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In meteorology, a cyclone ( // ) is a large scale air mass that rotates around a strong center of low atmospheric pressure, counterclockwise in the Northern Hemisphere and clockwise in the Southern Hemisphere as viewed from above (opposite to an anticyclone). Cyclones are characterized by inward-spiraling winds that rotate about a zone of low pressure. The largest low-pressure systems are polar vortices and extratropical cyclones of the largest scale (the synoptic scale). Warm-core cyclones such as tropical cyclones and subtropical cyclones also lie within the synoptic scale. Mesocyclones, tornadoes, and dust devils lie within smaller mesoscale. Upper level cyclones can exist without the presence of a surface low, and can pinch off from the base of the tropical upper tropospheric trough during the summer months in the Northern Hemisphere. Cyclones have also been seen on extraterrestrial planets, such as Mars, Jupiter, and Neptune. Cyclogenesis is the process of cyclone formation and intensification. Extratropical cyclones begin as waves in large regions of enhanced mid-latitude temperature contrasts called baroclinic zones. These zones contract and form weather fronts as the cyclonic circulation closes and intensifies. Later in their life cycle, extratropical cyclones occlude as cold air masses undercut the warmer air and become cold core systems. A cyclone's track is guided over the course of its 2 to 6 day life cycle by the steering flow of the subtropical jet stream.
Weather fronts mark the boundary between two masses of air of different temperature, humidity, and densities, and are associated with the most prominent meteorological phenomena. Strong cold fronts typically feature narrow bands of thunderstorms and severe weather, and may on occasion be preceded by squall lines or dry lines. Such fronts form west of the circulation center and generally move from west to east; warm fronts form east of the cyclone center and are usually preceded by stratiform precipitation and fog. Warm fronts move poleward ahead of the cyclone path. Occluded fronts form late in the cyclone life cycle near the center of the cyclone and often wrap around the storm center.
Tropical cyclogenesis describes the process of development of tropical cyclones. Tropical cyclones form due to latent heat driven by significant thunderstorm activity, and are warm core.Cyclones can transition between extratropical, subtropical, and tropical phases. Mesocyclones form as warm core cyclones over land, and can lead to tornado formation. Waterspouts can also form from mesocyclones, but more often develop from environments of high instability and low vertical wind shear. In the Atlantic and the northeastern Pacific oceans, a tropical cyclone is generally referred to as a hurricane (from the name of the ancient Central American deity of wind, Huracan), in the Indian and south Pacific oceans it is called a cyclone, and in the northwestern Pacific it is called a typhoon. The growth of instability in the vortices is not universal. For example, the size, intensity, moist-convection, surface evaporation, the value of potential temperature at each potential height can affect the nonlinear evolution of a vortex.
Henry Piddington published 40 papers dealing with tropical storms from Calcutta between 1836 and 1855 in The Journal of the Asiatic Society . He also coined the term cyclone, meaning the coil of a snake. In 1842, he published his landmark thesis, Laws of the Storms .
There are a number of structural characteristics common to all cyclones. A cyclone is a low-pressure area.A cyclone's center (often known in a mature tropical cyclone as the eye), is the area of lowest atmospheric pressure in the region. Near the center, the pressure gradient force (from the pressure in the center of the cyclone compared to the pressure outside the cyclone) and the force from the Coriolis effect must be in an approximate balance, or the cyclone would collapse on itself as a result of the difference in pressure.
Because of the Coriolis effect, the wind flow around a large cyclone is counterclockwise in the Northern Hemisphere and clockwise in the Southern Hemisphere.In the Northern Hemisphere, the fastest winds relative to the surface of the Earth therefore occur on the eastern side of a northward-moving cyclone and on the northern side of a westward-moving one; the opposite occurs in the Southern Hemisphere. In contrast to low-pressure systems, the wind flow around high-pressure systems are clockwise (anticyclonic) in the northern hemisphere, and counterclockwise in the southern hemisphere.
Cyclogenesis is the development or strengthening of cyclonic circulation in the atmosphere.Cyclogenesis is an umbrella term for several different processes that all result in the development of some sort of cyclone. It can occur at various scales, from the microscale to the synoptic scale.
Extratropical cyclones begin as waves along weather fronts before occluding later in their life cycle as cold-core systems. However, some intense extratropical cyclones can become warm-core systems when a warm seclusion occurs.
Tropical cyclones form as a result of significant convective activity, and are warm core.Mesocyclones form as warm core cyclones over land, and can lead to tornado formation. Waterspouts can also form from mesocyclones, but more often develop from environments of high instability and low vertical wind shear. Cyclolysis is the opposite of cyclogenesis, and is the high-pressure system equivalent, which deals with the formation of high-pressure areas—Anticyclogenesis.
A surface low can form in a variety of ways. Topography can create a surface low. Mesoscale convective systems can spawn surface lows that are initially warm-core.The disturbance can grow into a wave-like formation along the front and the low is positioned at the crest. Around the low, the flow becomes cyclonic. This rotational flow moves polar air towards the equator on the west side of the low, while warm air move towards the pole on the east side. A cold front appears on the west side, while a warm front forms on the east side. Usually, the cold front moves at a quicker pace than the warm front and "catches up" with it due to the slow erosion of higher density air mass out ahead of the cyclone. In addition, the higher density air mass sweeping in behind the cyclone strengthens the higher pressure, denser cold air mass. The cold front over takes the warm front, and reduces the length of the warm front. At this point an occluded front forms where the warm air mass is pushed upwards into a trough of warm air aloft, which is also known as a trowal.
Tropical cyclogenesis is the development and strengthening of a tropical cyclone.The mechanisms by which tropical cyclogenesis occurs are distinctly different from those that produce mid-latitude cyclones. Tropical cyclogenesis, the development of a warm-core cyclone, begins with significant convection in a favorable atmospheric environment. There are six main requirements for tropical cyclogenesis:
An average of 86 tropical cyclones of tropical storm intensity form annually worldwide, 3 intensity on the Saffir–Simpson hurricane scale).with 47 reaching hurricane/typhoon strength, and 20 becoming intense tropical cyclones (at least Category
The following types of cyclones are identifiable in synoptic charts.
There are three main types of surface-based cyclones: Extratropical cyclones, Subtropical cyclones and Tropical cyclones
An extratropical cyclone is a synoptic scale low-pressure weather system that does not have tropical characteristics,as it is connected with fronts and horizontal gradients (rather than vertical) in temperature and dew point otherwise known as "baroclinic zones".
"Extratropical" is applied to cyclones outside the tropics, in the middle latitudes. These systems may also be described as "mid-latitude cyclones" due to their area of formation, or "post-tropical cyclones" when a tropical cyclone has moved (extratropical transition) beyond the tropics.They are often described as "depressions" or "lows" by weather forecasters and the general public. These are the everyday phenomena that, along with anticyclones, drive weather over much of the Earth.
Although extratropical cyclones are almost always classified as baroclinic since they form along zones of temperature and dewpoint gradient within the westerlies, they can sometimes become barotropic late in their life cycle when the temperature distribution around the cyclone becomes fairly uniform with radius.An extratropical cyclone can transform into a subtropical storm, and from there into a tropical cyclone, if it dwells over warm waters sufficient to warm its core, and as a result develops central convection. A particularly intense type of extratropical cyclone that strikes during winter is known colloquially as a nor'easter .
A polar low is a small-scale, short-lived atmospheric low-pressure system (depression) that is found over the ocean areas poleward of the main polar front in both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. Polar lows were first identified on the meteorological satellite imagery that became available in the 1960s, which revealed many small-scale cloud vortices at high latitudes. The most active polar lows are found over certain ice-free maritime areas in or near the Arctic during the winter, such as the Norwegian Sea, Barents Sea, Labrador Sea and Gulf of Alaska. Polar lows dissipate rapidly when they make landfall. Antarctic systems tend to be weaker than their northern counterparts since the air-sea temperature differences around the continent are generally smaller [ citation needed ]. However, vigorous polar lows can be found over the Southern Ocean. During winter, when cold-core lows with temperatures in the mid-levels of the troposphere reach −45 °C (−49 °F) move over open waters, deep convection forms, which allows polar low development to become possible. The systems usually have a horizontal length scale of less than 1,000 kilometres (620 mi) and exist for no more than a couple of days. They are part of the larger class of mesoscale weather systems. Polar lows can be difficult to detect using conventional weather reports and are a hazard to high-latitude operations, such as shipping and gas and oil platforms. Polar lows have been referred to by many other terms, such as polar mesoscale vortex, Arctic hurricane, Arctic low, and cold air depression. Today the term is usually reserved for the more vigorous systems that have near-surface winds of at least 17 m/s.
A subtropical cyclone is a weather system that has some characteristics of a tropical cyclone and some characteristics of an extratropical cyclone. They can form between the equator and the 50th parallel.As early as the 1950s, meteorologists were unclear whether they should be characterized as tropical cyclones or extratropical cyclones, and used terms such as quasi-tropical and semi-tropical to describe the cyclone hybrids. By 1972, the National Hurricane Center officially recognized this cyclone category. Subtropical cyclones began to receive names off the official tropical cyclone list in the Atlantic Basin in 2002. They have broad wind patterns with maximum sustained winds located farther from the center than typical tropical cyclones, and exist in areas of weak to moderate temperature gradient.
Since they form from extratropical cyclones, which have colder temperatures aloft than normally found in the tropics, the sea surface temperatures required is around 23 degrees Celsius (73 °F) for their formation, which is three degrees Celsius (5 °F) lower than for tropical cyclones. This means that subtropical cyclones are more likely to form outside the traditional bounds of the hurricane season. Although subtropical storms rarely have hurricane-force winds, they may become tropical in nature as their cores warm.
A tropical cyclone is a storm system characterized by a low-pressure center and numerous thunderstorms that produce strong winds and flooding rain.A tropical cyclone feeds on heat released when moist air rises, resulting in condensation of water vapour contained in the moist air. They are fueled by a different heat mechanism than other cyclonic windstorms such as nor'easters, European windstorms, and polar lows, leading to their classification as "warm core" storm systems.
The term "tropical" refers to both the geographic origin of these systems, which form almost exclusively in tropical regions of the globe,and their dependence on Maritime Tropical air masses for their formation. The term "cyclone" refers to the storms' cyclonic nature, with counterclockwise rotation in the Northern Hemisphere and clockwise rotation in the Southern Hemisphere. Depending on their location and strength, tropical cyclones are referred to by other names, such as hurricane, typhoon, tropical storm, cyclonic storm, tropical depression, or simply as a cyclone.
While tropical cyclones can produce extremely powerful winds and torrential rain, they are also able to produce high waves and a damaging storm surge. 40 kilometres (25 mi) from the coastline. Although their effects on human populations can be devastating, tropical cyclones can also relieve drought conditions. They also carry heat and energy away from the tropics and transport it toward temperate latitudes, which makes them an important part of the global atmospheric circulation mechanism. As a result, tropical cyclones help to maintain equilibrium in the Earth's troposphere.Their winds increase the wave size, and in so doing they draw more heat and moisture into their system, thereby increasing their strength. They develop over large bodies of warm water, and hence lose their strength if they move over land. This is the reason coastal regions can receive significant damage from a tropical cyclone, while inland regions are relatively safe from strong winds. Heavy rains, however, can produce significant flooding inland. Storm surges are rises in sea level caused by the reduced pressure of the core that in effect "sucks" the water upward and from winds that in effect "pile" the water up. Storm surges can produce extensive coastal flooding up to
Many tropical cyclones develop when the atmospheric conditions around a weak disturbance in the atmosphere are favorable.Others form when other types of cyclones acquire tropical characteristics. Tropical systems are then moved by steering winds in the troposphere; if the conditions remain favorable, the tropical disturbance intensifies, and can even develop an eye. On the other end of the spectrum, if the conditions around the system deteriorate or the tropical cyclone makes landfall, the system weakens and eventually dissipates. A tropical cyclone can become extratropical as it moves toward higher latitudes if its energy source changes from heat released by condensation to differences in temperature between air masses. A tropical cyclone is usually not considered to become subtropical during its extratropical transition.
A polar, sub-polar, or Arctic cyclone (also known as a polar vortex) 1,000 kilometres (620 mi) to 2,000 kilometres (1,200 mi), in which the air circulates in a counterclockwise direction in the northern hemisphere, and a clockwise direction in the southern hemisphere. The Coriolis acceleration acting on the air masses moving poleward at high altitude, causes a counterclockwise circulation at high altitude. The poleward movement of air originates from the air circulation of the Polar cell. The polar low is not driven by convection as are tropical cyclones, nor the cold and warm air mass interactions as are extratropical cyclones, but is an artifact of the global air movement of the Polar cell. The base of the polar low is in the mid to upper troposphere. In the Northern Hemisphere, the polar cyclone has two centers on average. One center lies near Baffin Island and the other over northeast Siberia. In the southern hemisphere, it tends to be located near the edge of the Ross ice shelf near 160 west longitude. When the polar vortex is strong, its effect can be felt at the surface as a westerly wind (toward the east). When the polar cyclone is weak, significant cold outbreaks occur.is a vast area of low pressure that strengthens in the winter and weakens in the summer. A polar cyclone is a low-pressure weather system, usually spanning
Under specific circumstances, upper level cold lows can break off from the base of the tropical upper tropospheric trough (TUTT), which is located mid-ocean in the Northern Hemisphere during the summer months. These upper tropospheric cyclonic vortices, also known as TUTT cells or TUTT lows, usually move slowly from east-northeast to west-southwest, and their bases generally do not extend below 20,000 feet (6,100 m) in altitude. A weak inverted surface trough within the trade wind is generally found underneath them, and they may also be associated with broad areas of high-level clouds. Downward development results in an increase of cumulus clouds and the appearance of a surface vortex. In rare cases, they become warm-core tropical cyclones. Upper cyclones and the upper troughs that trail tropical cyclones can cause additional outflow channels and aid in their intensification. Developing tropical disturbances can help create or deepen upper troughs or upper lows in their wake due to the outflow jet emanating from the developing tropical disturbance/cyclone.
The following types of cyclones are not identifiable in synoptic charts.
A mesocyclone is a vortex of air, 2.0 kilometres (1.2 mi) to 10 kilometres (6.2 mi) in diameter (the mesoscale of meteorology), within a convective storm. Air rises and rotates around a vertical axis, usually in the same direction as low-pressure systems in both northern and southern hemisphere. They are most often cyclonic, that is, associated with a localized low-pressure region within a supercell. Such storms can feature strong surface winds and severe hail. Mesocyclones often occur together with updrafts in supercells, where tornadoes may form. About 1,700 mesocyclones form annually across the United States, but only half produce tornadoes.
A tornado is a violently rotating column of air that is in contact with both the surface of the earth and a cumulonimbus cloud or,in rare cases, the base of a cumulus cloud. Also referred to as twisters, a colloquial term in America, or cyclones, although the word cyclone is used in meteorology, in a wider sense, to name any closed low-pressure circulation.
A dust devil is a strong, well-formed, and relatively long-lived whirlwind,ranging from small (half a metre wide and a few metres tall) to large (more than 10 metres wide and more than 1000 metres tall). The primary vertical motion is upward. Dust devils are usually harmless, but can on rare occasions grow large enough to pose a threat to both people and property.
A waterspout is a columnar vortex forming over water that is, in its most common form, a non-supercell tornado over water that is connected to a cumuliform cloud. While it is often weaker than most of its land counterparts, stronger versions spawned by mesocyclones do occur.
A gentle vortex over calm water or wet land made visible by rising water vapour.
A fire whirl – also colloquially known as a fire devil, fire tornado, firenado, or fire twister – is a whirlwind induced by a fire and often made up of flame or ash.
Cyclones are not unique to Earth. Cyclonic storms are common on Jovian planets, such as the Small Dark Spot on Neptune.It is about one third the diameter of the Great Dark Spot and received the nickname "Wizard's Eye" because it looks like an eye. This appearance is caused by a white cloud in the middle of the Wizard's Eye. Mars has also exhibited cyclonic storms. Jovian storms like the Great Red Spot are usually mistakenly named as giant hurricanes or cyclonic storms. However, this is inaccurate, as the Great Red Spot is, in fact, the inverse phenomenon, an anticyclone.
A subtropical cyclone is a weather system that has some characteristics of a tropical and an extratropical cyclone.
An anticyclone is a weather phenomenon defined as a large-scale circulation of winds around a central region of high atmospheric pressure, clockwise in the Northern Hemisphere and counterclockwise in the Southern Hemisphere as viewed from above. Effects of surface-based anticyclones include clearing skies as well as cooler, drier air. Fog can also form overnight within a region of higher pressure. Mid-tropospheric systems, such as the subtropical ridge, deflect tropical cyclones around their periphery and cause a temperature inversion inhibiting free convection near their center, building up surface-based haze under their base. Anticyclones aloft can form within warm-core lows such as tropical cyclones, due to descending cool air from the backside of upper troughs such as polar highs, or from large-scale sinking such as a subtropical ridge. The evolution of an anticyclone depends upon variables such as its size, intensity, and extent of moist convection, as well as the Coriolis force.
A mesocyclone is storm-scale region of rotation (vortex), typically around 2 to 6 mi in diameter, within a thunderstorm. In the northern hemisphere it is particularly found in the right rear flank of a supercell or often on the eastern, or front, flank of an HP storm. The circulation of a mesocyclone covers an area much larger than the tornado that may develop within it.
In meteorology, a low-pressure area, low area or low is a region where the atmospheric pressure is lower than that of surrounding locations. Low-pressure systems form under areas of wind divergence that occur in the upper levels of the atmosphere. The formation process of a low-pressure area is known as cyclogenesis. Within the field of meteorology, atmospheric divergence aloft occurs in two areas. The first area is on the east side of upper troughs, which form half of a Rossby wave within the Westerlies. A second area of wind divergence aloft occurs ahead of embedded shortwave troughs, which are of smaller wavelength. Diverging winds aloft ahead of these troughs cause atmospheric lift within the troposphere below, which lowers surface pressures as upward motion partially counteracts the force of gravity.
The synoptic scale in meteorology is a horizontal length scale of the order of 1000 kilometers or more. This corresponds to a horizontal scale typical of mid-latitude depressions. Most high- and low-pressure areas seen on weather maps are synoptic-scale systems, driven by the location of Rossby waves in their respective hemisphere. Low-pressure areas and their related frontal zones occur on the leading edge of a trough within the Rossby wave pattern, while high-pressure areas form on the back edge of the trough. Most precipitation areas occur near frontal zones. The word synoptic is derived from the Greek word συνοπτικός, meaning seen together.
The westerlies, anti-trades, or prevailing westerlies, are prevailing winds from the west toward the east in the middle latitudes between 30 and 60 degrees latitude. They originate from the high-pressure areas in the horse latitudes and trend towards the poles and steer extratropical cyclones in this general manner. Tropical cyclones which cross the subtropical ridge axis into the westerlies recurve due to the increased westerly flow. The winds are predominantly from the southwest in the Northern Hemisphere and from the northwest in the Southern Hemisphere.
Cyclogenesis is the development or strengthening of cyclonic circulation in the atmosphere. Cyclogenesis is an umbrella term for at least three different processes, all of which result in the development of some sort of cyclone, and at any size from the microscale to the synoptic scale.
This is a list of meteorology topics. The terms relate to meteorology, the interdisciplinary scientific study of the atmosphere that focuses on weather processes and forecasting.
A mesoscale convective system (MCS) is a complex of thunderstorms that becomes organized on a scale larger than the individual thunderstorms but smaller than extratropical cyclones, and normally persists for several hours or more. A mesoscale convective system's overall cloud and precipitation pattern may be round or linear in shape, and include weather systems such as tropical cyclones, squall lines, lake-effect snow events, polar lows, and mesoscale convective complexes (MCCs), and generally forms near weather fronts. The type that forms during the warm season over land has been noted across North and South America, Europe, and Asia, with a maximum in activity noted during the late afternoon and evening hours.
The eye is a region of mostly calm weather at the center of tropical cyclones. The eye of a storm is a roughly circular area, typically 30–65 kilometers in diameter. It is surrounded by the eyewall, a ring of towering thunderstorms where the most severe weather and highest winds occur. The cyclone's lowest barometric pressure occurs in the eye and can be as much as 15 percent lower than the pressure outside the storm.
Tropical cyclogenesis is the development and strengthening of a tropical cyclone in the atmosphere. The mechanisms through which tropical cyclogenesis occurs are distinctly different from those through which temperate cyclogenesis occurs. Tropical cyclogenesis involves the development of a warm-core cyclone, due to significant convection in a favorable atmospheric environment.
Extratropical cyclones, sometimes called mid-latitude cyclones or wave cyclones, are low-pressure areas which, along with the anticyclones of high-pressure areas, drive the weather over much of the Earth. Extratropical cyclones are capable of producing anything from cloudiness and mild showers to heavy gales, thunderstorms, blizzards, and tornadoes. These types of cyclones are defined as large scale (synoptic) low pressure weather systems that occur in the middle latitudes of the Earth. In contrast with tropical cyclones, extratropical cyclones produce rapid changes in temperature and dew point along broad lines, called weather fronts, about the center of the cyclone.
Inflow is the flow of a fluid into a large collection of that fluid. Within meteorology, inflow normally refers to the influx of warmth and moisture from air within the Earth's atmosphere into storm systems. Extratropical cyclones are fed by inflow focused along their cold front and warm fronts. Tropical cyclones require a large inflow of warmth and moisture from warm oceans in order to develop significantly, mainly within the lowest 1 kilometre (0.62 mi) of the atmosphere. Once the flow of warm and moist air is cut off from thunderstorms and their associated tornadoes, normally by the thunderstorm's own rain-cooled outflow boundary, the storms begin to dissipate. Rear inflow jets behind squall lines act to erode the broad rain shield behind the squall line, and accelerate its forward motion.
Mesovortices are small scale rotational features found in convective storms, such as those found in bow echos, supercell thunderstorms, and the eyewall of tropical cyclones. They range in size from tens of miles in diameter to a mile or less, and can be immensely intense.
A cold-core low, also known as an upper level low or cold-core cyclone, is a cyclone aloft which has an associated cold pool of air residing at high altitude within the Earth's troposphere, without a frontal structure. It is a low pressure system that strengthens with height in accordance with the thermal wind relationship. If a weak surface circulation forms in response to such a feature at subtropical latitudes of the eastern north Pacific or north Indian oceans, it is called a subtropical cyclone. Cloud cover and rainfall mainly occurs with these systems during the day. Severe weather, such as tornadoes, can occur near the center of cold-core lows. Cold lows can help spawn cyclones with significant weather impacts, such as polar lows, and Kármán vortices. Cold lows can lead directly to the development of tropical cyclones, owing to their associated cold pool of air aloft or by acting as additional outflow channels to aid in further development.
Mediterranean tropical-like cyclones, often referred to as medicanes but sometimes also as Mediterranean cyclones or as Mediterranean hurricanes, are meteorological phenomena occasionally observed over the Mediterranean Sea. On a few rare occasions, some storms have been observed reaching the strength of a Category 1 hurricane. The main societal hazard posed by medicanes is not usually from destructive winds, but through life-threatening torrential rains and flash floods.
The following is a glossary of tropical cyclone terms.
The following is a glossary of tornado terms. It includes scientific as well as selected informal terminology.
This glossary of meteorology is a list of terms and concepts relevant to meteorology and atmospheric science, their sub-disciplines, and related fields.
Cyclolysis is a process in which a cyclonic circulation weakens and deteriorates. Cyclolysis is the opposite of cyclogenesis.
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