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Mariners Climate Log Vol. 52, No. 3, December 2008

Mariners Climate Log Vol. 52, No. 3, December 2008

2023-01-07 22:43:41

Mariner’s Information to the
500 – Millibar Chart

Joe Sienkiewicz*, NOAA Nationwide Climate Service, Ocean Prediction Middle
Lee Chesneau**, Lee Chesneau’s Marine Climate

“Large whirls have little whirls which feed on their velocity.
Little whirls have lesser whirls, and so forth to viscosity.”
L.F. Richardson

The primary model of this text appeared within the December 1995 version of the Mariners Climate Log. It has solely taken us 13 years to replace the article. Almost the entire pondering is precisely the identical. Now we have up to date the entire figures to incorporate satellite tv for pc photos and have added a small part on tropical purposes. Now we have additionally added net references the place acceptable.

Detailed climate data is so available immediately in a wide range of codecs, that it may be overwhelming. For these prepared to expend the effort and time to research these knowledge, the rewards might be gratifying. For mariners, particularly skilled mariners, the identical might be stated for individuals who take their formal required coaching and at sea expertise significantly in studying and making use of the fundamentals of the number of floor and 500 Millibar (mb) charts. The climate data continues to be communicated by way of outdated dependable and free know-how Excessive Frequency (HF) Single Aspect Band (SSB) radio-facsimile broadcasts, as transmitted by the U.S. Coast Guard from its communications services NMF (Marshfield, MA), NMC (Level Reyes, CA), and NJO (Kodiak, AK). All transmit seven 500 millibar (mb) charts every day (two analyses, two 24 hour forecasts, two 48 hour forecasts) based mostly on the forecasts cycles of 0000 UTC and 1200 UTC, and one 96 hour forecast based mostly on the 1200 UTC forecast cycle. The identical data can be obtained via the web and by way of satellite tv for pc and non satellite tv for pc e mail based mostly methods similar to via the NWS FTP e mail service (see
For secondary opinions to help mariners in marine climate forecast and vessel routing selections, a mariner can flip to consulting meteorologists for recommendation. The ultimate duty nonetheless, nonetheless lies with the Grasp Mariner of a big industrial container ship or the skipper of a coastal cruising sailboat. It’s the prudent mariner who makes use of all obtainable assets to make their very own last choice.

The skilled mariner and ocean going sailor can use the five hundred mb analyses and forecasts, together with floor strain and wind and wave charts, to higher perceive and anticipate the workings of each the ocean and environment. It first takes some primary data of marine climate, not simply floor climate charts but in addition 500 mb sample recognition expertise, to have the ability to make higher educated and extra independent selections regarding upcoming climate.

Word: UTC (Coordinated Common Time), is identical as GMT (Greenwich Imply Time) and Z (Zulu time), …”Large Ben”… time, and can be used extensively on this article.
*Joe Sienkiewicz is the Functions Department Chief and Science and Operations Officer of the NOAA Ocean Prediction Middle (OPC) (
** Lee Chesneau, previously was a Excessive Seas Forecaster within the Ocean Forecast Department of the OPC, situated in Washington, D.C. Lee now owns his personal firm (
Co-author: Heavy Climate Avoidance and Route Design, Ideas and Functions of 500 MB Charts, Ma-Li Chen and Lee S. Chesneau, Paradise Cay Publications. He might be contacted by way of e-mail

Floor climate charts that depict isobars encircling excessive and low strain facilities and climate fronts (chilly, heat, occluded, stationary) and non-frontal options (troughs and shear traces) are acquainted to mariners. The final notion is that floor low strain methods are related to dangerous climate. As can simply be seen in Determine 1, the clouds in white are related to the frontal system extending south and southwest from the Aleutians and the 1000 mb low north of Hawaii. Floor excessive strain methods (northwest of Hawaii close to 37°N 172° W and west of California) imply low winds close to the middle with usually truthful climate (discover the absence of clouds northwest of Hawaii), however there’s way more to it than that. Isobars are traces of equal strain and derived from barometric strain readings a lot from land, ship, and buoy studies at sea. Nevertheless, the floor strain isobars are a direct measure of the entire dynamic processes which are taking place within the environment, from higher and mid-levels, all the way down to the floor. These processes embrace chilly, drier air sinking from aloft, and heat, moist air rising to very excessive altitudes which outcome within the era of clouds and precipitation, in addition to air streams coming collectively (converging) or spreading aside (diverging). The floor strain sample depicted on floor climate charts is definitely a two dimensional illustration of the three dimensional environment!

If you happen to have a look at a floor map and assume that the low strain system over northern Michigan immediately can be over japanese Maine tomorrow and can have an effect on my vessel the day after, you might be forecasting by continuity. That is transferring the prevailing state of the environment (floor lows, fronts, troughs, highs, and ridges) across the earth with out taking account of all of the processes concerned. Within the early a part of the twentieth century, that was the way in which meteorologists first forecasted floor storm (low strain) methods.

If you happen to study something from this text, keep in mind that the environment is dynamic! The floor strain discipline responds to adjustments within the environment aloft and vice versa. Floor low strain methods have life cycles: they type, some develop and strengthen (even to hurricane power) and finally they spin down and die. A mean life span is 5 days from delivery to dying (Word the OPC generates forecasts via 5 days or 120 hours). The depth and size of lifetime of a floor low strain system is a direct results of interplay between the bottom degree within the environment in addition to the mid and higher ranges. A wonderful measure of this interplay is the five hundred mb top discipline.

Surface Weather Chart Basics

Determine 1. NWS Floor Evaluation from 0000 UTC 5 Dec 2007 displaying fronts, isobars, lows, highs, and ship observations. Infrared satellite tv for pc imagery from geostationary satellites can also be proven.

Surface Weather Chart Basics

Determine 2. Evaluate this three dimensional depiction from 0000 UTC 10 Dec 2005 of: sea-level strain in yellow contours, the peak of the 6000 m fixed altitude floor depicted in strain values (mb, white), and the five hundred mb fixed strain floor in clear inexperienced shading.

The five hundred Millibar Fundamentals

The five hundred mb floor is a continuing strain floor roughly halfway up within the troposphere (the bottom layer of the earth’s environment). The strain exerted by the air column above this degree is precisely 500 mb, however the altitude or top of this floor varies. The five hundred mb fixed strain floor averages roughly 5600 m (18,000 plus ft) in top, however can fluctuate from roughly 4700 m in an especially chilly (extra dense) environment close to the poles to almost 6000 m in a really heat (much less dense) environment close to the equator. When mapping climate above the floor, fixed strain surfaces are most well-liked to fixed top surfaces as a result of the physics and math concerned with the fluid dynamics of the environment are higher utilized on fixed strain surfaces. For skilled meteorologists (and mariners), the use and utility of the five hundred mb charts could be very highly effective for predicting the event and habits of floor climate!

Proven in Determine 2 are: sea degree strain (yellow contours), the strain degree of the 6000 m top floor (above sea-level) in white, and the five hundred mb fixed strain floor (inexperienced shading) for the japanese United States from 0000 UTC 10 December 2005. Evaluating the 6000 m fixed top floor and the five hundred mb fixed strain floor you possibly can see that the fixed strain floor truly adjustments with top relative to the 6000 m top floor. The five hundred mb fixed strain floor descends nearer to the floor as you proceed northward in latitude. This may be seen in Determine 2 by following the distinction between the white line and inexperienced floor throughout the determine from left to proper. Southeast of Florida the white 6000 m floor almost aligns with the inexperienced 500 mb floor. As you progress northward the inexperienced 500 mb floor over the Canadian Maritimes has descended considerably beneath the 6000 m fixed top floor.

Determine 3 is a west to east cross part depiction over america and western Atlantic of: temperature (coloured shading heat to chilly colours, and purple isotherms), strain ranges (white contours), and floor strain (yellow isobars) for 0000 UTC 10 December 2005 (the identical date and time as Determine 2). The isotherms (purple traces of fixed temperature) drop towards the floor above the floor low over New England forming a trough of decrease (colder) temperature. You can even see that the five hundred mb (and all top traces) dips down in a trough alongside the axis (dashed purple line) the place the isotherms change probably the most throughout the cross part (to the east of the trough of colder temperature). Hotter air is concentrated to the east of the trough axis (purple dashed line) with colder air concentrated to the west alongside the dot sprint blue line. This graphic illustrates the connection between the temperature construction and the peak of the strain fields. One also can see that the dashed purple line or strain trough axis tilts westward with ascending top and is typical of a deepening storm system. There can be extra on this later.

Pressure surfaces

Determine 3. Depiction of west to east cross-section from 0000 UTC 10 Dec 2005 throughout the United Said displaying fixed strain surfaces (white contours), air temperature in 5 diploma C increments (purple contours), and air temperature in coloured shading in heat to chill colours. Sea-level strain is proven in yellow contours. Dashed purple line depicts the trough within the top discipline because it tilts westward with top. The blue dot sprint line reveals the temperature trough (coldest axis) lagging westward of the strain trough.

The stable contours proven on the five hundred mb chart (Determine 4) symbolize geo-potential top. This illustration is principally, top in entire meters with a slight distinction, referenced from the earth’s floor. The quantity 564 means 5640 m. Word nonetheless, the charts from the OPC immediately are depicted in three digit numbers (decameters) so mentally a reader of OPC 500 mb charts should add a “zero” to transform to true meters. In a way, you’re looking at a topographic map of the five hundred mb strain floor. The five hundred mb heights are larger in hotter air plenty (much less dense) and decrease in colder air plenty (denser). This may be seen in Figures 2 and three. Due to this fact, the heights usually are decrease in larger latitudes and better in latitudes nearer to the equator. In Determine 4, have a look at the peak variations from the contour at 20°N, 160°E (5920) and south of Aleutians close to 52°N, 170°E (4920 m) (roughly 1000 m distinction).

500 mb analysis from 0000 UTC 5 Dec 2007 for the North Pacific

Determine 4. Depicts 500 mb evaluation from 0000 UTC 5 Dec 2007 for the North Pacific. Brown sprint traces point out shortwave trough axes. The blue zig-zag line illustrates a ridge axis. L’s and H’s point out minima and maxima of top and are labeled in tenths of meters. The purple X’s present the situation of floor low strain facilities (see Determine 1) and purple X’s the 24 hour forecast positions of the low facilities for 0000 UTC 6 Dec 2007.

The nearer the five hundred mb top contours are collectively, the stronger the horizontal and vertical temperature contrasts, the sooner the wind pace at 500 mb (the wind at this degree is for probably the most half parallel to the peak contours). A easy rule of thumb the tighter the peak contours, the upper the wind pace, the stronger the temperature distinction beneath 500 mb. In Determine 4, a robust band of southwesterly winds extends throughout the western Pacific from simply south of Japan to the Worldwide Dateline simply south of the Aleutians. Trying northward alongside roughly 165° E longitude the peak contours are the closest collectively and accompanying winds at 500 mb exceed 100 kts.

Winds at 500 mb are usually not the precise core of the Jet Stream, which is normally between 200 and 300 mb however nearer the underside half. The mariner ought to view the Jet Stream as a tube of air that circumnavigates every of the earth’s hemispheres. The Jet Stream is a whole bunch of nautical miles (nmi) throughout and a few nautical mile (nmi) deep. In different phrases, the Jet Steam can also be three dimensional. Jet Streams exist because of horizontal temperature contrasts. In an especially chilly environment, the Arctic Jet Stream can prolong all the way down to 500 mb. Meteorologists do name wind pace maxima at 500 mb “Jets” or “Jet Streaks” (in Determine 4 the sturdy core of southwest winds from Japan to mid-Pacific could be referred to as a Jet Streak). On the five hundred mb charts distributed over HF radio-facsimile, as ready by the OPC, solely 500 mb top contours and winds are depicted.

L’s and H’s at 500 mb symbolize areas of comparatively decrease and better heights. A 500 mb L or H with a closed top contour round it implies that the related floor excessive or low strain system can have a closed circulation with the wind circulating round it aloft. For instance, in Determine 4, a 4920 closed low might be seen over the western Aleutians close to 52°N 170°E. In distinction, an open 5600 low might be seen northwest of Hawaii close to 30°N, 167°W (there aren’t any closed top contours and due to this fact, no closed floor circulation).

Higher degree troughs are areas of comparatively decrease heights and are depicted as U or V-shaped within the 500 mb top contours. A number of troughs are indicated in Determine 4 by dashed
traces (OPC’s 500 mb chart). For instance, a trough extends southwest from the 5600 m low northwest of Hawaii. An space of troughing extends southeast from the 4920 Aleutian low. One other trough extends between 40° and 50°N alongside 159°W. In every case you possibly can see that the excessive clouds (shiny white clouds) exist to the east or downstream from the trough axis. That is typical. Ridges are areas of upper heights and are formed like an the other way up U or V and are indicated by a zig-zag line, for emphasis on this article (though these will not be truly depicted on precise HF radio-facsimile charts). Determine 4, a robust ridge extends southeast then southward from the Bering Sea throughout the Aleutians, after which southwestward to the 5920 m Excessive close to 20°N 160°E.

500 mb analysis for the North Atlantic

Determine 5. Depicts the five hundred mb evaluation for the North Atlantic legitimate for 1200 UTC 10 Mar 2008. The 564 decameter top contour is proven in daring purple. The coloured arrows present the floor wind pace and wind path as estimated from the NASA QuikSCAT satellite tv for pc. The colour bar within the higher proper reveals the colour coding of wind speeds. Yellow and orange arrows are GALE power, the brown arrows STORM power, and purple (southwest of Eire) are HURCN FORCE as you’ll see mirrored on OPC’s floor strain charts.

On the charts distributed over radio facsimile by NMC, NMF and NJO, the 5640 m top contour is enhanced in daring. Some primary guidelines of thumb can be utilized by ocean going mariners and marine meteorologists in regards to the daring highlighted 5640 m top contour and 500 mb wind maxima are as follows.

  • The floor storm observe (low facilities) referenced to the 5640 meter top contour normally lies 300 to 600 nmi north and tracks parallel to the orientation of the 5640 m top contour.
  • The floor low facilities and related fronts (chilly fronts, particularly when reducing south throughout latitude traces) transfer at roughly one third (1/3) to 1 half (1/2) the five hundred mb wind pace above.
  • In wintertime the 5640 m top contour is a superb indication of the southern extension of floor winds of Beaufort scale power 7 “westerlies” (28-33 kts or often higher). In summer time the 5640 m top contour is extra consultant of power 6 floor “westerlies” (22-27 kts to often power 7). The time period “westerlies”, infers the southwest to northwest wind shift with passing chilly fronts which predominately prolong south or southwestward from the storm observe (low strain facilities) which are inherently to their north. In different phrases, the worst climate situations are sometimes poleward (north within the Northern Hemisphere) of the 5640 m contour!
    This rule is illustrated in Determine 5 from 10 March 2008, ocean floor winds from the NASA QuikSCAT satellite tv for pc are proven by coloured arrows. GALE power winds are proven with yellow arrows and the 28 to 33 kts ranges with darkish inexperienced arrows. On this instance, the entire GALE power winds are poleward of the 5640 m line and the close to GALE winds reside alongside or inside 100 nmi of the 5640 m top contour.
  • The floor wind pace, particularly within the west to southwest quadrant (within the chilly air) of a mid latitude floor low strain system is roughly 50 p.c of the five hundred mb wind speeds, which is situated within the northwest wind movement ceaselessly skilled behind the five hundred mb trough. Thus this rule of thumb is per the inherent data that the majority mariners know that the strongest wind and sea state situations does lie within the west and southwest quadrants of mid latitude low strain methods.

Lengthy Waves

If you happen to might have a look at a time lapse film loop of the five hundred mb top contours over the Northern Hemisphere for a yr, you’ll see a westerly circulation undulating northward and southward as what seems to be waves of troughs and ridges passing across the globe primarily within the mid-latitudes between the poles and the equator. The larger waves seem to face nonetheless or transfer slowly for a time frame after which both break down or transfer westward. When a bigger wave strikes westward, it’s stated to “retrograde”. The smaller waves have a tendency to maneuver fairly quickly from west to east and have a tendency to reinforce or flatten as they move via the bigger waves. Additionally they typically transfer north or south, and infrequently separate or “lower off” from the principle contours which then shift north and resume their contour orientation in an east to west vogue. Loops of the North Atlantic and Pacific 500 mb analyses with satellite tv for pc imagery might be discovered at: below N Atlantic or N Pacific Merchandise and 500 mb analyses.

The larger waves are referred to as lengthy waves or lengthy wave troughs, and have a wavelength between 4000-6000 kilometers in scale and may quantity from roughly three to 5 across the Northern Hemisphere. These waves are accountable for the general climate sample or floor storm observe. For instance, extended drought or extreme storminess, larger or decrease than regular temperatures over an space, are a results of a protracted wave sample.

Depicts the 500 mb height field for the Northern Hemisphere

Determine 6. Depicts the five hundred mb top discipline for the Northern Hemisphere for 1200 UTC 6 September 2008. Top contours are proven in yellow at 60 m interval. The 5640 m top contour is proven by a bolder yellow line. Longer waves are greatest depicted on this sort of projection.

A particular lengthy wave sample tends to not fluctuate considerably for a interval of 10 days or extra. It may be troublesome to pick the lengthy waves on the Mercator projection charts distributed on radio-facsimile over NMF, NMC and NJO. That is due partially to the Mercator chart projection and in addition the extent of the realm coated by these chart. A hemispheric polar chart projection is extra helpful for this objective, similar to proven in Determine 6 from 1200 UTC 6 September 2008. Nevertheless with OPC’s oceanic Mercator projection charts, a mariner might view a protracted wave trough by analyzing the actions and habits of the decrease latitude top contours (5700 m for instance).

In Determine 6, the broader troughs similar to over Europe, the central/western Pacific, North America, and Asia may very well be regarded as lengthy waves.

Brief Waves

The smaller wave troughs that journey quickly within the westerly movement are referred to as brief wave troughs or just brief waves. Brief waves are related straight with particular floor low strain methods. They have an inclination to have a life cycle of lower than per week, and rotate via the longer wave troughs. Their measurement tends to be on the order of 1000 to 2500 kilometers in scale. On a Mercator chart from the OPC, mariners might observe brief waves utilizing the 5400 m contour because the brief waves mid level.

The lengthy waves and brief waves work together like wind waves and swell. When in section, a wind wave tends to reinforce the swell making a considerably larger amplitude wave. When out of section, the wind wave will are inclined to dampen or flatten the swell. Comparable interactions happen within the environment. When in section, brief waves assist to reinforce the longer wave sample and are themselves enhanced or achieve amplitude (this leads to stronger floor lows). When out of section, the brief waves can dampen the lengthy wave sample and in flip, their amplitude might be decreased (flattened). The floor lows themselves have a tendency to not be as extreme.

Let’s us check out the five hundred mb and floor strain patterns related to a growing Atlantic low strain system within the late winter of 2008. We illustrate two examples of 9 panel photos and superimposed 500 mb contour traces as depicted in Figures 7 and eight. The pictures depict the 12 hourly improvement of a brief wave trough (dashed line) and floor low as they transfer throughout america and cross into the western Atlantic propelled by sturdy west to east or “zonal movement” (this particular 500 mb movement sample and others to be mentioned later). The floor low then strengthens to hurricane power (64 kts and higher) over the central western Atlantic. In Figures 7 and eight, the panels depict satellite tv for pc photos super-imposed over the five hundred mb analyses as proven in (a), and in addition over the floor analyses in (b). The final row depicts the cross-section of 500 mb top in (c) with the floor low extending upward alongside the dashed purple line relative to the respective positions in panels in (a) and (b).

Within the first body of Determine 7 (1a), the five hundred mb brief wave trough is simply coming into view over Oklahoma with the 999 mb floor low centered over southern Arkansas. For the event of a mid-latitude low strain system, it’s obligatory for the brief wave trough axis within the vertical to tilt again in direction of chilly air (decrease heights) with altitude. A typical distance is 1 / 4 wavelength of separation (10-12 levels in longitude) between the floor low and the five hundred mb brief wave trough on the early phases of improvement. Concurrently, a brief wave ridge extends southward from Ohio to South Carolina, additionally a few quarter of a wavelength prematurely of this growing storm system.

Twelve hours later in Determine 7 (2a), the brief wave trough extends from the Ohio Valley to Georgia with the related 999 mb floor low over North Carolina. A second brief wave trough is dropping southeastward over the Nice Lakes. The low has not deepened prior to now 12 hours and is quickly transferring eastward approaching the Atlantic shoreline, however is anticipated to deepen quickly the following 24 hours and intensify to hurricane power as indicated by the related textual content field (DVLPG HURCN FORCE).

By 1200 UTC 16 Mar Determine 7 (3), the brief wave trough has begun to amplify as the five hundred mb heights have lowered over the western Atlantic west of 70°W. The related floor low has begun to reply, and has deepened 7 mb over the previous 12 hours to 992 mb. The cloud construction has change into way more organized and has begun to tackle a classical comma cloud form. There are some thunderstorms close to the strengthening storm heart. Upstream alongside the west fringe of Determine 7 (3a) the five hundred mb heights are rising as a ridge strikes throughout the center of North America. The shortwave trough is now downstream of an amplifying ridge and in a popular location to additional amplify and strengthen.

In Determine 8 (1a) at 0000 UTC 17 Mar 2008, the five hundred mb trough over the western Atlantic has amplified considerably because the upstream ridge has constructed up quickly. The longitude distance between the western Atlantic brief wave and the upstream ridge has shortened. The brief wave trough now not seems elongated and has a extra curved look with the heights falling 60 m because the trough has deepened. The related floor low has responded to the deepening 500mb trough by intensifying to 972 mb (a drop of 20 mb in 12 hours). Low strain methods that deepen 24 mb in 24 hours (latitude dependent) are referred to as bombs or explosive deepening cyclones. This storm was actually an explosive deepener. At this level, peak winds with this technique are hurricane power. The longitude distance between the five hundred mb trough axis and floor low has closed considerably because the higher degree vortex has aligned close to the five hundred mb heart as might be seen in 8(1c). The five hundred mb circulation has not but closed off, as there aren’t any top contours which have shaped a whole closed circle across the heart. As soon as a top contour closes off it means the circulation has grown to 500 mb and is an effective indication that the storm system will sluggish.

By 1200 UTC 17 Mar 8(2a) the five hundred mb trough has closed off the 534 decameter contour indicating that the circulation has prolonged to the five hundred mb degree. A 500 mb low heart now exists at a top of 5280 m with a lower in depth of 120 m deeper than 12 hours earlier. The reflective floor low has additional intensified to a really spectacular 965 mb. The size of the five hundred mb trough can also be very spectacular because it extends from nicely east of Florida to Nova Scotia.

Within the final panel the floor low at 966 mb has risen 1 mb. The five hundred mb low heart has lowered to 5220 m with a really massive circulation from the Canadian Maritimes to nicely east of South Florida. This floor low has deepened 34 mb in 36 hours with 20 of these in simply 12 hours.

Following the decrease panels throughout Figures 7 and eight, you possibly can see that the five hundred mb ridge to the west of the shortwave trough rose in top and amplitude shortly between 1200 UTC 16 Mar and 0000 UTC 17 Mar. The brief wave trough started to descend by 60 m towards the floor with additional deepening to a minimal of 5220 m by 0000 UTC 18 Mar. The slope from the floor low to the five hundred mb brief wave trough axis has change into extra vertical because the vortex has grown to the five hundred mb degree and the cyclone slows. Consider an eddy in a stream because it deepens into the water and begins to sluggish. The environment is a fluid and lows are eddies embedded within the fluid.

On this sequence, we have now seen three phases within the life cycle of a brief wave trough. First is the growing section the place the five hundred mb brief wave lags behind the floor low and amplifies with time. The lean of the trough axis extending from the floor within the vertical, decreases with time because the floor low deepens. The second or closing off section is proven in panel 2a and 3a of Determine 8 as top contours start to encircle the newly shaped 500 mb low and shut off the vortex. The circulation has change into closed from the floor to 500 mb and the floor low slows its ahead movement. Within the mature section, the five hundred mb low is vertically stacked above the floor low. There isn’t a extra deepening and the floor low begins to fill and weaken.

Short Waves and Surface Lows

Brief Waves and Floor Lows
Determine 7. 9 panel picture displaying the OPC 500 mb evaluation (a), floor evaluation (b), and vertical cross part (c) of 500 mb top for (1)1200 UTC 15 MAR 2008, (2) 0000 UTC 16 Mar 2008, and (3) 1200 UTC 16 MAR 2008. In (c), the stable purple traces are an exaggerated depiction of the five hundred mb top, the dashed line the slope of the trough axis, and the L the place of the floor low.

Short Waves and Surface Lows

Determine 8. Identical as for Determine 7, apart from (1) 0000 UTC 17 MAR 2008, (2) 1200 UTC 17 MAR 2008 and (3) 0000 UTC 18 MAR 2008.

To summarize, this low strain system in 60 hours moved from the Louisiana Arkansas border to south of Newfoundland and intensified quickly into a really intense ocean storm with hurricane power winds. The fast pace of movement was a direct results of the five hundred mb movement being west to east or “zonal”. Additionally it is to be famous that vessels transiting east or west certain in transoceanic crossings in such a “zonal movement sample” as described above when staying beneath the daring 5640 500 mb top contour will keep away from the heaviest winds and seas situated to the north.

Habits of Brief Wave Troughs

Let’s comply with the five hundred mb wind maxima via the event of the 15-18 March 2008 western Atlantic quickly intensifying cyclone as proven in Determine 9. 500 mb winds of fifty kts or higher are shaded in purple and of 100 kts or higher in white. As in Figures 7 and eight, time proceeds from left to proper.

Initially, at 1200 UTC 15 March (a), you possibly can see a wind most coming into the body from the west over Texas and Oklahoma to the decrease Mississippi Valley. Two wind barbs of 60 and 65 kts over western Tennessee and southern Mississippi present southwest and west northwest winds. The 2 wind barbs present that the movement is diffluent or spreading out…an excellent indication that there’s venting occurring. The wind movement isn’t steady throughout 500 mb however slightly is fragmented into “Jet Streaks”…in affiliation with every brief wave trough such because the southern U.S. trough, …the trough exiting the mid-Atlantic Coast, …and the trough over the central Atlantic. By 0000 UTC 16 March (b), we see that the winds related to the storm system over the mid-Atlantic have modified little and are nonetheless diffluent (air movement spreading out) at 500 mb. Upstream over western Tennessee, a 90 kts wind barb might be seen coming into view. Not solely is the movement spreading out however can also be slowing by going from 90 kts to 60 kts over North Carolina. In doing so, the movement is producing divergence to the northeast of the forefront of the Jet Stream (over Pennsylvania and the mid-Atlantic states). That is in proof by the white cloud mass over the Northeastern U.S. By 1200 UTC 16 Mar (c), the cloud mass stays centered over the left entrance quadrant of the Jet Stream (left should you look alongside the movement from west to east). This space is known as the left exit area of the Jet Stream and is a popular space for divergent movement and the ensuing rising air, which in the end results in floor strain falls and the event of a floor low.

The sequence of 500 mb analyses

Determine 9. The sequence of 500 mb analyses from 1200 UTC 15 March 2008 (a) via 0000 UTC 18 March 2008 (f). Pink shading on 500 mb charts highlights winds of fifty kts or higher. Enclosed white contour shading reveals areas of winds 100 kts or higher inside.

The five hundred mb movement has modified dramatically from 1200 UTC 16 March (c) to 0000 UTC 17 March (d). The upstream ridge over the central U.S. has considerably amplified, whereas on the identical time the brief wave trough has additionally amplified into an evident deeper trough. The five hundred mb top contours to the west of the trough axis to the North Carolina coast have actually tightened collectively. The 95 kts wind over North Carolina means that the wind downstream is exceeding 100 kts as evidenced by the white shading. In essence as the general sample has amplified, the peak contours have compressed collectively and the winds have significantly elevated. East of the trough axis (brown dashed line), you possibly can see how the movement is spreading out. A wind barb of 65 kts might be seen south of Nova Scotia in south-southwest movement, one other 65 kts wind in southwest movement might be seen farther south, a 3rd wind barb of 45 kts west wind might be even seen additional south. The wind most continues to be upstream of the trough base and suggests extra deepening of floor low is feasible.

In (e), the upstream ridge has continued to amplify, and the 100 kts wind most extends into the bottom of the trough. Total we have now seen although this evolution the wind movement improve because the brief wave has amplified. The five hundred mb trough has begun to shut off because the 534 decameter contour has shaped an enclosed circle and the five hundred mb low has shaped. In essence, the circulation has prolonged upward into the environment to 500 mb, close to vertical with the floor low.

By 0000 UTC 18 March (f), the five hundred mb low now has three top contours encircling the higher low heart: 522, 528, and 534. Two jet stream flows are actually evident feeding into the low. First is the southern stream extending from the higher Midwest of the U.S. and now a department of the northern stream, might be seen centered on northern Maine. One might consider the southern stream supplying the moisture and the northern stream offering the chilly air. The 100 kts contours or isotachs have shaped into two maxima. The primary is the northwest most from the mid-Atlantic coast southeastward to the bottom of the trough. A second most has developed east of the 500-mb trough in southerly wind movement. Sometimes when this happens, the floor low has reached most depth or minimal central strain. The movement on both facet of the trough is balanced. Though it isn’t proven, over time the utmost main into the trough will weaken and the newly shaped jet stream most east of the trough axis will improve. When that occurs, the floor low and related shortwave trough will start to elevate out. This low remained stalled for a number of days because the higher degree movement remained balanced.

In assessment, the best deepening within the floor low passed off between 1200 UTC 16 March and 0000 UTC 17 March, as each the five hundred mb ridge and downstream trough amplified. The floor low and higher degree 500 mb low grew to become vertically aligned by 1200 UTC 17 March, because the floor low reached its lowest central strain and most intense situations.

500 Millibar Patterns

Now that we have now gone over the habits of 500 mb brief wave troughs and floor cyclones, let’s check out some typical 500 mb movement patterns.

Zonal Sample

Speedy west to east movement the place the five hundred mb top contours are additionally aligned west to east is known as “zonal movement” (Determine 10). Any brief wave troughs embedded in “zonal movement” patterns have a tendency to maneuver quickly from west to east. Brief waves will not be normally extremely amplified in a viewing side, however the 500 mb winds typically compensate by being fairly sturdy (100 kts or extra) to assist intense floor lows. Additionally, it isn’t uncommon to see floor lows and their related fronts transfer 35 to 50 kts of 1/3 to1/2 of 100 kts on this case. Thus an excellent rule of thumb: a floor low or entrance embedded below a 500 mb “zonal movement sample in winter will transfer, on common, between 30 to 50 p.c of the five hundred mb wind pace.

Zonal flow 500 mb pattern

Determine 10. Zonal movement 500 mb sample throughout the North Atlantic from 0000 28 March 2008.

In Determine 10, westerly wind movement at 500 mb extends from central North America throughout the Atlantic to western Europe with an 85 kts maxima over the mid-Atlantic southeast of Newfoundland and once more south of Iceland north of the Azores. Floor fronts embedded in these areas could transfer as quickly as 40 to 45 kts. “Zonal movement” patterns are usually unstable and brief lived. They typically break down right into a extra amplified sample pretty quickly. When a transition from a zonal to a extra amplified or “meridional movement” sample is going down, a robust floor low of storm power or hurricane power will normally develop. This was the case within the instance proven in Figures 7, 8, and 9.

See Also

Meridional Sample

In a “meridional movement” sample, the contours have extra amplitude (north-south orientation) than in a “zonal movement” sample (see the instance from the North Pacific in Determine 11). In different phrases, the peak contours cross extra latitude traces than longitude traces. “Meridional movement” patterns have a tendency to maneuver chilly air south and heat air north in a extremely seen side when evaluating to a “zonal movement” sample. Floor lows and 500 mb brief waves will transfer extra towards the north or south alongside a meridian than in a zonal sample. On this instance a floor low existed close to 42°N 150°W to the east of the 50 kts wind barb. That low was transferring due north at 20 kts.

Keep in mind that the five hundred mb discipline is in movement. Due to this fact, it is a superb concept to have a look at the five hundred mb forecasts to see how the sample is anticipated to evolve over the following a number of days. It’s not uncommon to have a progressive “meridional movement” sample (motion from one area to a different over the identical ocean from west to east) the place the five hundred mb brief wave troughs and ridges, though they’re amplified, proceed their “eastward development” throughout longitude traces in time.

An amplified meridional pattern over the North Pacific

Determine 11. An amplified meridional sample over the North Pacific from 0000 UTC 31 December 2007.

A blocked North Atlantic pattern

Determine 12. A blocked North Atlantic sample from 0000 UTC 20 march 2008 with a big blocking excessive mid manner between Eire and Newfoundland.

Blocking Sample

A excessive amplitude ridge that blocks the west to east development of the higher degree “Westerlies” is aptly named a “blocking ridge”. Determine 12 reveals a blocking sample with a big ridge blocking the “Westerlies” over the central North Atlantic. The massive 5810 m Excessive at 50°N 30°W is claimed to be a blocking excessive and is obstructing the west to east development of climate methods. A attribute of a block is when there’s massive open longitude house between top contours of the identical worth that cowl as much as typically 30° of longitude. Thus there’s little or no air movement penetrating the realm, and so we consult with this as a “blocking sample”.

In a “blocking sample”, 500 mb brief waves can be steered usually northward over the blocking ridge. On this instance a robust shortwave might be seen within the satellite tv for pc picture simply rounding the bottom of the trough alongside 50°W. The related floor low is lifting north northwest parallel to the five hundred mb contours as a result of it’s blocked to the northeast. If the amplitude of the ridge is massive sufficient, then brief wave troughs approaching from the west could attempt to undercut or drive below the block. This undercutting helps to arrange a break up within the westerly movement to the west of the blocking ridge, and finally helps to interrupt down the block. On this instance, the excessive has not constructed northward sufficient to permit lows to move to the south of it. Blocks could final 10 days or extra.

Closed lows that type west or to the left of a blocking ridge and dig southeastward are usually pretty sturdy and it isn’t uncommon to have floor winds at 45 to 50 kts to the west and southwest of the floor low. Favored areas for this to occur are close to the Azores and northwest of Hawaii. The rule of thumb described earlier the place “as much as fifty (50) p.c of the five hundred mb wind pace can translate to the floor” aptly applies on this state of affairs.

Minimize-off Lows

Depicts near zonal flow extending from eastern Canada

Determine 13. Depicts close to zonal movement extending from japanese Canada, to close 30 levels West longitude over the Atlantic, with two cut-off lows to the south. The primary is over the southern United States. The second lower off is close to 30 levels N, and 41 levels W longitude.

If a 500 mb “meridional movement” sample turns into amplified sufficient, then it’s potential for an upper-level low to type within the southern boundary of the upper-level “westerlies“ and change into “lower off” as proven in Determine 13. The closed higher degree circulations related to the lows over southern Alabama, the mid-Atlantic (30°N, 42° W) and Spain are lower off from the principle stream of higher degree zonal west to east winds north of 45° to 50°N. Weak ridges separate the upper latitude westerlies from the three 500 mb cut-off lows. Minimize-off higher degree lows have a tendency to stay stationary, and may persist for a number of days, typically as much as two weeks. They might be accompanied on the floor by sturdy winds after they first type (particularly, within the north to northwest wind movement to the west of the growing floor low), together with showers, and thunderstorms. Additionally, it isn’t uncommon additionally to have sturdy floor east and northeast winds to the north and northeast of the floor low heart, because of the sturdy strain gradient between the floor low which can be centered straight below the five hundred mb cut-off low and a floor excessive to the north or northeast. Minimize-off lows both step by step weaken, or are picked up by the upper latitude upper-level westerly movement when the sample amplifies once more and the capping ridge to the north of the five hundred mb lower off low breaks down. They have an inclination to happen most within the spring and fall when the higher degree “Westerlies” migrate north and south, respectively, because of north-south adjustments in temperature with transition between winter to spring and summer time to fall.

These are simply samples of a number of primary 500 mb movement patterns. At any given time a range or mixture of patterns could exist over the identical ocean basin. It’s not uncommon within the Pacific Ocean to have sturdy zonal movement over the western Pacific with a “meridional movement” or perhaps a blocking movement sample over the japanese Pacific.

Derivation of the five hundred mb Top Area

You may surprise how the five hundred mb top discipline is decided over the oceans. Globally, every day at 0000Z and 1200Z over the continents, at chosen island websites and on a number of specifically geared up service provider ships, climate balloons are launched to pattern the vertical construction of the environment. One of many necessary ranges at which the peak, wind, temperature, and moisture (dew level) knowledge are measured is the five hundred mb degree. Though balloon knowledge is scarce over the oceans, ship floor climate observations, industrial plane studies at jet stream ranges, satellite tv for pc and satellite tv for pc derived moisture profiles, and wind estimates, are all mixed and high quality managed to assist decide the preliminary state or three dimensional construction of the environment over the oceans. As well as, 6 hour forecasts from the operational pc forecast fashions are used as a primary estimate as to the preliminary state of the environment. Consider all the worldwide observations getting used to tweak the earlier pc mannequin forecasts in the correct path, which makes for comparatively constant mannequin forecasts. Word that your ship observations have a “crucial impression” in figuring out the three dimensional construction of the environment.

The extremely refined operational forecast pc fashions that simulate the environment are then run utilizing the evaluation decided from the mixture of the noticed knowledge (together with ship studies) and former mannequin forecasts. The five hundred mb top fields from the evaluation course of and 48 and 96 hour forecasts from the Nationwide Facilities for Environmental Prediction (NCEP) International Forecast System (GFS) are extensively used as the idea for the OPC forecaster produced graphics.

Software of 500 mb
within the Tropics

Application of 500 mb in the Tropics

Determine 14. 500 mb evaluation (left panel) and floor evaluation (proper panel) for the japanese North Pacific from 1200 UTC 9 February 2002 displaying a deep 500 mb trough and related chilly entrance southeast of the Hawaiian Islands.

Determine 14. 500 mb evaluation (left panel) and floor evaluation (proper panel) for the japanese North Pacific from 1200 UTC 9 February 2002 displaying a deep 500 mb trough and related chilly entrance southeast of the Hawaiian Islands.

500 mb charts are usually greatest fitted to utility within the mid and excessive latitudes the place temperature contrasts might be massive, the wind movement tends to be sturdy and floor climate methods motion and depth reply in synergy with the evolution of the movement patterns at 500 mb. Nevertheless, there are purposes in tropical areas. As an illustration, in winter in a strongly amplified sample, the mid-latitude 500 mb movement can dig down into the tropics. A very good instance could be a robust chilly entrance pushing as far south because the Caribbean Sea, the Philippines or Hawaii. In Determine 14, an instance from February 2002 with a chilly entrance that had handed south of Hawaiian Islands. Discover how far south the five hundred mb contours and movement had pushed south into the tropics.

The motion of tropical cyclones similar to within the western Pacific or the Atlantic is a second vital utility of the interplay of the five hundred mb movement sample within the close to tropics and tropics. The five hundred mb sample and satellite tv for pc imagery from 1200 UTC 6 September 2008 are proven in Determine 15. As well as the 24 and 48 hour forecast positions for Tropical Storm “Hanna” and 24, 48, and 72 hour forecast positions for Hurricane “Ike” are proven in Determine 14. “Hanna” has one closed 581 decameter top contour related to it, and should you comply with the encompassing movement see that “Hanna” is in an space of confluent southwesterly movement. You possibly can consider “Hanna” having simply entered the freeway of the Westerlies from an on ramp from the tropics. The hall between the 588 and the 582 decameter contour (the latter utterly extends throughout the hemisphere) present the lane for “Hanna” to maneuver at about ½ the five hundred mb wind speeds and parallel to the five hundred mb top contours (see Heavy Climate Avoidance by Chen and Chesneau). The cloud construction of “Hanna” has been stretched to the northeast over the Northeast U.S. into Quebec. It’s no shock that “Hanna” is being picked up or absorbed into the Westerlies of the mid latitudes. The 24 hour forecast place east of Cape Cod and 48 hour place east of Newfoundland recommend “Hanna” will race to the northeast.

500 mb height, winds and satellite image

Determine 15. 500 mb top, winds and satellite tv for pc picture from 1200 UTC 6 SEP 2008. Tropical Storm “Hanna” might be seen over North Carolina. Hurricane “Ike” is east of the Bahamas. 24 and 48 hour forecast positions for “Hanna” and 24 via 72 hour forecast positions for “Ike” are proven by the symbols of purple Xs with circles.

Hurricane “Ike” is east of the Bahamas nicely within the tropics. To the north is a robust 500 mb 597 decameter excessive with a ridge of excessive strain (zig-zag blue line) extending southwest to south Florida after which west throughout the Gulf of Mexico. Right here is an excerpt from the Nationwide Hurricane Middle dialogue on “Ike” from 1500 UTC 6 September, 2008:

“Ike is presently being steered by a big center to upper-level ridge over the western atlantic close to bermuda and the cyclone continues on a common west-southwestward heading with an preliminary movement estimate of 255/15. The ridge is forecast to shift eastward throughout the subsequent couple of days permitting ike to make a flip westward.”

The ridge that’s steering “Ike” is the 597 decameter excessive and ridge axis extending to the southwest and west from the excessive that’s evident within the 500 mb evaluation. “Ike’s” south of west movement is in actual fact because of the southwest orientation of the extending ridge axis…previous to this time the hurricane was transferring west because it was south of the blocking excessive to the north. The hurricane forecaster is referencing the five hundred mb sample within the official dialogue for a hurricane within the tropics and attributing the movement of the hurricane to the mid degree movement options that may simply be seen on the five hundred mb analyses and forecasts. Tropical Cyclone Discussions issued by the Nationwide Hurricane Middle are a useful useful resource and must be used with floor and 500 mb analyses from the OPC to maintain abreast of the evolution and observe of tropical cyclones. The Tropical Cyclone Discussions can be found on the NHC web site: . You can even request the TCDs utilizing e mail by way of ftpmail. Instructions for ftpmail might be discovered at:

The Backside Line

A method to make use of the five hundred mb charts is to arrange a show of each floor and 500 mb analyses together with the 24 48 and 96 hour forecasts within the chartroom or on the bridge or arrange a show on a pc. Chances are you’ll wish to define the wind maxima related to every trough anticipated to have an effect on your ship or crusing vessel, and achieve expertise that manner. Is the wind most to the west, evenly distributed, or to the east of the brief wave trough? In different phrases will the trough dig (intensify), elevate out (weaken), or simply keep regular state within the general 500 mb movement sample? Check out the earlier forecasts. Are there any large adjustments from the sooner forecast sequence sequence of floor and 500 mb analyses and forecasts to the present sequence?

Keep in mind that the five hundred mb movement patterns and particular brief waves are straight linked and related to the movement and life cycle of floor low strain methods. In different phrases they’re linked three dimensionally and thus inseparable! Have a look at the development of the five hundred mb movement sample(s) from evaluation time via 24-48 to 96 hours. Is the sample turning into extra meridional, zonal, blocked, or cut-off over the following 4 days? Subsequent, have a look at particular 500 mb brief waves, and their related floor low strain methods, together with different options (fronts, squall traces, troughs, or ridges) that can be affecting you over the following a number of days. Consider the examples on this article. Chances are you’ll wish to mark the place of floor lows on the five hundred mb chart to see how the floor low pertains to the five hundred mb brief wave trough (does the trough tilt with top with the floor low or is the system vertically stacked).

The underside line is that via some expertise by yourself and with data gained via watching the evolution of the climate and evaluating floor and 500 mb evaluation you’ll start to anticipate how climate methods will transfer and intensify or weaken. Whereas the five hundred mb evaluation and forecasts doesn’t at all times present the reply it does offer you a a lot clearer image as to WHY climate methods are behaving the way in which they do, why some methods can cross an ocean in just some days and why some methods don’t transfer in any respect for days on finish.

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