Language of the Weather Map

Reference work entry


By the mid-nineteenth century, persons were observing the weather, but it took the telegraph to permit the timely aggradation of weather observations to facilitate the creation and timely distribution of weather maps. Decades later radios permitted expansion of the area of observation aloft and out at sea. It was then that the Norwegian cyclone theory was developed to explain the life cycle of the extratropical cyclone with its warm and cold fronts swept along by the prevailing westerlies. Subsequently, we started seeing weather maps at different levels of the atmosphere. With the development of satellites in the 1960s, we gained the ability to monitor the weather around the world, particularly in the tropics where tropical cyclones are the major weather concern. Large computers were developed in part to crunch the great amount of data from weather stations around the world. Those many surface observations collected twice a day are still an important base for creating weather maps, supplemented by observations from many sources. Now the output from the computer weather models provide the data and graphic products at many scales that we see in print, on television, and on our computers be they on the desk or in our hands. In the twenty-first century, we are witnessing the development of lightning detection systems that provide another input to supplement the weather maps and provide real-time maps in people’s hands. As such we are witnessing the development of the language of real-time weather maps distributed to users wherever they might be.


Satellite Weather map Station model Extratropical cyclone Tropical cyclones Lightning Computer models 


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Geography–Geology–Environment DepartmentIllinois State UniversityNormalUSA

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