measured container that captures rain and measures the amount that falls over a set period of time.


  • Visibility is the measurement of the degree through which an object can be observed over a certain distance.
  • This measurement is crucial when conditions like mist, haze, fog, and freezing drizzle are present, which can severely impede visibility.
  • The importance to be able to measure this element is often underestimated.
  • It is especially applicable in areas where visibility plays a crucial role, like airports and harbors where it can literally be a matter of life or death.
  • Instrument for Measuring Visibility :Visibility sensors like “forward scatter sensor” are the instruments used to measure visibility.

Clouds (Type & Cover)

  • Clouds are water droplets or water in different states (like ice and snow crystals), which formed after water vapor reached condensation level and could no longer remain in gaseous form.
  • Knowing how to identify a certain type of cloud and the weather associated with it, can prove valuable when assessing weather conditions with only visual references.
  • Instrument for Measuring Clouds The advanced instruments meteorologists use to study clouds in detail are weather satellites and radars.
  • Satellite and radar images are able to accurately measure cloud density, the amount of moisture, the temperature, and movement of the clouds.

Sunshine Duration

  • Sunshine duration is the length of time the Earth’s surface is directly exposed to solar radiation.
  • It is also referred to as sunlight hours and measure the amount of exposure over a set period of time (generally in hours per day or year).
  • As already stated, sunshine duration influence other weather elements, which can change the whole makeup of the weather conditions.
  • This ability makes it a more powerful and influential factor than you might think.
  • Instrument for Measuring Sunshine :Sunshine recorders, more specifically Campbell–Stokes recorders, are the instruments used to record sunshine duration.
  • Campbell–Stokes recorders basically consist of a spherical lens that focuses sunlight on a specific type of tape to make its measurement.