Composition of the Atmosphere

The cubic foot of typical atmosphere composed of about 78% Nitrogen and 21% Oxygen and the remaining 1% is made up of several gases.

Water is constantly being absorbed and released in the atmosphere; this action is responsible for major changes in the weather. The atmosphere is a mixture of gases that exists in fairly uniform proportion up to approximately 30 miles above the earth. (Figure 4-1)

Atmosphere Levels:
Troposphere is the one closest to the earth extending from the surface to an average altitude of about 6 or 7 miles. Troposphere in the mid latitudes is average about 37000 feet. The Tropopause is a thin layer of the atmosphere at the top of the troposphere; it acts as a lid to confine most of the water vapor.


Above the Tropopause are three more atmospheric layers. The first is the Stratosphere which extends to a height of approximately 19 to 22 miles. Above the Stratosphere are the Mesosphere and the Thermosphere. The average temperature lapse rate changes abruptly at the Tropopause, above this point in the stratosphere, temperature continues to decrease, but at a slower rate. The height of the Troposphere varies; it slopes upward from about 20000 ft at the poles to 60000 ft at the equator.

It is also higher in the summer than it is in the winter. The Troposphere has the greatest impact on weather.


www. (Figure 4-3) Atmospheric Pressure: Variations in altimeter setting between weather reporting points are primarily caused by the unequal heating of the earth`s surface. a huge convective circulation pattern would develop as air flowed from the poles to equator and back again.Convection: Uneven Heating of the earth`s surface causes variations in air temperature and density. Convection is defined as the circular motion that results when warm air rises and is replaced by cooler 09192971130 .persianaviator. If the earth did not rotate.

gusty 09192971130 . A Col can designate either a neutral area between two highs and two lows. Low is an area of low pressure surrounded by high pressure. poor visibility. or intersection of a ridge and a trough. www. calm or light winds. High Pressure Good weather good visibility. PPTN. Weather may be very violent in the area of Trough The speed of the resulting wing depends on the strength of the Pressure Gradient. A Ridge is an elongated area of high pressure. few clouds Ridge also normally present good weather Low Pressure turbulence Poor weather low clouds. A Trough is an elongated area of low pressure.Isobars are measured in millibars and are usually drawn at four millibar intervals. High is center of high pressure surrounded on all side by lower pressure.persianaviator.

Coriolis force deflects the air to the right in the northern hemisphere and to the left in the southern hemisphere. As the air begins to move Coriolis forces deflect it to the right in the Northern hemisphere. it is zero at equator and increase toward the poles.persianaviator.Coriolis force: If the earth did not rotate. It also is proportional to the speed of the air mass. Pressure gradient force cause air to move from high pressure to low pressure areas. Coriolis is a deflective force that is created by the difference in rotational velocity between the equator and the 09192971130 . pressure gradient force would propel wind directly from high to lows. Wind: Pressure gradient and Coriolis forces works in combination to create wind. The amount of deflection produced by Coriolis force varies with latitude. www. The velocity of the earth`s surface varies from about 900 knots at the equator to zero at the poles.

At night. The stronger the pressure gradient. Sea & Land Breezes: Land is warmer than water during the day. this creates a semi permanent high pressure area. Valley & Mountain Winds: A valley wind is created as the cooler air over the valley sinks and air close to the mountain flow upward. The low-level air flowing northward from high to pressure at 30 ˚also is deflected to the right by Coriolis. Air flow outward and downward from a high and inward and upward toward a low. the flow is eastward causing air to pile up at this latitude.Winds in the northern hemisphere flow clock-wise around highs and counter clockwise around lows. this is called mountain wind.persianaviator. common to the mid section of North America. Coriolis force produces a three-cell circulation pattern around two semi permanent high pressure at 30˚ to 60 ˚ north latitude. the stronger the wind. land cools faster than water and a land breeze blows from the cooler land to the warmer water. The cooler air flows down the slope and displaces the air in the valley. Global Wind Patterns: In northern hemisphere. the surface of slopes cools rapidly lowering the temperature of the air close to the surface. At night. Around 30 ˚ north. a wind that blows from the cool water to the warmer land. this low-level southerly flow is deflected to the right again and creates the northest trade winds. www. this creates the Prevailing 09192971130 . Common to areas like the Caribbean. Friction causes a wind shift near the earth`s surface. this creates the Sea Breeze. At the surface air flows back toward the equator. The cold polar air that flows southward is deflected to the right to create the Polar Easterlies.

Katabatic Winds: A katabatic wind is the name given to any wind blowing down an incline. Moisture: If the air is dry. The amount of moisture the air can hold depends on air temperature. www. Water vapor is added to the atmosphere by evaporation and sublimation. A mountain wind is one type of katabatic wind. Changes in state occur through the processes of Evaporation. poor or even severe weather can occur. the heat exchange in each of these process is small and has relatively little affect on water. the weather usually will be good. Melting is the change of ice to water. Condensation. The heat released is referred to as the latent heat of condensation. Evaporation is the changing of liquid water to invisible water vapor. As water vapor forms. When condensation takes place. the heat absorbed by water vapor during evaporation is released. Change of State: Every physical process of weather is accompanied by a heat exchange. heat is absorbed from the nearest available source. A warm descending wind is called Foehn wind but may also be referred to locally by other names such as the Santa Ana in California and the Chinnook in the Rockies. Sublimation. Freezing is the reverse. it is an important factor in cloud 09192971130 . Sublimation is the changing of ice directly to water vapor or of water vapor to ice. Condensation occurs when water vapor changes to a liquid. if the air is very moist. Melting and Freezing.

Clouds and fog: A small and decreasing temperature/dewpoint spread indicates conditions are favorable for the formation of fog. Visible Moisture: Clouds.Humidity: Dew point is the temperature at which air reaches a state where it can hold no more water. The amount of moisture in the air depends on air temperature. As air cools to its saturation point.persianaviator. When clouds form near the surface they are referred to as fog. fog or dew always form when water vapor condenses. Dew point is the temperature at which air becomes saturated. www. the processes of condensation and sublimation change invisible water vapor into state that is readily 09192971130 .

snow. www. when this occurs. With low relative humidity. rain may evaporate before it reaches the surface. striking the ground as ice pallets.Clouds and fog usually form as soon as air becomes saturated. precipitation and severe weather. Water droplets that remain liquid fall as drizzle or rain. ice crystals are all forms of precipitation. still night. and is referred to as freezing rain. 09192971130 . turbulence and hazardous weather. the air is nearing the saturation point and the probability of fog and low clouds forming increases. On cool. Rain may also freeze as it falls. moisture then condenses out of the air in the form of dew. the temperature is above freezing. Ice pallets usually are evidence of freezing rain and a warmer layer of air at higher altitude. Atmospheric Stability: Stability is the atmosphere`s resistance to vertical motion.persianaviator. Precipitation: Drizzle. When the temperature/dewpoint spread reaches 4˚F (2˚C) and continue to decrease. rain. surface features and objects may cool to a temperature below the dewpoint of the surrounding air. Stable air resists vertical motion and tends to inhibit cloud formation. Rain that remains liquid even though its temperature is below freezing is considered to be supercooled. If wet snow is encountered at your flight altitude. Unstable air has a tendency to move vertically this can lead to significant cloud development. it is called Virga. Dew & Frost: Frost forms on aircraft surfaces when the surface is at or below the dewpoint of the surrounding air and the dewpoint is below freezing.

as moisture added to air. You can use the actual lapse ratio to determine the stability of the atmosphere.persianaviator. Moisture is another factor affecting stability. The dry adiabatic lapse rate The moist adiabatic lapse rate 3˚C/1000' 1.Temperature & Moisture: The variations of density produce convective currents in which warm air rises and is replaced by cooler. www. Rising & Decreasing Air: The temperature change is caused by a process known as adiabatic heating or cooling which is a change in the temperature during expansion or compression when no energy added to or removed from the 09192971130 . You can see that the greatest instability occurs when the air is both warm and moist.1˚C to 2. Water vapor is lighter than air therefore.8˚C /1000' The lapse rate and temperature/dewpoint spread can be used to calculate cloud bases. its density decrease and it tend to rise. denser air. Air that is both cool and dry resists vertical movement and is very stable.

low clouds Temperature inversion occurs in stable air with little or no wind and turbulence.persianaviator. smoke. salt.5 Inversions: A stable layer of air and temperature increase with altitude are features of temperature inversion. On clear. (Figure 6-4 IRM) Clouds: Clouds are visible moisture that has condensed or sublimated onto condensation nuclei such as dust. unstable air causes the formation of cumuliform clouds and showers. its lowers the temperature on the adjacent 09192971130 .Calculate Cumulus cloud base = Temperature – Dewpoint / 4. or combustion particles. Visibility is usually restricted with widespread areas of clouds and steady rain or drizzle. Type of Clouds: Low from surface to 6500 ft AGL Cumulus – Stratocumulus – Stratus Altocumulus – Altostratus – Middle from 6500 ft AGL to 23000 ft AGL Nimbostratus High from 16500 ft AGL to 45000 ft AGL Cirrus – cirrocumulus – cirrostratus www. Stable air generally smooth with layered or stratiform clouds. cool night as the ground cools. Unstable air is usually bumpy with good surface visibility outside of scattered rain showers. Observing stable & unstable air: Moist. Visibility and fog. if this process continues the air within a few hundred feet of the surface may become cooler than the air above it. haze. That called frontal inversion.

gray appearance and cover a wide area. Stratocumulus Clouds are white. tops sometime exceed 60000 ft MSL Towering cumulus – Cumulonimbus Stratus Clouds are layered clouds that form in stable air near the surface due to cooling from below.Cloud with extensive vertical development from 1000 ft or less to 10000 ft or more. icing condition are possible if temperature are at or near freezing. Cumulus clouds resulting from the heating of the earth`s surface – flat bottoms and dumb shaped tops – indicate a shallow layer of instability – expect turbulence – little icing and precipitation. restricted visual flying. they often form as stratus layer breaks up or as cumulus clouds spread out. Nimbostratus clouds gray or black – more than several thousand feet thick – contain large quantities of moisture – create heavy icing if temperatures are near or www. low turbulence. puffy clouds that form as stable air is lifted. Turbulence can be expected at and below the bases of fair weather cumulus. Altostratus clouds are flat – dense clouds that cover a wide area – uniform gray or gray/white – minimal turbulence – moderate icing Altocumulus clouds gray or white – patchy clouds of uniform appearance – often form when altostratus clouds start to break up – light turbulence and icing – extend over wide area – may contain highly supercooled water 09192971130 .persianaviator.

Cirrostratus clouds thin – white – form in long bands or sheets against deep blue background – several thousand feet thick – low moisture – no icing. Cirrocumulus clouds white patchy clouds – look like cotton – form as a result of shallow convective currents at high altitude – light turbulence. They contain moderate to heavy convective turbulence with icing and often develop into thunderstorms. www.below freezing – produce widespread area of rain or snow – may merge into low stratus or stratocumulus.persianaviator. unstable air is lifted. Embedded thunderstorms are frequently obscured by massive cloud layers and usually con not be seen. Cumulonimbus clouds commonly called thunderstorms – vertical developed clouds – form in very unstable air – gray/white to black – contain large amount of moisture – many flying hazards – form when moist. Towering Cumulus clouds similar to cumulus clouds except they have more vertical development – look like large mounds of cotton with billowing cauliflower tops – brilliant white at the top to gray near bottom – indicate a fairly deep layer of unstable air – moderate to heavy turbulence with icing – often develop into thunderstorm. Cirrus clouds thin – wispy clouds – form above 30000 ft – white or light gray – exist in patches or narrow bands – sometimes blown from the tops of thunderstorms or towering cumulus clouds – form in stable air – in some cases they are an advance warning of approaching bad weather. It may be several hundred miles across and usually form where air remains stationary or nearly stationary for at least several days. Airmasses: An airmass is large body of air with fairly uniform temperature and moisture content. unstable air typically has cumulus clouds. Moist. Source Source Region: The area where an airmass acquires the properties of temperature and moisture that determine its stability is called its source 09192971130 .

A source region is usually located where air tends to stagnate. moist Warm. Maritime Polar Maritime Tropical Cool. Depth of the airmass Warming from below: Warming from below decrease airmass stability As an airmass moves over a warmer surface. Classification: The airmasses are generally divided into polar or tropical to identify their temperature characteristics and continental or maritime to identify their moisture content. moist Continental Polar Continental Tropical cool. www. Nature of the region it moves over 3.persianaviator. and large 09192971130 . The degree to which an airmass is changed depends on several factors: 1. dry Hot. this can result in extreme instability. its lower layer are heated and vertical movement of the air develops depending on temperature and moisture levels. Its speed 2. tropical oceans. Cooling from below: Cooling from below may cause smooth air and poor visibility. The middle latitudes are poor source region because of the strong westerly winds and the continual mixing of tropical and polar airmasses. Cooling from below increase stability. Some excellent areas are snow and ice covered Polar Regions. dry Modification: Modification: As an airmass moves out of its source region. Temperature difference between the airmass and the new surface 4. it is modified by the temperature and moisture of the area over which it moves. 09192971130 . they create an occluded front. its lower layers are cooled and vertical movement is inhibited. A cold front is one where cold air is moving to displace warmer air. Temperature: A change in the temperature is one of the easiest ways to recognize the passage of a front. diffused frontal zone. indicating a wide and perhaps. Type of Fronts: Fronts are named according to the temperature of the advancing air relative to the temperature of the air it is replacing. Since the weather along a front often presents a serious hazards to flying.persianaviator. when cold and warm fronts merge. Fronts: Fronts are boundaries between airmasses. indicating a narrow frontal zone. Frontal discontinuities: The change between two airmasses may be very abrupt.When an airmass flows over a cooler surface. 1. Wind: www. On other hand. Cold fronts are usually fast moving and often catch up to and merge with a slower moving warm front. the changes may occur gradually. warm air is replacing cold air. As a result. This cooling from below creates a temperature inversion and may result in low ceiling and visibility for long periods of time. the stability of the air is increased and low clouds or fog may form. In a warmer front. A stationary front has no movement. The changes may be less abrupt at middle and high altitudes than it is at the surface.

Pressure changes on the warm side of the front generally occur more slowly than on the cold side. Cumulus clouds 2. Clearing sky and good visibility after the front-passage FastFast-moving cold fronts: www. 3. Availability of moisture 2. Slope of the front 5. with the area of lowest pressure lying directly over the front. atmospheric pressure usually decreases. Frontal Weather: The type and intensity of frontal weather depend on several factors: 1. Wind speed also may change. The stability of the air begin lifted 3. 09192971130 . Some general weather characteristics that are found in most cold front: 1. The speed of the frontal movement 4. Showery precipitation 4.persianaviator.When you are flying across a front. Turbulence 3. Pressure: As a front approaches. you will notice a change in wind direction. The wind always shifts to the right in the northern hemisphere. The moisture and temperature variations between two fronts Cold Front: The speed of a cold front usually dictates the type of weather associated with the front. gusty winds 5.

if the air is moist and stable 2. and gusty surface winds following the passage of fast-moving cold front. a squall line often forms a head of front itself. These fronts are particularly hazardous because of the steep slope and wide differences in moisture and temperature between two airmasses. The squall line is an area of severe weather characterized by extensive vertical clouds development and turbulence. Some of the common weather patterns found in a typical warm front include: 09192971130 . A squall line often forms 50 to 200 miles ahead of fast-moving cold front. Warm fronts: Steady precipitation with little turbulence usually precedes warm fronts. A slow-moving cold front meeting stable air usually causes a broad area of Stratus clouds to form behind the front. cumulonimbus and nimbostratus clouds may develop near the surface front.persianaviator. It often develops 50 to 300 miles ahead of front. The weather usually clears quickly behind a cold front. Stratus clouds. 3.Fast-moving cold fronts are pushed along by intense high pressure systems located well behind the front. Warm fronts occur when warm air overtakes and replaces cooler air. unstable air. www. When a cold front pushes into extremely moist. this causes wide spread vertical cloud development along a narrow frontal zone. You will notice reduced cloud cover. lower temperature. Little turbulence. Poor visibility with haze or fog. except in an unstable airmass.moving cold front meets unstable air. improved visibility. Precipitation ahead of the front. SlowSlow-moving cold fronts: As a slow. 4. They usually move at much slower speed than cold fronts. Fast-moving cold fronts force warmer air to rise. creating hazards icing and turbulence.

Thunderstorms: Thunderstorm formation requires unstable conditions. www. cumulus clouds will develop. In the cumulus stage. and high moisture levels. If the air is warm. a lifting force. Wide area of precipitation. stratus clouds will develop. Frontal Occlusions: A frontal occlusion when a fast-moving cold front catches up to a slow-moving warm front. Life cycle: The three stages of thunderstorm are: Cumulus – Mature – Dissipating The cumulus stage is characterized by continues updrafts. which is signaled by the beginning of precipitation. or heating of earth`s surface (convection). a lifting action initiates vertical movement of air.persianaviator.5. moist and 09192971130 . When the opposing forces of two airmasses are relatively balanced. moist and stable. The lifting action may be provided by several factors. Stationary Fronts: Stationary fronts have qualities of both warm and cold fronts. The difference in temperature within each frontal system is a major factor that influence which type of front and weather are created. the front that separates then may remain stationary. If the air is warm. The weather in a stationary front is usually a mixture of that found in both warm and cold fronts. such as rising terrain (orographic lifting) fronts. Thunderstorm reaches the greatest intensity during the mature stage.

the down-rushing air spreads outward at the surface. They are usually caused by solar heating of the land.The resulting downdraft may reach a velocity of 2500 fpm. Airmass Storms: Airmass storms are usually caused by convection or orographic lifting. turbulent circular-shaped cloud may form at the lower leading edge of the cloud. Frontal Storms: Frontal thunderstorms can be associated with any type of front. The leading edge of this wind is referred to as a gust front or the first 09192971130 . which result in convection currents that lift unstable air. 1. Thunderstorm Hazardous: www. 1. a rise in pressure. A dissipating thunderstorm is characterized by downdrafts. this is called the roll cloud. creating the familiar anvil shape. Warm front 2. a rolling. the upper level winds often blow the top of the cloud downwind. Occlusions stratiform clouds showery precipitation cumulonimbus clouds can also spawn storms A squall line is a non-frontal band of thunderstorm that contains the most severe types of weather related hazards. As the thunderstorm advances. Cold front 3.persianaviator. Orographic lifting mountain peak in late spring and summer during late night or 3. Nocturnal thunderstorms early morning hours. 2. Type of Thunderstorms: Thunderstorms are generally classified as airmass or frontal storms. during this stage. and strong. gusty surface winds. producing to sharp drop in temperature. and are most common during summer afternoons or in coastal areas at night.

Lightening is always associated with thunderstorms. The strongest turbulence occurs in the shear between the updrafts and downdrafts. and wake turbulence. Severe turbulence often exists in a thunderstorm. Funnel clouds are violent. convective currents.Thunderstorms may include 09192971130 . gusty surface wind. establish maneuvering speed and try to maintain a level flight attitude. The cumulonimbus is the type of cloud that produces the severe turbulence. it is called a water spout. Convective Currents: www. If you encounter turbulence. Hail can occur at all altitude within or outside a storm. reduce power to slow the airplane to maneuvering speed or less. however a downburst covers a larger area and may last up to 30 minutes. Turbulence: There are many causes of turbulence. Wind Shear: Wind shear can often exist near the surface when there is frontal system. thunderstorm or temperature inversion with strong upper winds in the area. If it touches down over water. If a funnel cloud reaches the earth`s surface it is referred to as a tornado. spinning columns of air which descend from the base of a cloud. hail. Thunderstorms turbulence develop when air currents changes direction or velocity rapidly over a short distance. including wind shear.persianaviator. or even tornadoes. turbulence. clear air turbulence. If you encounter turbulence. A microburst is an intense downburst which covers only a small area and has a very short lift cycle. obstruction to wind flow.

com 09192971130 . It often develops in or near the jet stream. Rotor clouds may also form in the rotors. The greatest vortex strength occurs when the generating aircraft is heavy.When sufficient moisture is present. the intensity of the turbulence depends on aircraft weight. quartering tailwind conditions. Obstruction to wind flow: Mechanical turbulence when obstacles like building or rough terrain interfere with the normal wind flow turbulence develops. Mountain wave turbulence can be anticipated when the wind across a ridge are 40 knots or more. Wake Turbulence: Wingtip vortices are created when an airplane generates lift. The crests of the waves may be marked by lens-shaped or lenticular clouds. and cap clouds may obscure the mountain peaks. Clear Clear Air Turbulence: Clear air turbulence can take place at any altitude and is often present with no visual warning. CAT may be caused by wind shear.persianaviator. stay above the large airplane`s glide path and touch down beyond its touchdown point. Wingtip vortices tends to sink below the flight path of the aircraft which generated them and are most hazardous during light. or obstruction to normal wind flow. which is a narrow band of high altitudes wind near Tropopause. cumulus clouds indicate the presence of turbulence. slow and in a clean configuration. www. speed and configuration. and the air is stable. The strongest convective currents are found on hot summer afternoon. Convective turbulence is caused by currents which develop in air heated by contact with the warm surface below. convective currents. To avoid turbulence when landing behind a large aircraft.

particularly to pilot of small aircraft taking off or landing behind large aircraft. Light chop is slight Moderate change in IAS. touch down well before the large aircraft`s lift off 09192971130 . www. When the temperature of the aircraft surface is 0˚C or colder. moderate chop is rapid bumps or jolts without appreciate changes in altitude or attitude.persianaviator. ice can build up on any exposed surface of an aircraft. large variation in IAS Aircraft practically impossible to control. When taking off behind a large aircraft. may cause structural damage. Jet engine blast is a related hazard. Wake turbulence can be extremely hazardous. When departing after a large aircraft has landed. and freezing rain usually produces the highest accumulation rate. Reporting Turbulence: Light Slight erratic changes in altitude or attitude. It can damage or even overturn a small airplane if it is encountered at close range. lift off beyond its touchdown point. Icing: Visible moisture is necessary for structural icing to form.If a large airplane has just taken off as you approach to land. Severe Extreme Abrupt changes in altitude or attitude. lift off before the large airplane`s rotation point and climb out above or upwind of its flight path. 09192971130 .There are two general types of ice: Rime . RimeIce Stratus clouds + tiny water droplet + instantaneous/fast freezing + opaque appearance Clear Ice Cumulus clouds + large water droplet + slow freezing + large accumulation + difficult removal www. Clear Mixed icing is a combination of the two rime and clear ice.

persianaviator. calm.If the frost is not removed from the wings before flight. Radiation fog / Ground fog over fairly level surfaces on clear. moist air moves over a cooler surface + cloudy skies along coastline + wind up to 15 knots will intensify the fog. Restriction to visibility: 09192971130 . humid nights + stable air + high pressure systems 2. preventing the aircraft from becoming airborne. Advection fog low layer of warm. it may decrease lift and increase drag. www.

persianaviator. 09192971130 . Upslope fog moist. Steam fog low level turbulence and icing are associated with steam fog + called sea smoke Haze. stable air is forced up a sloping land mass + form in moderate to strong winds + under cloudy skies. *.3. blowing dust or snow Haze restrict visibility concentration very fine salt or dust + stable + sometimes extend to 15000 ft www. 4. Advection and upslope fog requires a wind for formation. Precipitation-induced fog warm rain or drizzle falls through a layer of cooler air near the surface + very dense 5. smog.