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My popular series on vocabulary words continues with this fun step-by-step guide to weather-related vocabulary. Please pass this along to everyone you know who is working on their English pronunciation!
In the US, a common topic for small talk is weather. So if you’re in the US, you may find yourself needing to talk about weather quite a bit. By the end of this video, you’ll feel totally comfortable engaging in these weather-related small talk conversations. We’re going to go over vocabulary relating to weather and phrases you may use when talking about weather.
To start, let’s go over some more technical terms. You have Celsius and Fahrenheit, both of these are the unit of a degree. In the US, we use Fahrenheit. Water freezes at 32 degrees Fahrenheit and boils at 212. This is a three-syllable word with stress on the first syllable. The first H is silent, and the second H is pronounced. Fahrenheit. Fahrenheit. Say that with me. Fahrenheit.
You might hear the terms ‘heat index’ or ‘wind chill factor’. Heat index refers to an adjusted temperature based on the way the temperature feels when you factor in humidity, or, moisture in the air. I grew up in Florida where it’s so humid. I hate that feeling. Here’s a bit of a conversation I had with my Mom about the weather in Florida. Before you listen, let’s go over the pronunciation of temperature, which you’ll hear in this conversation.
This word can be pronounced as 3 or 4 syllables, and I recommend using three, it’s more common and it’s easier. You’ll hear Americans pronounce the middle syllable two different ways: either TEM-per-chur or TEM-pre-chur. Per or pre. I personally think the first one is easier: TEM-per-chur. So both the second and third syllables have schwa-R, er, er, er. Per-chur. TEM-per-chur. Temperature. TEM-per-chur. Break it up with me. TEM-per-chur. Temperature. Ok, let’s listen to that conversation.
So mom, tell me about the weather in Florida. I know you’ve always hated it.
The weather in Florida is hot and humid most of the year.
Like what are we talking temperature-wise?
Temperature-wise, from about mid-May to mid to late October, the temperature range is a low of 74 or 75 and a high of 93, 94, 95.
Well, it doesn’t vary much. I mean, we hardly ever get above a hundred.
Yeah. But with the heat index…
The heat index gets up there.
Because there’s always a lot of humidity.
I mean like a humidity hovers around 95 percent a lot of the time especially in the morning and the evening. It goes down a little bit around noon.
So there you heard ‘heat index’, humid, and ‘humidity’. ‘Heat index’, notice that those two words are linked with a Flap T. Heat index. The temperature is 100, but the heat index is 107. Say that with me, heat index. Heat index.
Humid, humidity. This is moisture in the air. Notice how the stress changes. For the adjective, humid, we have stress on ‘hu-‘. Humid. For the noun, ‘humidity’, we have stress on –mi-. Hu-mi-dity. Humidity. Humid, humidity. The H is pronounced in both of these words. And the T in ‘humidity’ is a Flap T because it comes between two vowels and doesn’t start a stressed syllable. Humidity. Say those with me. Humid. Humidity.
The other term that I mentioned earlier is ‘wind chill factor’. This can also be called ‘wind chill’ or ‘wind chill index’. This is when it feels lower than the temperature because of wind. For example, the temperature is 20 below, but the wind chill factor is 40 below. What does that mean, 20 below? It means 20 degrees below freezing. We just leave out ‘freezing’. 20 below, 40 below. Wind chill. Notice that when these two word go together, I’m dropping the D. It’s common to drop D between two other consonants, and I’ve listened to lots of different speakers say this phrase and they all dropped the D. So you can go straight from the N into the CH sound. Win-ch– Wind chill. Wind chill. Say that with me. Wind chill.
When that first cold front finally pushes through in the fall, it’s just such a relief.
‘Cause that breaks the humidity.
There my mom mentioned a ‘cold front’. This is when colder air starts moving into a region. And after a hot summer, a cold front is very welcomed. Here I would say the D. I wouldn’t release it, cold front, cold, cold. That’s too much T. That doesn’t sound right. But I do put my tongue into position for the D and vibrate the vocal cords. Cold, dd, dd, cold, cold front. Cold front. Say that with me. Cold front.
The opposite of humid is ‘dry’. With all DR clusters, it’s more common to pronounce them as JR. Americans don’t even notice that they’re doing this. I did this when I was talking to my mom. Dry. jj– Dry. Say that with me. Dry. This is when there’s a lack of moisture in the air.
And now Dillon, where you spent time in the summer is the exact opposite as far as dry, it’s so dry, it’s almost too dry.
It’s very dry but I like it that way. It’s too dry for some people, I suppose.
And then when you, when it is hot, it doesn’t bother you as much because the sweat dries quickly and…
The sweat dries quickly but if you’re out in the sun, you know, Dillon is at 9,000 feet of altitude. So if you’re out in the sun and it’s say upper 70s, low 80s, even if the humidity is sort of low, it’s really hot. It’s a really intense sun.
My mom said ‘upper 70s, low 80s’. We do use ‘upper’ and ‘low’ or ‘lower’, also ‘mid’ when referring to degrees. Upper 90’s, of course, would be temperatures in the 97, 98, 99 range. Mid-90s would be more like 94-96.
Where there’s a period of time that’s especially hot, hotter than normal, you might hear that called a ‘heat wave’. And when there’s a period of time that’s especially cold, colder than normal, you might hear that called a ‘cold snap’ or ‘cold spell’. Heat wave, cold snap, cold spell. Say these with me. Heat wave, cold snap, cold spell.
Now, let’s talk about weather relating to rain.
First, it can be just cloudy. No sun. We were having one of those days in Philadelphia, listen to how I described it.
It’s so gray and dreary today.
Cloudy, the opposite of sunny. We can also have a sky that is partly cloudy or partly sunny. Partly, part-ly. We say that with a Stop T. Partly cloudy, partly sunny. Partly, part-ly. Say these with me: partly, partly cloudy, partly sunny.
But this day was all clouds — I called it gray and dreary. Dreary means depressing, uninspiring. Gray, dreary. These can be tough because of those R’s. It can help when you’re practicing words like these to hold out the R a little bit: grrrray, drrearrry. Gray, dreary. Gray, dreary. Remember, DR consonant cluster, you can pronounce that JR. Jj– Dreary. Gray, dreary. Try these words with me. Gray, dreary.
A sky that is all cloudy can also be called overcast. You’ll hear this word a lot. Overcast. Stress on the first syllable. Overcast. Say that with me. Overcast.
It’s so gray and dreary today.
Oh, it’s starting to drizzle. Do you feel that?
Did you bring an umbrella?
We heard a new word there, drizzle. Did you catch the meaning? It means a very light rain. And again, it starts with the DR cluster. You can make that DR or JR. Drizzle. Jj– or dd– Drizzle. Drizzle. Drizzle. Both are okay.
You could also use it as a verb and say, “it’s drizzling”. Drizzle, drizzling. Say these with me. Drizzle, drizzling.
If it started raining a little more, but still not too much, you might hear this described as a gentle rain, or a soft rain. If it was more intense, then we call that raining hard. We might even call it a downpour.
It’s raining pretty hard. Just a second ago, it was raining even harder. It was a downpour. It was pouring.
Raining hard, pouring, or downpour. Pour. This word is interesting. Even though phonetically it would be written differently than the word P-O-O-R, many Americans pronounce them the same. Pour, pouring. AW as in LAW followed by R, the R changes this vowel. So the tongue is further back and the lips round a little bit more. it’s not AW but it’s OH. Oh. Pour. Pouring. Pour, poring. Downpour. Say those with me. Pouring, downpour.
People might also use the word ‘showers’ instead of rain. We’ll have light showers in the morning, and heavy showers in the afternoon. Showers. Say that with me. Showers.
A lot of rain can lead to a flood, or a flash flood, which is a flood where the waters rise really, really quickly. These can be really dangerous. In this word, the double-O make the UH as in BUTTER vowel: UH, floo-, flood. Flood. Try that with me. Flood, flash flood.
Rain can also come with thunder and lightning, and we might call that a thunderstorm. Thunder. This word begins with an unvoiced TH, and you do need to bring your tongue tip through the teeth for that sound. Th, thunder. Say that with me thunder. Thunder. Thunderstorm. Lightning has a Stop T. Light-ning. Lightning. Lightning. Lightning. Say that with me. Lightning.
A thunderstorm might even come with hail instead of rain. Hail is frozen chunks of ice. And it can range in size from small to quite big. Wikipedia said the largest chunk of hail recorded fell in South Dakota in 2010, and it was 8 inches across. Hail. A ane-syllable word, ending in the Dark L. Hail. Say that with me. Hail.
And if there’s no rain for a long time, that’s called a drought. OUGH here making the OW as in NOW diphthong. Drought. Drought. There is no G sound, there is no H sound. This, of course, can be a problem for crops and water supply. Drought. Notice another DR cluster. That means you can pronounce it as DR or JR. Jj– Drought. Say that with me. Drought. Drought.
It’s a beautiful summer morning here in Philadelphia. Light breeze, very shady, but it’s not too hot yet, not too humid yet. It’s just a gorgeous morning for a walk. It’s very sunny. Not a cloud in the sky. All blue skies.
There I talk about blue sky, not a cloud in the sky. That could also be called ‘clear’. It’s a clear day. I also talked about the wind. What did I say about the wind? I said there was a light breeze. If it’s breezy, that’s like saying there’s a little bit of wind. Another consonant cluster with R: brrrr, brrrreezy. Breezy. Breeze. Breezy. Say those with me. Breeze. Breezy.
And we have wind. Windy. Make sure the lips come in to a tight circle for that W. Ww– wind. Windy.
If the wind picks up and gets out of control, that can get pretty serious: a tropical storm, a tornado, a hurricane, a typhoon. Tropical storms, hurricanes, and typhoons start off in the ocean and may or may not make landfall, that is, they may or may not come over land. Certain coasts are very vulnerable to these destructive storms that involve high winds, changes in the pressure of the atmosphere, and can cause storm surges. Storm surge. This is when the water from the ocean rises up and causes lots of coastal damage.
We have lots of storm-related words here. Storm surge. ‘Surge’ with the UR vowel, which is just like the R sound in American English. Ss-ur-ge. You don’t have to try to make a different vowel sound there. Surge. Storm surge. Say that with me. Storm surge.
This is the same vowel that’s in the stressed syllable of ‘hurricane’, hur– hurricane. No other vowel, just H and the R. Hh-rr– Hur, hur, hurricane. Say that with me. Hurricane.
Before a storm gets strong enough to be called a hurricane, it’s called a tropical storm. Just like you learned with DR cluster in ‘dry’, TR is often pronounced as CHR. Ch– tropical. So you can hear ‘chropical’ or ‘tropical’ with more of a T sound. Tropical storm. Say that with me. Tropical storm.
A Typhoon is like a hurricane, only it happens in the Pacific Ocean instead of the Atlantic. Typhoon, second syllable stress here. Typhoon. Say that with me, typhoon.
A tornado is a vortex of wind, and it makes a funnel-shaped cloud. All four of these storms are made up of winds that swirl around a center, the center is called the eye. The eye of the storm. Things are very calm in the eye of the storm. Tornado. The middle syllable is stressed, so the first and last syllables should be shorter, faster, and said more quickly. Tornado. Tornado. Say that with me. Tornado.
Let’s talk about something a little happier: if you have a day that’s a weird mix of rain and sun, you might get to see a rainbow. Rainbow is a compound word, and this always have stress on the first word. So ‘rain’ is stressed, and ‘bow’ is unstressed. Rainbow. Say that with me. Rainbow. Rainbow.
Let’s talk about winter weather. A couple of winters ago, we had a blizzard, which is a storm that comes with a lot of heavy snow.
Blizzard. The first syllable is stressed, and the second syllable has a schwa-R, that means you don’t even need to try to make a vowel. Just zrd, zrd, zrd. Blizzard. Blizzard. Say that with me, blizzard.
If it’s a very, very light snow, we call that snow flurries. “Is it supposed to snow tonight?” “Just flurries.” Flurries, like ‘hurricane’ and ‘surge’ has the UR vowel in the stressed syllable. You don’t need to try to make a separate vowel and then R. It’s all just R. Fl–urrr. Flurrr, flurries. Say that with me. Flurries.
A nor’easter. This is a term I had never heard until I was living in Boston. These are storms that blow in from the north and east, and they are common in the winter in New England. They might bring in snow, slush, and sleet.
Sleet is a mix: a little ice, a little rain, a little snow. It causes slush on the ground, which is what happens when snow and ice start to melt. It’s water with chunks of ice. “Wear boots: the sidewalks are slushy.” This term can also refer to a drink or a desert with ice and liquid. Sleet, slush. Say those with me. Sleet, slush.
When sleet or rain freezes on the street or sidewalks, and it’s a thin layer that you can’t see, we call that black ice. Which is very dangerous, of course, because you can’t see it. You don’t know it’s coming. It’s very easy to slip and fall, or lose control of your car. Black ice. Black ice. Say that with me, black ice.
An avalanche is when a mass of snow, ice, and maybe rocks slides rapidly down a mountainside. Whew. Being trapped in one of these has got to be my worst nightmare. Avalanche. The E at the end is silent. First syllable stress. Avalanche, avalanche. Say that with me. Avalanche.
One morning recently when my dad was taking me to the airport, we ran into some fog.
Dad, what kind of weather are we having this morning?
Well, it’s a little foggy out.
But it’s pretty nice out there.
Fog, foggy. You could also say there was mist or it was misty. If you live in the Bay Area in California, you’re very familiar with this. Fog, foggy. Mist, misty. Say those with me. Fog, foggy, mist, misty.
That was a long list of vocabulary terms relating to weather. And there are lots of words I didn’t get it to, like scorching for very hot, or balmy for pleasantly warm. Actually, a while ago, during a heat wave in New York, I made a video where I went over some of the many ways you can describe hot weather. Click here or in the description below to watch that video. I also made a video in NYC the day after Hurricane Sandy hit. That’s a great one. Click here or in the description below to check it out.
We also have a lot of idioms relating to weather, for example, the calm before the storm, or, every cloud has a silver lining. We’ll go over those next week so be sure to come check out that video on Tuesday morning, Eastern time. I’ll see you then.
That’s it, and thanks so much for using Rachel’s English.