On May 27th 2012 european weather satellite MeteoSat took a nice picture of full disk earth displaying some intersting weather action. Meteosat circles Earth in a geostationary orbit (36.000 km altitude) delivering daily current views frome same fixed position above surface of the planet.
Jetstream and dynamical weather systems: A band of cloud across Northern Atlantic (from Greenland to Scandinavia) indicates behaviour of jetstream, driven by gradient in air-temperature (and gradient in air pressure arising thereby, respectively) between polar regions and mid latitudes.
Jetstream is crucial to weather forecast:
Like the vortexes in a raging river high and low pressure systems – weather-determining in mid latitudes – arise from turbulences in jetstream and are moved by flow of jetstream after that.
Weather on 27th May, 2012, 16:00 UTC . Innertropical Convergence Zone, the deserts of Subtropical High Pressure Belt and the weather systems (cyclones and anticyclones) of the mid – latidudes are easily dercernable. Natural Color RGB images makes use of three solar channels: red, green and blue. In this color scheme vegetation appears greenish because of its large reflectance in the green beam channel compared to the red and blue beam channels. Water clouds with small droplets have large reflectance at all three channels and hence appear whitish, while snow and ice clouds appears cyan because ice strongly absorbs in red. Bare ground appears brown because of the larger reflectance in the red beam channel than at the blue one, and the ocean appears black because of the low reflectance in all three channels. Source: Meteosat, EUMETSAT
The two vortexes over middle Northern Atlantic, one of them in the southwest of British Isles, another one further westward, are cut-off lows. They have separated from jetstream some time ago, triggered by a large blocking high pressure system widespread over parts of Northern, Western and Central Europe and German Sea. Blocking highs occur if the flow of jetstream slows down or even breaks so that a moving high pressure systeme comes to a deadlock. The two Cut-off lows over middle Northern Atlantic are following a pathway southward blocking high.
Inside high pressure systems (anticyclones), spinning arount clockwise, air sinks and nearly all clouds decay, because water in the condensed form tends to evaporate into water vapor. Thus high pressure systems lead to fair weather at most times.
Inside low pressure systems (cyclones), spinning around counterclockwise, air rises and cools, so that water vapor condenses, forming clouds made of tiny water droplets or ice crystals. Latent heat (thermal energy of condensation) released thereby, powers cloud formation for her part by warming the rising air. Low pressure systems imply bad weather with rainfall an thunderstorms many a time.
Tropical-subtropical Hadley-Circulation: Away from almost cloud-free subtropical belt of high pressure systems air flows to equator going along surface. These tradewinds are turning westward due to Earth´s rotation. Throughout the region of equator there´s a buildup of low pressure, called Innertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ). Heated by the sun, equatorial air rises and cools, forcing whatever water vapor it holds to condense into clouds. The ascended air moves poleward, turning eastward by Earth´s rotation soon after. As moving poleward, air flow comes closer to the axis of earth’s rotation. That´s why it goes faster, often forming a subtropical jetstream that rotates more rapidly than the Earth itself. In addition air descends closing the circulation in this way. This so called Hadley-Circulation is breaking up in a row of cloud-rich convective cells around the whole planet Earth.
Jens Christian Heuer