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Atmospheric pressure and winds

Atmospheric pressure and winds. Review of last lecture. Thickness of the atmosphere: less than 2% of Earth ’ s thickness Definition of temperature. 3 units. Vertical distribution of temperature: 4 layers, what separate them? Horizontal distribution of temperature. 6 factors.

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Atmospheric pressure and winds

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  1. Atmospheric pressure and winds

  2. Review of last lecture • Thickness of the atmosphere: less than 2% of Earth’s thickness • Definition of temperature. 3 units. • Vertical distribution of temperature: 4 layers, what separate them? • Horizontal distribution of temperature. 6 factors. • Latitudinal variations in net radiation • Land-Water Contrasts • Atmospheric Circulation • Ocean Currents • Altitude • Local Effects

  3. Pressure Essentials • Pressure – force exerted/unit area (weight above you) • units - Pascals (Pa) or millibars (mb) (1 mb = 100 Pa) Average surface pressure over globe: 1013.2 mb. • Atmosphere is mixture of gases -> partial pressure. Dalton’s Law: sum of partial pressures equals total pressure • Pressure gradient (pressure difference between two locations/distance) gives rise to a force (pressure gradient force), which sets the air in motion.

  4. The Equation of State (Ideal Gas Law) Pressure = density x temperature x 287 J kg-1 K-1 [ p = ρTR] • Describes relationships between pressure, temperature, and density (Start w/ molecular movement in sealed container  Pressure proportional to rate of collisions between molecules and walls). • At constant temperatures, an increase in air density will cause a pressure increase (Add more molecules  increase density  increase rate of collisions  raise pressure) • Under constant density, an increase in temperature will lead to an increase in pressure (Raise temperature  increase speed of molecules  increase rate of collisions raise pressure)

  5. Vertical pressure distribution: Hydrostatic equilibrium • Pressure decreases with height Why? Becausedownward gravity force is balanced by vertical pressure gradient (called hydrostatic equilibrium) Δp/Δz = ρg Δp/Δz ρg

  6. Vertical pressure distribution (cont.) Pressure decreases non-linearly w/ height (Why? Because air is compressible, so denser near the surface) Δp/Δz = ρg

  7. Video Weather: Wind

  8. Horizontal pressure distribution and horizontal pressure gradient • Pressure maps depict isobars, lines of equal pressure • Through analysis of isobaric charts, pressure gradients are apparent • Steep pressure gradients are indicated by closely spaced isobars • Typically only small gradients exist across large spatial scales (4% variation at continental scale), smaller than vertical gradients Surface pressure chart H – high pressure area L – low pressure area

  9. Horizontal pressure distribution: Upper Air • Upper air pressure distributions are best determined through the heights of constant pressure due to density considerations (constant pressure surfaces of warmer air will be higher in altitude than those of cooler air) • From the hydrostatic equilibrium, • Δp/Δz=ρg • So • Δz=Δp/(ρg) (1) • This means that for the same amount of air, its thickness is determined by its density. • From the equation of state • P=ρTR • So • ρ = P/(TR) (2) • This means that warmer air has a lower density • Combine (1) and (2), we get: • Δz=(Δp)TR/P • This means that for the same amount of air, warmer air has a larger thickness

  10. Horizontal Pressure Gradients: Upper Air cont’d Figure from our book Figure from different book showing same concept 

  11. Example of typical 500 mb height chart • Height contours analogous to the pressure gradient • So this chart is kind of like the surface pressure chart we looked at earlier, but instead of showing pressure variations on a constant height surface, it shows height variations on a constant pressure surface. • Small changes over large regions: approximate 10% difference across North America 500 mb height contours for May 3, 1995

  12. Forces Affecting the Speed and Direction of the Wind • Horizontal pressure gradients responsible for wind generation • Three factors affect wind speed and/or direction (velocity): • Pressure Gradient Force  (PGF) • Coriolis Effect  (CE) • Friction Force (FF)

  13. 1. Pressure GradientForce(PGF) • pressure gradient: high pressure  low pressure • pressure differences exits due to unequal heating of Earth’s surface • spacing between isobars indicates intensity of gradient • flow is perpendicular to isobars

  14. 2. The Coriolis Effect • objects in the atmosphere are influenced by the Earth’s rotation • Rotation of Earth is counter-clockwise looking down from N. Pole. • results in an ‘apparent’ deflection (relative to surface) • deflection to the right in Northern Hemisphere (left in S. Hemisphere) • Greatest at the poles, 0 at the equator • Increases with speed of moving object and distance • CE changes direction not speed

  15. Winds in the upper air:Geostrophic Balance Friction is very small in the upper air: • Now the wind speed/direction is simply a balance between the PGF and CE. This is called GEOSTROPHIC BALANCE. • Upper air moving from areas of higher to areas of lower pressure undergo Coriolis deflection • Air will eventually flow parallel to height contours as the pressure gradient force balances with the Coriolis force

  16. Geostrophic Versus Gradient Winds • In reality, PGF is rarely uniform since height contours curve and vary in distance  Geostrophic flow assumption is too simplistic • wind still flows parallel to contours HOWEVER it is continuously changing direction (and thus experiencing acceleration) • for isobar-parallel flow to occur an imbalance must exist between PGF and CE  Gradient Flow Ideal Reality

  17. Winds near the surface The third term (friction) must be considered: • Friction is important for air within ~1.5 km of the surface (the so-called planetary boundary layer). It varies with surface texture, wind speed, time of day/year and atmospheric conditions. Friction above 1.5 km is often small (often called the free atmosphere), except over regions with storms and gravity waves. • Friction slows down wind speed and reduces Coriolis deflection • Friction causes air converging into low pressure areas, but diverging away from high pressure areas

  18. Effect of frictional force Upper air w/out Friction (geostrophic balance) Near surface w/ Friction Clockwise airflow in NH (opposite in SH) Characterized by descending/converging air which warms creating clear skies Counterclockwise in NH (opposite in SH)characterized by ascending/diverging air which cools to form clouds/precipitation

  19. Cyclones, Anticyclones, Troughs and Ridges Upper air: isobars usually not closed off • Troughs (low pressure areas) • Ridges (high pressure areas) Near surface: isobars usually closed off due to surface friction • Cyclones(Low pressure areas) • Anticyclones(High pressure areas)

  20. Summary • Definition of pressure and its unit. • Definition of pressure gradient. Pressure gradient sets the air in motion. • Equation of state (Relationship between P, ρ, and T) • Vertical Pressure Distribution. How does pressure change with height? What is the hydrostatic equilibrium?

  21. Summary (cont.) • Know 3 Forces that affect wind speed /direction • Especially work on Coriolis force, as this is the hardest to understand. Which direction is air deflected to by Coriolis force? • What is the geostrophic balance? At which level is it valid? Difference between upper level and surface winds • Does cyclones correspond to high or low surface pressure? Is the air moving clockwise or counter-clockwise around them? How about anticyclones? • What are troughs and ridges?

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