DEPARTMENT OF GEOSCIENCES                                                                Spring 2009

San Francisco State University                                      NAME________________________


Synoptic Metr Quiz #2

100 pts.

(Test will be collected at 10:40 AM)


1.    Definitions.  Choose two of the terms below.  Provide a one sentence definition (if the term is an abbreviation, first “unabbreviate” it and then define it).  (5 pts each for a total of 10 pts).


(a)  CAPE –


Convective Available Potential Energy – a measure of the total potential buoyancy acceleration experienced by an air parcel rising from the LFC to the EL.  


Directly related to the “positive” area on a Skew T/Log P diagram bounded by the parcel’s ascent curve on the right and the sounding (ELR)on the left, from the LFC (CCL) to the EL.



(b)  Equilibrium Level


The location at the top of the positive area on a sounding at which the air parcel becomes the same temperature as its surroundings and above which it becomes colder than it surroundings. 


Alternatively, it is the elevation that separates the region of the atmosphere in which the buoyancy acceleration is positive (beneath the level) from that in which the buoyancy acceleration is negative (above the level).



(e) Lifted Index


The difference (in C or K) between the temperature of a lifted

parcel and the surrounding atmosphere at the 500 mb level

(negative for unstable conditions).



(c)  Convective Temperature


The temperature to which the surface temperature must be warmed in the afternoon in order to both eliminate the “loaded gun” sounding inversion, and to make the sounding nearly absolutely unstable.




2.  Units.  Provide the units (metric) used conventionally for the following (8 pts)


         horizontal winds    meters per sec or m s-1 (or km h-1)    



         pressure gradient            mb km-1 


         lifted index                     oK or oC


         CAPE                                    Joules kg-1 or m2s-2


         CIN                                       Joules kg-1 or m2s-2







Map Questions  (82 pts) (Use back of sheets if necessary.  Answer in complete sentences.  )

3.       The sounding for Fort Worth, TX (KFWD) for 0000 UTC 4 May 1999 is shown in Fig 1.  (30 pts total)


(a)           Determine the elevation (mb)  of the LCL, LFC, and EL and the value of LI for the sounding. (Show the ascent curve, and make sure to plot the positions of the levels on the ascent curve) (28 pts)


(b)           Shade in the portion of the modified sounding that has positive buoyancy (CAPE) in red. (2 pts)




4.       The sealevel pressure map for 2200 3 May 1999 is given as Fig. 2.  Note the lines indicated as Lines A, B and C.  The area experiencing dew point temperatures exceeding 60oF is shaded green.(22 pts total)

    (a)  Identify (4 pts each for 12 pts here):


Line A   cold front


Line B   warm front


Line C   dry line


(c)           The low pressure area shown on the chart is known as a “wave cyclone”.  Why is the low a “cyclone”? (5 pts here)


The low pressure area is a cyclone because it is an area of low pressure completely encircled by at least one isobar.


(d)           The low pressure area shown on the chart is known as a “wave cyclone”.  What does the adjective “wave” refer to in this term?  (5 pts here)


The low pressure area is a wave cyclone because it is an area of low pressure completely encircled by at least one isobar within which is found a frontal system in a wave-like configuration.









5.       The CAPE/CIN field for 2200 UTC 3 May 1999 is given in Fig. 3.  Compare the pattern shown with the dew point field depicted in Fig. 2.


(a)  Briefly explain why the CAPE field is consistent with the dew point field (15 pts);


The dew point field gives an estimate of the mixing ratio field at surface pressure. Mixing ratios determine the amount of latent heat released in an ascending air parcel. For a given temperature, the latent heat released accounts for why an air parcel lifted to, say, 500 mb is considerably warmer than it would be if lifted dry adiabatically. Thus, for a given Environmental Lapse Rate, the higher the surface dew point temperature that more warm a force lifted air parcel would be relative to the surrounding air at the same elevation. Hence, the surface dew point field is directly related to the surface based CAPE field.

By the way, the argument that many of you used that the higher the dew point the greater the chances that saturation would occur (and, hence, a rising parcel would cool wet adiabatically) can be used in the context of the above charts ONLY if the surface temperatures were everywhere the same. That is an unrealistic assumption. That argument only works when looking at one sounding for one place at one time (and increasing the surface relative humidity). See this graphic.








(b)  Describe why the fact that thunderstorms were erupting over a broad area of southern Kansas, Oklahoma and north Texas would be expected given the information depicted in both Figs. 1 and 3.  (Careful, it’s not just that CAPE is present) (15 pts)


Both figures depict large values of CAPE, both in the Fort Worth sounding, and geographically over the southern Great Plains.  But this would be not enough to expect a widespread outbreak of thunderstorms if large amounts of CIN were present in all the soundings in the area.


But, as can be seen from the Fort Worth sounding and the geographic distribution shown in Fig. 3, it is clear that the CAPE is occurring in an environment in which there is virtually no CIN.  Hence, the soundings in the area are “uncapped” (nearly absolutely unstable) and thunderstorms would be expected to occur over the area.




















Figure 1:  KFWD Sounding, 0000 UTC 4 May 1999


Figure 2: Sealevel pressure map, 2200 UTC 3 May 1999.  Boundaries are indicated as Lines 1, 2 and 3, and area of surface dew point exceeding 60oF is shaded in green.



Figure 3:  Distribution of CAPE (red) and CIN (blue), 2200 UTC 3 May 1999.