Can You Identify These Weather Phenomena From an Image?

Kennita Leon

Image: mysticenergy / E+ / Getty Images

About This Quiz

The weather can be as beautiful as it is terrifying, calm as it can be exciting and sometimes predictable as it can be unknown. In short, the weather is something none of us can control. And while a lack of control is not usually bad, it can be if the wind and rain are about to sweep you off your feet and knock your home from its foundation.

But while we can do nothing to decide whether the sun or snow will be out one day or the next, it does help to know what these weather phenomena are. Do you? Well, we're going to test exactly that today. We want to see whether you know the difference between a flood and a tidal wave, among other things, if we showed you pictures of them. 

So, allow us to show you pictures of the basics like a hurricane, fog and a lightning storm. You'll see ones you know well in tandem with some that aren't so familiar so that we can really test our weather knowledge. Will you be a meteorologist-in-training by the end, or is your assessment a little more on the basic side? Let's find out!

An air mass with spiraling winds, what is this kind of phenomena called?

A cyclone is a gigantic air mass that moves around a low-pressure core, and it can cause some serious damage. Their rotation depends whether they are above or below the equator. North of the equator, cyclones move counterclockwise, while they move in a clockwise direction in the southern hemisphere. (Check out how water flows down the train or down the toilet for another example of this!)

These form over oceans and are quite destructive. What is this?

A hurricane is a particular type of cyclone which builds up over oceans, especially in tropical or sub-tropical regions. Using warm air to propel itself, hurricanes can have winds from over 70 to upwards of 160 miles per hour. Landfall often slows them down, but not before major destruction sometimes occurs.

It is a movement of earth caused by a variety of things. What do you think this is?

Landslides occur for many reasons, and it's rarely just one thing that causes a landslide. Gravitational force is always at play, along with possibilities like earthquakes, erosion, or changes in groundwater. The most devastating landslide in US history occurred in Oso, Washington, in 2014, and 43 people lost their lives.

Also called a snowslide, what is the more common name for this event?

Avalanches are similar to landslides in that gravity pushes snow (instead of land) down a hill. However, avalanches don't have the same triggering factors that landslides do. They are more often caused by snowfall and snowpack, not by things like erosion or groundwater changes. As they gain speed, avalanches can easily pick up boulders and trees, and people can easily be smothered beneath the snow.

What is the name of this weather phenomenon?

Fog is defined as a thick cloud made of water droplets suspended in the atmosphere at or near the Earth's surface. The thickness of fog results in a reduction of visibility which affects human activities such as shipping, driving, sailing or flying. Lots of visitors to the Golden Gate Bridge can also attest that fog affects the ability to take great photos too!

It happens when there are long periods with no rain. What is it?

A drought is a natural disaster characterized by a prolonged period of insufficient rainfall which may last for months or years. Drought can have major impacts on its environment, from higher likelihood for fire to deeply diminished water supply.

Which of these options best matches the picture?

Wildfires often occur in forested or rural areas that are rife with vegetation. Wildfires may be caused by human activities such as agriculture or more commonly by natural causes such as drought, lightning or volcanic eruption.

It brings scorching weather and sometimes death. What do you think you're seeing here?

A heat wave, which varies by region, is as a period of devastatingly weather which may be accompanied by humidity. Severe heat waves can cause major health problems, especially for the very young and elderly people, and can also result in economic loss including crop failures or inability to work.

Can you identify which of the following is going on here?

A flood, as defined by the European Union Floods Directive, is a covering by water of land not typically covered by water. This may be the result of an overflow of nearby bodies of water such as rivers, lakes, sea or ocean due to an accumulation of rainfall or storm surges.

It used to be used interchangeably with the word "tsunami." Can you tell us what this is?

A tidal wave, not to be mistaken with a tsunami, is a type of wave that is recurring, unlike a tsunami, which is caused by seismic movement. Tidal waves are related to the moon and regular gravitational pull, not with one-time events.

It's like a funnel with dangerous swirls. What's its name?

Tornadoes are the result of thunderstorms, occurring in the US predominantly in the midwest. These rapidly moving weather events are characterized by their funnel-shaped clouds. The '90s movie "Twister" followed storm-chasers looking for tornadoes.

What does this look like to you?

While acid rain doesn't cause your skin to melt off, it can cause asthma and other respiratory illness. Like much pollution around the world, acid rain is one result of industrialization and human behavior on the environment, and its effects are felt most acutely by poor people and developing nations who have contributed the least to pollution around the globe.

They're frozen balls of rain. What's the more common term for it?

Ice pellets are frozen balls of rain that solidify before they reach the ground. This type of precipitation is also known as sleet and are usually make a tapping sound when they hit the ground or another object, differentiating them from soft snow or even driving rain.

These particles rise from dry soils and affect visibility. What is this occurrence called?

Dust storms arise from dry soils and form a thick mass that can cause poor visibility in affected areas. These storms usually occur in arid regions and are dangerous to one's health.

These can cause heavy damage to buildings, especially roofs. What type of weather is this?

Another word fro violent windstorms is "derecho," a term that was never popularized with meteorologists. The wind may or may not be accompanied by rain but can cause damage to trees and infrastructure.

This one goes by many names, but which of the options suits it best?

Hail is a form of precipitation where hard balls of ice fall from the sky. This takes place when ice crystals in cumulonimbus clouds become too heavy to remain in the cloud and fall to the ground. Hailstones may be as small as peas or as large as grapefruits - all depending on the severity of the storm.

Also called a violent snowstorm, what's the more common name for this winter-time horror?

A blizzard is a violent snowstorm, consisting of strong winds that may last for hours. This type of weather takes place when these winds, measuring more than 35 miles per hour, cause snow to be tossed around in the air, reducing visibility.

What is this very common occurrence called?

As you may remember from elementary school, rain falls from the sky when water vapor condenses in clouds. Those fluffy shapes that look so cottony are actually full of water, not like pillows at all.

This water effect is what usually comes after a natural disaster. What is it?

A tsunami is a giant wave that is often preceded by seismic disasters like volcanoes or earthquakes. These high, long waves can rise from ten to 100 feet and are very destructive to human life.

What is it called when a ring of light surrounds the sun or moon?

Halos are rings of light that encircle the sun or moon. They are referred to as an optical phenomenon, due to the effect of the light on these astronomical objects. Halos are a fascinating occurrence and some believe they foreshadow rainy or stormy weather.

Based on the picture, what do you think is being shown here?

Snow is formed in clouds when water vapor cools below freezing. Other weather conditions that involve snow are blizzards, flurries, white-outs, and yes, even thundersnow.

Rain falling while it's still bright outside? What's the name of this phenomena?

The term sun shower refers to a commonly observed weather phenomenon. A sun shower occurs when raindrops blow into an area with no clouds. This results in rain falling while the sun is out.

This can cover extremely wide areas. What is it called?

An air mass is a large body of air defined by its temperature and water vapor content -- they can be thousands of miles long! Typically, these bodies stay in contact with land or sea long enough to take on their same temperature.

It happens when sunlight is reflected and refracted in raindrops. What's its official name?

Rainbows are a popular weather phenomenon. These colorful shapes can be arches or you can be the lucky finder of a double arched rainbow. You'll also see them around waterfalls.

It may be difficult to see, bit what kind of storm is this?

A squall refers to a sudden gust of wind associated with a thunderstorm, rain showers and heavy snow. A squall must last at least one minute, and they can have winds of up to 40 miles per hour! You do NOT want to get caught in one of these!

What's the name of this particular weather phenomena?

A tropical storm is defined as a low-pressure wind system which, like hurricanes, form in tropical seas. They can turn into hurricanes if their wind speeds exceed 73 mph.

A mixture of rain and snow, what do you think you're seeing in this photo?

Sleet is a form of precipitation which consists of a mixture of rain and snow. Sleet is also defined as ice pellets which results from the freezing of raindrops as they fall.

These are also known as polar cyclones. What is their other name?

Arctic cyclones are also known as Polar cyclones. Like regular cyclones, they are areas of low pressure which can cover over a thousand miles. Arctic cyclones occur in the northern hemisphere.

Can you identify what is happening here?

A sundog is formally known as a "parhelion" in meteorology. It occurs when a bright spot appears on one or both sides of the sun.

Usually formed by sunlight, this one is formed by the type of light that shines when it's dark outside. What is it called?

A moonbow is a term used to refer to a rainbow formed by moonlight. Moonbows are very rare, but in spite of that, they have many nicknames, including lunar or white rainbows.

This air rotation usually happens within a thunderstorm. What is its name?

This precursor to the tornado is a vortex that rises over a severe thunderstorm. When tornadoes form from mesocyclones, they can have a longer and more damaging impact than other tornadoes, which sometimes last only a few minutes.

What do you think this picture is showing?

A weather front is often the reason "weather" like rain and snow occurs. It's an area where air masses of differing temperatures or densities converge.

This kind of "breeze" can lead to many other more serious weather phenomena. What is it?

Foehn or found wind is the generic term applied to warm and dry air that frequently occurs on the "dry side"of a mountain range. This is the side more susceptible to drought and other severe weather.

It is the opposite of another kind of phenomena in which air is circulated. What is its name?

An anticyclone is a weather phenomenon that does exactly the opposite of a cyclone: when the weather is nice as can be, you might be experiencing an anti-cyclone.

It doesn't actually set things ablaze, but what do you think is depicted in this 1886 engraving?

Named for the patron saint of sailors, St. Elmo's fire refers to a type of bright light that results from an electric field. It's been observed by none other than Charles Darwin and Julius Caesar, among many others, of course.

what is the Mongolian term for a severe winter?

Zud refers to a winter of particularly bad weather occurring for any number of reasons including too much snow, not enough snow, or warming temperatures that create impenetrable ice slicks. It is typical that in a zud year, a million livestock can be lost.

Can you tell us what this kind of weather is called?

These colorful orbs can appear during a thunderstorm and shine as brightly as an overhead light! Ball lightning is often mistaken for St. Elmo's fire, and can range in size from a peach to a watermelon.

A cloud with small crystals is basically what this is. But what is its name?

Diamond dust is characterized by low-hanging clouds in sub-zero temperatures. Ice crystals form inside the clouds, looking like bright spots in the sky.

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