Cyclone

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An extratropical cyclone near Iceland on September 4, 2003 Low pressure system over Iceland.jpg
An extratropical cyclone near Iceland on September 4, 2003

In meteorology, a cyclone is a large scale air mass that rotates around a strong center of low atmospheric pressure. [1] [2] Cyclones are characterized by inward spiraling winds that rotate about a zone of low pressure. [3] [4] 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. [5] Mesocyclones, tornadoes, and dust devils lie within smaller mesoscale. [6] 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. [7] [8] Cyclogenesis is the process of cyclone formation and intensification. [9] 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.

Meteorology Interdisciplinary scientific study of the atmosphere focusing on weather forecasting

Meteorology is a branch of the atmospheric sciences which includes atmospheric chemistry and atmospheric physics, with a major focus on weather forecasting. The study of meteorology dates back millennia, though significant progress in meteorology did not occur until the 18th century. The 19th century saw modest progress in the field after weather observation networks were formed across broad regions. Prior attempts at prediction of weather depended on historical data. It was not until after the elucidation of the laws of physics and more particularly, the development of the computer, allowing for the automated solution of a great many equations that model the weather, in the latter half of the 20th century that significant breakthroughs in weather forecasting were achieved. An important domain of weather forecasting is marine weather forecasting as it relates to maritime and coastal safety, in which weather effects also include atmospheric interactions with large bodies of water.

Air mass a volume of air defined by its temperature and water vapor content

In meteorology, an air mass is a volume of air defined by its temperature and water vapor content. Air masses cover many hundreds or thousands of miles, and adapt to the characteristics of the surface below them. They are classified according to latitude and their continental or maritime source regions. Colder air masses are termed polar or arctic, while warmer air masses are deemed tropical. Continental and superior air masses are dry while maritime and monsoon air masses are moist. Weather fronts separate air masses with different density characteristics. Once an air mass moves away from its source region, underlying vegetation and water bodies can quickly modify its character. Classification schemes tackle an air mass' characteristics, as well as modification.

Atmospheric pressure, sometimes also called barometric pressure and air pressure., is the pressure within the atmosphere of Earth. The standard atmosphere is a unit of pressure defined as 1,013.25 mbar, equivalent to 760 mm Hg (torr), 29.9212 inches Hg, or 14.696 psi. The atm unit is roughly equivalent to the mean sea-level atmospheric pressure on Earth, that is, the Earth's atmospheric pressure at sea level is approximately 1 atm.

Contents

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.

Temperature physical property of matter that quantitatively expresses the common notions of hot and cold

Temperature is a physical quantity expressing hot and cold. It is measured with a thermometer calibrated in one or more temperature scales. The most commonly used scales are the Celsius scale, Fahrenheit scale, and Kelvin scale. The kelvin is the unit of temperature in the International System of Units (SI). The Kelvin scale is widely used in science and technology.

Humidity amount of water vapor in the humid air

Humidity is the amount of water vapour present in air. Water vapour, the gaseous state of water, is generally invisible to the human eye. Humidity indicates the likelihood for precipitation, dew, or fog to be present. The amount of water vapour needed to achieve saturation increases as the temperature increases. As the temperature of a parcel of air decreases it will eventually reach the saturation point without adding or losing water mass. The amount of water vapour contained within a parcel of air can vary significantly. For example, a parcel of air near saturation may contain 28 grams of water per cubic metre of air at 30 °C, but only 8 grams of water per cubic metre of air at 8 °C.

The density, or more precisely, the volumetric mass density, of a substance is its mass per unit volume. The symbol most often used for density is ρ, although the Latin letter D can also be used. Mathematically, density is defined as mass divided by volume:

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. [10] Cyclones can transition between extratropical, subtropical, and tropical phases. Mesocyclones form as warm core cyclones over land, and can lead to tornado formation. [11] Waterspouts can also form from mesocyclones, but more often develop from environments of high instability and low vertical wind shear. [12] 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. [13] 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. [14] [15]

Tropical cyclogenesis

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.

Tornado Violently rotating column of air that is in contact with both the earths surface and a cumulonimbus cloud in the air

A tornado is a rapidly 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. The windstorm is often referred to as a twister, whirlwind or cyclone, although the word cyclone is used in meteorology to name a weather system with a low-pressure area in the center around which, from an observer looking down toward the surface of the earth, winds blow counterclockwise in the Northern Hemisphere and clockwise in the Southern. Tornadoes come in many shapes and sizes, and they are often visible in the form of a condensation funnel originating from the base of a cumulonimbus cloud, with a cloud of rotating debris and dust beneath it. Most tornadoes have wind speeds less than 110 miles per hour (180 km/h), are about 250 feet (80 m) across, and travel a few miles before dissipating. The most extreme tornadoes can attain wind speeds of more than 300 miles per hour (480 km/h), are more than two miles (3 km) in diameter, and stay on the ground for dozens of miles.

Waterspout weather phenomenon, intense columnar vortex that occurs over a body of water, commonly a non-supercell tornado over water

A waterspout is an intense columnar vortex that occurs over a body of water. Some are connected to a cumulus congestus cloud, some to a cumuliform cloud and some to a cumulonimbus cloud. In the common form, it is a non-supercell tornado over water.

Nomenclature

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 . [16]

Henry Piddington English scientist and merchant captain

Henry Piddington was an English merchant captain who sailed in East India and China and later settled in Bengal where he worked as a curator of a geological museum and worked on scientific problems, and is particularly well known for his pioneering studies in meteorology of tropical storms and hurricanes. He noted the circular winds recorded by ships caught in storms and coined the name cyclone in 1848 based on his studies of tropical storms and the observation of circular winds around a calm centre.

Structure

Comparison between extratropical and tropical cyclones on surface analysis Post-Tropical Cyclone Nuri and Typhoon Haiyan surface analysis.png
Comparison between extratropical and tropical cyclones on surface analysis

There are a number of structural characteristics common to all cyclones. A cyclone is a low-pressure area. [17] A cyclone's center (often known in a mature tropical cyclone as the eye), is the area of lowest atmospheric pressure in the region. [17] 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. [18]

Low-pressure area region where the atmospheric pressure is lower than that of surrounding locations

A low-pressure area, low, depression or cyclone is a region on the topographic map 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 troposphere. 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.

Eye (cyclone) region of mostly calm weather at the center of strong tropical cyclones

The eye is a region of mostly calm weather at the center of strong tropical cyclones. The eye of a storm is a roughly circular area, typically 30–65 kilometres (19–40 mi) 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.

Force Any action that tends to maintain or alter the motion of an object

In physics, a force is any interaction that, when unopposed, will change the motion of an object. A force can cause an object with mass to change its velocity, i.e., to accelerate. Force can also be described intuitively as a push or a pull. A force has both magnitude and direction, making it a vector quantity. It is measured in the SI unit of newtons and represented by the symbol F.

Because of the Coriolis effect, the wind flow around a large cyclone is counterclockwise in the Northern Hemisphere and clockwise in the Southern Hemisphere. [19] 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. [20] 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.

Anticyclone Weather phenomenon which is the opposite of a cyclone

An anticyclone is a weather phenomenon defined by the United States National Weather Service's glossary as "a large-scale circulation of winds around a central region of high atmospheric pressure, clockwise in the Northern Hemisphere, counterclockwise in the Southern Hemisphere". 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 the subtropical ridge. The evolution of an anticyclone depends on a few variables such as its size, intensity, moist-convection, Coriolis force, etc.

Formation

The initial extratropical low-pressure area forms at the location of the red dot on the image. It is usually perpendicular (at a right angle to) the leaf-like cloud formation seen on satellite during the early stage of cyclogenesis. The location of the axis of the upper level jet stream is in light blue. Baroclinicleafphasecyclogenesiscropped.gif
The initial extratropical low-pressure area forms at the location of the red dot on the image. It is usually perpendicular (at a right angle to) the leaf-like cloud formation seen on satellite during the early stage of cyclogenesis. The location of the axis of the upper level jet stream is in light blue.
Tropical cyclones form when the energy released by the condensation of moisture in rising air causes a positive feedback loop over warm ocean waters. Hurricane profile.svg
Tropical cyclones form when the energy released by the condensation of moisture in rising air causes a positive feedback loop over warm ocean waters.

Cyclogenesis is the development or strengthening of cyclonic circulation in the atmosphere. [9] 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. [10] Mesocyclones form as warm core cyclones over land, and can lead to tornado formation. [11] Waterspouts can also form from mesocyclones, but more often develop from environments of high instability and low vertical wind shear. [12] Cyclolysis is the opposite of cyclogenesis, and is the high-pressure system equivalent, which deals with the formation of high-pressure areasAnticyclogenesis. [22]

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. [23] 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. [24] 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. [25]

Tropical cyclogenesis is the development and strengthening of a tropical cyclone. [26] 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:

  1. sufficiently warm sea surface temperatures, [27]
  2. atmospheric instability,
  3. high humidity in the lower to middle levels of the troposphere
  4. enough Coriolis force to develop a low-pressure center
  5. a preexisting low-level focus or disturbance
  6. low vertical wind shear. [28]

An average of 86 tropical cyclones of tropical storm intensity form annually worldwide, with 47 reaching hurricane/typhoon strength, and 20 becoming intense tropical cyclones (at least Category 3 intensity on the Saffir–Simpson Hurricane Scale). [29]

Synoptic scale

A fictitious synoptic chart of an extratropical cyclone affecting the UK and Ireland. The blue arrows between isobars indicate the direction of the wind, while the "L" symbol denotes the centre of the "low". Note the occluded, cold and warm frontal boundaries. UK-Cyclone.gif
A fictitious synoptic chart of an extratropical cyclone affecting the UK and Ireland. The blue arrows between isobars indicate the direction of the wind, while the "L" symbol denotes the centre of the "low". Note the occluded, cold and warm frontal boundaries.

The following types of cyclones are identifiable in synoptic charts.

Surface-based types

There are three main types of surface-based cyclones: Extratropical cyclones, Subtropical cyclones and Tropical cyclones

Extratropical cyclone

An extratropical cyclone is a synoptic scale of 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". [30]

"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. [30] [31] They are often described as "depressions" or "lows" by weather forecasters and the general public. These are the everyday phenomena that, along with anti-cyclones, 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. [32] 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. [33] A particularly intense type of extratropical cyclone that strikes during winter is known colloquially as a nor'easter .

Polar low
A polar low over the Sea of Japan in December 2009 Sea of Japan polar low 2009-12-20 0213Z.jpg
A polar low over the Sea of Japan in December 2009

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. [34] 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. [35]

Subtropical

Subtropical Storm Alex in the north Atlantic Ocean in January 2016 Alex 2016-01-13 1530Z.jpg
Subtropical Storm Alex in the north Atlantic Ocean in January 2016

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. [36] 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. [37] By 1972, the National Hurricane Center officially recognized this cyclone category. [38] Subtropical cyclones began to receive names off the official tropical cyclone list in the Atlantic Basin in 2002. [36] 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. [36]

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. [39] 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. [40]

Tropical

2017 Atlantic hurricane season summary map 2017 Atlantic hurricane season summary map.png
2017 Atlantic hurricane season summary map

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. [10]

Hurricane Catarina, a rare South Atlantic tropical cyclone viewed from the International Space Station on March 26, 2004 Cyclone Catarina from the ISS on March 26 2004.JPG
Hurricane Catarina, a rare South Atlantic tropical cyclone viewed from the International Space Station on March 26, 2004

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. [41] 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, [42] and hence lose their strength if they move over land. [43] 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 40 kilometres (25 mi) from the coastline. Although their effects on human populations can be devastating, tropical cyclones can also relieve drought conditions. [44] 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.

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. [10] A tropical cyclone is usually not considered to become subtropical during its extratropical transition. [45]

Upper level types

Polar cyclone

A polar, sub-polar, or Arctic cyclone (also known as a polar vortex) [46] is a vast area of low pressure that strengthens in the winter and weakens in the summer. [47] A polar cyclone is a low-pressure weather system, usually spanning 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. [46] In the southern hemisphere, it tends to be located near the edge of the Ross ice shelf near 160 west longitude. [48] 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. [49]

TUTT cell

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. [50] [51]

Mesoscale

The following types of cyclones are not identifiable in synoptic charts.

Mesocyclone

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. [52] 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. [53] 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. [11]

Tornado

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.

Dust devil

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.

Waterspout

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.

Steam devil

A gentle vortex over calm water or wet land made visible by rising water vapour.

Fire whirl

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.

Climate change

Scientists warn that climate change could increase the intensity of typhoons as climate change projections show that the difference in temperature between the ocean – the heat source for cyclones – and the storm tops – the cold parts of cyclones – are likely to increase. [54] Climate change is predicted to increase the frequency of high-intensity storms in selected ocean basins. [55] While the effect that climate change is having on tropical storms remains largely unresolved, [56] scientists and president of Vanuatu Baldwin Lonsdale say that the devastation caused by Pam was aggravated by climate change. [57] [58]

Other planets

Cyclone on Mars, imaged by the Hubble Space Telescope Mars cyclone.jpg
Cyclone on Mars, imaged by the Hubble Space Telescope

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. [8] Mars has also exhibited cyclonic storms. [7] 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. [59]

See also

Related Research Articles

Subtropical cyclone Meteorological phenomenon

A subtropical cyclone is a weather system that has some characteristics of a tropical and an extratropical cyclone.

Mesocyclone

A mesocyclone is a vortex of air within a convective storm. It is air that rises and rotates around a vertical axis, usually in the same direction as low pressure systems in a given hemisphere. They are most often cyclonic, that is, associated with a localized low-pressure region within a severe thunderstorm. Such thunderstorms can feature strong surface winds and severe hail. Mesocyclones often occur together with updrafts in supercells, within which tornadoes may form at the interchange with certain downdrafts.

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 such as surface weather analyses 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.

Westerlies

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.

Polar low

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, as well as the Sea of Japan. 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 (38 mph).

Cyclogenesis

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.

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Rainband

A rainband is a cloud and precipitation structure associated with an area of rainfall which is significantly elongated. Rainbands can be stratiform or convective, and are generated by differences in temperature. When noted on weather radar imagery, this precipitation elongation is referred to as banded structure. Rainbands within tropical cyclones are curved in orientation. Tropical cyclone rainbands contain showers and thunderstorms that, together with the eyewall and the eye, constitute a hurricane or tropical storm. The extent of rainbands around a tropical cyclone can help determine the cyclone's intensity.

Mesoscale convective system complex of thunderstorms organized on a larger scale

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 America, Europe, and Asia, with a maximum in activity noted during the late afternoon and evening hours.

Extratropical cyclone type of cyclone

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.

2006 Central Pacific cyclone

The 2006 Central Pacific cyclone, also known as Invest 91C or Storm 91C, was an unusual weather system that formed in 2006. Forming on October 30 from a mid-latitude cyclone in the north Pacific mid-latitudes, it moved over waters warmer than normal. The system acquired some features more typical of subtropical and even tropical cyclones. However, as it neared western North America, the system fell apart, dissipating soon after landfall, on November 4. Moisture from the storm's remnants caused substantial rainfall in British Columbia and the Pacific Northwest. The exact status and nature of this weather event is unknown, with meteorologists and weather agencies having differing opinions.

Upper tropospheric cyclonic vortex

An upper tropospheric cyclonic vortex is a vortex, or a circulation with a definable center, that usually moves slowly from east-northeast to west-southwest and is prevalent across Northern Hemisphere's warm season. Its circulations generally do not extend below 6,080 metres (19,950 ft) in altitude, as it is an example of a cold-core low. A weak inverted wave in the easterlies is generally found beneath it, and it may also be associated with broad areas of high-level clouds. Downward development results in an increase of cumulus clouds and the appearance of circulation at ground level. In rare cases, a warm-core cyclone can develop in its associated convective activity, resulting in a tropical cyclone and a weakening and southwest movement of the nearby upper tropospheric cyclonic vortex. Symbiotic relationships can exist between tropical cyclones and the upper level lows in their wake, with the two systems occasionally leading to their mutual strengthening. When they move over land during the warm season, an increase in monsoon rains occurs.

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.

Cold-core low cyclone aloft which has an associated cold pool of air residing at high altitude within the Earths troposphere

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.

Hybrid low may refer to a number of different meteorological depressions:

Glossary of tropical cyclone terms

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.

References

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