A437 Synoptic Meteorology

Early Reading Recommendations

To make sure we all have a solid foundation for the rest of the course, here is our reading list (with some notes) for the first three weeks.  We may have a longer “summary assignment” – a quiz or homework – at the end of that time frame.  All chapter numbers are from Chaston, 3rd Edition.  The 4th Edition chapter and page numbers are given only if they are different.

The Recommendations

Chapter 1 ("Interesting Highlights")

You should know much of this material from previous courses. 

  • Units of pressure.  Pressure behavior with height.
  • On the table on page 13, add a Post-It Note about what the pressure would be at each of those elevations in millibars, rounding off to a customary value we use on upper-air charts (925 mb, 850 mb, etc.). 
  • Historical information:  These details will not be tested on, but are important to you:  Richardson; the Bergen School; these are at the top of our family tree.
  • Behavior of dry air vs. moist air
  • Structure of typical temperature profile with height up to and through the stratosphere
  • Temperature units and conversions
  • Recognizing a surface map when you see one

Chapter 2 (Surface Weather Map)

Station plots and surface maps will be critically important in our course.

  • 2a: You should be able to interpret a surface station model.  We will probably continue to skip elements G, I, and J.
  • 2a: “How many of the weather symbols do I need to know?”  Like any foreign language, they are learned through repetition.  You know several of them already.
  • 2b: You should be able to analyze and interpret isobars, isotherms, or lines of any other variable asked.
  • 2c: You should be able to identify areas of high or low pressure once you have contoured a map (or have been given a contoured one).
  • 2d: You should know the basic force balances aloft and at the surface, and what the wind flow is relative to height lines aloft and isobars at the surface.
  • 2e: You should distinguish among warm, cold, and stationary fronts: their symbolism, movement, weather during passage, and vertical structure.  (Occluded fronts are coming this term.)
  • 2f: You should be able to interpret a surface weather map, with areas of surface convergence, divergence, advection, rising motion, and sinking motion.  This includes sketching the fundamental structure of a mature midlatitude cyclone (Figure 25c): the placement of fronts, and the orientation of the flow (cyclonic vs. anticyclonic).  (Cyclogenesis is coming this term.)

Chapter 3 (What causes weather?)

This should make sense to you.  Notice how it is really a “fundamental truth” of weather, yet I don’t know if any of us ever come right out and state it in class!

Chapter 4

  • The only definitions important for you in this chapter are geostrophic, ageostrophic (very important), and gradient wind.  You've seen these in A339.
  • If you are a tornado aficionado, cyclostrophic wind is another one for you.
  • Terms that are not directly important but will come up later in the term: baroclinic (one of the first two in the chapter).
  • (If you have a 2nd Edition, you don't have this chapter.  Come get a copy of these few pages from me.)

Chapter 5 (General Circulation)

This material concerns the “general circulation” of the atmosphere on a global scale and should be familiar to you, but we are probably not going to talk about it in this class.

Chapter 9 - The Surface Pressure-Change Chart (4th Ed: Chapter 8; 2nd Ed: Chapter 6)

What is an isallobaric chart showing?  Where are those maxima relative to the Highs and Lows?  Even if the purpose of the chart is not yet clear to you, can you at least understand how it is constructed?

Chapter 10 - The Surface Geostrophic Wind Chart (4th Ed: Chapter 9; 2nd Ed: Chapter 7)

Convergence and divergence at the surface are important (why?).  Assuming geostrophic balance – not always a good idea, but often “good enough” – is a way to simplify the flow patterns that are occurring.  Can you understand how a chart like this could be used to find areas of convergent or divergent motion at the ground?  And, if that type of motion is occurring, what it implies vertically?  That is, can you take a horizontal map like that of Figure 31 and start to piece together how horizontal winds are related to vertical motion?  Why are the winds at the surface not geostrophic?

"How do I know I'm where I need to be with this material?"

Ask yourself if you would be able to do each of the bullet-item tasks in the G339 Exam Study Guide.  If you can, you're ready to dive in.


Last Updated on July 21st, 2021