Saturday, December 14, 2013

A Deeper Respect For Meteorology

This semester we've hear all the jokes, all the jesting, the "So, you're learning to walk out the front door and look at the sky"...yes, you're all very funny. We used to make the same jokes.
Image Source
Then we took Intro to Meteorology to satisfy a final science w/lab GER (General Education Requirement)...and spent much of the time drowning in what felt like a foreign language. Not a single one of us is good at science...(or so we've always thought).
Maybe it's not that we're not good at, maybe it's that we just don't doing like it. (but find it fascinating)
Now, math...math we're not good at and we don't like it.

Anyway. We had to take a science to finish fulfill science and math figured, why not learn about the scientific processes that make these rare breathtaking and freaky things like these form...
Mammatus Clouds

...which we did.

So, what does meteorology at the entry level even teach?
To help explain it we thought we'd share the highlights of the study guide for the final (that we're taking Monday).
But first...
Taking this class was a good experience, it provided a new found respect for meteorologists, who aren't just the talking heads on the nightly weather report, rather those who work in climatology, forensics, research, farming...and so much more.

It also provided a deeper respect for the environment and how volatile (which what makes them hard to predict with pin-point accuracy) and complex the systems that when we walk out the front door and we look at the sky and say, "yes, it's probably going to rain..." (har har)...we'll know why, or why not, and maybe when and for how long, based on an understanding of what deeply complex processes happened to make that observation its most accurate.

Having said that...we're pretty damn excited to never have to take a science class again.
The lab grade for the semester was calculated (which is graded separately from the lecture portion) and we pulled an 'A' (we're just as shocked as you) - and if we can manage at least a 91% on Monday's lecture final, we'll pull an 'A' in that portion too (miracles happen right?). But first we have to review...

A Meteorology Final Study Guide:
(for those of you who may be interested in some of what a good meteorologist knows and remembers)

Be able to identify the:

  • various atmospheric gasses
  • layers of the atmosphere
  • various types of fog by their method of formation
  • four processes that cause cloud development
  • daily wind changes caused by thermal circulations (Sea and Land Breeze)

Three-Cell Model
  • seasonal wind changes caused by thermal lows and highs (Monsoon)
  • winds caused by topographic effects like katabatic, Chinook and Santa Ana winds
  • global circulation features on the “Three-Cell Model”
  • locations of, and know how the semi-permanent high and low pressure systems change from the winter to summer in the northern hemisphere
  • identify the Subtropical and Polar jet stream by location and altitude
  • air masses by their temperature and moisture characteristics
  • weather fronts by their color coding and/or symbols
  • identify the various stages of the ‘Polar Front Theory’
  • identify the two surface low pressure systems that affect the weather across the northern plains by their region of development, movement and associated weather (Colorado Low, Alberta Clipper)
  • regions of divergence and convergence on an upper-level chart
  • characteristics of the three different stages of development for the life cycle of a thunderstorm
  • criteria used to determine if a thunderstorm is severe
  • individual components of a thunderstorm by description and/or visual observation
  • various stages of lightning development

  • Know the average height above sea level of the standard pressure levels 850, 700, etc.
  • Know the definition of potential and kinetic energy
  • Know the three different processes for transferring heat and how each process works
  • Know the definition of ‘Albedo”
  • Know significant lines of latitude and the proper names used to identify these lines of latitude
  • Know the difference between the dew point temperature and relative humidity values
  • Know the difference in density between a warm, moist air mass and a warm, dry air mass
  • Know the processes that cause fog to form
  • Know the difference between the two processes that produce precipitation
  • Know the relationship between the vertical temperature profile between cloud base and the surface and the associated precipitation type
  • Know the difference between the various Lapse Rates and when to apply them in a rising or descending parcel of air
  • Know the difference between a constant height and constant pressure chart
  • Know the correlation between upper-air temperatures and the associated upper-level ridges and troughs
  • Know the four forces responsible for the horizontal movement of air
  • Know how wind flows around surface high and low pressure systems in the northern hemisphere
  • Know how wind flows around upper-level troughs and ridges in the northern hemisphere
  • Know the difference between Meridional an Zonal flow on an upper-level chart
  • Know how jet streams form, and how they change in location and strength from winter to summer
  • Know what type of weather and cloud formations are associated with the various weather fronts
  • Know the definition of a dry-line
  • Know the difference between a barotropic and baroclinic low pressure system
  • Know the different types of lightning
  • Know the process to create thunder
  • Know the formula to calculate the distance between a lightning strike and the observer
  • Know the relationship between the formation of a Squall Line and the associated Cold Front location
  • Know the difference between a bow and hook echo

  • Understand how shortwave and longwave radiation interacts with the surface of the earth and the atmosphere
  • Understanding how the ‘Greenhouse Effect’ works
  • Understand the main reasons for the changing seasons throughout the year
  • Understand the Earth - Sun relationship, and all the implications of the equinox and solstices 
  • Understand conditions responsible for daily temperature variations, both day and night
  • Understand solar heating, Radiational cooling and the effects of cloud cover
  • Understand how relativity humidity values change with an increase or decrease in temperature and/or water vapor content
  • Understand the relationship between air temperature and the amount of water vapor the air can hold
  • Understand the various characteristics of clouds and identify the cloud types based on these characteristics.
  • Understand the difference between a stable and unstable atmosphere
  • Understand the processes and/or conditions that can cause a change in atmospheric stability (What mechanisms will cause the Environmental Lapse Rate to change)
  • Understand the relationship between the strength of upper-level divergence with surface based convergence on the development of, or dissipation of, a surface low pressure system
  • Understand the affects of warm and cold air advection aloft on the development of, or dissipation of, a surface low pressure system
  • Understand the relationship between the jet stream and movement of surface pressure systems
  • Understand the mechanisms responsible for the dissipation of a mid-latitude cyclone

  • Define wind shear
  • Have knowledge of weather satellites and the images produced by these satellites
  • What are the most favorable conditions for aircraft icing?
  • Be able to describe the two different types of aircraft icing and how each type forms
  • Be familiar with all aspects of a low pressure systems
  • Be familiar with the Fujita scale used to classify tornado strength
  • Be familiar with the processes necessary for tornado development
  • Be able to identify features of a thunderstorm by pattern recognition