Monday, November 10, 2008

More About Air Masses

In my post last Tuesday, we talked about where air masses originate and 4 different classifications.

They were cP, cT, mP, and mT.

If you ever do any additional reading or want to "study-up" a little more on the subject, let me introduce two more letters you may find in the classification.

  • k
  • w

    If the air mass is colder than the surface it's over, the lowercase letter "k" is added.

    Just think of "k" meaning cold.

    And if the air mass is warmer than the surface below, the lowercase letter "w" is added.

    So adding this 3rd classification, you could potentially see an air mass described as cPk.

    That would be an air mass of continental (c) polar air (P) that is colder than the surface below it (k).

    I know, I know -- for some it may make sense and others it may have went right over your head.

    If the latter describes you, don't worry...

    When I was in meteorology school I could not wrap my brain around this concept to save my life!

    Now I totally get it.

    Unless you have taken a meteorology class, until reading this blog, you may have never heard of the concept where one can identify air masses based on origin and their temperature/moisture characteristics.

    Or have you?

    There are a lot of "nicknames" that describe some of these types of air masses...and they are often said by meteorologists on television.

  • Arctic Express or Siberian Express -- a large, bitterly cold and typically dry air mass that moves down from Siberia and into the lower 48 states during mid-winter. Well since this is an air mass that forms over land (Sibera) it is "continental (c)" and Siberia is located in a polar region (P) and depending on how far south if travels, it will either be colder or warmer than the surface it is above -- so let's assume colder (k). So this air mass is a "cPk" air mass.

  • Pineapple Express -- when a flow of air that feeds into the west coast of the US directly from Hawaii and brings ample moisture. Since it forms over an ocean (m) and is from a tropical location (T), it would be an air mass labeled "mT" -- and then if the air is warmer than the surface below, you would add "w" and if cooler "k". So this air mass would be either "mTk" or "mTw".

    We'll chat more tomorrow!
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