5. Reading and interpreting synoptic weather maps

By | 5 Nov 2012
Geography CAPS > Grade 11 CAPS > Climate and Weather > 3. Africa’s Weather and Climate > 5. Reading and interpreting synoptic weather maps

A synoptic weather map is a weather chart reflecting the state of the atmosphere over a large area at a given moment.

Examples of synoptic charts can seen here.

Today’s Synoptic Chart

Today’s South African Weather Chart can be seen here.


Weather elements: temperature, dew-point temperature, cloud cover, wind direction,wind speed and atmospheric pressure.

Weather ElementDescriptionHow it is measuredUnit of measureInstrument
TemperatureHow hot or cold it isThermometerDegrees Celsius (°C)
PrecipitationMoisture from the sky Rain GaugeMillimetres (mm.)
Dew-point temperatureThe temperature condensation will take placeHygrometer.Degrees Celsius (°C)
Cloud coverThe amount of cloud in the skyObserved by a meteorologistOktas - eighths of the sky
Wind directionWhere the wind is blowing FROMWind VanePoints of the compass (north, north-west etc), or bearing in degrees
Wind speedHow fast the wind is blowingAnemometerKnots, or by the Beaufort Scale
Atmospheric pressureThe "weight" of the air pushing on the surface of the EarthBarometerHectopascals (although most people know it as millibars)

Weather conditions: rain, drizzle, thunderstorms, hail and snow, as illustrated on station models.

Most reporting in the 21st century are electronic. Below is the weather for Sutherland in the Northern Cape; the coldest place in South Africa.








Reading and interpreting synoptic weather maps.

An example of a weather forecast

A Synoptic Chart Tutorial

An Australian Synoptic chart example