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UNIT 10—LESSON 2

CLOUD INTERPRETATION

OVERVIEW Identify cloud patterns seen in satellite imagery.

OUTLINE

Mesoscale cloud patterns

Cloud types

CLOUD INTERPRETATION

Since man was first confronted with chang-ing weather, he looked to the skies to foretell future changes. Clouds were one of the first signs used. Clouds were eventually classified according to genera, species, and varieties to help us better understand weather patterns. Over the last 20 years, weather satellites have looked earthward providing us with a different perspective of these features. Meteorologists have studied satellite imagery to interpret cloud types and patterns as viewed from space. The following text will discuss their findings on mesoscale cloud patterns, cloud types, subsynoptic- and synoptic-scale cloud features, and Earth’s surface features as viewed in satellite imagery.

MESOSCALE CLOUD PATTERNS

Mesoscale cloud patterns and types have a horizontal extent of approximately 1 to 100 kilometers.

Learning Objective: Identify and differ-entiate between the cloud patterns and types of clouds seen in satellite imagery.

Cloud Elements

Cloud elements are the smallest distinguishable units in a cloud mass or pattern as seen in imagery.

Cloud Streets 

A cloud street is a series of aligned individual "elements" that are not interconnected. Cloud streets may be curved or straight and are usually equidistantly spaced. Figure 10-2-1 shows cloud streets and the cloud elements that compose them.

Cloud Lines

A cloud line is much like a cloud street except the elements are connected and have a general width of less than 1 degree of latitude. Cloud lines are most predominant over tropical oceans, but are observed at all latitudes. They provide a good indication of the surface and low-level wind direc-tions over an area, since they normally parallel these winds. Where cloud lines run parallel to each other over long distances, constant wind directions exist in the lower atmosphere. Figure 10-2-2 shows cloud lines formed in maritime tropical air advected into the south central United States.

Cloud Bands

A cloud band is a formation of clouds with a distinct long axis where the ratio of length to width is at least 4 to 1. Cloud bands may or may not be associated with fronts.

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