You are viewing information for England.  Change country.

Science: the weather

This course provides an introduction to weather patterns and events around the world, explaining the main drivers that determine the weather on a seasonal and daily basis. You’ll explore how the professional weather forecasts for your area have been made and how reliable they are likely to be. Science: the weather is one of a series of 100-hour flexible online courses introducing fascinating topics in science. It allows you to learn about this topic just for interest and enables you to try out a new area of study before you commit yourself to further study. You can register and begin this course at any time and will have at least 6 months to complete it.

This is a non-credit bearing version of the now discontinued Understanding the weather.

Standalone study only

You will not be awarded credits for studying this course. It is available for standalone study only and cannot be counted towards an OU qualification.

Short course

Short course code
SG089
Credits
This is a non-credit bearing course.
Study method
Distance Learning
Short course cost
See Registration
Entry requirements
See Am I ready?

What you will study

The weather arises from physical processes within the atmosphere as it responds to the rotation of the Earth and the heating effect of the Sun. In this course you will discover how these processes determine the weather, how they vary depending on location and time of the year and the extent to which they can be forecast. You will also consider some of the ways in which typical variations in the weather and extreme weather events affect a wide range of human activities.

Scientific concepts relating to temperature, humidity, air pressure, air density, clouds, precipitation and wind will be explained, and you will see how many factors operate together in the atmosphere to produce various types of weather system. This in turn will give you a better understanding of the information conveyed by weather maps. You will also learn about the ways in which meteorological data, including surface and upper-air measurements as well as satellite information, are collected and fed into the computer models that underlie weather forecasting. This will enable you to understand how the professional weather forecasts for your area have been made and how reliable they are likely to be. You will be able to apply this knowledge in making your own short-term predictions of your local weather. There will be plenty of opportunity to consolidate your understanding of the scientific concepts by investigating different weather systems in a variety of climatic zones across the world.

By the end of the course you will have developed a range of study skills associated with retrieving and interpreting information in the form of tables, charts, maps and graphs. You will have the opportunity to undertake some small projects in which you will develop your ability to observe your local weather in a systematic way and to interpret forecasts.

The specially written study materials include a website with online activities using images, videos and other material and links to particular weather stations.

The course is produced in partnership with the Royal Meteorological Society.

By the end of this course you should be able to:

Demonstrate general knowledge and understanding of some of the basic facts, concepts, scientific principles and language relating to meteorology and weather forecasting. In particular you should be able to demonstrate an understanding of:

  • the main weather elements, relationships between them and the importance of the weather for human society
  • patterns of circulation within the atmosphere  and weather at different scales
  • formation and evolution of high and low-pressure areas, and of frontal systems
  • computer models of the atmosphere and weather forecasts and interpretation of surface pressure charts 
  • techniques used to gather meteorological data
  • how to make, record and interpret observations and simple measurements relating to the weather.

This course will require around 80–100 hours of your time in total, which can be spread over at least 6 months. Register online today and start tomorrow – no need to wait!

The course features the distinctive strengths of The Open University (OU) from its years of expertise in distance learning:

  • The convenience of accessing its clearly presented and sequenced materials, activities and support whenever suits you and wherever you have access to the protected course website – if you prefer, you can print key materials to work on them offline.
  • The support of an expert learning adviser who can clarify study materials, answer questions and help you relate the course to your specific needs.
  • An online interactive quiz that you can attempt as many times as you wish to help you test your own learning.
  • A statement of participation from the OU which you can use to demonstrate your engagement with the course. (N.B. The course does not carry academic credit points.)

Some of the pages within the course contain links to external sites. Accessing these sites is part of the allocated study time for the course. You may also wish to undertake additional background study or reading if some of the concepts introduced are completely unfamiliar to you.

Learner support

Expert, confidential learner support is available when you need it from a learning adviser, who will respond to you directly. Other support is available via the course forum, library, dedicated website and computing helpdesk.

Teaching and assessment

Assessment

There is no formal assessment on the course but you will be able to assess yourself on your factual knowledge through an online quiz that gives detailed feedback to help your learning.

Regulations

As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the academic regulations which are available on our Essential Documents website.


    Entry requirements

    The course is designed for people who are new to science and to meteorology, and all you really need is an interest in how the weather works and the motivation to find out more about the science underlying meteorological phenomena and forecasting. You must be prepared to study some physical science and to learn how to interpret satellite images, maps, weather charts and graphs. You will need to access various types of forecast through the internet. You will be encouraged to make some observations of the weather in your own locality and to keep a record of what you see.

    Mathematically, you need to be able to add, subtract, multiply and divide, and although it would be useful to have a little basic knowledge of general science this is not essential. The structured teaching will take you to a level at which you will be able to understand important aspects of the science of the atmosphere which give rise to our weather. You should be able to read and understand written English of a style and complexity characteristic of a professional magazine or quality newspaper.

    You can study at your own pace and attempt the online quiz at any time before the end date for the course. Information about the end date is available when you register and will be at least six months after registration.

    If you want to see if this material is suitable for you, try a sample of the study material

    Register

    Start End England fee Register
    At anytime Flexible - see Entry requirements for more detail £165.00 Register

    Ways to pay

    Credit/Debit Card – We accept American Express, Mastercard, Visa/Delta or Visa Electron.

    Sponsorship – If this course is geared towards your job or developing your career, you could ask your employer to sponsor you by paying some or all of the fees. Your sponsor just needs to complete a simple form to confirm how much they will be paying and we will invoice them.

    What's included

    All learning materials, activities and study support are delivered entirely online.

    You will need

    Basic scientific calculator.

    Computing requirements

    A computing device with a browser and broadband internet access is required for this module.  Any modern browser will be suitable for most computer activities. Functionality may be limited on mobile devices.

    Any additional software will be provided, or is generally freely available. However, some activities may have more specific requirements. For this reason, you will need to be able to install and run additional software on a device that meets the requirements below.

    A desktop or laptop computer with either:

    • Windows 7 or higher
    • macOS 10.7 or higher

    The screen of the device must have a resolution of at least 1024 pixels horizontally and 768 pixels vertically.

    To participate in our online-discussion area you will need both a microphone and speakers/headphones. 

    Our Skills for OU study website has further information including computing skills for study, computer security, acquiring a computer and Microsoft software offers for students. 

    If you have a disability

    The course is delivered online and makes use of a variety of online resources. If you use specialist hardware or software to assist you in using a computer or the internet you are advised to contact us about support which can be given to meet your needs. If you are a new learner with the OU, make sure that you look at our website.