LAB MODULE 8: AIR MASSES AND WEATHER SYSTEMS

LAB MODULE 8: AIR MASSES AND WEATHER SYSTEMS

LAB MODULE 8: AIR MASSES AND WEATHER SYSTEMS

Note: Please refer to the GETTING STARTED lab module to learn how to maneuver through and answer the lab questions using the Google Earth () component.

Key Terms

You should know and understand the following terms:

Air mass

Cold front

Occluded Front

● Continental (c)

Downburst

Stationary Front

● Maritime (m)

Front

Thunderstorm

● Arctic or Antarctic (A)

Mesocyclones

Tropical Cyclones

● Polar (P)

Microburst

Warm Front

● Tropical (T)

Mid-latitude cyclone

Weather

LAB LEARNING OBJECTIVES

After successfully completing this module, you should be able to the following tasks:

● Identify and describe air masses and their associated moisture and temperature conditions

● Describe fronts and frontal systems

● Identify the evolution and migration of a mid-latitude cyclone in the US

● Identify the mechanisms producing thunderstorms, tornados, and hurricanes

● Interpret maps showing the geographical distributions of severe weather systems

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INTRODUCTION

This lab module explores air masses, fronts and mid-latitude cyclonic weather systems. Topics include the following: continental and maritime air masses; stationary, cold, warm and occluded fronts; and the patterns and processes of mid-latitude cyclones and severe weather storms. The modules start with four opening topics, or vignettes, which are found in the accompanying Google Earth file. These vignettes introduce basic concepts of weather and severe weather systems. Some of the vignettes have animations, videos, or short articles that will provide another perspective or visual explanation for the topic at hand. After reading the vignette and associated links, answer the following questions. Please note that some links might take a while to download based on your Internet speed.

Expand the INTRODUCTION folder and then select Topic 1: Weather.

Read Topic 1: Weather.

Question 1: Briefly describe the likely weather conditions evident in the picture.

A. Sunny and hot

B. Cloudy and raining

C. Warm and humid

D. Hot and hazy

Read Topic 2: Air Masses.

Question 2: The vignette states why there is no mA classification. Additionally, there is no continental equatorial (cE) classification. What is the primary reason that a cE air mass classification does not exist (Hint: it is the opposite reason of mA)?

A. Because equatorial air masses are moist

B. Because continental air masses are moist

C. Because continental air masses originate over land

D. Because there is no land in equatorial regions

Read Topic 3: The Evolution and Weather Conditions of Fronts.

Question 3: Compare the density and speed of cold air (from the cold front) to warm air (from the warm front)

A. Colder air is lighter and travels faster than warm air

B. Colder air is denser and travels faster than warmer air

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C. Warmer air lighter and travels faster than colder air

D. Warmer air is denser and travels faster than colder air

Read Topic 4: Human Interaction: Tornado Alley.

Question 4: Why do areas located between 30°N to 50°N provide favorable conditions for tornado generation?

A. Because this region is flat

B. Because this region is where cold arctic air and warm subtropical air converge

C. Because this region is predominantly agriculture

D. Because precipitation is needed for agriculture in this region

Collapse and uncheck the INTRODUCTION folder.

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GLOBAL PERSPECTIVE

As noted in the vignette, air masses are not randomly distributed across the globe; in fact the geographic origin (source region) of air masses determine each of the six potential air mass types – continental Arctic (cA), continental polar (cP), continental tropical (mT), maritime polar (mP), maritime tropical (mT), and maritime equatorial (mE).

As air masses move around the Earth due to weather conditions, they can gain or lose moisture, or increase or decrease in temperature. For example, a maritime polar (mP) air mass moving across a continent could lose much of its moisture and become a continental polar (cP) air mass.

In this exercise, you will describe the spatial patterns of air masses as they relate to various locations throughout the world.

Verify that Labels (under Borders and Layers) is selected in the Layers panel.

Expand the GLOBAL PERSPECTIVE folder and select the Air Mass folder.

Double-click and select Location A.

Question 5: Identify the principal air mass:

A. mP

B. mT

C. cP

D. cT

Question 6: Identify the air temperature (as very cold, cold, warm, or very warm) and the air humidity (as moist or dry) for the source region of this air mass.

A. Cold and dry

B. Warm and dry

C. Very cold and moist

D. Warm and moist

Double-click and select Location B.

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Question 7: Identify the principal air mass:

A. mP

B. mT

C. cP

D. cT

Question 8: Identify the air temperature (very cold, cold, warm, or very warm) and the air humidity (moist or dry) for the source region of this air mass.

A. Cold and dry

B. Warm and dry

C. Very cold and moist

D. Warm and moist

Double-click and select Location C

Question 9: Identify the principal air mass:

A. mP

B. mT

C. cP

D. cA

Question 10: Identify the air temperature (very cold, cold, warm, or very warm) and the air humidity (moist or dry) for the source region of this air mass.

A. Cold and dry

B. Warm and dry

C. Cold and moist

D. Warm and moist

Double-click and select Location D.

Question 11: Identify the principal air mass:

A. mP

B. mT

C. cA

D. cT

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Question12: Identify the air temperature (very cold, cold, warm, or very warm) and the air humidity (moist or dry) for the source region of this air mass.

A. Cold and dry

B. Warm and dry

C. Very cold and dry

D. Warm and moist

Collapse and uncheck the GLOBAL PERSPECTIVE folder.

FRONTS

Fronts are synoptic scale features, meaning they are usually regional or continental in scale, in the order of several hundred to 1000 km (621 miles) or more in length. Synoptic scale weather maps, known as surface weather analysis, use various symbology from known data (pressure, temperature, cloud cover) to determine weather fronts.

On weather maps, the cold front boundary is designated by a blue line of triangle pips, while warm front boundaries are represented by a red line of half-circle pips. Occluded fronts are shown in purple (red+blue) of alternativing triangle and half-circle pips. In all these cases, the side of the line on which the symbol appears indicates the direction of movement of the frontal zone. For stationary fronts, the direction of movement is static, and thus, is represented by the alternation of blue triangles and red half circles shown in opposing directions.

Expand the FRONTS folder.

Select and double-click Cold front.

This symbol depicts a cold front stretching from northern Minnesota to western Nevada.

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Question 13: In which general direction is the front moving?

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