Weather Words You Need To Know

Amazing weather words

People talk about the weather all the time. And so, we present this list of weather words we think you need to know to join the conversation. There's a slight focus on winter weather words, but we won't include the swear words you mutter under your breath as you shovel off the driveway for the fifth time this month. Remember the first day of spring is March 20.

Bombogenesis

People head to the stores to stock up on bread and milk for this one, and the news stations offer "team coverage." Weather.com classifies bombogenesis as "a rapidly intensifying area of low pressure, or a 'weather bomb.'" These weather bombs happen mostly in the fall and winter, but aren't unheard of during other times of the year.

Nor'easters often undergo bombogenesis as cold winds from the north mix with warmer ocean water from the south, creating a big temperature range. Weather.com also states that "weather bombs" become blizzards when "winds increase dramatically and precipitation, including snowfall, become intense . . . [and can be] accompanied by lightning as the system is bombing out."

Frazil

Frazil are "ice crystals formed in turbulent water, as in swift streams or rough seas." So much more exciting than just calling it ice-in-the-river! However, frazil can also form in lakes and oceans; it is the start of sea ice. Frazil usually forms on very clear nights with very low temperatures.

Haboob

An haboob is "a thick dust storm or sandstorm that blows in the deserts of North Africa and Arabia or on the plains of India." Haboob's dust-storm cousin also hits the United States—just ask anyone who lives in Phoenix. These dust storms usually occur during or as a result of a thunderstorm.

Crepuscular ray

When you sit on the porch admiring the sunset, you might be looking at a crepuscular ray. Defined as "a twilight ray of sunlight shining through breaks in high clouds and illuminating dust particles in the air," this is one of the more tame (and dare we say even relaxing) weather words on our list.

Petrichor

You know how it smells outside after a rainstorm? There's a word for that, of course. Petrichor is the distinct scent of rain in the air. Or, to be more precise, it’s the name of an oil that’s released from the earth into the air before rain begins to fall.

Sastruga

This word sastruga (sastrugi in the plural form) means "ridges of snow formed on a snowfield by the action of the wind." It's beautiful in an open field, and a different kind of awe-inspiring in the parking lot you're supposed to plow.

Williwaw

If you're out adventuring and you see a williwaw headed your way, take cover. It is "a violent squall that blows in near-polar latitudes, as in the Strait of Magellan, Alaska, and the Aleutian Islands." This may very well lead to what's known as a three-dog night.

Derecho

Yet another storm you'll want to avoid. A derecho is a widespread and severe windstorm that moves rapidly along a fairly straight path, and it is associated with bands of rapidly moving thunderstorms. In some instances, the media will refer to derechos as inland hurricanes!

Gloriole

We define gloriole as "a halo, nimbus, or aureole." When ice crystals are suspended in the atmosphere, light catches them causing a bright halo or even a rainbow.

Mental Floss says "to differentiate between a gloriole and the related corona phenomenon (caused by water droplets, and much closer to the sun or Moon), put your palm over the sun and extend your fingers, they should reach about 20 degrees from the center." Where's Bill Nye the Science Guy when you need him?

Swullocking

For those who live in the U.S., specifically the midwest or east coast, you've probably experienced that hot, sticky, humid weather during the summer. And, that's just what swullocking means: humid weather. If you're sitting out on your apartment steps one humid St. Louis evening listening to the Cards on KMOX and the weather feels swullocking, you might just be in for some thunder boomers.

Smuir

The Online Scots Dictionary cites this one: "A thick atmosphere, a dense enveloping cloud or swirl of smoke, snow, rain, or mist." So, we can easily assume that the foggy, murky Scottish Highlands are full of smuir. Alternatively, a "blind smuir" is merely a snowdrift.

Moonbroch

One more from Scotland . . . have you ever looked up at the night sky and seen a large halo around the moon? This is what's termed a moonbroch, and it is a sign of an approaching storm. Oh, and a broch is an old term for a Scottish circular stone tower, so you can see how the Scots came up with the term, a halo being circular and all.

Sugar weather

Now, let's jet set to the Great White North for the meaning of this phrase. In Canada, when they have nice warm days but chilly nights, that's known as "sugar weather." Why? Well, that type of weather is just right for getting the maple syrup running in the maple trees.

Hunch weather

This term dates back to the 18th century. Basically, we're talking about drizzle or winds that are strong enough to make you hunch over when you walk. Bundle up and dream of spring vacation in the Bahamas. Winter's bound to have some real "hunch weather" ahead.

Monkey's wedding

Ever experience sunshine and rain at the same time? These weird weather anomalies have been known to be called sun showers, (resulting in a rainbow, no doubt). However, in South Africa, a "sun shower" is also known as a "monkey's wedding." You may kiss the bride?

Virga

The "virga phenomenon" is when you can see that it is raining, but it evaporates on the way to the ground and ends up changing back to water vapor before you can feel it. When it rains and the rain actually makes it to the ground, there's a meteorological word for that, too: praecipitatio.

Snow eater

Imagine, there's snow everywhere. But, all of a sudden, a nice warm breeze blows over the snow and melts it all away. And, that's what Farmer's Almanac refers to as a "snow eater." This usually happens in the Rockies, so don't get too excited about the thought of not shoveling your driveway in the morning.

Thundersnow

There is such a thing as thundersnow, and anyone who's a fan of Jim Cantore on The Weather Channel knows it. Basically, it's when snow is the primary form of precipitation in a thunderstorm (instead of rain). When it happens, you'll know it. As a side note: You might end up with some of the wacky weather mentioned on the next slide, too.

Graupel

Graupel is a type of precipitation that is formed when really cold water droplets collect, freeze, and fall on snowflakes. This creates what is known as a ball of rime, which we define as "an opaque coating of tiny, white, granular ice particles." If there's graupel in the forecast, take shelter!