What is Meteorology?

What exactly is meteorology? Many people think that meteorology has to do with things regarding astronomy, as it is similar to the word meteor. But this is actually not true. Meteorology has to do with the atmosphere and more specifically, the weather. In one sentence: meteorology is the science of the (lower) atmosphere with a focus on the weather and weather forecasting. In this blog we will elaborate on the meaning of meteorology and the weather.

In the Meteorological Glossary of the Met Office is stated that meteorology is “the science of the atmosphere … embracing both weather and climate. It is concerned with the physical, dynamical and chemical state of the earth’s atmosphere (and those of the planets), and with the interactions between the earth’s atmosphere and the underlying surface” (source: Met Office). On Wikipedia, meteorology is defined as “a branch of the atmospheric sciences, with a major focus on weather forecasting.” (source: Wikipedia).

As you can see, the definitions of meteorology can vary a bit for different sources, but overall, the definition is clear and it means as much as the study of the atmosphere and weather (forecasting). But in order to be able to study meteorology, there is one more question we have to answer: what actually is the weather?

What is the weather?

We all know what the weather is. But it is not as easy to describe the weather in just one simple sentence. According to Oxford Languages’ dictionary, the weather is ‘the state of the atmosphere at a particular place and time’. I personally think this is one of the best and clearest definitions, because it makes so much sense, right?

Imagine if you are calling with someone, and this person asks you “how’s the weather there?”. You might answer something along the lines of “this afternoon it was sunny, warm and calm here, but now it is windy, rainy and cold”. What you are doing is exactly describing the state of the atmosphere at a particular place and time and for this description you use several parameters such as the temperature (is the atmosphere warm or cold?), humidity (is it cloudy & is precipitation occurring?) and wind.

These and way more variables/parameters and the variables that are causing them are studied within meteorology. Thanks to this field of studies, we are able to understand the atmosphere and make models that simulate it. This again enables us to make weather forecasts.

Where does the word ‘meteorology’ come from?

As mentioned before, meteorology is quite often confused with astronomical features, mostly meteors. Meteorology comes from Ancient Greece, which is believed to be one of the first civilizations that started to study the weather. Greek philosopher Aristotle documented his studies done on astronomy and meteorology (fields which he believed to be very closely related) in his treatise Meteorologica, written around 340 B.C. (Frisinger, 1972). Meteoros means as much as ‘in the air’, which explains why the ancient Greeks named meteorology and meteors similarly (source: Met Office).

If you want to learn more about this topic, check out my meteorological background page, where I will explain different meteorological phenomena. (Content will be added to this section in the upcoming months).


Frisinger, H. H. (1972). Aristotle and his “Meteorologica”. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society53(7), 634-638.

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