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ATSC 3032 Skew t diagrams , and static stability. sources: handout text online module called “ Skew T mastery ”. 1. Aerological diagrams. Radiosonde (or rawinsonde ) data Maps Vertical profiles. Instrument contains: Hygristor, thermistor, aneroid barometer, and radio transmittor

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Atsc 3032 skew t diagrams and static stability l.jpg

ATSC 3032Skew t diagrams, and static stability


handout text

online module called “Skew T mastery”

1 aerological diagrams l.jpg
1. Aerological diagrams

  • Radiosonde (or rawinsonde) data

    • Maps

    • Vertical profiles

Instrument contains:

Hygristor, thermistor, aneroid barometer, and radio transmittor

At the ground, a highly directional radio direction finding antenna is used to obtain the wind speed and direction at various levels in the atmosphere by tracking the radiosonde and determining the azimuth and elevation angles.

Aerological diagrams l.jpg
Aerological diagrams

  • Hydrostatic balance

  • Ideal gas law

  • Hypsometric equation

Stuve l.jpg



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Fig 1d. Elements of a tephigram. First, the 5 lines are shown separately, and then they are combined in the lower-right image.

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  • LCL (lifting condensation level)

  • Applications

  • Determine the height of the base of cumulus clouds, given surface observations of T and Td :

  • Determine the cloud base temperature:



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wet-bulb potential temperature

potential temperature

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equivalent potential temperature

saturated equivalent potential temperature

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wet bulb temperature:

energy balance on the damp sock:

LE = H

LE = 6 u [esat(Tw)-e]

H = 4 u [T-Tw]

(Regnault balance)

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1. Layer thickness (between po and p)


Dz = 100 DT

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Cascade Mountains

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< 0


Conditional vs absolute stability

Case II:

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Absolutely stable

Conditionally unstable

Absolutely unstable

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no convection

convective inhibition

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Typical wet-season tropical sounding



Conditional instability:

< 0


Potential instability l.jpg
Potential instability


Potential instability:

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Lifting a potentially

unstable layer

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Latent instability

WLR: wet-bulb lapse rate

deep convection

source layer

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Significant level indices

e.g. UW sounding site

  • WB0: Wet bulb zero, Tw = 0°C ideally 7-9,000ft MSL, yet well below the FL

  • PWAT: Precipitable water (mm) the higher the better

  • LCL: Lifting condensation level (mb, from surface data) the lower the better

  • TOTL: Total totals index =T 850 +Td 850 - 2T 500 (°C) the higher the better, thunderstorms probable when TOTL>50

  • KINX: K index =T 850 + Td 850 -T 500 -(T-Td)700 (°C) the higher the better

  • SWET: Sweat index or severe weather threat - the higher the better, for severe storms, SW>300

    SWET= 12*Td850 +20*(TOTL-49) + 2*U850 +U500 +125*(0.2+sinf)

    where f= [wind direction 500 - wind direction 850 ]

    U is expressed in kts and TOTL-49 is set to 0 if TOTL<49

  • MLTH and MLMR: mean mixed layer (lowest 500 m) potential temp and mixing ratio

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PARCEL indices

Lifted index uses:

Actual sfc temp


Estimated max sfc temp


Mean mixed-layer temp

(note: always use virtual temp!)

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Showalter index


Parcel indices l.jpg
PARCEL indices

  • LIFT: Lifted index (°C) must be negative

    LI = T500 – T parcel,near-sfc [a 50 mb deep mixed layer is often used]

  • LFTV: lifted index, but Tv is used.

  • SHOW: Showalter index (°C, as LI but starts from 850mb) must be negativeSHOW = T500 – T parcel,850

  • CAPE: Convective available potential energy - should be over 500J/kg

  • CAPV: CAPE using Tv

  • CINS: Convective inhibition (external energy) - ideally 100-300 J/kg

  • CINV: CIN using Tv

  • CAP: Cap strength (C) Tenv –Tparcel @LCL - should be <5°C

  • LFC: Level free convection (LFCT and LFCT) (mb) - should be close to the LCL

  • EQL: Equilibrium level or level of neutral buoyancy (EQLT and EQLV)(mb) - should be high

  • MPL: Maximum parcel buoyancy level (mb) - level where buoyancy (Tp-Tenv) is maximum

Wind parameters l.jpg
Wind parameters

  • STM: Estimated storm motion (knts) from 0-20,000ft AGL layer, spd 75% of mean, dir 30 deg veer (to the right) from mean wind.

  • HEL: Storm relative helicity 0-10,000ft AG (total value)

  • SHR+: Positive shear magnitude 0-3000m AG (sum of veering shear values)

  • SRDS: Storm relative directional shear 0-3000m AG (directional difference of storm relative winds)

  • EHI: Energy helicity index (prop to positive helicity * CAPE)

  • BRN: Bulk Richardson number 500-6000m AG (BRN = CAPE/.5BSHR2)

  • BSHR: Bulk shear value (magnitude of shear over layer), shear calculated between 1000-500 mb or 500 m –6000 m AGL

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example mid-term questions

  • As a rule of thumb, thunderstorms are possible when LI<0, and severe thunderstorms are likely if LI<-8. Assuming surface values T=32°C, Td=22°C, T500=-7°C, calculate Tv at the surface, and the lifted index LI based on both T and Tv.

    • Note that traditionally LI was calculated based on T, but the more correct procedure uses Tv. The difference is small but not negligible!

  • Using a given sounding on a tephigram, graphically determine, for an air parcel at 850 mb, the following: LCL, Tw , r, rs, e, es, RH, q, qw, qe*, qe,

  • Using a given sounding on a tephigram, graphically determine layers of:

    • absolute instability

    • conditional instability

    • potential instability

    • draw a parcel ascent path and shade the areas of

      • positive energy (CAPE)

      • negative energy (CIN)

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CAPE=1974 J/kg

CIN=-24 J/kg

LCL= 900 mb

LFL= 836 mb