Measuring The Temperature

The temperature of the air is caused by the combination of air, water, and land working together. Those three factors heat and cool areas at different rates. Temperature also varies by the time of day, the season, or even the year.

When weather people talk about temperature, they are talking about a mean temperature. That's an average of a bunch of different measurements. You are usually told an average temperature for a day. That value is the average of all the measurements made at each moment during the day. There is also a temperature range. That range is the difference between the hottest and coldest temperatures in a specific amount of time.

Several factors affect the temperature you are feeling right now. Where are you? Think about it. Chances are it's going to be colder in Alaska than it will be in the Amazon Jungle. How high up are you? Temperatures are different if you're on top of Mount Everest as opposed to right next to the ocean. You know what? It even matters whether you're over the ocean or on land. There are bigger temperature ranges over the land because of the way soil and rock absorb heat.

Local Changes

Look up in the air. What is the weather like? Those clouds make a big difference in the local temperatures. They can block the Sun's heat and trap other heat between the ground and the clouds. Weather is a short term, day-to-day pattern. Don't confuse weather with climate. Scientists may study temperature ranges over years when they look at climates. The temperature you are feeling right now is directly affected by today's weather. Did you know that local areas heat up when it rains? If you think about the water vapor turning into a liquid, you will know a lot of energy is released. Some of that energy goes into increasing the local temperatures.

Ocean Currents

One more factor affects temperatures. You don't see this influence, but the currents in the ocean affect the temperatures. An ocean current change called El Niño affects the world's temperatures. It carries warm water across the Pacific Ocean and up towards the west coast of North America. The weather changes all over the world when El Niño starts up. Local temperatures in the western United States increase and rainfall increases. More rain in one area can also mean higher temperatures and less rain in other areas of the planet. The entire world is connected.

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