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Meteorology! Meteorology is the branch of science devoted to the study of the atmosphere.

Now is an exciting time to study meteorology. We are witnessing great technical advances from the installation of a national Doppler radar network to the nearly instant availability of weather data and charts via the Internet. We are reading of atmospheric issues in the headlines, from global warming and ozone depletion to devastating storms in places as far apart as Oklahoma and the Bay of Bengal. And we are benefiting from theoretical advances that are leading to improvements in forecasting events as different as tornadoes and global temperature patterns. We welcome you to this exciting arena of study and hope you find it as fascinating as we do.

New in This Edition

We are highly gratified by the enthusiastic response to the first edition of this text. At the same time, we welcome the opportunity to fine-tune many sections, as well as to make a few more substantial changes, in response to feedback from scores of reviewers and instructors and hundreds of students over the past several years. On every page we have made adjustments to the text. In addition, we have updated or otherwise improved hundreds of illustrations and have added many new ones.

New Material

We have added a chapter on atmospheric optics (chapter 15), whose material is entirely new to the book. We have also expanded the coverage of air pollution and acid deposition, and given them a chapter of their own (chapter 16). On the advice of our reviewers, we have revised, updated and/or increased coverage on many topics, including the ASOS observing system, Doppler radar, the conveyor belt cyclone model, ENSO, lake effect storms, Santa Ana winds, genetic climate classification, and a number of high-profile weather events, such as the 1999 Oklahoma tornado outbreak.

On the other hand, we have tried to control our bulk. Thus, we have streamlined a number of chapters, in particular chapters 1 and 2, making them less overwhelming, we hope, to the beginning student. We moved much of the background material on atomic structure from chapter 2 to a new appendix (appendix N).

Reorganization of Topics

Perhaps the most significant change from the first edition is the reordering of some topics and chapters. To accommodate a variety of organizational preferences among meteorology instructors, we have placed the chapters on global warming, atmospheric optics, and air pollution in a separate section called "Special Topics". Instructors may assign these chapters at any point in their courses after chapter 2 (for air pollution) or chapter 3 (for global warming and optics). We have made sure that any sequence within the above limits will "work" in the sense that the Special Topics chapters do not depend on material from later chapters and do not contain material required for understanding later chapters. A few terms (such as inversions in the air pollution chapter) require some duplication of explanation from elsewhere to ensure the student has learned basic material no matter what sequence is followed. We believe, however, that a little repetition of important content is no great disadvantage.

Advanced Sections

We have offered instructors additional flexibility by labeling a number of more advanced sections within chapters "Going Further". Instructors may choose to assign or skip these sections, depending on the goals of their course, without loss of continuity.

Interactive CD-ROM and Internet Resources

A companion CD-ROM, organized by chapter, features many learning tools and meteorology activities to assist students in mastering the content of the text. For each chapter, there are opportunities for students to construct interactively their own concept maps of the chapter's major concepts and principles. (We explain the use and value of concept maps later in this preface.) Chapter summaries are linked to relevant simulations, interactive animations, and movies to make the concepts come alive and reinforce learning. Flash cards showing important concepts and definitions, as well as diagnostic sample quizzes, will enhance students' study skills and understanding. Finally, links to relevant human-interest articles illustrate how weather affects our everyday lives and communities.

Science Content, Science Process

Textbooks are conveyors of information. Whether the subject is science, history, or business, the textbook must present basic facts and concepts of its discipline. We have strived to present the facts and concepts of atmospheric science in a way that is clear to the nonspecialist. In places where we felt clear explanation rested on understanding more basic scientific concepts, we provided that background as well.

But a textbook that limits itself to offering facts presents only one dimension of the subject it seeks to portray; the result bears as little resemblance to its subject as a stuffed animal does to its living counterpart.

From the first days of this project, we have sought to produce a book that more faithfully reflects the many facets of its subject. To us, meteorology is far more than a collection of facts and concepts. Meteorology is a human activity; it is a quest for understanding pursued by thousands of women and men every day. As we attempt to puzzle out the unknown, we do much more than collect and analyze the data, which is the stereotypical image of the scientist at work. In addition to analyzing data, atmospheric scientists are engaged in a wide variety of activities such as imagining explanations of puzzling phenomena, creating experiments and inventing instruments to test their proposed explanations, brainstorming with colleagues to get fresh ideas, following hunches, writing about their work, presenting it to others-in short, employing a whole range of skills and procedures. This collection of activities, when employed according to certain rules commonly called "the scientific method," has been spectacularly successful in advancing our understanding of the natural world. We feel that by including scientific process in this textbook, we can convey to our readers a true sense of what it means to know something in science; the roles played by facts, laws, models, and theories; the limitations of science; and the sense in which scientific knowledge is tentative. We also feel that this is the only way to show the excitement of following a career in science.

To maintain a focus on process, we have grouped the chapters into units on the basis of "unit questions", each one an issue of interest to the meteorological community and the public. The chapters within one unit present relevant scientific concepts, the skills, strategies, and instruments one needs to work on the unit question, its scientific and cultural context, and a review of what we know about its solution.

This attention to scientific process gives the book a somewhat unconventional feel. For example, we devote more space to subjects such as causality, predictability, and the uses and limitations of scientific models than is customary in most meteorology texts. We also include the names of a variety of present-day scientists, some famous, others not, to emphasize the human face of the scientific enterprise.


It is well-known that active participation promotes effective learning. Although options for participating while reading are limited, they do exist. We make a point of asking our readers questions, many questions. Frequently, we direct them to key data in tables and figures, ask them at various points to consider how the discussion has developed and where it is headed, and in general try to provoke them into conversation with us. You will notice that our writing style is somewhat conversational and less didactic than in other texts.

Constructivist Learning

We believe in some aspects of the currently popular constructivist learning models. For example, we accept the notion that teaching is not akin to pouring information into our students' minds, but is instead a process of assisting all learners to construct mentally their own understandings based on firsthand observations (both past and present) and experiences, as far as possible. To support this construction process, we have made a point of developing concepts from the specific to the general, thus equipping the reader with factual building blocks that can then be arranged to form relational structures.

(We do not subscribe, incidentally, to the more radical constructivist idea that all knowledge is "socially constructed" by groups of people. We feel the history of science is replete with examples of individuals, including some who appear in this text, who made great scientific advances on their own, advances eventually adopted by the scientific community on the basis of their superiority to other explanations of nature.)

We offer our readers help in building their own learning structures by presenting "concept maps" at frequent points. A concept map charts the relations amongst different pieces of information and can assist learners in building such structures in their own minds. They can be such useful learning tools that we would like to offer some additional thoughts on them.

Concept Maps

Concept maps may be of several types. One illustrates a temporal sequence of events, such as weather changes at a locale during a frontal cyclone passage, or a causal sequence, such as the formation of acid rain due to burning of fossil fuels (see figure 16.2). Generally, this type of concept map is a visualization of processes at work. While different students may construct slightly different versions of the map, typically the variations are minor; there tends to be one correct form.

Another type of concept map is sometimes called a mind map. This is a depiction of the relations among component parts of some topic, such as the structure of a frontal cyclone (see figure 1.23). Such a map is like a multidimensional outline of the topic, depicting component parts, properties, comparisons and contrasts, and perhaps some degree of cause and effect, although this is not a requirement. The more connections the student can make between new mental structures and previous experience, the more robust the new structures will be. Thus, in presenting new ideas, we offer numerous links to everyday experiences. We also refer frequently to concepts previously presented, revisiting them in new contexts.

By studying concept maps of all types, and-most important-building maps themselves, students construct the relationships between parts, properties, and so on in their own minds. This facilitates recall, provides a mental framework on which to attach new, related information, and can indicate areas of misunderstanding.

Mind maps of a given topic exhibit considerable variation from person to person, because there are many valid ways to organize any block of information. Obviously, some maps of a given topic may be more effective or complete than others, and some may contain errors, which need to be addressed. However, students should be encouraged to develop their own maps, and instructors need to be tolerant of versions that do not match their own or ours. Ultimately, the concept map is a learning tool and not a final exam. The CD-ROM accompanying this text provides students many ways to develop concept and mind maps interactively.


Structure building is a challenging task. It requires concentration and necessitates carefully following the discussion. It is primarily for this reason that our text does not contain "boxes," "focus items," or other special-interest features scattered through each chapter. Although these ideas can add interest, we feel they are a significant distraction to the reader.

Supplements and Learning Aids

A complimentary Explorations in Meteorology CD-ROM is packaged with every new text. This CD contains animations, movie clips, simulations, activities, concept maps, chapter summaries, flash cards, and quizzing. There will also be links to relevant human-interest articles on how weather affects our everyday lives and communities.

Diploma Hybrid CD-ROM

To the Instructor

This book is intended for use in a one-semester introductory meteorology course. We have written it with a variety of students in mind: nonscience majors seeking to fulfill a science course requirement, students majoring in subjects such as environmental science or geography for whom a meteorology course is required or recommended, students who want to explore their interest in meteorology before taking more advanced courses, and those who just want to indulge their curiosity or fascination with weather and the atmosphere.

The order of presentation of material is fairly conventional. After a two chapter introduction to daily weather, synoptic-scale weather systems, and atmospheric composition, we move from energy concepts to humidity, clouds, and precipitation, then to dynamic, synoptic-scale meteorology and weather forecasting, small-scale and global circulations, thunderstorms and tornadoes, hurricanes, and then climate.

As we mentioned above, we have placed chapters on global warming, optics, and air pollution in a section called "Special Topics." Although these chapters are numbered 14, 15, and 16, they may be assigned at any point in the course after chapter 2 or 3, as you prefer. No doubt some instructors will assign these chapters in their numerical sequence (i.e., at the end of the course), which is a popular and traditional approach. For those who would like to involve students in current issues earlier in the course and connect these issues more immediately to some of the basic science of early chapters, we suggest this sequence:

    ChapterTopics Covered
    1 Introduction to weather observations, _ charts, and systems
    2 Atmospheric composition and vertical structure
    16 Air pollution
    3 Energy and energy budgets
    14 Global warming
    4 Humidity
    5 Clouds
    6 Precipitation
    15 Atmospheric optics
    7-13 (In sequence)

We prefer this sequence because it places global warming and air pollution early in the course, thus ensuring they are actually covered. It also connects these issues to basic science in logical ways: air pollution following the discussion of air composition, and global warming following energy budgets. Optics seems to fit well following the discussions of humidity, clouds, and precipitation.

To offer you additional flexibility in adapting the text to the goals of the course you teach, we have marked a number of text sections "Going Further." Instructors may assign these sections or not, without loss of continuity.

A word about the "unit question": Its purpose is to provide context and direction through an extended segment of the book, as well as to sustain an atmosphere of inquiry. The unit question itself is not intended to be the single "goal" for a given unit or even the most important question that might be asked. In some places, the unit question is very much in the foreground; elsewhere, it is much less visible. We feel there is no need to impose its presence on every lesson. Instead, we offer it for use when and where it fits the purposes of your course.

To the Student

Meteorology and Math

The first question on many meteorology students' minds is not about tornadoes; it is not about hurricanes, or global warming, or tomorrow's weather. Most often, question number 1 is, "Is there a lot of math in meteorology?"

Our response is, "Luckily, yes." The fact that many meteorological phenomena can be expressed in numerical terms has much to do with our success in understanding the atmosphere as well as we do. On the other hand, we recognize that mathematics is a language that few nonscience students speak fluently. As a result, we have assumed little mathematical prowess on your part and have not based explanations on mathematical reasoning where it was possible to do otherwise. However, you will be employing basic mathematics to make numerical computations throughout the course. And in a few places, the use of symbolic mathematical reasoning cannot be avoided, so we plunge in. Do not fear, however: we have made a point of going clearly, step by step. You can do it, and will. In many years of teaching this course, we have seen that students do not find the math level a serious problem.

Study Aids

Each chapter starts with a list of goals. Use them periodically to check on your progress through the chapter.

Key words are identified in bold print. These are the basic terms you need to speak the language of the atmospheric scientist. Key words are listed at the end of each chapter and defined in the glossary. The list of key words for some chapters is pretty lengthy. However, you will be familiar with many of these terms already, and all you need to do is sharpen your understanding of their meaning.

At several points in each chapter, you will encounter Checkpoints. Checkpoints provide a brief summary of the material just presented, along with a few practice questions with which you can gauge your understanding.

Many checkpoints include diagrams known as concept maps. A concept map is a chart consisting of boxes or ellipses connected by arrows and illustrating relations between concepts. Creating concept maps on your own is an excellent way to review and organize material, as well as uncover areas of misunderstanding.

Each chapter ends with a summary of the entire chapter, a list of the chapter's key words, Exercises (shorter, recall-based), Problems (longer, requiring more in-depth understanding), Explorations (suggestions for research projects), and References and Resources (for further information).

At the end of the text, a series of appendices provides tables, charts, and other reference information useful to the student of meteorology. Following the appendices is a glossary, where all terms are defined and keyed to their location in the text.

Our interactive CD-ROM offers you a variety of study aids, from simple vocabulary drills to animations that illustrate atmospheric processes in motion. On our Internet website, at, you will find additional materials, including online quizzes. From our website you can also get in touch with us via e-mail. Drop us a line! We would like to hear from you.

Suggestions for Reading This Book

Here are a few suggestions for reading your text most effectively:

1. Do your reading in medium-sized doses. In general, the material from one Checkpoint to the next within a chapter is a reasonable amount for one sitting. Then tear yourself away for a while: take a short break or change subjects for a time before continuing.

2. Begin by previewing the section to get a sense of the territory ahead. Read only the headings and subheadings, look at the illustrations, and read their captions. Read the section review and the questions in the Checkpoint at section end.

3. Read the Chapter Goals. Keep in mind that you want to achieve these learning goals during your reading of the chapter.

4. Write down a few questions of your own to which you hope to find answers during your reading. Your questions might be ones that occurred to you while you previewed the section, or you might take them from the section headings and subheadings. For example, from the subheading "Land and Sea Breeze Circulations" in chapter 10, your question might be simply, "What are land and sea breeze circulations?" or "How do they form?" As you read, look for answers to your questions.

5. Strive to be actively engaged with the section by writing marginal notes, underlining, searching for answers to questions you asked, writing notes on separate paper, explaining concepts to a classmate, drawing diagrams, constructing outlines or concept maps, and so forth. The very process of performing these steps improves considerably your retention of the material. On the other hand, coloring whole sections of text with highlighting pens is of dubious value; it requires too little mental input to be a useful learning activity.

6. Use chapter objectives, Checkpoint materials, and the chapter-end summary as checks on your learning.

7. Enjoy yourself! To us, your authors, the atmosphere is a source of endless interest and inspiration. We hope to convey to you some of the excitement we feel in watching the wind come up, studying a fresh satellite image, or seeing a thunderstorm blossom on a warm afternoon. Some people claim that scientific understanding removes the mystery and excitement from natural phenomena. We feel just the opposite-that with some scientific understanding of a natural event, one can appreciate it far more deeply. We hope that our book heightens your understanding and appreciation of our atmosphere and the events that occur within it.


We would like to express our thanks to the following reviewers for their thoughtful and thorough responses to various drafts:

Alan Anderson, St. Cloud State University
David Berner, Normandale Community College
Mark Bjelland, Gustavus Adolphus College
David Braaten, University of Kansas-Lawrence
William Corcoran, Southwest Missouri State University
Paul Croft, Jackson State University
Alan Czarnetzki, University of Northern Iowa
William Culver, St. Petersburg Junior College
Dave Esser, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University
James Fleming, Colby College
Robert Fovell, University of California-Los Angeles
David Goldblum, University of Wisconsin-Whitewater
Cecil Keen, Minnesota State University-Mankato
Gong-Yuh Lin, California State University-Northridge
Jeffrey Lew, University of California-Los Angeles
John Looney, University of Massachusetts, Boston
Dean Morss, Creighton University
Richard Orville, Texas A&M University
Michael Ritter, University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point
Scott Rochette, State University of New York-College at Brockport
Arthur Samel, Bowling Green State University
Joseph Scanio, University of Cincinnati
George Sherman, Fullerton College
Brent Skeeter, Salisbury State University
James Westgate, Lamar University
Mark Wysocki, Cornell University
Doug Yarger, Iowa State University

All of these reviewers have improved the draft immeasurably. Alice and David Veazey and Seth and Jen Danielson of the University of Alaska at Fairbanks have participated in many helpful discussions through all stages of the book's development. Louise Loomis of Hartford College for Women helped with early conceptualizations of the pedagogy.

We would also like to thank our colleagues and students at Hartford College for Women, the University of Hartford, Pennsylvania State University, and AccuWeather for their unflagging support; the Kevin MacKinnon, Richard Conners, and Bertram Briand families of Cape Breton Island for logistical assistance; and Donald P. LaSalle and Thomas Alena of the Talcott Mountain Science Center in Avon, Connecticut, for providing access to weather data.

Our families, to whom this book is dedicated, helped in countless ways, from sketching illustrations and proofreading, to shouldering additional household duties so that we could write.

Finally, we acknowledge with pleasure and gratitude all members of the McGraw-Hill team, particularly Lisa Leibold and Jayne Klein for their skill and care in turning our writing into a book.