GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) — In the last few weeks we’ve heard all sorts of crazy terms like Atmospheric River and Pineapple Express. But let’s take it down to basics and discuss some simple terms that will help you understand and forecast the weather.

The troposphere is the lowest layer of the atmosphere where almost all weather occurs. In order to look at the large scale, meteorologists take a horizontal slice of the troposphere. There are two primary features you can identify, troughs and ridges.

A trough looks like a U and is a weather-making system. Troughs are responsible for rain, snow, clouds, colder temperatures and sometimes severe weather. A ridge, which looks like an upside down U, brings clear skies and warmer temperatures.

We hear about fronts all the time, but what are they? A front is the leading edge of an air mass. So a cold front, for example, is the leading edge of a big blob of moving cold air. That’s why temperatures drop when a cold front passes. A warm front on the other hand is the leading edge of a mass of warm air. 

So how about clouds? Cumulus clouds are the white puffy clouds you usually see in the spring and summer. There are many types of “cumuliform” clouds. They are thunderheads at their most intense and are puffy cotton balls at their most docile. 

Stratus clouds are the featureless gray clouds you see on an overcast day, or with steady rain