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Posts Tagged ‘temperature’

Weather Word Wednesday : Weather

January 26th, 2011 No comments

As I got to thinking about the word I wanted to discus today, it occurred to me that the very base of what we’re talking about here, Weather, would be the perfect word to delve into!

Weather, according to Wikipedia, “is the state of the atmosphere, to the degree that it is hot or cold, wet or dry, calm or stormy, clear or cloudy.” Seems pretty basic when you look at it like that! Most weather tends to occur in the troposphere, which is the layer of the atmosphere that we live in. Wikipedia goes on to say that “weather refers, generally, to day-to-day temperature and precipitation activity, whereas climate is the term for the average atmospheric conditions over longer periods of time.” And, unless you’re being specific, the term generally applies to weather on Earth.

Weather basically occurs because of density differences in temperature and moisture between different points on the earth. These differences are generally caused by the varying sun angles at any point on the earth, which varies by latitude from the tropics. The strong temperature differences between the tropics and the poles is what causes the jet stream, which is a fast flowing, narrow air current. Weather systems in the mid-latitudes, like the United States and much of Europe, is caused by instabilities of the jet stream flow. Sometimes the jet stream dips down from the poles, bringing with it cold air. Sometimes it causes a ridge that brings up warm, moist air from the tropics. All this combines to create the weather systems that get reported on each day.

Earth's Weather

Weather on Earth is complex and chaotic!

On Earth, “common weather phenomena include wind, cloud, rain, snow, fog and dust storms.” Less common events include “tornadoes, hurricanes, typhoons and ice storms.” Wind is created by differences in air pressure levels on the planet, with air flowing from regions of high pressure to low pressure. Pressure itself is caused by varying temperatures on the planet, with colder temps producing lower air pressure, and higher temps associated with high pressure systems.

The atmosphere is a hugely complex and chaotic system, where changes to one variable (temperature, pressure, moisture) can have huge effects on the weather in a particular location, or a location remote from where the variable has changed. The dynamics of weather in many cases are poorly understood, which is why long term weather forecasts are so difficult to create. As the years go by and we are able to gather more data about actual weather events, our understanding of weather and climate increase, and that leads to an increased ability to make accurate forecasts. But the weather will always surprise us, and we should be prepared for anything at any time. If you tend to venture outside your home, you should take time to understand what weather events might be headed your way!

Free Stuff From the NWS!

February 23rd, 2010 No comments

In my last post, I talked a bit about the National Weather Service, and how it contributes to predicting the chances of precipitation. We learned that they send up a radiosonde twice a day, from locations all over the country, to collect data about the atmosphere. Quite a bit of that data they post online for anybody to look at, and combined with other bits of data from things like satellites and ground observations, you can get an amazing picture of how things are shaping up in your area (or almost anywhere in the world!). Let’s take a look at a few of the things you can find online at the National Weather Service web site.

Current observations are an important part of determining what will happen with the weather. If you know how conditions are now, and how they have changed from the past, you can get a clue as to how they might be in the future. One tool that the NWS provides is a Surface Plot graph.

Surface Plot Chart

Surface Plot Chart

The official term for this is Mesonet Observations. According to wikipedia, “a mesonet is a network of automated weather stations designed to observe mesoscale meteorological phenomena. Dry lines, squall lines, and sea breezes are examples of phenomena that can be observed by mesonets. Due to the space and time scales associated with mesoscale phenomena, weather stations comprising a mesonet will be spaced closer together and report more frequently than synoptic scale observing networks, such as ASOS. The term mesonet refers to the collective group of these weather stations, and are typically owned and operated by a common entity.” So, basically, this is a series of stations that report current observations on wind speed and direction, temperature, relative humidity, and other items. If you know how to read these reports, and can spot trends, you can tell when a frontal system moves through, or when you might expect a thunderstorm. It’s good on the ground information.

One area at the NWS site that I spend a lot of time checking during stormy periods is the local weather radar image. This image gives me a great idea of where precipitation is occurring at the moment, and in what amounts and intensity. This is particularly valuable if you are going storm chasing, as you can see where the local thunderstorm cells are dumping their rain. It also provides a time-lapse ability, so you can see what direction the storm is moving. I enjoy watching the radar, especially when storms are headed my way.

Radar Image

Radar Image

Now, let’s say you’re interested in what the current forecast is for your region. The NWS is particularly good at providing that information, and does so in a wonderful graphical format. You can find out great things like temperature, wind speed and direction, dew point (handy in the summer for monsoon prediction), sky cover, precipitation, and more for up to the next week or so. This is very handy for planning activities, and the graphical format of the data is exceptional.

Graphical Forecast

Graphical Forecast

Finally, though by no means even close to the end of the great things you can get from the NWS, is the Weather Story that they produce from time to time. In Tucson, I tend to see these when a weather event is on the way, and right after an event. Any significant change in the expected weather pattern also seems to generate a Weather Story. Essentially, these are a couple slides that show the basics of what’s going on in the area, and what to expect in the near future. I find them interesting because it’s a good synopsis of what’s going on. I don’t know if all major locations produce weather stories, but I suspect they do.

Weather Story

Weather Story

So, there you have it…some of the free products that you can get from the NWS. These items only touch on the rich repository of information that is the National Weather Service. If you are interested in weather, I encourage you to take some time and look around. You’ll find data on things that you didn’t even know they collected data on!

a mesonet is a network of automated weather stations designed to observe mesoscale meteorological phenomena. Dry lines, squall lines, and sea breezes are examples of phenomena that can be observed by mesonets. Due to the space and time scales associated with mesoscale phenomena, weather stations comprising a mesonet will be spaced closer together and report more frequently than synoptic scale observing networks, such as ASOS. The term mesonet refers to the collective group of these weather stations, and are typically owned and operated by a common entity.

How Is “Absolute Zero” Defined?

September 26th, 2008 No comments

In tribute to the Large Hadron Collider, we learn today that absolute zero is the theoretical temperature at which all substances have zero thermal energy. Absolute zero is equivalent to 0 degrees Kelvin, -459.67 degrees F, or -273.15 degrees C.

Originally conceived as the temperature at which an ideal gas at constant pressure would contract to zero volume, absolute zero is of great significance in thermodynamics and is used as the fixed point for absolute temperature scales.

The Large Hadron Collider supercools the magnets it uses to 1.9 degrees K. That’s pretty darn cold!

[Source : Wikipedia and The Handy Science Answer Book]