Extreme Weather and Climate 1st Edition Ahrens Samson Test Bank

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Extreme Weather and Climate 1st Edition Ahrens Samson Test Bank

ISBN-13: 978-0495118572

ISBN-10: 0495118575


Extreme Weather and Climate 1st Edition Ahrens Samson Test Bank

ISBN-13: 978-0495118572

ISBN-10: 0495118575



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Chapter 10

Mid-Latitude Cyclonic Storms




The chapter begins with the polar front theory of developing cyclones.  Following the presentation of the typical features of cyclone development, the famous storm that sank the Edmund Fitzgerald ship is discussed as an interesting case study.  The important interactions between surface winds and upper-level winds, including the jet stream, are described in great detail.  Additional case studies include the 1993 Storm of the Century and the 1962 Columbus Day Storm.  The chapter concludes with discussions of blizzards and polar lows.


Focus sections on Northeasters, A Closer Look at Convergence and Divergence, Jet Streaks and Storms, Ranking East Coast Storms, and Blizzard Safety Tips nicely round out the chapter’s presentation with additional detail.



Teaching Suggestions


  1. Surface weather maps will often show middle-latitude storm storms approaching and leaving the U.S. A good site to find these maps is  Examples of storms in various stages of development can often be seen.  Compare current storms with those pictured in Figure 10.1 and discuss reasons for any differences.





  1. Students will often have difficulty, initially, trying to locate shortwaves on an upper-level chart. Instead of a single chart, show the students a sequence of charts covering a period of two or three days.  Shortwaves will be more apparent as they move and distort different portions of the longwave pattern.


  1. Discuss the relationship between convergence/divergence and vertical motion using the following analogy. Imagine a coffee can full of marbles, with several small holes drilled in the bottom of the can.  If the bottom of the can represents the surface and the top represents 500 mb, and the number of marbles in the can represents the surface air pressure, then how can the surface pressure decrease when surface-level convergence puts more marbles in the can?


  1. Using real-time weather images, compare the size, wind speed, and precipitation patterns between a middle latitude cyclone and a tropical storm. Discuss similarities and differences.


  1. Discuss the different weather that is experienced over a several-day period as a mid-latitude storm passes over your location.






Student Projects/Activities


  1. Have students track the development and movement of middle latitude storms as they approach and move across the United States. Have students identify associated features on the upper-air charts.


  1. Use current surface weather charts to identify any large high or low pressure systems in the United States. Do you think these systems are intensifying or decaying?  Why?


  1. Locate a cold or warm front on a current surface weather chart. Then, attempt to locate the warm or cold air aloft using current upper-air weather charts.


  1. Have students compare current surface charts, upper-air charts, and satellite imagery corresponding to a mid-latitude cyclone. Which types(s) of satellite imagery are most useful for identifying the storm?  Why?  Compare the satellite imagery to Figures 10.16 and 10.24 and discuss reasons for any differences.




























  1. Have students inspect archived surface and upper-air maps at NOAA’s Hydrological Prediction Centers web site ( The students can find and describe features of a middle latitude storm that occurred on the same date as an important event in their lives.




Answers to Review Questions


  1. A middle-latitude cyclonic storm is a storm that forms at middle and high latitudes outside of the tropics.


  1. The sketch would look similar to Figure 10.1.
















  1. There is no longer a temperature contrast at the surface.


  1. The Gulf of Mexico, the Atlantic Ocean east of the Carolinas, the eastern slopes of the Rockies and the Sierra Nevada.


  1. Nor’easters are mid-latitude cyclonic storms that develop or intensify off the eastern seaboard of North America then move northeastward along the coast, often bringing gale force northeasterly winds to coastal areas, along with heavy rain, snow or sleet. In Figure 10.5a, the Hatteras Low could develop into a nor’easter.













  1. A cyclone forming on the eastern side of the Rockies in Alberta, Canada, then rapidly skirting across the northern tier states.


  1. (a) Surface air converges towards the center of a low, and diverges from the center of a high. (b) a region of converging air usually forms on the west side of an upper-level trough and a region of diverging air forms on the east side.


  1. Without upper-level divergence, the converging surface winds would increase the central pressure, thus decreasing the pressure gradient and stopping the convergence.


  1. It will intensify. When upper-level divergence is stronger than surface convergence, surface pressures drop and the low intensifies.


  1. Longwaves are many thousands of kilometers long; shortwaves are small disturbances or ripples.


  1. Upper-level divergence (usually associated with a shortwave), surface convergence, strong horizontal temperature contrast, temperature advection.


  1. Under these circumstances no significant temperature advection is occurring. Without the necessary energy transformations associated with temperature advection, the surface system gradually dissipates.  As its winds slacken and its central pressure gradually rises, the low is said to be filling.



  1. Cold advection occurs when cold air moves into a region, replacing warm air. Warm advection occurs when warm air moves into a region, replacing cold air.  Both types of advection cause rising motions, which release latent heat as water vapor condenses.


  1. The polar front jet stream provides areas of divergence aloft.


  1. Jet streaks along the polar front jet stream provide areas of strong convergence and divergence.


  1. The sketch would look similar to Figure 10.5a.





  1. Rising and sinking air in regions of convergence and divergence (conversion of potential energy to kinetic energy), radiation to space from the tops of clouds, latent heat release.


  1. Warm conveyor belt: originates at the surface in the warm sector, ahead of the cold front. As the warm airstream moves northward, it slowly rises along the sloping warm front.  Water vapor in the rising air condenses, and clouds form.  Aloft, the warm air flow gradually turns toward the northeast or east, parallel to the upper-level flow.  The rising warm air causes cloudiness to appear ahead of the surface low and its surface warm front.  From these clouds, rain or snow usually falls.  Directly below the warm conveyor belt, a cold, moist airstream, the cold conveyor belt moves slowly westward north of the surface low and the warm front.  As the airstream moves into the vicinity of the surface low, rising air gradually forces the cold conveyor belt upward.  The rising airstream usually turns as it ascends, producing a comma shaped cloud.  If the airstream rises high enough, it gets caught in the southwesterly flow aloft and swings northeastward.  The last conveyor belt is a dry one that forms in the upper atmosphere.  Called the dry conveyor belt, this airstream slowly descends from the northwest behind the surface cold front, where it brings generally clearing weather.  If a branch of this dry air sweeps into the storm, it produces a clear area that, in the comma cloud, appears to pinch off the comma’s head from its tail.  This phenomenon tends to show up on satellite pictures as the storm becomes more fully developed.


  1. It had a NESIS value of 13.2 due to extremely low pressure, strong winds, and heavy precipitation.




  1. The United States National Weather Service only issues a blizzard warning when the following conditions are expected to exist for three hours or longer: winds of at least 35 miles/hour with falling or blowing snow that reduces visibility to less than a quarter of a mile.


  1. To the north of the low.


  1. You should carry a winter weather survival kit that includes blankets and sleeping bags, extra clothing, a flashlight and batteries, a knife, high-calorie non-perishable foods, drinking water, several large candles, matches or a lighter, a can for melting snow for extra drinking water, a bag of sand or cat litter, a shovel, first aid kit, a tow rope, jumper cables, a compass, several flares, a tool kit, a fully charged cell phone, and a large container with a cover for sanitary purposes. If you are inside a stranded vehicle, do not go outside and start walking.  The odds of surviving the ordeal are much greater if you stay inside your vehicle, away from the strong winds and blowing snow.  Not only will the vehicle protect you form the extremely low wind-chill temperature, but it will also trap some of your body heat, thus keeping the inside air warmer than the outside air.  Moreover, people outside in a blizzard often become disoriented by the blinding snow, and are unable to find their way back to their vehicle.


  1. Polar lows are cyclones that form poleward of the polar front. They form when frigid air from ice-covered land or water surfaces comes in contact with warmer air that was located over ice-free waters.  Like hurricanes, these smaller intense storms normally have a warmer central core, strong winds (often gale force or higher), and heavy showery precipitation that, unlike a hurricane, is in the form of snow.



Multiple Choice Exam Questions


  1. On a surface weather map that shows an open wave cyclone, the warm sector can be observed:
  2. ahead of an advancing cold front.
  3. behind an advancing cold front.
  4. ahead of an advancing cold-occluded front.
  5. behind an advancing cold-occluded front.
  6. ahead of an advancing warm front.




  1. According to the model of the life cycle of a wave cyclone, the storm system is normally most intense:
  2. as a frontal wave.
  3. as a stable wave.
  4. as an open wave.
  5. as a stationary wave.
  6. when the system first becomes occluded.







  1. In the polar front theory of a developing wave cyclone, energy for the storm is usually derived from all but one of the following:
  2. rising of warm air and the sinking of cold air
  3. latent heat of condensation
  4. an increase in surface winds
  5. heat energy stored in the ground




  1. Which region is not considered to be a region where cyclogenesis often occurs:
  2. eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains.
  3. Atlantic Ocean near Cape Hatteras, North Carolina.
  4. California.
  5. the Great Basin of the United States.
  6. Gulf of Mexico.




  1. For cyclogenesis to occur along a frontal wave, the winds aloft directly above the wave should be:
  2. diverging.
  3. converging.
  4. blowing straight from west to east.
  5. increasing in speed uniformly over a broad area.




  1. If the flow of air into a surface low pressure area is greater than the divergence of air aloft, the surface pressure in the center of the low will:
  2. increase.
  3. decrease.
  4. remain the same.
  5. deepen.




  1. Which of the following is not associated with rising air motions?
  2. overrunning
  3. convergence of air at the surface
  4. convergence of air aloft
  5. divergence of air aloft




  1. When a deep upper-level trough is located to the east of a surface anticyclone, the surface anticyclone will tend to move toward the:
  2. northwest.
  3. northeast.
  4. southwest.
  5. southeast.




  1. When an upper-level low lies directly above a surface low:
  2. the surface low will probably weaken.
  3. thunderstorms will develop.
  4. a wave cyclone will begin to form.
  5. the pressure of the surface low will decrease.
  6. cyclogenesis will occur.




  1. For a surface storm system to intensify, the upper-level low (or trough) should be located to the __________ of the surface low.
  2. north
  3. south
  4. east
  5. west




  1. Developing low pressure areas generally have __________ air near the surface and __________ air aloft.
  2. converging, diverging
  3. diverging, converging
  4. converging, converging
  5. diverging, diverging




  1. When upper-level divergence of air above a surface low pressure area is stronger than the convergence of surface air, the surface pressure will __________ and the storm itself will __________.
  2. increase, intensify
  3. increase, dissipate
  4. decrease, intensify
  5. decrease, dissipate




  1. If the outflow of air around a surface high pressure area is greater than the convergence of air aloft, you would observe:
  2. in increase in pressure in the center of the high.
  3. movement of the high toward the northeast.
  4. a decrease in the central pressure.
  5. strengthening in the high.




  1. Atmospheric shortwaves usually move __________ at a speed that is __________ than longwaves.
  2. east to west, faster
  3. west to east, faster
  4. east to west, slower
  5. west to east, slower




  1. The type of weather system known as a “mid-latitude cyclone” cannot form over the tropical ocean because:
  2. surface temperature contrasts are not large.
  3. the ocean surface has a lot of waves.
  4. the Coriolis force is weak in the tropics.
  5. both (a) and (b)
  6. both (a) and (c)




  1. Cyclogenesis is the __________ of a mid-latitude cyclone.
  2. development or strengthening
  3. weakening or dissipation
  4. term for the exact midpoint
  5. none of the above




  1. Northeasters (or nor’easters) are midlatitude storms commonly found:
  2. along the Pacific coast of North America.
  3. along the Atlantic coast of North America.
  4. along the Gulf coast of North America.
  5. both a and b






  1. An upper-level pool of cold air that has broken away from the main flow is called:
  2. a cut-off low.
  3. a shortwave.
  4. a wave cyclone.
  5. a lee-side low.




  1. Strong storms that develop over water, poleward of the polar front, are called:
  2. nor’easters.
  3. upslope lows.
  4. lee-side lows.
  5. polar lows.
  6. none of the above




  1. Like hurricanes, __________ have a clear area in their center.
  2. polar lows
  3. cut-off lows
  4. conveyer belts
  5. wrap-around bands





True/False Exam Questions


  1. The development or strengthening of a middle latitude storm system is called frontolosys.
  2. true
  3. false


ANSWER: false


  1. A ‘building anticyclone’ means the central pressure is increasing.
  2. true
  3. false


ANSWER: true


  1. The piling up of air above a region is called thickening.
  2. true
  3. false


ANSWER: false




  1. A lee-side low forms on the downwind side of a mountain.
  2. true
  3. false


ANSWER: true


  1. A surface low pressure area with a deep upper-level trough to the west will tend to move toward the southwest.
  2. true
  3. false


ANSWER: false


  1. Longwaves in the middle and upper troposphere usually have lengths on the order of thousands of kilometers.
  2. true
  3. false


ANSWER: true


  1. Lee-side lows are thermal lows that form due to surface heating over deserts.
  2. true
  3. false


ANSWER: false


  1. The polar front theory was developed by the famous explorer Magellan in the 1500s.
  2. true
  3. false


ANSWER: false


  1. If lows and highs aloft were always directly above lows and highs at the surface, the surface systems would quickly disspiate.
  2. true
  3. false


ANSWER: true






  1. Divergence in the polar jet stream draws warm surface air upward.
  2. true
  3. false


ANSWER: true




Essay/Critical Thinking Exam Questions


  1. Describe or illustrate the various phases in the life cycle of a middle latitude storm according to the polar front theory.


  1. What is cyclogenesis? List some of the regions in the United States where cyclogenesis is common.


  1. Sketch a 500 mb chart that clearly shows a trough and a ridge. Where would you expect to find converging and diverging wind motions?  Below what point on your 500 mb chart would you expect middle latitude storm development to occur?


  1. With the aid of a diagram, show why an intensifying surface low pressure center which is located just east of a deep upper-level trough will often move in a northeasterly direction.


  1. What does the term “shortwave” refer to? Why is it important to locate and follow the movements of atmospheric shortwaves?  How is this done?  How is a shortwave different from a “longwave?”


  1. Describe some of the ways in which the upper-level wind flow pattern can influence the development and movement of a middle latitude storm system.


  1. List some of the reasons why the polar front theory doesn’t apply to storms in the tropics.


  1. When making a weather forecast, which kind of chart is more important: a surface chart or a 500 mb chart? Why?


  1. Suppose you observe a middle-latitude cyclone on the surface weather chart. What kind(s) of weather chart(s) would you want to examine to determine whether the cyclone is likely to strengthen or decay over the next 24 hours?  What information would you hope to gain from each chart type?







  1. Using Figure 10.17, can you identify regions of cold advection? Warm advection? Explain your reasoning.





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