MadSci Network: Other

Re: how does conduction, convection, and radiation affect hurricanes/tornadoes?

Date: Mon Oct 11 06:26:11 1999
Posted By: Nezette Rydell, forecaster,National Weather Service
Area of science: Other
ID: 939248941.Ot

Conduction, convection, and radiation are all methods of transferring heat. Of these convection and radiation are the more important to the meteorological processes you mention. Thunderstorms are the building blocks of hurricanes. Tornadoes are small scale (but potentially very dangerous) features associated with individual thunderstorms.

Radiation, the transfer of heat by wave motion, is the process by which incoming solar radiation heats the earth, and in turn, the atmosphere above it. Convection is the transfer of heat by actual movement of material. Air heated from below will rise, displacing the air directly above it resulting in an overturning of the atmosphere.

The stability of the atmosphere, a characteristic determined by the temperature profile and moisture content of the air, determines when and to what degree convection will occur. In an unstable atmosphere, parcels of air near the surface are heated and begin rising...displacing cooler air above. These eddies start very small but will grow larger with time as long as the lower layers are heated and the parcel remains warmer than it's surroundings. With sufficient moisture, rising air will eventually form clouds. With sufficient instability clouds may grow and mature into a thunderstorm. Given sufficient and necessary large scale weather patterns, thunderstorms may produce tornadoes or organize into tropical systems.

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