What Are the Basic Weather Symbols?

Written by christine lebednik
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What Are the Basic Weather Symbols?
Symbols such as triangles, arrows, and series of lines indicate weather conditions on a meteorological map. (SW Productions/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images)

Meteorology refers to the science that deals in the study of weather phenomenon, including application of meteorological expertise to the forecasting of immediate future weather and of reporting on existing weather in limited or nearby areas. The television meteorologist, or weather forecaster, has limited time to convey the information and relies on the use of a variety of basic weather symbols to assist in communicating the information with a minimum number of words.

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A few weather symbols deal with wind or air movement. The most basic of weather symbols related to wind involves a symbol somewhat like a stick person drawing with the stick person in a sitting position. This stick person symbol has numbers written beside the symbol to indicate such facts as the speed of the wind as indicated in miles per hour. Another wind-related symbol indicates the presence of drifting or blowing snow. This symbol uses two, crossed, straight-line arrows.


The category of precipitation accounts for one of the highest number of basic weather symbols. Weather symbols for rain include a triangle, a series of dots or a combination of a triangle and dots. The symbols for snow involve asterisks in similar arrangements to the dots used for rain. For snow showers, the weather symbols use combinations of triangles and asterisks, with different shadings for the triangles to indicate the relative intensity. Meteorologists indicate drizzle with the apostrophe symbol in different quantities and formations according to the severity of the drizzle. Symbols for freezing rain or freezing drizzle use dots or apostrophes with a symbol above or through the middle of the dots or apostrophes that looks like a capital "S" lying on its side.


Weathermen also use a variety of different symbols to indicate different types of storms. Thunderstorm symbols look somewhat like a capital "R" usually with the rightmost leg of the "R" ending in an arrowhead. Weather forecasters may add additional symbols, such as a triangle or an asterisk, to indicate the presence of hail or snow accompanying a thunderstorm. Meteorologists use a symbol similar to in-facing brackets to designate a tornado or funnel cloud. For a hurricane, the basic weather symbol looks like two apostrophes, with the top one upside-down, hooked into each other at the top of the apostrophe. The dust storm symbol looks like a large capital "S" with an arrow right through the middle of the "S" to indicate direction.


Additional basic weather symbols include other stickmen like figures with different shadings and different angles, also accompanied by numbers, to indicate such things as temperature, dew point, atmospheric pressure and amount of cloud cover. A line with a series of half-circles or triangular shapes intersecting the line on top of the line indicates warm or cold fronts. Also, three parallel, horizontal lines symbolise fog on weather charts.

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