Thursday, June 23, 2011

The World in the Palm of My Hands

As some of you know, I am going on sabbatical for the next academic year.  Contrary to conventional wisdom, sabbatical is not a one-year vacation, but release time from teaching and committee service for the purposes of professional development.  I will be writing a book (stay tuned), working on a number of research projects, and continuing my never-ending quest to be able to access meteorological data and visualize and analyze the atmosphere at "the speed of thought" so that my classes are as dynamic and exciting as possible.

Along these lines, I've been using the Unidata IDV to hold the world in the palm of my hand and have a better look at tropical-extratropical interactions as we move into the monsoon season.

My goal here is to be able to click a button and have a multi-day loop that allows me to look at the basics of the weather anywhere in the world.  In the above image, you are looking at a global IR image with the dynamic tropopause pressure (color filled transparent so you can see the clouds underneath), precipitable water (contoured, warmer colors = higher values), and 925-mb wind vectors (a compromise level since surface winds often miss the core of moisture advection associated with low-level jets).    I can click on and off a few other fields as well, depending on the situation.  Very nice!

People often ask me why I prefer the dynamic tropopause over conventional pressure analyses.  The bottom line here is that cyclonic (and anticyclonic) disturbances in the upper atmosphere often are not located on the same pressure level, but typically are found on the dynamic tropopause.  I only need to look at one level to have a good understanding of the upper levels.   Further, one can easily trace extratropical PV anomalies as they drift into the tropics and cause mayhem.  There are other reasons related to PV dynamics, but we won't get into those here.  Ideally, I'd use PV potential temperature rather than pressure, but pressure is built into the IDV, so I'm using it for convenience.

For today, I'll share a zoomed in look of the North American sector, which shows quite nicely the decaying mid-latitude cyclone over the upper midwest and associated moisture transport from the Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico northward into the Mississippi River Basin.

Looking forward to checking out the monsoon with this in the coming weeks.

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