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Weather Tricktionary

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Weather Tricktionary

How much do you know about the weather around you? Test your knowledge by picking out the correct definition for different weather terms. For each term there will be four definitions. Only one will be correct. Pick the correct definition for all 10 terms and you will become a certified Scijinks Weather Guru!



plasma is an electrically charged gas, such as the matter in the Sun.

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  • What is a back door cold front?

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    1. A cold front that moves from the northeast, instead of the more usual northwest or north.
    2. A cold wind that blows in through the back door and out through the front door when both are open at the same time.
    3. A cold spell of weather that sneaks in during the middle of summer.
    4. A cold mass of air moving north from the equator.
  • What is chaos theory?

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    1. The theory that some systems, such as weather, are unpredictable no matter how much we learn about them because of the unpredictable effects of small-scale events.
    2. The idea that the Universe is getting messier and messier, as evidenced by the usual condition of some teenagers’ rooms.
    3. The reason people panic and run in all directions when someone shouts “Fire!” in a crowded theater.
    4. The name of a rock band from Philadelphia.
  • What is a downburst?

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    1. Wind blasting down from a thunderstorm or shower.
    2. Fine, fluffy feathers escaping into the air during a pillow fight.
    3. The blast felt when standing under a ceiling fan gone berserk.
    4. A very heavy rainfall.
  • What is a halo?

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    1. Any of the rings or arcs of light around the sun or moon caused by ice crystal clouds.
    2. A cloud that surrounds a mountain, with the top of the mountain poking above the cloud.
    3. A ring of smoke and haze given off by a volcano that is about to erupt.
    4. A glowing crown of light around the highest peak in a mountain range.
  • What is a microburst?

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    1. Wind blasting down from a thunderstorm and covering an area less than 2.5 miles in diameter.
    2. What happens when a potato whose skin has not been punctured to release steam is overcooked in a microwave oven.
    3. The fracturing of the microchips when a laptop computer is dropped on a hard surface.
    4. A tiny hole in a balloon that makes it explode loudly.
  • What is rime?

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    1. Ice formed when tiny drops of water freeze on contact, creating tiny balls of ice with air between them.
    2. The skin of an orange or grapefruit.
    3. Similar sounds at the ends of the lines of a poem.
    4. The slick substance secreted by a slug.
  • What is sea smoke?

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    1. Fog that forms when cold air flows over warm water.
    2. The mist of water that lingers in the air after a whale has surfaced to breathe.
    3. The cloud of steam seen on the western horizon from the California coast as the Sun drops into the ocean.
    4. The exhaust plume from an ocean liner.
  • What is a cut off low?

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    1. An area of low pressure in Earth’s upper atmosphere that is separated from the general west-to-east wind flow.
    2. Low-rider short pants worn during winter to demonstrate the wearer’s tolerance for cold.
    3. A region of nasty weather that cuts electricity and phone service only to a small area.
    4. Conversion process performed on an automobile to make it into a low-rider convertible.
  • What is cloud seeding?

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    1. From an airplane, the release of silver iodide, dry ice or other substances into a cloud to make it release more rain.
    2. The tradition of some native people in times past of planting seeds only under heavy cloud cover in the belief that the seeds would sprout sooner.
    3. Farming method in which seeds are dropped from a crop-duster type airplane through a cover of low clouds in increase the moisture content of the seeds.
    4. The scattering of many tiny clouds across the sky due to turbulence at high altitude.
  • What is an acre-foot?

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    1. The amount of water needed to cover one acre of land under a foot of water.
    2. A foot that reacts to cold, damp weather by becoming achy.
    3. In farming, a foot-like attachment for a tractor used to spread and flatten upturned soil after rows of seeds are planted.
    4. A measurement of distance used by surveyors to mark boundaries for farm acreage.
  • What is the greenhouse effect?

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    1. Warming of a planet caused when the molecules of gas in the atmosphere allow energy from the Sun to pass through and warm the planet but block the return of that energy back into space.
    2. The rapid growth of indoor plants when placed near a window that faces south or west.
    3. The camouflage effect of painting a house green so that it blends in with the foliage and trees that surround it.
    4. The build-up of humidity in a home that has too many houseplants.
  • What is ground fog?

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    1. A layer of fog, often less than 200 feet high, that forms when the ground cools.
    2. The 2nd day in February when a small, furry animal named Phil pops out of his burrow and predicts how soon winter will end.
    3. A small amphibian that hops and croaks on the banks of rivers and streams.
    4. A member of the canine family with a long body and very short legs.
  • Define wind chill factor.

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    1. The effect of wind blowing away the warmed air near the body.
    2. A region in the Arctic where cold winds are manufactured.
    3. Unfriendliness you would show toward a neighbor whose wind chimes keep you awake at night.
    4. The crosswinds Olympic ski racers must factor into their tight turns down the course.
  • What are the trade winds?

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    1. Tropical winds that blow all around the world, generally toward the west.
    2. Winds caused by too many cars on the roads going too fast during the holiday shopping season.
    3. In an orchestra, a part of a symphony in which the clarinets and the flutes swap parts.
    4. Winds that change direction frequently.
  • Define syzygy.

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    1. The lining up of the Sun, Earth, and moon in a nearly straight line.
    2. A lightning discharge that appears as 10 or more separate bolts of lightning.
    3. A giant wave caused by an Earthquake on the ocean floor.
    4. A designer of jumpsuits for hurricane hunters.
  • What are sun dogs?

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    1. Splotches of light on one or both sides of the sun caused by ice crystal clouds.
    2. Canine companions of lifeguards that are trained to help rescue swimmers in trouble at the beach.
    3. Dogs that were part of ancient Egyptian ceremonies to worship the Sun god.
    4. Hot dogs sold at Arizona State University football games.
  • Define wind shear.

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    1. Any sudden change in wind speed or direction.
    2. A very short haircut that even hurricane force winds cannot mess up.
    3. A property of an advanced, nearly transparent fabric for making tents that allow air to pass through freely.
    4. Special scissors used to cut fabric in a parachute factory.
  • What is a gust front?

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    1. Wind flowing out from a thunderstorm.
    2. A kind of windbreaker jacket that is especially reinforced for head winds.
    3. A device on the front of a truck rig to reduce the amount of air drag and so improve fuel efficiency.
    4. An airlock type of entryway in a public building to prevent cold gusts of air from rushing in every time someone enters or exits.
  • What is a polar vortex?

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    1. Strong, winter, upper-atmosphere winds around the polar regions.
    2. A type of material used to make long underwear.
    3. A large, whirlpool soaking tub that uses cold water instead of the usual hot.
    4. A hardening of the front part of the brain in people who live above 65º N latitude for long periods.
  • What is diamond dust?

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    1. Tiny ice crystals that float in the air creating pillars of light.
    2. The dirt cloud kicked up when a pro baseball player slides into home plate.
    3. A Poker hand containing five consecutive cards in the diamond suite.
    4. A rare and expensive spice made from the diamondilus sparkulius plant that grows only in the jungles of New Guinea.
  • What is an anemometer?

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    1. An instrument used for measuring the speed of wind.
    2. An instrument for taking a baby’s body temperature.
    3. An instrument for measuring amount of energy reaching the ground from the Sun.
    4. An instrument used by surveyors for measuring distance.
  • What is the aurora borealis?

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    1. Streamers of colored light that sometimes appear in the night sky in locations far north or south of the equator.
    2. Famous American movie actress of the 1940’s.
    3. A comic book super-heroine, soon to be the subject of a live-action movie.
    4. A galaxy about 2 million light years away, in the constellation Cygnus.
  • What is a chinook?

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    1. A warm, dry wind that blows down the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains.
    2. An odd, unpleasant person.
    3. A type of sports car, made in Norway.
    4. A small hidden niche for valuables built into the brick chimneys of many 18th century homes in England.
  • What is a contrail?

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    1. A trail of condensed water vapor or ice crystals sometimes forming in the wake of an aircraft.
    2. The largest and fastest passenger airplane in existence.
    3. The tracks left behind by a person who has stolen something.
    4. The chemical trail left by scout ants for other ants to follow to find food or water.
  • What is the Coriolis effect?

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    1. The observed effect of winds curving toward the right in the northern hemisphere and toward the left in the southern hemisphere.
    2. The corrosion found on the gold coins from old shipwrecks.
    3. Certain plants bending to follow the Sun across the sky during the day.
    4. The pink or red glow on westward-facing mountains for a short while after the sun has set.
  • What is a deluge?

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    1. A heavy downpour of rain.
    2. A heavy quilt for cold nights.
    3. A shelter for zoo animals.
    4. A large, flat-bed truck used to haul freshly harvested trees from a forest.
  • What is a dust devil?

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    1. A small whirlwind that swirls dust, debris, and sand to great heights.
    2. A special breathing mask that filters out dust particles.
    3. One of the balls of fuzz that rolls around under the bed.
    4. A slang word for helicopter, especially those used in desert environments.
  • What is a gale?

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    1. A strong wind that blows from 51 to 102 kilometers (32 to 63 miles) per hour.
    2. A large ditch where water drains off during a rain.
    3. A siren for warning of a coming tornado.
    4. Chunks of ice falling from the sky.
  • What is a gnomon?

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    1. The part of a sundial that projects a shadow to indicate the time of day.
    2. A small, mythical creature who lives underground.
    3. A type of umbrella.
    4. A cloud that is mistaken for a UFO.
  • Define heat index.

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    1. A measurement of the air temperature in relation to the relative humidity, used to indicate how warm or cold the air feels to people.
    2. Oven temperature given in a recipe for baking something.
    3. The temperature to which milk must be heated to kill any bacteria.
    4. A list of cities, ranked by their mean annual temperatures.
  • What is a hygrometer?

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    1. An instrument that measures atmospheric humidity.
    2. A device for measuring the speed of water flow in a pipe.
    3. A measurement of distance equal to 1/10th of a kilometer.
    4. An instrument that measures the rate of plant growth.
  • What is an isobar?

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    1. A line on a weather map connecting points of equal atmospheric pressure.
    2. High-protein, frozen snack bars favored by weather forecasters.
    3. A single, very high bar used by gymnasts.
    4. Unit of measurement for strain on the steel supports of a bridge or building.
  • What is a mackeral sky?

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    1. A sky covered with many small cirrocumulus or altocumulus clouds, resembling the markings found on a mackeral (fish).
    2. A mysterious weather event taking place on December 21, 1936, in New Orleans, Louisiana, when fish fell from the sky.
    3. Reflection of the sky in a lake where many fish are swimming near the surface.
    4. A hot, humid condition in which the air smells fishy.
  • What is the mesosphere?

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    1. The portion of the atmosphere from about 30 to 80 kilometers ( 20 to 50 miles) above Earth’s surface.
    2. A large ball of used chewing gum.
    3. The region of Earth within 10 degrees latitude north and south of the equator.
    4. The arrangement of Earth’s land masses around 1 billion years ago.
  • What is a mistral?

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    1. A cold, northerly wind that blows in squalls toward the Mediterranean coast of southern France.
    2. A court case in which something goes wrong.
    3. A group of folk singers.
    4. An stringed musical instrument common during the Baroque period.
  • What are mock suns?

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    1. Bright spots that sometimes appear on either side of the sun, often on a luminous ring or halo.
    2. Bright points of light in the night sky that appear to be stars but are really planets.
    3. Movie stunt people who stand in for the stars when they need to do something risky.
    4. Special headlamps worn by people in northern latitudes during the winter when it is dark almost all the time.
  • What is a psychrometer?

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    1. An instrument that uses the difference in readings between two thermometers, one having a wet bulb and the other having a dry bulb, to measure the humidity in the air.
    2. A type of lie detector.
    3. A device that measures distance as its wheel is rolled across a surface.
    4. A glass tube with fine gradations and a stop-cock at the bottom used to dispense precise amounts of a liquid.
  • What are virga streaks?

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    1. Wisps of precipitation streaming from a cloud but evaporating before reaching the ground.
    2. The parts of a person’s hair that are bleached by the Sun.
    3. Markings on Earth’s surface where water once flowed.
    4. The shiny trails left by the virga beetle as it crawls across the ground.