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What is a Storm?

February 4, 2013

Hi, I’m Emerald Robinson, and in this “What Is” video, we’re going to answer the question, “What is a storm?”

A storm is defined as any disturbance in a planet’s atmosphere that brings about a  change in weather. On earth, these changes may include high or gusting winds, rain, snow, sleet, or hail. Specific types of storms include snowstorms, windstorms, cyclones, and thunderstorms.

Although there are many different types of storms, most form when an area of warm wet air and colder dry air collide in a zone called a “front.” The warm air is forced to rise above the cold air, causing an area of low atmospheric pressure, which acts sort of like a vacuum. Winds blow as more cold air rushes in to fill the vacuum. The upward movement of air also sometimes causes the clouds we associate with storms.

Although what people call a storm varies widely, scientists who study weather, called meteorologists, set a storm’s minimum wind speed at 55 miles per hour. Storms can last  for as little as an hour, or for well over a hundred hours, depending on atmospheric conditions.

Although they are sometimes dangerous to humans, storms serve important purposes in nature. Precipitation from storms plays a crucial part in the water cycle. Winds create large waves on bodies of water and churn up lakes and rivers. These actions are beneficial for marine life, as they equalize water temperature and help to push plankton and other organisms that live near the surface of the water down to the lower depths, where they can be consumed by predators.

Storms are not exclusive to earth. Astronomers have noted violent wind storms on planets like Mars and Saturn. Jupiter’s well-known “Great Red Spot” is actually a huge storm that’s been raging for at least 183 years!



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