Gallery of Weather Phenomena

The goal of this page is to describe phenomena in terms that hopefully most people will understand, and more importantly, describe the abilities and limitations in forecasting these phenomena, so the public can best use the information and forecasts that we meteorologists provide. I have divided the phenomena into Thunderstorm-Related Phenomena , Winter Weather Phenomena , Tropical Systems and Non-Precipitation Phenomena.


Thunderstorm-Related Phenomena - Characteristics of thunderstorms can change from season to season, but their effects are always the same. Each phenomenon will be loosely classified into typical cold season and warm season characteristics.

  • Heavy rain and flash flooding - Terrain is an important factor in the frequency and severity of flash flooding. Hilly or mountainous terrain can enhance flash flood potential since upslope wind flow can provide a persistent mechanism for continued thunderstorm development, and rainfall runs downhill. Urban areas, where many paved surfaces exist, can aggravate flooding as well, since rainfall cannot soak into the soil. It must exit through storm drains, which may not support large flows of water.
  • Hail - Severe hail by definition is 3/4" (dime-sized) or larger. Smaller hail can still cause problems, though. Large accumulations of small hail can cause crop damage and hazardous driving. 3/4" or larger hail can chip paint off cars and produce significant crop damage. Denting of cars and serious crop damage usually occurs with hail of 1" or larger.
  • Damaging non-tornadic winds - These are also known as "straight-line" winds. Thunderstorm downdrafts hit the ground and can spread out, sometimes violently, producing winds that can topple trees, telephone poles, and damage buildings.
  • Tornadoes - All details about tornadoes can be found in Dr. Doswell's "Definition of a tornado" essay, but there is some important basic information that I hopefully can summarize.
  • Lightning - This is one of the least forecastable weather elemements, yet it kills more people each year than any other type of weather. Lightning is nothing more than electricity, a static discharge, much like touching a doorknob during a winter day.

  • Winter Weather Phenomena - In my opinion, one of the most neglected fields of research, and also the most poorly predicted phenomena. Frozen and freezing precipitation can occur as a result of many different atmospheric processes. Many "surprise" events are often more forecastable than some people think and the following information will hopefully illustrate my point.

  • Snow - Snowstorms are a result of many weather features from large scale to mesoscale, working together to produce the snow. Traditional methods of tracking snow-producing storms aren't always valid anymore, such as following the surface low pressure center, or assuming that certain temperatures and wind directions are too warm to allow accumulating snow to fall at some future time.
  • Sleet
  • Freezing rain
  • Nor'easter

  • Tropical Systems - More tropical systems affect the eastern U.S. than one would imagine. After a hurricane, tropical storm or tropical depression makes a land fall, the remnants can often track for hundreds of additional miles, producing devastating flooding and occasionally tornadoes.

  • Wind
  • Storm Surge
  • Heavy Rainfall and Associated Flooding
  • Tornadoes
  • Non-Precipitation Phenomena - Includes fog, frost and other phenomena.

  • Fog
  • Frost
  • Freeze
  • Heat Wave
  • El Nino
  • La Nina
  • Greenhouse Effect