How Do You Read Weather Maps?


Quick Answer

Learn to read a weather map by first learning what the various weather symbols mean, and understanding how the maps are set up. Surface charts are the maps that typically appear on television and in the newspaper.

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Full Answer

The basic weather symbols that appear on a weather map include the large letter "L," which stands for a low pressure system. These systems typically bring cloudy and rainy weather to an area. A large letter "H" stands for a high pressure system, which usually dries out the air and brings in warm, sunny weather. Warm fronts are identified on weather maps as a red line with two half-circles underneath. Although warm fronts do bring a rise in temperatures, they often bring strong storms too. A blue line with two triangles underneath represents a cold front. In the winter, these often usher in frigid air, but in the summer, they bring cooler weather that can destabilize the atmosphere and lead to thunderstorms.

Other common weather symbols seen on a weather map include a combination warm front and cold front sign, which indicates a stationary front, and two light purple straight lines, which indicates a trough, a low pressure area often associated with snowstorms.

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