The Earth's weather system represent complex interactions between the oceans, the land, the sun, and the atmosphere.
Weather is the condition of the atmosphere at a particular time and place. It refers to such conditions of the local atmosphere as
humidity (the amount of water contained in the atmosphere),
precipitation (rain, snow, sleet, & hail),
wind velocity .
Vertical Structure of the Atmosphere General trends with increasing altitude: Air pressure decreases . At any given altitude, the air pressure is caused by the weight of air above. Constituent gases decrease in density . Because air pressure decreases with altitude, the amount of air per unit volume (density) also decreases with altitude. Temperature decreases in the troposphere where weather occurs . Water vapor decreases dramatically
Composition of the Atmosphere
The gaseous envelope that surrounds the planet.
Because air pressure decreases with altitude, the amount of air per unit volume (density) also decreases with altitude.
The relative proportions of the gases in the air are essentially constant regardless of altitude. Nitrogen, Oxygen, and argon make up 99.96% of the gases by volume.
Carbon dioxide, water vapor, methane, greenhouse gases and chlorofluorocarbons (CFC's) are some greenhouse gases.
Air pressure decreases with altitude. At any given altitude, the air pressure is caused by the weight of air above. This means that the air near the ground is compressed by the weight of the air above it.
As air pressure decreases, air density decreases.
Water Vapor in the Atmosphere
Water can exist in all 3 states at the normal range of earth temperature and pressure.
Whenever matter changes from one state to another, energy is either absorbed or released.
From liquid to gas - evaporation - heat energy is absorbed
From gas to liquid - condensation - heat energy is released
The Hydrologic Cycle Water continuously evaporates from oceans and other water bodies, falls as rain or snow, is transpired by plants, and flows through streams and groundwater back to the oceans.
Air is saturated when evaporation = condensation. Temperature dependent.
Saturation vapor pressure of air at any given temperature cannot be exceeded.
Relative humidity = the ratio of the vapor pressure in a parcel of air to the saturation vapor pressure at the same temperature.
Therefore, relative humidity can be changed by...
Changing the water vapor content.
Add water, increase relative humidity
subtract water, decrease relative humidity
Changing the temperature.
Increase temperature, decrease relative humidity
Decrease temperature, increase relative humidity.
Processes that occur without the addition or subtraction of heat from an external source.
Because air pressure decreases with increasing altitude, rising air expands and sinking air is compressed.
Compressional warming - when air is compressed, the temperature rises.
Expansional Cooling - when air expands, the temperature decreases.
The adiabatic lapse rate - the way temperature changes with altitude in rising or falling air (top right).
Lifting condensation level = altitude at which the rising parcel reaches saturation temperature and cloud forms (bottom right).
Upward movement of air results from:
Convergence lifting - when flowing air masses of equal density converge and are forced upward.
Convective (Density) lifting - When warm, low-density air rises convectively and displaces cooler, denser air.
Orographic lifting - When flowing air is forced upward over a mountain range.
Frontal lifting - when two flowing air masses of different density meet.
Warm Front (Left): Warm air mass advances rapidly. Cold Front (Right): Cold air mass advances rapidly.
Lifting processes force air upward.
Rising air does not mix substantially with the surrounding atmosphere.
Atmospheric stability is a property of air that describes its tendency to remain in its original position or sink (stable) or to rise (unstable) once the initial lifting force ceases. A parcel of air forced to rise will expand and cool adiabatically.
Atmospheric Stability Stable air - if an air parcel that is forced aloft cools faster than the surrounding environment. If the lifting forced ceased, the parcel would have the density to sink. High pressure system – an area characterized by descending cooler dry air and clear skies. Cloud formation may occur at an altitude where the saturation temperature is reached (LCL), but clouds would be layered without much vertical development - fair weather clouds.
Atmospheric Stability Unstable air - if an air parcel that is forced aloft cools slower than the surrounding environment. If the lifting force ceased, the parcel will continue to rise because it is warmer and more buoyant than its surroundings. Low pressure system – An area characterized by rising warmer and humid air and cloudy skies. If the air parcel rises to an altitude where the saturation temperature is reached (LCL), clouds with vertical development will form as the buoyant air rises on its own. (thunderstorm clouds).
Tornadoes How a Tornado Works - Associated with strong thunderstorms that develop when 3 main atmospheric conditions occur simultaneously in the central US 1) a northerly flow of warm, moist air from the Gulf of Mexico 2) a cold, dry air mass rapidly moving southward from Canada or the Rocky Mountains 3) strong easterly jet stream - These three air masses moving in different directions produce shearing conditions that are give thunderstorm clouds a "spin" - Funnel clouds begin to form, they may (or may not) touch down and develop into a tornado.
Warm moist air tropical air shoots upward as it meets colder, dryer polar air. As the warm moist air rises, it may meet varying wind directions at different altitudes due to a strong westerly jet stream. If these varying winds are staggered in just the right manner with sufficient speed, they will act on the upward rising air, spinning it like a top.
The rotational cell sags below the cloud base to form a distinctive slowly rotating wall cloud. Strong tornadoes form within and then descend from the wall cloud.
About 70% of all tornadoes on Earth occur in the central and southern US.
One section of the nation is best at producing tornadoes. This area is called "Tornado Alley," (shown on the map).- Northern Texas and Oklahoma
Occur mostly in late spring - early summer when conditions are best for tornado formation; but can occur anytime.
Can move at speeds up to ~60 mph and have max wind speeds of >300 mph.
Tornado "magnitude" measured on the Fujita Scale (F1-F5); based on Damage
Wind is a horizontal air movement arising from differences in air pressure.
Wind results when air flows from a place of high pressure to one of low pressure.
Isobars - lines connecting places of equal air pressure on a map.
The spacing of the isobars indicates the amount of pressure change over a given distance = pressure gradient.
Compare to the slope of a hill
Due to the rotation of the earth on its axis.
Deflects all free moving objects to the right of their path in the Northern Hemisphere and to the left in the Southern Hemisphere.
Strongest at the poles, nonexistent at the equator.
Deflection increases with wind speed.
Convergent and Divergent Flow
In the Northern Hemisphere
Around a low pressure cell, an inward counterclockwise flow develops; Centers of low pressure are called cyclones = convergent flow
Around a high pressure cell, an outward clockwise flow develops. Centers of high pressure are called anticyclones = divergent flow .
Vertical Flow Net downward movement of air and fair weather Net upward movement of air, often resulting in cloud formation and precipitation . Low pressure center generally related to unstable conditions and stormy weather
Around a surface high air is spiraling outward, which leads to a downward flow of air at the center of the high and convergence aloft. Around a surface low air is spiraling inward, which leads to an upward flow of air at the center and divergence aloft.
A hurricane is a massive tropical cyclone with rotary winds that exceed 74mph blowing counterclockwise around a relatively calm central area of very low pressure.
Hurricanes in the Atlantic and East Pacific, typhoons in the west pacific, cyclones in the Indian Ocean and Southern Hemisphere.
Form in late summer and early fall when ocean waters are warmest.
Hurricane Formation The process by which a tropical cyclone forms and subsequently strengthens into a hurricane depends on three conditions 1. A pre-existing disturbance with thunderstorms (typically emerging from the west coast of Africa) 2. Warm (at least 80ºF) ocean temperatures. 3. Light upper level winds that do not change much in direction and speed throughout the depth of the atmosphere (low wind shear)
Tropical systems are classified into four categories according to its degree of organization and maximum sustained wind speed. Hurricanes are designated by categories on the Saffir-Simpson scale.
Once hurricanes form, they are pushed west with the prevailing west-blowing winds in tropics. The Coriolis force causes storms north of the equator to travel in right-curving paths , and storms south of the equator to travel in left-curving paths .
This photo is a composite of three days' views (August 23, 24 and 25, 1992) of Hurricane Andrew as it slowly moved across south Florida from east to west.
The Hurricane’s End
Strong vertical wind shear tears the hurricane apart.
Moving over cooler water can lead to weakening (Top Right).
Moving over land shuts off the moisture source and reduces surface circulation due to friction (Bottom Right).
Above: Average sea surface temperatures in the world during the month of November. The warmest seas are colored red. Tropical cyclones can survive in tropical areas with warm seas, but when they move out over cooler waters such as the yellow and green areas, they quickly start to lose their power Above: When hurricanes move over land, they usually start to weaken quickly.
Hurricane Damage Storm surges are like a “hill” of ocean water (sometimes as high as 20ft above sea level) pushed up by a hurricane. Storm surges are caused by two factors: low atmospheric pressure that pulls the ocean surface up, and the spiraling, converging winds that push the ocean water in toward the center of the storm.
90% of all deaths in tropical cyclones result from storm surge.
Destruction of homes, buildings, roads, bridges, and piers.
Houses raised up on 4m posts .
Flooding Hurricanes frequently produce huge amounts of rain. A typical hurricane brings at least 6 to 12 inches of rainfall to the area it crosses.
Winds and Wind Damages Wind damages include blowing in windows, doors, and walls, lifting off roofs, blowing down trees and power lines, and flying debris. Most damage is from winds.
The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale is based on barometric pressure and average wind speed. The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale
Hurricane Names Since 1953, Atlantic tropical storms reaching tropical storm strength have been named from lists originated by the NHC. When first developed, the lists featured only women's names (figures!). Then in 1979 a six year rotating list with alternating male and female names was developed. The names of devastating storms are retired, and another name is selected by the WMO to replace it. * Hurricanes retired since 1985. Wilfred Wendy William Wilma Walter Wanda Vicky Van Valerie Vince Virginie Victor Teddy Tanya Tony Tammy Tomas Teresa Sally Sebastien Sandy Stan Shary Sam Rene Rebekah Rafael Rita Richard Rose Paloma Pablo Patty Phillippe Paula Peter Omar Olga Oscar Ophelia Otto Odette Nana Noel Nadine Nate Nicole Nicholas Marco Michelle* Michael Maria Mitch* Mindy Lili Lorenzo Leslie Lenny* Lisa Larry Kyle Karen Keith* Katrina Karl Kate Josephine Jerry Joyce Jose Jeanne Juan Isidore Iris* Isaac Irene Ivan Isabel Horrtense Humberto Helene Harvey Hermine Henri Gustav Gabrielle Gordon Gert Georges* Grace Fran Felix Florence Floyd* Frances Fabian Edouard Erin Ernesto Emily Earl Erika Dolly Dean Debby Dennis Danielle Danny Cesar Chantal Chris Cindy Charley Claudette Bertha Barry Beryl Bret Bonnie Bill Arthur Allison* Alberto Arlene Alex Ana 2002 2008 2001 2007 2000 2006 1999 2005 1998 2004 1997 2003 Melissa Michelle Lee Lenny Kirk Keith Ingrid Iris Gaston Georges Franklin Floyd Andrea Allison Replacement Name Retired Name