– Weather is over a short period of time
– Constantly changing
– Climate is over a long period of time
– Generalized, composite of weather
Elements of weather and climate
– Properties that are measured regularly
– Most important elements
• Temperature
• Humidity
• Cloudiness
• Precipitation
• Air pressure
• Winds speed and direction
Air is a mixture of discrete gases
Major components of clean, dry air
– Nitrogen (N) – 78 percent
– Oxygen (O2) – 21 percent
– Argon and other gases
– Carbon dioxide (CO2) – 0.0397 percent – absorbs heat energy from Earth
Variable components of air
– Water vapor
• Up to about 4 percent of the air’s volume
• Forms clouds and precipitation
• Absorbs heat energy from Earth
– Aerosols
• Tiny solid and liquid particles
• Water vapor can condense on solids
• Reflect sunlight
• Help color sunrise and sunset
– Ozone
• Three atoms of oxygen (O3)
• Distribution not uniform
• Concentrated between 10 to 50 kilometers above the surface
• Absorbs harmful UV radiation
• Human activity is depleting ozone by adding chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs)
Pressure changes
– Pressure is the weight of the air above
– Average sea level pressure
• Slightly more than 1000 millibars
• About 14.7 pounds per square inch
– Pressure decreases with altitude
• One-half of the atmosphere is below 3.5 miles (5.6 km)
• Ninety percent of the atmosphere is below
10 miles (16 km)

– Bottom layer
– Temperature decreases with altitude – called the environmental lapse rate
• 6.5°C per kilometer (average)
• 3.5°F per 1000 feet (average)
– Thickness varies – average height is 12 km
– Outer boundary is named the tropopause
– About 12 km to 50 km
– Temperature increases at top
– Outer boundary is named the stratopause
– About 50 km to 80 km
– Temperature decreases
– Outer boundary is named the mesopause
– No well-defined upper limit
– Fraction of atmosphere’s mass
– Gases moving at high speeds
Earth motions
– Rotates on its axis
– Revolves around the Sun
– Result of
• Changing Sun angle
• Changing length of daylight
• Caused by Earth’s changing orientation to the Sun
– Axis is inclined 23½º
– Axis is always pointed in the same direction
Special days (Northern Hemisphere)
– Summer solstice
• June 21–22
• Sun’s vertical rays are located at the Tropic of Cancer (23½º N latitude)
– Winter solstice
• December 21–22
• Sun’s vertical rays are located at the Tropic of Capricorn (23½º S latitude)
Autumnal equinox
– September 22–23
– Sun’s vertical rays are located at the Equator (0° latitude)
• Spring (Vernal) equinox
– March 21–22
– Sun’s vertical rays are located at the Equator (0° latitude)

Heat is always transferred from warmer to cooler objects
Mechanisms of heat transfer
– Conduction through molecular activity
– Convection
• Mass movement within a substance
• Usually vertical motions
– Radiation (electromagnetic radiation)
• Velocity: 300,000 kilometers (186,000 miles) per second in a vacuum
Mechanisms of heat transfer
– Radiation (electromagnetic radiation)
• Consists of different wavelengths
• Gamma (very short waves)
• X-rays
• Ultraviolet (UV)
• Visible
• Infrared
• Microwaves and radio waves
Mechanisms of heat transfer
– Radiation (electromagnetic radiation)
• Governed by basic laws
• All objects, at whatever temperature, emit radiation
• Hotter objects radiate more total energy per unit area than do cooler
• The hotter the radiating body, the shorter the wavelength of maximum
• Objects that are good absorbers of radiation are good emitters as well
Incoming solar radiation
– Atmosphere is largely transparent to incoming solar radiation
– Atmospheric effects
• Reflection – albedo (percent reflected)
• Scattering
• Absorption
– Most visible radiation reaches the surface
– About 50 percent absorbed at Earth’s surface
Radiation from Earth’s surface
– Earth reradiates radiation (terrestrial radiation) at the longer wavelengths
– Longer wavelength terrestrial radiation is absorbed by
• Carbon dioxide
• Water vapor
Heating of the atmosphere is termed the greenhouse effect

Control of Temperature

Land and water
– Land heats more rapidly and to higher temperatures than water
– Water has high specific heat – amount of energy needed to raise the temperature of 1
gram of a substance 1 degree Celsius
Altitude –higher altitudes have lower temperatures
Geographic position
– Windward coast
– Leeward coast
Cloud cover and albedo
– Clouds have high albedo
– Clouds cool air during the day, keep heat in at night
Temperature variations
Receipt of solar radiation is the most important control

Temperature measurement
• Human perception of temperature
– Anything that influences the rate of heat loss from the body also influences the
sensation of temperature
– Important factors are
• Air temperature
• Relative humidity
• Wind speed
• Sunshine
Heat energy

Measured in calories – one calorie is the heat necessary to raise the temperature of one
gram of water one degree Celsius
– Latent heat
• Stored or hidden heat
• Not derived from temperature change
• Important in atmospheric processes
Three states of matter
– Solid
– Liquid
– Gas
To change state, heat must be
– Absorbed, or
– Released
– Evaporation
• Liquid is changed to gas

• 600 calories per gram of water are added – called latent heat of vaporization
– Condensation
• Water vapor (gas) is changed to a liquid
• Heat energy is released – called latent heat of condensation
– Melting
• Solid is changed to a liquid
• 80 calories per gram of water are added – called latent heat of melting
– Freezing
• Liquid is changed to a solid
• Heat is released – called latent heat of fusion
– Sublimation
• Solid is changed directly to a gas (e.g., ice cubes shrinking in a freezer)
• 680 calories per gram of water are added
– Deposition
• Water vapor (gas) changed to a solid (e.g., frost in a freezer compartment)
• Heat is released
Humidity - Amount of water vapor in the air
– Saturated air is air that is filled with water vapor to capacity
– Capacity is temperature dependent – warm air has a much greater capacity
– Water vapor adds pressure (called vapor pressure) to the air
Measuring humidity
– Mixing ratio
• Mass of water vapor in a unit of air compared to the remaining mass of dry air
• Often measured in grams per kilogram
– Relative humidity
• Ratio of the air’s actual water vapor content compared with the amount of
water vapor required for saturation at that temperature (and pressure)
– Relative humidity
• Expressed as a percent
• Saturated air
• Content equals capacity
• Has a 100 percent relative humidity
• Relative humidity can be changed in two ways
• Add or subtract moisture to the air
• Adding moisture raises the relative humidity
• Removing moisture lowers the relative humidity
– Relative humidity can be changed in two ways
• Changing the air temperature
• Lowering the temperature raises the relative humidity
Dew point temperature
– Temperature to which a parcel of air would need to be cooled to reach saturation
– Cooling the air below the dew point causes condensation

• e.g., dew, fog, or cloud formation
• Water vapor requires a surface on which to condense
Psychrometer – compares temperatures of wet-bulb thermometer and dry-bulb thermometer
• If the air is saturated (100 percent relative humidity) then both thermometers
read the same temperature
• The greater the difference between the thermometer readings, the lower the
relative humidity
• Hair hygrometer – reads the humidity directly
Adiabatic temperature changes occur when
– Air is compressed
• Motion of air molecules increases
• Air will warm
• Descending air is compressed due to increasing air pressure
– Air expands
• Air will cool
• Rising air will expand due to decreasing air pressure
Adiabatic rates
– Dry adiabatic rate
• Unsaturated air
• Rising air expands and cools at 1° C per 100 meters (5.5° F per 1000 feet)
• Descending air is compressed and warms at 1° C per 100 meters
Adiabatic rates
– Wet adiabatic rate
• Commences at condensation level
• Air has reached the dew point
• Condensation is occurring and latent heat is being liberated
• Heat released by the condensing water reduces the rate of cooling
• Rate varies from 0.5° C to 0.9° C per 100 meters
Orographic lifting
– Elevated terrains act as barriers
– Result can be a rainshadow desert
Frontal wedging
– Cool air acts as a barrier to warm air
– Fronts are part of the storm systems called middle-latitude cyclones
Convergence where the air is flowing together and rising (low pressure)
Localized convective lifting
– Localized convective lifting occurs where unequal surface heating causes pockets of air
to rise because of their buoyancy
Types of stability
– Stable air
• Resists vertical displacement
• Cooler than surrounding air

• Denser than surrounding air
• Wants to sink
No adiabatic cooling
Absolute stability occurs when the environmental lapse rate is less than the wet
adiabatic rate

Stable air
– Often results in widespread clouds with little vertical thickness
– Precipitation, if any, is light to moderate
Absolute instability
– Acts like a hot air balloon
– Rising air
• Warmer than surrounding air
• Less dense than surrounding air
• Continues to rise until it reaches an altitude with the same temperature
• Adiabatic cooling
• Environmental lapse rate is greater than the dry adiabatic rate
• Clouds are often towering
• Conditional instability occurs when the atmosphere is stable for an unsaturated
parcel of air but unstable for a saturated parce
– Water vapor in the air changes to a liquid and forms dew, fog, or clouds
– Water vapor requires a surface to condense on
• Possible condensation surfaces on the ground can be the grass, a car window,
• Possible condensation surfaces in the atmosphere are called condensation
• Dust, smoke, etc
• Ocean salt crystals which serve as hygroscopic (“water-seeking”) nuclei
– Made of millions and millions of
• Minute water droplets, or
• Tiny crystals of ice
– Classification based on
• Form (three basic forms)
• Cirrus – high, white, thin
• Cumulus – globular cloud masses often associated with fair weather
• Stratus – sheets or layers that cover much of the sky
Classification based on
– Height
• High clouds – above 6000 meters
• Types include cirrus, cirrostratus, cirrocumulus
• Middle clouds – 2000 to 6000 meters

• Types include altostratus and altocumulus
• Low clouds – below 2000 meters
• Types include stratus, stratocumulus, and nimbostratus (nimbus means
Classification based on
– Height
• Clouds of vertical development
• From low to high altitudes
• Called cumulonimbus
• Often produce rain showers and thunderstorms
Considered an atmospheric hazard
Cloud with its base at or near the ground
Most fogs form because of
– Radiation cooling, or
– Movement of air over a cold surface
Types of fog
– Fogs caused by cooling
• Advection fog – warm, moist air moves over a cool surface
• Radiation fog
• Earth’s surface cools rapidly
• Forms during cool, clear, calm nights
• Upslope fog
• Humid air moves up a slope
• Adiabatic cooling occurs
– Evaporation fogs
• Steam fog
• Cool air moves over warm water and moisture is added to the air
• Water has a steaming appearance
• Frontal fog, or precipitation fog
• Forms during frontal wedging when warm air is lifted over colder air
• Rain evaporates to form fog
Cloud droplets
– Less than 20 micrometers (0.02 millimeter) in diameter
– Fall incredibly slow
Formation of precipitation
– Bergeron process
• Temperature in the cloud is below freezing
• Ice crystals collect water vapor
• Large snowflakes form and fall to the ground or melt during descent and fall as

Formation of precipitation
– Collision-coalescence process
• Warm clouds
• Large hygroscopic condensation nuclei
• Large droplets form
• Droplets collide with other droplets during their descent
• Common in the tropics`
• Rain and drizzle
– Rain – droplets have at least a 0.5 mm diameter
– Drizzle – droplets have less than a 0.5 mm diameter
• Snow – ice crystals, or aggregates of ice crystals
• Sleet
– Wintertime phenomenon
– Small particles of ice
– Occurs when
• Warmer air overlies colder air
• Rain freezes as it falls
• Glaze, or freezing rain – impact with a solid causes freezing
• Hail
– Hard rounded pellets
• Concentric shells
• Most diameters range from 1 to 5 cm
– Formation
• Occurs in large cumulonimbus clouds with violent up- and downdrafts
• Layers of freezing rain are caught in up- and downdrafts in the cloud
• Pellets fall to the ground when they become too heavy
• Rime
– Forms on cold surfaces
– Freezing of
• Supercooled fog, or
• Cloud droplets
Atmospheric pressure
• Force exerted by the weight of the air above
• Weight of the air at sea level
– 14.7 pounds per square inch
– 1 kilogram per square centimeter
• Decreases with increasing altitude
• Units of measurement
– Millibar (mb) – standard sea-level pressure is 1013.2 mb
– Inches of mercury – standard sea-level pressure is 29.92 inches of mercury
• Instruments for measuring
– Mercury barometer

• Invented by Torricelli in 1643
• Uses a glass tube filled with mercury barometer
Aneroid barometer
• “Without liquid”
• Uses an expanding chamber
Barograph (continuously records the air pressure)

• Horizontal movement of air
– Out of areas of high pressure
– Into areas of low pressure
• Controls of wind
– Pressure gradient force
• Isobars – lines of equal air pressure
• Pressure gradient – pressure change over distance
– Coriolis effect
• Apparent deflection in the wind direction due to Earth’s rotation
• Deflection is to the right in the Northern Hemisphere and to the left in the
Southern Hemisphere
– Friction
• Only important near the surface
Acts to slow the air’s movement
• Upper air winds
– Generally blow parallel to isobars – called geostrophic winds
– Lack of friction with surface allows higher speeds
– Jet stream
• “River” of air
• High altitude
• High velocity (120–240) kilometers per hour
• Cyclone
– Associated with rising air
– Center of low pressure
– Often bring clouds and precipitation
• Anticyclone
– Associated with sinking air
– A center of high pressure
– Pressure increases toward the center
• Cyclone
– A center of low pressure
– Pressure decreases toward the center
– Winds associated with a cyclone
• In the Northern Hemisphere
• Inward (convergence)

• Counterclockwise
In the Southern Hemisphere
• Inward (convergence)
• Clockwise

– Winds associated with an anticyclone
• In the Northern Hemisphere
• Outward (divergence)
• Clockwise
• In the Southern Hemisphere
• Outward (divergence)
• Counterclockwise
• Associated with subsiding air
• Usually bring “fair” weather
General Atmospheric Circulation
Underlying cause is unequal surface heating
On the rotating Earth there are three pairs of atmospheric cells that redistribute the heat
Equatorial low pressure zone
– Rising air
– Abundant precipitation
Subtropical high pressure zone
– Subsiding, stable, dry air
– Near 30 degrees latitude
– Location of great deserts
– Trade winds
– Westerly winds
Subpolar low pressure zone
– Warm and cool winds interact
– Polar front – an area of storms
Polar high pressure zone
– Cold, subsiding air
– Polar easterly winds
– Polar front
Influence of continents
– Seasonal temperature differences disrupt the
• Global pressure patterns
• Global wind patterns
– Influence is most obvious in the Northern Hemisphere
– Monsoon
• Occur over continents
• During warm months
• Air flows onto land

• Warm, moist air from the ocean
Winter months
• Air flows off the land
• Dry, continental air

Mid latitudes
Air flow is interrupted by cyclones
– Cells move west to east in the Northern Hemisphere
– Create anticyclonic and cyclonic flow
– Paths of the cyclones and anticyclones are associated with the upper-level airflow
Local Winds
Produced from temperature differences
Small scale winds
– Land and sea breezes
– Mountain and valley breezes
– Chinook and Santa Ana winds
El Niño
– A countercurrent that flows southward along the coasts of Ecuador and Peru
• Warm
• Usually appears during the Christmas season
• Blocks upwelling of colder, nutrient-filled water, and anchovies starve from lack
of food
– Strongest El Niño events on record occurred between 1982–83 and 1997–98
– 1997–98 event caused
• Heavy rains in Ecuador and Peru
• Ferocious storms in California
– Related to large-scale atmospheric circulation
• Southern Oscillation -- Pressure changed between the eastern and western
• Changes in trade winds creates a major change in the equatorial current system,
with warm water flowing eastward
– Effects are highly variable depending in part on the temperatures and size of the warm
water pools
La Niña
– Opposite of El Niño
– Triggered by colder than average surface temperatures in the eastern Pacific
– Typical La Niña winter
• Blows colder than normal air over the Pacific Northwest and northern Great
Plains while warming much of the rest of the United States
• Greater precipitation is expected in the Northwest

Events associated with El Niño and La Niña are now understood to have a significant influence
on the state of weather and climate almost everywhere