Learn English Vocabulary – Weather and natural disasters

Hi. Welcome again to www.engvid.com. I am Adam. Today’s lesson comes from a few requests from the www.engvid.com comments section. Some people wanted to know about natural disasters. So what I have here is a bit of a combination of climate vocabulary and natural events. I don’t call them “disasters” because, realistically, they are only disasters to humans; to nature, they are just events. Okay? Before we begin, I want to make sure we understand the difference between “climate” and “weather”.

  • “Weather” is the occurrence of nature every day. Today is sunny, tomorrow is raining, today is a little bit chilly, and tomorrow is going to be nice and warm. Every day’s situation is the weather.
  • “Climate” is the pattern over usually we talk about a year. So if a country or a place has four seasons: spring, summer, fall, and winter – each season has its own climate; rainy, hot, humid, whatever the case may be.
    So we’re going to look at climate and natural events that usually go together. Now, this last year or the past 2 or 3 years have seen some very crazy weather-or sorry-climate events. So I am going to give you some words to be able to discuss these amongst yourselves. First, we are going to start with: “flood” and “drought”. Okay? The “h”, the “gh” not pronounced. “Drought”, “flood”, like going up.
  • So “flood” is when there is too much water. Very heavy rain, sometimes it is because snow melts too quickly in hills or mountains. All the water comes into a low place or a flat place, the earth does not absorb it quickly enough or the sewage cannot take all of it, the pipes, etcetera so all the water rises up above the ground, goes into your houses, into the subway stations, everywhere. That is a flood, a flood.
  • “Drought” is the complete opposite. A “drought” is what happens when a region or a place does not get water, does not get any rain for a very long period of time. Everything dries out, all the crops, all the wheat, and rice and everything dies. Sometimes this leads to a famine. Okay? A “famine” is when there are a lot of people starving. Okay? So this is a natural disaster because human beings and animals are starving because everything died in the drought, there is nothing to eat.
  • Okay, next we have: “earthquake”. “Quake” basically means shake. An “earthquake” is when the earth shakes. Okay? Now, what often happens is when there’s an earthquake in the sea or near the sea, there is often a “tsunami”. Now, this is actually a Japanese word. Actually, it is two Japanese words, but they are used so commonly that we just take them as an English word now.

    “Tsunami” means harbor wave. Not so important for you guys right now, but it is basically a big wave or a big series of waves that after the earthquake, all the water in the seas or the oceans starts moving around, sometimes it moves on to the land and just destroys everything. I think everybody probably remembers the tsunami from 2006 or so in Indonesia, in that area, very destructive, in Japan a couple of years ago – huge tsunamis.
    Next, this is what we are experiencing lately with climate change, global warming, whatever you want to call it: “heat waves” and “cold fronts”. Now, if you watch the news, the weather channel, for example, sometimes you will see something like this, you will see lines with semicircles moving. Other times, you will see red lines with triangles moving. The blue lines, these are cold fronts, means a very cold mass of air, the cold amount of air is moving. The red one, same thing but heat, a lot of heat. Heat waves are very dangerous because they come very suddenly; it gets very, very hot. A lot of people suffer from it, a lot of people die from it. Same with a cold front, suddenly the temperature really, really drops, minus 20, minus 30, minus 40. And again, very, very dangerous; you do not want to be outside when that happens.

    Next, we will talk a little bit about snow. Now, the Inuit, that is the natives of Canada in the far north, they have I think maybe 50 different words for “snow”. I am only going to give you a couple other than “snow”.

  • A “blizzard” is a very heavy snowstorm. Okay? Lots of, lots, and lots, and lots, and lots of snow. Very white. If you live in a hot country, you do not know what this is, but it’s actually very beautiful but very dangerous, not fun to drive in, not fun to walk in. Just fun… Nice to look at, that is it.
  • A “squall” is like a blizzard except that it is very sudden, very short, and very intense. So sometimes a squall will come in. You have like sunshine, pretty day. It is cold, but, you know, it is winter, but sunny. Then suddenly, you cannot see anything, everything is white. Just snow, snow, snow, like you cannot see past two feet in front of you. And then, 10 minutes later, half an hour later, it is gone and it is sunny again. We call this a “snow squall”.
  • Okay. I know all of you know this word: “storm”, but do you know the different types of storms that you can experience? You can have an “ice storm”.

  • An “ice storm” is when it seems to be raining, except that it is not rain drops; it is little, little tiny ice particles. They fall on a tree and become ice. They fall everywhere and become ice. So in Toronto, that is where we are today, in Toronto this winter, we had an ice storm. Overnight, all the ice fell. In the morning, trees started falling down. Why? Because all the branches were covered in ice and became so heavy that it-boom-crashed on top of cars, on top of people, on top of everything. Power was out for a long time. Not much fun.
  • In desert places, like in the Sahara Desert, you have a “sandstorm” where suddenly a big wind carries all this sand, and you cannot see anything, and it gets in your eyes, and not much fun.
  • “Thunderstorm”, lots of thunder.
  • “Lightning storm”, lots of lightning.
  • “Hail”, “hail” are little pieces of ice about this big, and they drop, and they hit you on the head and they are a little painful.
  • “Rainstorm”, “dust storm”, all kinds of storms. Always one word. “Ice storm”, one word.
  • “Sandstorm”, one word. Not two separate words.
  • Now, students often ask me: “What is the difference between a hurricane, a typhoon, and a cyclone?” Sometimes tornado and monsoon. “Hurricane”, “typhoon”, and “cyclone”, same idea, it is a big circling storm that comes over land and destroys everything.
    ยท A “hurricane” happens in the Atlantic Ocean and sometimes in the Northeast Pacific. Mostly it is in the Atlantic and that’s why it hits the States and Mexico all the time.

  • “Typhoon” is in the Northwest Pacific Ocean, hits Japan, Philippines, all those countries there.
  • A “cyclone” happens in the South Pacific and Indian Oceans, hitting India and countries in that area.
  • A “tornado”, a “tornado” is like a tiny little hurricane except it is much localized, very small area, happens on land. These all happen… These all begin in the ocean. This happens on land like a little wind spins really, really fast and just destroys everything on its way. Mostly it happens in the U.S. in the middle of the United States.
  • And a “monsoon”, a “monsoon” is like a very, very heavy wind and rainstorm. Usually hits India and Southeast Asia, those areas there. Then, sometimes… These are natural events, they are not necessarily connected to climate, but the climate does help.
  • A “mudslide”, sometimes you see like there is too much rain or too much deforestation, too many trees have been cut down from a mountain. These trees, the roots of these trees hold the earth together. Not enough trees or too much water and half the mountain-loop-just slides off the mountain. It is mud, you know mud like sand and water becomes mud just slides off and buries everything underneath it.
  • An “avalanche” is like a mudslide except that it is snow. In the mountains, you have lots of snow, lots of snow. Then eventually gets too thick and heavy, and just starts falling down and burying everything underneath it.
  • And then you have a “volcanic eruption”. A “volcano” is like a… Sort of like a little mountain, but very hot inside with magma or lava is another way to say it. Then just-poof-blows. In Iceland a few years ago, a volcano exploded, all the ash covered the air-whoop, sorry-all the ash and you could not see anything, and flights couldn’t take off from Northern Europe. Very bad situation.

    So this is what happens. This is the Earth we live on, we deal with it, but we also like to talk about it now and again, and now, hopefully, you have some vocabulary to use in that discussion. Of course, you can test yourself at www.engvid.com, there is a quiz, come by and try it out. And we will see you again soon.