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Every Pilot Should Know These 10 Facts About Weather Theory

There's a LOT pilots need to know about weather. If you're just getting started, here are a few things you should learn right away...

1) What Exactly Causes Weather?

At the broadest level, weather is caused by: temperature differences, pressure differences, large scale air masses, and the rotation of the earth.

2) The Troposphere

At the middle latitudes, the troposphere ranges from the earth's surface to 20,000 feet MSL. It's where we live, and so does most of the earth's weather. Temperature decreases in the troposphere approximately 2 degrees Celsius per 1,000 feet of altitude.

3) Convective Activity

If you know anything about thunderstorms, you'll know the term "convection." It's essentially a circular motion of air with hot air expanding and rising. As it rises, the air subsequently condenses, cools, and sinks, replacing warmer air below.


4) The Basics of Low Pressure Air Masses

Low pressure systems have a cyclonic flow, meaning they spin counterclockwise. At the center of a low pressure, you'll find air rising. The center of a low-pressure systems is commonly associated with poor visibility, rain, and fog.


5) The Basics of High Pressure System Air Masses

High pressure systems rotate in a clockwise direction, or anti-cyclonic. At the center of a high-pressure system, you'll find a downward motion of air. Clear skies are most commonly found towards the center.

Swayne Martin

6) The International Standard Atmosphere (ISA)

vCreated by ICAO, or the International Civil Aviation Organization, the ISA is 29.92" Hg with a temperature of 59 degrees F (15 degrees C).

7) Weather Fronts

A "front" is a boundary between two types of air masses. As you pass through a front, you'll usually experience a noticeable change in weather. There are 4 main types of "fronts:" cold, warm, stationary, and occluded.

8) 3 Ingredients For Thunderstorms

The 3 basic ingredients to make a thunderstorm are: moisture, lifting action, and an unstable atmosphere. Thunderstorms have 3 stages: cumulus, mature, and dissipating.

9) What Causes Fog?

Fog is causes by a nearly identical temperature-dew point spread. Some of the most common types are: radiation, advection, steam, and upslope fog.

10) Turbulence

Smooth airflow is usually disrupted obstacles, terrain, surface heating (thermal activity), and frontal turbulence.


What do want to learn about weather? Give us suggestions in the comments below.

Swayne Martin

Swayne is an editor at Boldmethod, certified flight instructor, and an Embraer 145 First Officer for a regional airline. He graduated as an aviation major from the University of North Dakota in 2018, holds a PIC Type Rating for Cessna Citation Jets (CE-525), and is a former pilot for Mokulele Airlines. He's the author of articles, quizzes and lists on Boldmethod every week. You can reach Swayne at, and follow his flying adventures on his YouTube Channel.

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