New Zealand Community Weather :: Weather Glossary – C
Atmospheric conditions devoid of wind or any other air motion. In oceanic terms, it is the apparent absence of motion of the water surface when there is no wind or swell.
In meteorology, it is the amount of heat required to raise the temperature of one (1) gram of water one (1) degree Celsius. It is a unit of heat energy.
Composed of a layer of warmer, dryer air aloft which may suppress or delay the development of thunderstorms. As an air parcel rises, it becomes cooler relative to the ambient, or surrounding, air in the cap and therefore, less buoyant and unable to rise further. Also referred to as a lid.
Acronym for Convective Available Potential Energy. The amount of energy available to create convection, with higher values increasing the possibility for severe weather.
CAPE VERDE ISLANDS
A group of volcanic islands in the eastern Atlantic Ocean off the coast of West Africa. A Cape Verde hurricane originates near here.
CARBON DIOXIDE (CO2)
A heavy, colorless gas that is the fourth most abundant constituent of dry air, comprising 0.033% of the total.
A weak low pressure circulation that may form off the Southern California coast.
The lowest cloud layer that is reported as broken or overcast. If the sky is totally obscured, then it is the height of the vertical visibility.
Related terms: measured ceiling and variable ceiling
An instrument consisting of a drum and an optical system that projects a narrow vertical beam of light onto a cloud base.
An instrument that is used to measure the angular elevation of a projected light on the base of a cloud. It measures the angle of the cloud base included by the observer (or machine), the ceiling light and the illuminated spot on the cloud.
The projection of the plane of the geographical equator upon the celestial sphere.
The apparent sphere of infinite radius having the earth as its center. All heavenly bodies (planets, stars, etc.) appear on the “inner surface” of this sphere and the sun moves along the ecliptic.
CELSIUS TEMPERATURE SCALE
A temperature scale where water at sea level has a freezing point of 0°C (Celsius) and a boiling point of +100°C. More commonly used in areas that observe the metric system of measurement. Created by Anders Celsius in 1742. In 1948, the Ninth General Conference on Weights and Measures replaced “degree centigrade” with “degree Celsius.”
Related term: Centigrade
The atmospheric pressure at the center of a high or low. It is the highest pressure in a high and the lowest pressure in a low, referring to the sea level pressure of the system on a surface chart.
The apparent force in a rotating system that deflects masses radially outward from the axis of rotation. This force increases towards the equator and decreases towards the poles.
The force required to keep an object moving in a curved or circular path. It is directed inwards toward the center of the curved path.
States that when the pressure is held constant, the volume of a gas varies directly with the temperature. Therefore, if the pressure remains constant, the volume of a gas will increase with the increase of temperature. It was developed by Jacques Charles and is also known as the Charles-Guy-Lussac Law.
A vaguely defined region of the upper atmosphere in which photochemical reactions take place. It includes the top of the stratosphere, all of the mesosphere, and sometimes the lower part of the thermosphere.
An upslope fog formed by the westward flow of air from the Missouri River Valley, producing fog on the eastern slopes of the Rockies.
A type of foehn wind. Refers to the warm downslope wind in the Rocky Mountains that may occur after an intense cold spell when the temperature could rise by 20°F to 40°F in a matter of minutes.
Related term: Snow Eater
A West Indian gale that blows from the northwest.
A thin layer of relatively transparent gases above the photosphere of the sun. It is observed best during a total eclipse of the sun.
The flow or motion of a fluid in or through a given area or volume. In meteorology, it is used to describe the flow of air as it moves around a pressure system in the atmosphere. It describes smaller patterns in semi-permanent pressure systems as well as the relatively permanent global currents of air. In oceanic terms, it is used to describe a water in current flow within a large area, usually a closed circular pattern such as in the North Atlantic.
Large areas of air movement created by the rotation of the earth and the transfer of heat from the equator toward the poles. Circulation is confined to a specific region, such as the tropics, temperate, or polar, that influences the type of weather prevailing there.
Clouds composed of small particles, mostly ice crystals. Because the particles are fairly widely dispersed, this usually results in relative transparency and whiteness, often producing a halo phenomena not observed in other clouds forms. These clouds generally have bases above 20,000 feet in the mid-latitudes, and are classified as high clouds. They include all varieties of cirrus, cirrocumulus, and cirrostratus clouds.
A cirriform cloud with vertical development, appearing as a thin sheet of small white puffs which give it a rippled effect. It often creates a “mackerel sky”, since the ripples may look like fish scales. Sometimes it is confused with altocumulus, however, it has smaller individual masses and does not cast a shadow on other elements. It is also the least common cloud type, often forming from cirrus or cirrostratus, with which it is associated in the sky.
A cirriform cloud that develops from cirrus spreading out into a thin layer, creating a flat sheetlike appearance. It can give the sky a slightly milky or veiled look. When viewed from the surface of the earth, these ice crystals can create a halo effect around the sun or moon. This cloud is a good precursor of precipitation, indicating it may occur within 12 to 24 hours.
One of the three basic cloud forms (the others are cumulus and stratus). It is also one of the three high cloud types. Cirrus are thin, wispy clouds composed of ice crystals and often appear as veil patches or strands. In the mid-latitudes, cloud bases are usually found between 20,000 to 30,000 feet, and it is the highest cloud that forms in the sky, except for the tops, or anvils, of cumulonimbus, which occasionally build to excessive heights.
The time between the moment of sunset, when the sun’s apparent upper edge is just at the horizon, until the center of the sun is 6° directly below the horizon.
Related term: twilight
The state of the sky when no clouds or obscurations are observed or detected from the point of observation.
CLEAR AIR TURBULENCE
Name given to turbulence that may occur in perfectly clear air without any visual in warning in the form of clouds. It is often found in the vicinity of the jet stream where large shears in the horizontal and vertical are found, although this turbulence is not limited just to jet stream locale. Other areas where it may occur include near mountains, in closed lows aloft, and in regions of wind shear. May be referred to as CAT.
A glossy, clear, or translucent ice formed by the relatively slow freezing of large supercooled in water droplets. The droplets spread out over an object, such as an aircraft wing’s leading edge, prior to complete freezing and forms a sheet of clear ice.
Related term: glaze
The historical record and description of average daily and in seasonal weather events that help describe a region. Statistics are generally drawn over several decades. The word is derived from the Greek klima, meaning inclination, and reflects the importance early scholars attributed to the sun’s influence.
CLIMATE ANALYSIS CENTER (CAC)
The U.S. National Weather Service division that applies new technology and approaches to the analysis, diagnosis, and projection of short term climate fluctuations on a regional and global basis.
For further information, contact the CAC, located in Camp Spring, Maryland.
CLIMATE PREDICTION CENTER (CPC)
A branch of the National Centers for Environmental Prediction,the Center maintains a continuous watch on short-term climate fluctuations and diagnoses and predicts them.
For further information, contact the CPC, located in Washington, D.C.
The study of climate. It includes climatic data, the analysis of the causes of the differences in climate, and the application of climatic data to the solution of specific design or operational problems.
An instrument used to measure angles of inclination. Used in conjunction with a ceiling light, it determines cloud height at night, based on the angle of a projected light on the clouds, the observer, and the ceiling light.
A region of low pressure distinguished by a center of counterclockwise circulation (in the Northern Hemisphere), and is surrounded by one or more isobars or height contours. Closed lows aloft (i.e., above the surface) may become disconnected from the primary westerly flow and thus progress eastward more slowly. It is important to note that a cutoff low is a closed low, but not all closed lows are cutoff lows.
A visible collection of minute particle matter, such as water droplets and/or ice crystals, in the free air. A cloud forms in the atmosphere as a result of condensation of water vapor. Condensation nuclei, such as in smoke or dust particles, form a surface upon which water vapor can condense.
A well-defined cloud mass that can be observed at a distance. It covers the horizon, but is not directly overhead.
A sudden, heavy rainfall of a showery nature.
Related term: downburst
The merging of two water drops into a single larger drop.
A condition marked by low or decidedly subnormal temperature. The lack of heat.
The horizontal movement of colder air into a location. Contrast with warm advection.
COLD AIR FUNNEL
Funnel clouds, usually short-lived, that develop from relatively small showers or thunderstorms when the air aloft is very in cold. Cold air funnels may touch down briefly, but in general are less violent than most other types of tornadoes.
COLD CORE THUNDERSTORMS
Thunderstorms formed primarily due to steep lapse rates, especially when very cold air aloft overlies warmer surface air.
The leading edge of an advancing cold air mass that is under running and displacing the warmer air in its path. Generally, with the passage of a cold front, the temperature and humidity decrease, the pressure rises, and the wind shifts (usually from the southwest to the northwest in the Northern Hemisphere). Precipitation is generally at and/or behind the front, and with a fast-moving system, a squall line may develop ahead of the front.
Related terms: occluded front and warm front
A high pressure system that has its coldest temperatures at or near the center of circulation, and horizontally, is thermally barotropic. It is shallow in nature, as circulation decreases with height. Associated with cold Arctic air, it is usually stationary. Also known as a cold core high. Contrast with a warm high.
A low pressure system that has its coldest temperatures at or near the center of circulation, and is thermally barotropic with respect to a horizontal plane. Also known as a cold core low. A cut off low is an example, where an isolated pool of colder air is located south of the main westerlies.
A rapid fall in temperature within twenty-four hours to temperatures requiring substantially increased protection to agriculture, industry, commerce, and social activities. National Weather Service criteria includes the rate of temperature fall and the minimum to which it falls, depending on the region of the country and time of the in year. The Weather Channel uses the following criteria for a cold wave: a cold spell of two days or more with below normal temperatures in at least fifteen states, with at least five of them more than fifteen degrees below normal.
A strong, steady wind blowing from the north or northwest in the upper part of the Gulf of California and from the northeast in the lower part.
A low pressure disturbance that forms in the lee of the Rocky Mountains, usually in southeastern Colorado.
A feature seen on satellite images with a distinctive comma-shape. This is indicative of a synoptic cloud pattern associated with large, well-developed low pressure systems.
The process by which water vapor undergoes a change in state from a gas to a liquid. It is the opposite physical process of evaporation.
A funnel-shaped cloud consisting of condensed water drops that has possible rotation.
A particle upon which condensation of water vapor occurs. It may be either in a solid or liquid state.
Stable unsaturated air that will result in instability in the event or on the condition that the air becomes saturated. If the air is saturated, it is considered unstable; if air is unsaturated, it is considered stable.
The transfer of heat through a substance by molecular action or from one substance by being in contact with another.
A rate at which wind flow comes together along an axis oriented normal to the flow in question. The opposite of diffluence.
CONSTANT PRESSURE CHART
A chart of a constant pressure surface in which atmospheric pressure is uniform everywhere at any given moment. Elements may include analyses of height above sea level, wind, temperature, and humidity.
CONSTANT PRESSURE SURFACE
A surface along which the atmospheric pressure is equal everywhere.
A large land mass rising abruptly from the deep ocean floor, including marginal regions that are shallowly submerged. Continents constitute about one-third of the earth’s surface.
CONTINENTAL AIR MASS
An air mass with continental characteristics. It is a secondary characteristic of an air mass classification, signified by the small “c” before the primary characteristic, which is based on source region. For example, cP is an air mass that is continental polar in nature.
The zone around the continents extending from the low-water mark seaward, typically ending in steep slope to the depths of the ocean floor.
Acronym for CONdensation TRAIL. A cloud-like streamer or trail often seen behind aircraft flying in clear, cold, humid air. A vapor trail is created when the water vapor from the engine exhaust gases are added to the atmosphere.
Related term: vapor trail
Motions in a fluid that transport and mix the properties of the fluid. These properties could be heat and/or moisture. When used to imply only upward vertical motion, it is then the opposite of subsidence.
CONVECTIVE CONDENSATION LEVEL (CCL)
The height at which a parcel of air, if heated sufficiently from below, will rise adiabatically until it is just saturated.
Wind movement that results in a horizontal net inflow of air into a particular region. Convergent winds at lower levels are associated with upward motion. Contrast with divergence.
COOLING DEGREE DAY
A cooling degree day is given for each degree that the daily mean temperature departs above the baseline of 75 degrees Fahrenheit. It is used to estimate the energy requirements and is an indication of fuel consumption for air conditioning or refrigeration.
Related terms: degree day and heating degree day
A force per unit mass that arises solely from the earth’s rotation, acting as a deflecting force. It is dependent on the latitude and the speed of the moving object. In the Northern Hemisphere, air is deflected to the right of its path, while in the Southern Hemisphere, air is deflected to the left of its path. It is greatest at the poles, North and South, and almost nonexistent at the equator.
The prevailing evening land breeze which takes place from November to May in the vicinity of La Paz, at the southern tip of Baja California, Mexico.
A pastel halo around the moon or sun created by the diffraction of water droplets. The droplets in the cloud, such as cirrostratus, and the cloud layer itself must be almost perfectly uniform in order for this phenomena to occur. The color display sometimes appears to be iridescent.
A luminous, sporadic, and often audible, electric discharge. It occurs from objects, especially pointed ones, when the electrical field strength near their surfaces attains a value near 1000 volts per centimeter. It often occurs during stormy weather and might be seen on a ship’s mast or yardarm, aircraft, lightning rods, and steeples.
Related terms: corona discharge and St. Elmo’s Fire
Contrasting, alternating bright and dark rays in the sky. Sunlight is scattered by molecules and particles rendering these bright rays visible. Contrast is enhanced by haze, dust, or mist. These rays are more likely to be seen in the late afternoon, as clouds come between the sun and the observer. A similar effect occurs when the sun shines though a break in a layer of clouds.
The process of a substance going directly from a vapor form (water vapor) to a solid (ice) at the same temperature, without going through the liquid phase (water). The opposite of sublimation.
Clouds composed of water droplets that exhibit vertical development. The density of the droplets often blocks sunlight, casting shadows on the earth’s surface. With increasing vertical height, they are often associated with convection. Bases of these clouds are generally no more than 3,000 feet above the ground, but they can develop past the troposphere in both temperate and tropical latitudes. They are classified as low clouds and include all varieties of cumulus and cumulonimbus. The opposite in type are the horizontal development of stratiform clouds.
A vertically developed cumulus cloud, often capped by an anvil-shaped cirriform cloud. Also called a thunderstorm cloud, it is frequently accompanied by heavy showers, lightning, thunder, and sometimes hail, tornadoes or strong, gusty winds.
A portion of a cumulonimbus cloud that appears as a pouch or udder on the under surface of the cloud. Although they do not cause severe weather, they often accompany storms. They may slowly vary in size, since they are an area of negative buoyancy convection, and is associated with severe turbulence in the lower sections of the cloud.
Related terms: mammatocumulus and Dave’s Dictionary
One of the three basic cloud forms (the others are cirrus and stratus). It is also one of the two low cloud types. A cloud that develops in a vertical direction from the base (bottom) up. They have flat bases and dome- or cauliflower-shaped upper surfaces. The base of the cloud is often no more than 3,000 feet above the ground, but the top often varies in height. Small, separate cumulus are associated with fair weather (cumulus humilis). With additional heating from the earth’s surface, they can grow vertically throughout the day. The top of such a cloud can easily reach 20,000 or more into the troposphere. Under certain atmospheric conditions, these clouds can develop into larger clouds, known as towering cumulus (cumulus congestus), and may produce a rain shower. Further development may create a cumulonimbus.
Related term: Dave’s Dictionary
A strongly sprouting cumulus cloud with generally sharp outlines and often with great vertical development. It may occur as tower-like clouds with cauliflower tops. These clouds may produce abundant showers and may develop further into cumulonimbus.
Related term: towering cumulus
Cumulus clouds that appear in irregular fragments, as if they had been shred or torn. Also appears in stratus clouds (called stratus fractus), but not in cirrus clouds.
Cumulus clouds with little or no vertical development characterized by a generally flat appearance. Their growth is usually limited by a temperature inversion, which is marked by the unusually uniform height of the clouds. Also called fair-weather cumulus.
Cumulus clouds characterized by moderate vertical development with upper protuberances not very marked in appearance. This cloud does not produce precipitation, but could develop into towering cumulus or cumulonimbus which do.
A horizontal movement of water, such as the Gulf Stream off the east coast of North America, or air, such as the jet stream.
A warm high which has become displaced and is on the polarward side of the jet stream. It occurs mostly during the spring and is most frequent over northeastern Siberia, Alaska, and Greenland. It is an example of a blocking high.
A closed cold core low completely removed from the primary westerly flow. Cutoff lows may remain detached from the westerlies for days while exhibiting very little forward (eastward) progress. In some instances, a cutoff low may move to the west, or retrograde, opposite to the prevailing flow. It is important to note that a cutoff low is a closed low, but not all closed lows are cutoff lows.
The process that creates a new low pressure system or cyclone, or intensifies a pre-existing one. It is also the first appearance of a trough.
An area of closed pressure circulation with rotating and converging winds, the center of which is a relative pressure minimum. The circulation is counterclockwise in the Northern Hemisphere and clockwise in the Southern Hemisphere. Also called a low pressure system and the term used for a tropical cyclone in the Indian Ocean. Other phenomena with cyclonic flow may be referred to by this term, such as dust devils, tornadoes, and tropical and extratropical systems. The opposite of an anticyclone or a high pressure system.
Winds that blow in and around a cyclone, that is counterclockwise in the Northern Hemisphere, clockwise in the Southern Hemisphere.