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If I asked you to name the single factor most likely to positively or negatively affect your travels, what would your answer be?

Flight delays? Food poisoning?

While we can agree that neither of those are any fun, neither of them are the correct answer. Because the single factor most likely to affect your travels is the weather.

Checking the weather should be one of the most important parts of your travel planning, but all too often travelers take this for granted, and people quite often find themselves caught off guard.

But what makes it actually possible for us to check the weather forecast?

The answer is meteorology.

Has a weather forecast has ever saved you from being an unprepared, unhappy and very soggy traveler? If so, you’re about to learn a little bit more about meteorology, out of appreciation for the science!

Understanding Meteorology (and How it Relates to Travel)

What is Meteorology?

raining weather traveler female RF

Meteorology is the study of atmospheric science in an attempt to predict the weather. The study of meteorology dates back millennia, though significant progress in weather predictions didn’t occur until the 18th century.

Meteorologists are scientists who study the atmosphere and its many changes, for instance, they might study wind patterns over the Indian Ocean to determine whether it will rain in southern Asia next week.

The variables that are used in weather forecast include temperature, pressure, water vapor, and wind patterns. A meteorologist would analyze all these aspects to be able to make weather prediction.

Nowadays however computer software has made life much easier, and you don’t have to be a scientist to be able to predict the weather; as far as travelers are concerned, you can forecast the weather for any country in the world quite easily with the help of a simple app.

Fun fact! The word ‘meteorology’ comes from the Greek word metéōros, meaning “things in the air.” These “things” include phenomena like temperature, air pressure, water vapor, and the way they all interact and change over time is what we collectively call ‘the weather’. 

The History of Meteorology

New York weather RF

The history of modern weather prediction dates back to the 18th century during a period of rapid growth in agriculture. Humans were able to use weather forecasts to predict when there would be rain and floods, and use this information to help decide on planting seasons.

Before this time, priests would make weather prediction based on astrology, and in many ancient civilizations sacrifices were often performed as a way of enticing the Gods to bring about good weather.

But it was Aristotle who would come to be known as the father of meteorology (yes, the Greek philosopher) and is largely credited with its invention.

Did you know that Aristotle created meteorology (the science of predicting the weather)? Yes! The Greek philosopher!Click To Tweet

Meteorology as we know it was born from Aristotle’s work Meteorologicaa publication that discussed his thoughts and scientific observations on weather phenomenon and water evaporation.

Studies of the weather date back millennia, though Aristotle’s work is among the earliest writings known to exist. The world then took a leap forward with the invention of instruments like the barometer and thermometer, and the spread of weather observing on ships.

The meteorology we know today, that relies on computer software wasn’t developed until the late 20th century. That said, there are many ancient sites that remain around the world today for those interested in the subject. In particular, the Tower of the Winds in Greece.

Athens Travel: Visit the Most Ancient Weather Station in the World

Tower of the Winds Athens

Believed to be the first weather station in the world, the Tower of the Winds was erected around 100-50 BC for the purpose of measuring time. Despite being close to 2,000 years ago, it still stands to this day, and is one of the most well preserved ancient sites in Athens.

The site itself has been closed since the 1820’s, and despite not being on the radar of most tourists, makes for a really interesting visit having been recently reopened after restoration.

It is a tall, thin tower shaped like an octagon, made entirely out of Pentelic marble, that stands 14 meters high, with eight sides. This octagon shape was specifically chosen so that each side could align with the point of the compass; if you look closely you can still see the lines from the original 9 sundials.

You don’t spend too long looking around, but it’s a fascinating side trip while in Athens to be able to say that you’ve visited the most ancient weather station in the world. If you look towards the top of the tower you’ll spot 8 winged sculptures (one on each side), each representing a different ancient Greek wind god.

Inside you’ll find an old water clock which was originally used to keep the time overnight, or on days when the sundials wouldn’t work because it was overcast.

Head to Aiolou Street, next to the Acropolis hill. You can either view it from behind the barriers for free, or pay 5€ to walk right up and go inside (which is well worthwhile for the cheap cost).

Image credit: mritz_p (CC BY 2.0) via Flickr

How We Can Predict the Weather Today

Rain

While we no longer rely on sundials and water clocks, almost everyone in today’s age is aware of how to predict the weather, whether it be experience, observations, or computer science.

Checking the weather forecast for your destination before you travel is essential to ensuring you are packing appropriate clothes. And to do this we rely on computer software.

The technology boom of the 21st century now means that anyone with an internet connection can be a meteorologist. All it requires is logging onto a weather-related website or app for being able to make an accurate prediction, and plan your packing and itinerary accordingly.

Weatherbug desktop is one such app; all you need to do is to search for WeatherBug download and set it up in your PC. This software works in a way that you can configure several weather stations in a region to be able to analyze and make weather predictions yourself.

Stay Alert on the Day

While it’s important to plan ahead, it’s equally as important to stay alert of weather conditions while you’re traveling, and make observations on the day. For instance, if you notice dark clouds gathering, it might be wise to look for a place to shelter from incoming rain.

We’ve come to take such observations for granted as common knowledge, but this intuition is actually based on changes in temperature, pressure, and behavior of the sky.

Did you know you were an amateur meteorologist?!

Meteorology plays a crucial role in every society, and is incredibly important for travelers to understand, as it can make or break your trip if you’re not observant or conscious of the weather. 

We hope you’ve learned something new today!

Megan is an Australian Journalist and award-winning travel writer who has been blogging since 2007. Her husband Mike is the American naturalist and wildlife photographer behind Waking Up Wild; an online magazine dedicated to opening your eyes to the wonders of the wild & natural world.

Having visited 50+ countries across all seven continents, Megan’s travels focus on cultural immersion, authentic discovery and incredible journeys. She has a strong passion for ecotourism, and aims to promote responsible travel experiences.

    

    4 Comments

  1. This post is fascinating!! I feel like I’m extra attuned to the weather whenever I travel, to the point where I go nuts taking photos in any small patch of blue skies on a cloudy day. I’m a big fan of the Dark Sky weather app. It’ll actually alert you right before it starts to rain. Pretty crazy how advanced weather technology has become :)

    • So glad you enjoyed the post Laura, thanks for reading! Agreed that I also seem to switch on my weather senses more so when I’m traveling – funny how that works as a basic instinct!

      Thanks for the heads up on the app, sounds like a great one to check out. Really is incredible how far weather technology has come since the days of ancient sundials!

  2. Great post-Meg! I really enjoy reading it and learn more about the meteorology, I didn’t know about that weather station in Athens! Its amazing how much time does it have! It’s very important if you are going on vacation to check the weather report of the place you are visiting, I forgot it once when I was wondering visit Cancun because I want to go to the beach, but when I arrived the weather was very cloudy and rainy!

    • Thanks Manuel! So glad that you enjoyed the post and hopefully now we’ve inspired Athens onto your bucketlist for the weather station :D

      Ah yes, I think we’ve all made that mistake before, re your beach trip to Cancun – I usually forget to check the tide information so I’ve rocked up a couple of times for a beach day and there’s no sand because the tide is too high!

      Live and learn though!

      Thanks for reading :)

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