Surface weather data such as temperature, precipitation, current weather, station pressure, and wind speed and direction is reported hourly from places like airports and automated weather stations. This data is compiled and plotted onto different types of maps in order to analyze what is happening in the atmosphere. This is a map of surface data for North America on January 5, 1997. The thick blue lines are cold fronts and the thick red lines are warm fronts. The overlain radar image indicates the rate of precipitation, with light blue being the lightest and dark red being the heaviest. As shown in the legends above, the weather at many sites can be determined from the coding. As shown in this example, the air temperature is in the upper left corner, the dewpoint in the lower left corner, wind direction is given by the direction toward which the the thin white stick is pointing, and the wind speed by the number of barbs on the stick.[Map Source]
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