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Thickness and Thermal Wind

http://www.aos.wisc.edu/~aalopez /aos101/wk12.html

Pressure
Pressure is the weight of molecules ABOVE you Fewer molecules above you as you go up causes pressure to decrease with altitude Temp, density, volume change because of pressure change do not cause the pressure change as a parcel rises

Thickness

A Thought Experiment:

Start with a column of air.

A Thought Experiment:

The base of this column is at the surface, so lets say its pressure is about 1000mb.

1000mb

A Thought Experiment:

The top of this column is quite highlets say that its pressure is 500mb.

500mb

1000mb

A Thought Experiment:

This column has some thickness: it is some distance between 1000mb and 500mb.

500mb

1000mb

A Thought Experiment:

If we heat the column of air, it will expand, warm air is less dense. The thickness of the column will increase. 500mb is now farther

500mb

from the ground.

1000mb

Warmer

A Thought Experiment:

If we cool the column of air, it will shrink, cool air is more dense. The thickness of the column will decrease. 500mb is now closer to

500mb

the ground.

1000mb

Colder

A Thought Experiment:

In fact, temperature is the ONLY factor in the atmosphere that determines the thickness of a layer!

A Thought Experiment:

It wouldnt have mattered which pressure we had chosen. They are all higher above the ground when it is warmer.

which is what this figure is trying to show.

In the tropics, 700mb is quite high above the ground

700mb

whereas it is quite low to the ground near the poles.

700mb

These layers are much less thick.

See how thick these layers are.

General Circulation Review

Conceptual Circulation

Lets think about what thickness means near a polar front, where cold air and warm air are meeting.

This is a cross section of the atmosphere.

COLD

North

WARM

South

Cold air is coming from the north. This air comes from the polar high near the North Pole.

COLD

North

WARM

South

Warm air is coming from the south. This air comes from the subtropical high near 30N.

COLD

North

WARM

South

These winds meet at the polar front.

POLAR FRONT COLD


North

WARM

South

Now, think about what we just learned about how temperature controls the THICKNESS of the atmosphere.

POLAR FRONT COLD


North

WARM

South

On the warm side of the front, pressure levels like 500mb and 400mb are going to be very high above the ground.
400mb 500mb

POLAR FRONT COLD


North

WARM

South

On the cold side of the front, pressure levels like 500mb and 400mb are going to be very low to the ground.
400mb 500mb

400mb

500mb

POLAR FRONT COLD


North

WARM

South

Above the front, the thickness of the atmosphere changes rapidly.

400mb 500mb

400mb

500mb

POLAR FRONT COLD


North

WARM

South

Now, lets think about the pressure gradient force above the front.

400mb 500mb

400mb

500mb

POLAR FRONT COLD


North

WARM

South

Lets draw a line from the cold side of the front to the warm side.

400mb

A
400mb

500mb

500mb

POLAR FRONT COLD


North

WARM

South

What is the pressure at point A?

400mb

A
400mb

500mb

500mb

POLAR FRONT COLD


North

WARM

South

The pressure at point A is less than 400mb, since it is higher than the 400mb isobar on this plot. Lets estimate the pressure as 300mb.
400mb

A
300mb 400mb

500mb

500mb

POLAR FRONT COLD


North

WARM

South

What is the pressure at point B?

400mb

A
300mb 400mb

500mb

500mb

POLAR FRONT COLD


North

WARM

South

The pressure at point B is more than 500mb, since it is lower than the 500mb isobar on this plot. Lets estimate the pressure as 600mb.
400mb

A
300mb 400mb

500mb

B
600mb

500mb

POLAR FRONT COLD


North

WARM

South

The pressure gradient force between point B and point A is huge!

400mb

A
300mb 400mb

500mb

B
600mb

500mb

POLAR FRONT COLD


North

WARM

South

Therefore, all along the polar front, there will be a strong pressure gradient force aloft, pushing northward.
400mb

A
300mb 400mb

500mb

B
600mb

500mb

POLAR FRONT COLD


North

WARM

South

Key Points:

This strong pressure gradient force happens:


Aloft (above the surface) Directly above the Polar Front

Also, this force pushes toward the north (in the Northern Hemisphere).

Polar Front and The Jet

So, how does this all cause the midlatitude jet stream?

Polar Front and The Polar Jet

Suppose we have a polar front at the surface.

This purple line is the polar front at the surface. As well learn, this is NOT how fronts are correctly drawn, but it will work for now.

Polar Front and The Jet

All along the front, there is a strong pressure gradient force pushing northward.

Polar Front and The Jet

Winds aloft are in geostrophic balance

Polar Front and The Jet

so the true wind will be a WEST wind, directly above the polar front.

Another View:

Heres the same diagram, shown from a slightly different angle, which might make this all more clear.

In Perspective:
Here is the polar front at the surface.

In Perspective:
Remember, its a polar front because it is where warm air from the south meets cold air from the north.

In Perspective:
The midlatitude jet stream is found directly above the polar front.

Conclusions:

The Midlatitude Jet Stream is found directly above the polar front, with cold air to the LEFT of the flow. This is because of the changes in THICKNESS associated with the polar front. This process is known as the THERMAL WIND RELATIONSHIP.

Thermal Wind

The strength and direction of the wind changes with altitude above the front
Lower Level Geostrophic wind

Thermal Wind

Upper level geostrophic wind

Backing and Veering of Wind


If winds rotate clockwise From lower level to upper Level veering ! If winds rotate counterClockwise with height Backing !
Upper Level Geo Wind

Thermal Wind Lower level Geo winds

Lower Level Geo Wind

Upper Level Geo wind

Thermal Wind

Backing or Veering?

Find the lower level geostrophic winds Track angle (shortest) FROM lower level wind to upper level wind Did you go clockwise? Did you go counterclockwise?

CLOCKWISE VEERING

COUNTERCLOCKWISE BACKING

Cold or Warm Advection?

Thermal wind always travels with COLDER AIR ON ITS LEFT !

Recall that Cold advection brings Cold air into warm region

Definition of the thermal wind

The thermal wind (VT) is not a wind at all, but a vector difference between the geostrophic wind at one level and the geostrophic wind at another level, i.e., it is a wind shear :

VT = Vupper level - Vlower level

Cold

No thermal advection:
Thermal wind is parallel to low level wind, so geostrophic wind at lower and upper levels are parallel
V 1 VT V2 Warm

Cold

Cold Air Advection:


Thermal wind is to the left of the low level wind, so geostrophic wind must back with height => CAA

V2 V 1 VT Warm
Cold

Warm Air Advection:


Thermal wind is to the right of the low level wind, so geostrophic wind must veer with height => WAA
Warm V 1 V2 VT

Thermal Wind Equation

Thickness is proportional to the mean temperature in the layer. Lines of equal z (isobars of thickness) are equivalent to the isotherms of mean temperature in the layer.

Thermal Equation (Cont)


In the presence of a horizontal temperature gradient, the tilt of pressure surfaces increases with height.

ug
p=p2

p=p1 cold warm

Thermal wind relationship


The change in the Geostrophic Wind is directly proportional to the

horizontal temperature gradient


This is the Thermal (temperature) Wind relationship (refer to fig 3.8 in the book)

Thermal Wind

A horizontal thermal gradient creates a PGF at upper levels. As you increase in altitude, the pressure gradient between the warm column and the cool column increase. Last week we saw that wind in geostrophic balance, balances the PGF and Coriolis force. As the PGF increases the magnitude of the wind will increase and so will the Coriolis force. In this figure, the size of the green circles represent the magnitude of the geostrophic wind and the x in the circle represents the tail end of the directional arrow, so we are looking at an arrow pointing into away from us.

The vertical change in geostrophic wind is called the geostrophic vertical shear. Since the geostrophic vertical shear is directly proportional to the horizontal temperature gradient, it is also called the Thermal Wind So the Thermal wind is not an actual wind, but the difference between two winds at different levels.