Unit 7

Stratification and Stability

So far we described the atmosphere by its pressure, moisture, temperature, potential temperature, and saturation and thermodynamic aspects. Now we will look at the vertical profiles of these quantities and what these profiles mean for the stability and stratification of the atmosphere in terms of vertical mixing and inversions.

Learning goal

Description of an air parcel’s vertical motion in terms of atmospheric stability and stratification. After completion of this unit, students will be able to

  • Examine the vertical structure of the atmosphere with respect to stability and stratification
  • Use of the material learned in previous units within the framework of thermodynamic charts and synoptic interpretation of the vertical profiles of the atmosphere
  • Distinguish and compare atmospheric stratification and stability

Students’ Tasks

  1. Watch this video on the material
  2. Read chapter 2.10 to (included) of Lectures in Meteorology and take notes
  3. Watch this video of a worked problem

  4. Watch this video on a FAQ

  5. Participate in the discussion channel of this unit on the discussion board
  6. Fill out the questionnaire by 2359 AST.
  7. Solve the problems assigned at your class level in the Unit 7  task sheet, scan them and submit them to cmoelders@alaska.edu prior to Thursday 2359 AST.

Supplemental Material

The slides used in the video are here.


Q: What does Γs  denote?
A: Saturated lapse rate also called moist adiabatic lapse rate of the air parcel, which varies with height and pressure. Think about why it varies as a function of pressure.

Q: Also is  Î³ the lapse rate for the environment?
A: Yes.

Q: What’s the symbol for the dry adiabatic lapse rate?
A: Γd

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