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Weather Glossary

Weather Glossary

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Published by: kapil on Aug 28, 2011
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03/24/2014

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Weather Glossary - A
Absolute humidity
The mass of water vapour in a given volume of  air. It represents the density
 
of water vapour in the air. See also Specific humidity, Relative humidity. 
Absolute zero
The temperature at which (theoretically) there is no molecular/atomic motion. (-273°C or -460°F). Absolute zero is the lowest possibly attainable temperature. 
 
Absorption
The process in which incident radiant energy is retained by a substance.
ACCAS
(Pronounced Ack-kas)
A
lto
C
umulus
CAS
tellanus
Latin - castle
 Mid-level clouds (bases generally 2000 - 8000m), of which at least a fraction of their upper parts show cumulus-type development. These clouds are often taller than they are wide, giving them a turret-shaped appearance. AcCas clouds are a sign of  instability aloft, and may precede the rapid development of thunderstorms.
 
Accessory cloud
A cloud which is dependent on a larger cloud system for development and continuance. Roll clouds, shelf clouds and wall clouds are examples of accessory clouds.
Accretion
The growth of a precipitation particle by the collision of ice crystals or snow-flakes with supercooled liquid droplets that freeze upon impact.
 
Adiabatic
A thermodynamic process in which no heat is transferred to the surrounding air. In an adiabatic process, compression of an air parcel results in an increase in temperature, while expansion results in a decrease in temperature. 
Advection
Transport of an atmospheric property, e.g. heat or moisture, by the wind.  See cold advection, moisture advection, and warm advection. 
 
Advection fog
Fog which develops when a mass of relatively warm, moist air moves over a cooler surface and cools the air below its dew point temperature. Advection
 
fog requires movement of  air to form (hence the name). Advection fog is
 
common at sea where it is called sea fog. 
Air
The mixture of gases and particles which make up the Earth's atmosphere.
 
Air mass
A large body of  air throughout which the horizontal temperature and
 
moisture characteristics are similar.
Air mass thunderstorm
Generally, a thunderstorm not associated with a front or other type of synoptic-scale forcing mechanism. Air mass thunderstorms typically are associated with warm, humid air in the summer months; they develop during the afternoon in response to solar insolation and dissipate rather quickly after sunset. Air mass thunderstorms are generally less likely to be severe than other types of thunderstorms, but they are still capable of producing downbursts, brief heavy rain, and (in extreme cases) hail over 2cm in diameter. Since all thunderstorms are associated with some type of forcing mechanism, synoptic-scale or otherwise, the existence of true air-mass thunderstorms is debatable. Therefore the term is somewhat controversial and should be used with discretion.
 
Air pressure
A measure of the mass of  air above a given point. Usually expressed in millibars (mb) or hectopascals (hPa). Also known as atmospheric or barometric pressure (pressure measured by a barometer).
Albedo
The reflectivity of a surface. It is the percent of  radiation reflected from a surface compared to the radiation striking it. A perfectly reflective surface
would have an albedo of 100. The Earth’s albedo is around 30, 
snow has a higher albedo, grasslands and forests a lower albedo.
 
Altimeter
 
An instrument to measure the altitude of an object above a fixed level. Generally, mean sea level is used for the reference level.
Altocumulus
(Ac)
 Mid-level cloud (bases generally 2000 - 8000m), made up of grey, puffy masses, sometimes appearing in parallel waves or bands. An indicator of mid-level instability. Altocumulus can take on various forms such as Ac Lenticularis, Ac Undulatus, Ac Castellanus, Altocumulus 'mackerel sky'. 
 
Altocumulus Castellanus
A middle level cloud with vertical development that forms from altocumulus clouds. It is composed primarily of ice crystals in its higher portions and characterised by its turrets, protuberances or crenulated tops.
Altostratus
(As)
 Mid-level cloud composed of water droplets and ice crystals. Usually gives the sun a watery or dimly visible appearance.
Anabatic winds
A local wind that flows up the side of valleys due to increased heating along the valley walls. Often the anabatic wind results in cumulus clouds along the ridges either side of the valley. See also Katabatic winds.
Anemometer
A device used to measure wind speed.
Anomaly
The departure of an element from its long-term average for the location concerned. For example, if the average maximum temperature for
 
Melbourne in June is 14 degrees and on one particular day the temperature
 
only reaches 10 degrees, than the anomaly for that day is -4.
Anticyclone
A large scale atmospheric circulation system in which the winds rotate anti clockwise in the Southern Hemisphere (clockwise in Northern Hemisphere). Anticyclones are areas of high atmospheric pressure and are generally associated with light winds and stable weather conditions. Interchangeable with High pressure system.
 
Anticyclonic rotation
Rotation in the opposite sense as the Earth's rotation, i.e., anticlockwise in

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