11
Sep
13

An astronauts’ view makes for an interesting pic

NASA is posting pics of astronauts pics while on the space station, which is a really cool thing to do. But in this picture, you can see things that we Mets have to learn about and understand. There’s a lot to see here, once your attention is drawn to it.
Astro pic of earth

So, what you’re seeing is an island, and how the island is influencing weather around it. Several things to note about it. Because the land in daytime would be warmer than the water, the heated air ABOVE the isle evaporates any clouds overhead. This would be the reverse of Lake Effect, where cold air is going over warmer WATER, evaporating water into cold air that can’t hold it without allowing it to condense into clouds (and snow). But here, the heated air ABOVE the land EVAPORATES the clouds that pre-existed, so that there is a vacuum of clouds above.

But there’s more to see. Notice how the land, having more elevation than the flat water, is able to also divert the wind pattern down-wind (ie to the right, in this pic). Also notice how the land causes the diverted air above to turn into circular eddies, diagonally towards the top right and bottom right of the island. Also, how far down stream will the cloud cover resume normal activity? That’s another lesson to consider from this pic. This goes to “fluid dynamics” in the atmosphere, and how one thing influences the other, and vice versa…all things a good Meteorologist takes into consideration when analyzing all the fronts, storms, highs, etc across the country when preparing his or her forecast.

This single pic goes a long way towards depicting how much there is to consider with the atmosphere. In reality, although it is mostly a bunch of gases, the atmosphere works almost exactly as a fluid does, so that understanding helps to both understand and explain to the viewer what is going on in the forecast.

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