Weather Terminology


ABSOLUTE HUMIDITY
A type of humidity that considers the mass of water vapor present per unit volume of space. Also considered as the density of the water vapor. It is usually expressed in grams per cubic meter.

ACCESSORY CLOUD
A cloud which is dependent on a larger cloud system for development and continuance. Roll clouds, shelf clouds, and wall clouds are examples of accessory clouds.

ADVECTION
(Abbrev. ADVCTN)- Transport of an atmospheric property by the wind.

AIR MASS THUNDERSTORM
Generally, a thunderstorm not associated with a front or other type of synoptic-scale forcing mechanism. Air mass thunderstorms typically are associated with warm, humid air in the summer months; they develop during the afternoon in response to insolation, and dissipate rather quickly after sunset. They generally are less likely to be severe than other types of thunderstorms, but they still are capable of producing downbursts, brief heavy rain, and (in extreme cases) hail over 3/4 inch in diameter.

Since all thunderstorms are associated with some type of forcing mechanism, synoptic-scale or otherwise, the existence of true air-mass thunderstorms is debatable.

ANVIL
The flat, spreading top of a cumulonimbus cloud, often shaped like an anvil. Thunderstorm anvils may spread hundreds of miles downwind from the thunderstorm itself, and sometimes may spread upwind.

APPARENT TEMPERATURES
Wind chill, Heat Index, and the Temperature/Humidity/Sun/Wind (THSW) Index. Apparent temperatures use additional weather data to calculate what a human body perceives the temperature to be in those conditions.

AVN
Aviation.

BAROMETRIC PRESSURE
The weight of the air that makes up our atmosphere exerts a pressure on the surface of the earth. This pressure is known as atmospheric pressure. Generally, the more air above an area, the higher the atmospheric pressure, this, in turn, means that atmospheric pressure changes with altitude. For example, atmospheric pressure is greater at sea-level than on a mountaintop. To compensate for this difference and facilitate comparison between locations with different altitudes, atmospheric pressure is generally adjusted to the equivalent sea-level pressure. This adjusted pressure is known as barometric pressure.

Barometric pressure also changes with local weather conditions, making barometric pressure an extremely important and useful weather forecasting tool. High pressure zones are generally associated with fair weather while low pressure zones are generally associated with poor weather. For forecasting purposes, however, the absolute barometric pressure value is generally less important than the change in barometric pressure. In general, rising pressure indicates improving weather conditions while falling pressure indicates deteriorating weather conditions.

BLOWING SNOW
Snow that is raised by the wind to heights of six feet or greater. It is reported as "BLSN" in an observation and on the METAR.

CAPE
Convective Available Potential Energy. A measure of the amount of energy available for convection. CAPE is directly related to the maximum potential vertical speed within an updraft; thus, higher values indicate greater potential for severe weather. Observed values in thunderstorm environments often may exceed 1000 joules per kilogram (J/kg), and in extreme cases may exceed 5000 J/kg.

However, as with other indices or indicators, there are no threshold values above which severe weather becomes imminent. CAPE is represented on an upper air sounding by the area enclosed between the environmental temperature profile and the path of a rising air parcel, over the layer within which the latter is warmer than the former. (This area often is called positive area.) See also CIN.

CEILING
The lowest cloud layer that is reported as broken or overcast. If the sky is totally obscured, then it is the height of the vertical visibility. Related terms: measured ceiling and variable ceiling.

CIN
Convective Inhibition. A measure of the amount of energy needed in order to initiate convection. Values of CIN typically reflect the strength of the cap. They are obtained on a sounding by computing the area enclosed between the environmental temperature profile and the path of a rising air parcel, over the layer within which the latter is cooler than the former. (This area sometimes is called negative area.) See CAPE.

COLD FRONT
The leading edge of an advancing cold air mass that is under running and displacing the warmer air in its path. Generally, with the passage of a cold front, the temperature and humidity decrease, the pressure rises, and the wind shifts (usually from the southwest to the northwest in the Northern Hemisphere). Precipitation is generally at and/or behind the front, and with a fast-moving system, a squall line may develop ahead of the front. Related terms: occluded front and warm front.

CONDENSATION FUNNEL
A funnel-shaped cloud associated with rotation and consisting of condensed water droplets (as opposed to smoke, dust, debris, etc.).

CONUS
Continental United States.

CONVECTION
In meteorology, the term is used specifically to describe vertical transport of heat and moisture in the atmosphere, especially by updrafts and downdrafts in an unstable atmosphere. The terms "convection" and "thunderstorms" often are used interchangeably, although thunderstorms are only one form of convection. Cbs, towering cumulus clouds, and ACCAS clouds all are visible forms of convection. However, convection is not always made visible by clouds. Convection which occurs without cloud formation is called dry convection, while the visible convection processes referred to above are forms of moist convection.

CWA
County Warning Area.

CWFA
County Warning and Forecast Area.

DEEPENING
Used in describing the history of a low pressure system or an area of cyclonic circulation, it means a decrease in the central pressure of the system. Although it usually describes the action of a pressure system on a constant pressure chart, it also means a surface low is increasing in cyclonic circulation and acquiring more energy. The opposite of filling.

DEPRESSION
In meteorology, it is another name for an area of low pressure, a low, or trough. It also applies to a stage of tropical cyclone development and is known as a tropical depression to distinguish it from other synoptic features.

DEW POINT
Dew point is the temperature to which air must be cooled for saturation (100 relative humidity) to occur, providing there is no change in water vapor content. The dew point is an important measurement used to predict the formation of dew, frost, and fog. If dew point and temperature are close together in the late afternoon when the air begins to turn colder, fog is likely during the night. Dew point is also a good indicator of the air's actual water vapor content, unlike relative humidity, which takes the air's temperature into account. High dew point indicates high water vapor content; low dew point indicates low water vapor content. In addition a high dew point indicates a better chance of rain and severe thunderstorms. You can also use dew point to predict the minimum overnight temperature. Provided no new fronts are expected overnight and the afternoon Relative Humidity ? 50%.,, the afternoon's dew point gives you an idea of what minimum temperature to expect overnight, since the air cannot get colder than the dew point anytime.

DRY BULB THERMOMETER
A thermometer used to measure the ambient temperature. The temperature recorded is considered identical to air temperature. One of the two thermometers that make up a psychrometer.

DRY LINE
The boundary between the dry desert air mass of the Southwest U.S. and the moist air mass from the Gulf of Mexico. It usually lies north-south across the central and southern High Plains states during spring and summer. The passage of a dry line results in a sharp decrease in humidity, clearing skies, and a wind shift from southeasterly or south to southwesterly or west. Its presence influences severe weather development in the Great Plains.

ET
Evapotranspiration (ET) is a measurement of the amount of water vapor returned to the air in a given area. It combines the amount of water vapor returned through evaporation (from wet vegetation surfaces and the stoma of leaves) with the amount of water vapor returned through transpiration (exhaling of moisture through plant skin) to arrive at a total. Effectively, ET is the opposite of rainfall, and it is expressed in the same units of measure (Inches, millimeters).

FREEZING DRIZZLE
Drizzle, falling as a liquid, but freezing on impact with the colder ground or other exposed surfaces. It is reported as "FZDZ" in an observation and on the METAR.

FREEZING FOG
Freezing fog occurs when the water droplets that the fog is composed of are "supercooled." Supercooled water droplets remain in the liquid state until they come into contact with a surface upon which they can freeze. As a result, any object the freezing fog comes into contact with will become coated with ice. The same thing happens with freezing rain or drizzle. It is reported as "FZFG" in an observation and on the METAR.

FRONTAL PASSAGE
It is the passage of a front over a specific point on the surface. It is reflected by the change in dew point and temperature, the shift in wind direction, and the change in atmospheric pressure. Accompanying a passage may be precipitation and clouds. May be referred to as "fropa."

FROPA
Frontal Passage.

FUNNEL CLOUD
A condensation funnel extending from the base of a towering cumulus or Cb, associated with a rotating column of air that is not in contact with the ground (and hence different from a tornado). A condensation funnel is a tornado, not a funnel cloud, if either a) it is in contact with the ground or b) a debris cloud or dust whirl is visible beneath it. It is reported as "FC" in an observation and on the METAR.

GFS
Global Forecast System model; one of the operational forecast models run at NCEP with forecast output out to 240 hours (10 days).

GRADIENT HIGH WINDS
These high winds usually cover a large area and are due to synoptic-scale, extra-tropical low pressure systems.

GROUND CLUTTER
A pattern of radar echoes reflecting off fixed ground targets such as buildings or hills near the radar. This may hide or confuse the proper return echo signifying actual precipitation.

GUST
A sudden significant increase in or rapid fluctuations of wind speed. Peak wind must reach at least 16 knots (18 miles per hour) and the variation between peaks and lulls is at least 10 knots (11.5 miles per hour). The duration is usually less twenty seconds.

HEAT INDEX
The Heat Index uses temperature and the relative humidity to determine how hot the air actually feels. When humidity is low, the apparent temperature will be lower than the air temperature, since perspiration evaporates rapidly to cool the body. However, when humidity is high (i.e., the air is more saturated with water vapor) the apparent temperature "feels" higher than the actual air temperature, because perspiration evaporates more slowly.

HEAT LIGHTNING
Lightning that appears as a glowing flash on the horizon. It is actually lightning occurring in distant thunderstorms, just over the horizon and too far away for thunder to be heard.

HIGH PRESSURE SYSTEM
An area of relative pressure maximum that has diverging winds and a rotation opposite to the earth's rotation. This is clockwise the in Northern Hemisphere and counterclockwise in the Southern Hemisphere. It is the opposite of an area of low pressure or a cyclone. Related term: anticyclone

HOOK ECHO
A radar reflectivity pattern characterized by a hook-shaped extension of a thunderstorm echo, usually in the right-rear part of the storm (relative to its direction of motion). A hook often is associated with a mesocyclone, and indicates favorable conditions for tornado development.

HP STORM (or HP Supercell)
High-Precipitation storm (or High-Precipitation supercell). A supercell thunderstorm in which heavy precipitation (often including hail) falls on the trailing side of the mesocyclone.

Precipitation often totally envelops the region of rotation, making visual identification of any embedded tornadoes difficult and very dangerous. Unlike most classic supercells, the region of rotation in many HP storms develops in the front-flank region of the storm (i.e., usually in the eastern portion). HP storms often produce extreme and prolonged downburst events, serious flash flooding, and very large damaging hail events.

HUMIDITY
Humidity itself simply refers to the amount of water vapor in the air. However, the amount of water vapor that the air can contain varies with air temperature and pressure. Relative humidity takes into account these factors and offers a humidity reading which reflects the amount of water vapor in the air as a percentage of the amount the air is capable of holding. Relative humidity, therefore, is not actually a measure of the amount of water vapor in the air, but a ratio of the air's water vapor content to its capacity. When we use the term humidity on the screen, we mean relative humidity.

It is important to realize that relative humidity changes with temperature, pressure, and water vapor content. A parcel of air with a capacity for 10 g of water vapor which contains 4 g of water vapor, the relative humidity would be 40%. Adding 2 g more water vapor (for a total of 6 g) would change the humidity to 60%. If that same parcel of air is then warmed so that it has a capacity for 20 g of water vapor, the relative humidity drops to 30% even though water vapor content does not change. Relative humidity is an important factor in determining the amount of evaporation from plants and wet surfaces since warm air with low humidity has a large capacity to absorb extra water vapor.

INCHES OF MERCURY (inHg)
The name comes from the use of mercurial barometers which equate the height of a column of mercury with air pressure. One inch of mercury is equivalent to 33.86 millibars or 25.40 millimeters. First devised in 1644 by Evangelista Torricelli (1608-1647), an Italian physicist and mathematician, to explain the fundamental principles of hydromechanics. Related term: barometric pressure.

INSOLATION
Incoming solar radiation. Solar heating; sunshine.

INSTABILITY
The state of equilibrium in which a parcel of air when displaced has a tendency to move further away from its original position. It is the condition of the atmosphere when spontaneous convection and severe weather can occur. Air parcels, when displaced vertically, will accelerate upward, often forming cumulus clouds and possibly thunderstorms. Related terms: absolute instability, unstable and stability.

INVERSION
Generally, a departure from the usual increase or decrease in an atmospheric property with altitude. Specifically it almost always refers to a temperature inversion, i.e., an increase in temperature with height, or to the layer within which such an increase occurs. An inversion is present in the lower part of a cap.

IMPULSE
(abbrev. IMPL) Alternate term for Upper Level System and Shortwave; a general term for any large-scale or mesoscale disturbance capable of producing upward motion (lift) in the middle or upper parts of the atmosphere.

ISOBAR
A line connecting points of equal pressure.

ISOHYET
A line connecting points of equal precipitation amounts.

ISOTACH
A line connecting points of equal wind speed.

ISOTHERM
A line connecting points of equal temperature.

JET STREAM
An area of strong winds that are concentrated in a relatively narrow band in the upper troposphere of the middle latitudes and subtropical regions of the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. Flowing in a semi-continuous band around the globe from west to east, it is caused by the changes in air temperature where the cold polar air moving towards the equator meets the warmer equatorial air moving polarward. It is marked by a concentration of isotherms and strong vertical shear. Related terms: arctic jet, low level jet, polar jet, and subtropical jet.

LAKE EFFECT SNOW
Snow showers that are created when cold dry air passes over a large warmer lake, such as one of the Great Lakes, and picks up moisture and heat.

LANDSPOUT
[Slang], a tornado that does not arise from organized storm-scale rotation and therefore is not associated with a wall cloud (visually) or a mesocyclone (on radar). Landspouts typically are observed beneath Cbs or towering cumulus clouds (often as no more than a dust whirl), and essentially are the land-based equivalents of waterspouts.

LOW LEVEL JET (LLJ)
Strong winds that are concentrated in relatively narrow bands in the lower part of the atmosphere. It is often amplified at night. The southerly wind over the US Plains states during spring and summer is a notable example. Related term: jet stream.

LOW PRESSURE SYSTEM
An area of a relative pressure minimum that has converging winds and rotates in the same direction as the earth. This is counterclockwise in the Northern Hemisphere and clockwise in the Southern Hemisphere. Also known as an cyclone, it is the opposite of an area of high pressure, or a anticyclone. Related terms: closed low, cold low, and cut-off low.

MACROBURST
A large downburst with an outflow diameter of 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) or larger and damaging winds.

MAV
AVN MOS Guidance.

MB
Millibar (a unit of atmospheric pressure; 1 millibar = 0.02953 inches of mercury).

MCC
Mesoscale Convective Complex. A large MCS, generally round or oval-shaped, which normally reaches peak intensity at night. The formal definition includes specific minimum criteria for size, duration, and eccentricity (i.e., "roundness"), based on the cloud shield as seen on infrared satellite photographs:
  • Size: Area of cloud top -32 degrees C or less: 100,000 square kilometers or more (slightly smaller than the state of Ohio), and area of cloud top -52 degrees C or less: 50,000 square kilometers or more.
  • Duration: Size criteria must be met for at least 6 hours.
  • Eccentricity: Minor/major axis at least 0.7.
MCCs typically form during the afternoon and evening in the form of several isolated thunderstorms, during which time the potential for severe weather is greatest. During peak intensity, the primary threat shifts toward heavy rain and flooding.

MCS
Mesoscale Convective System. A complex of thunderstorms which becomes organized on a scale larger than the individual thunderstorms, and normally persists for several hours or more. MCSs may be round or linear in shape, and include systems such as tropical cyclones, squall lines, and MCCs (among others). MCS often is used to describe a cluster of thunderstorms that does not satisfy the size, shape, or duration criteria of an MCC.

MESOCYCLONE
(abbrev. MESO)- A storm-scale region of rotation, typically around 2-6 miles in diameter and often found in the right rear flank of a supercell (or often on the eastern, or front, flank of an HP storm). The circulation of a mesocyclone covers an area much larger than the tornado that may develop within it. Properly used, mesocyclone is a radar term; it is defined as a rotation signature appearing on Doppler radar that meets specific criteria for magnitude, vertical depth, and duration. It will appear as a yellow solid circle on the Doppler velocity products. Therefore, a mesocyclone should not be considered a visually-observable phenomenon (although visual evidence of rotation, such as curved inflow bands, may imply the presence of a mesocyclone).

METAR
Acronym for METeorological Aerodrome Report. It is the primary observation code used in the United States to satisfy requirements for reporting surface meteorological data. Minimum reporting requirements includes wind, visibility, runway visual range, present weather, sky condition, temperature, dew point, and altimeter setting.

MICROBURST
A severe localized wind blasting down from a thunderstorm. It covers an area less than 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) in diameter and is of short duration, usually less than 5 minutes. Related term: downburst.

MLCAPE
Mean Layer CAPE - CAPE calculated using a parcel consisting of Mean Layer values of temperature and moisture from the lowest 100 mb above ground level. See Convective Available Potential Energy (CAPE).

MOS
Model Output Statistics.

NAM
North American Mesoscale model. Previously known as the Eta model, it was renamed on 1/25/05. On 6/20/06, the NAM was converted from using Eta physics to WRF (Weather Research Forecast) model physics.

NOR'EASTER
A northerly traveling cyclonic storm occurring off the east coast, of North America. These winter weather events are notorious for producing heavy snow, rain, and tremendous waves that crash onto Atlantic beaches, often causing beach erosion and structural damage. Wind gusts associated with these storms can exceed hurricane force in intensity. A nor'easter gets its name from the continuously strong northeasterly winds blowing in from the ocean ahead of the storm and over the coastal areas.

OCCLUDED FRONT
Also known as an occlusion, it is a complex front formed when a cold front overtakes a warm front. It develops when three thermally different air masses conflict. The type of frontal boundary they create depends on the manner in which they meet. Related terms: cold front and warm front.

OUTFLOW
Also referred to as an outflow boundary, it is the outward flow of air from a system, such as a thunderstorm. It is the result of cold downdrafts and its passage includes a wind shift and temperature drop. Related terms: bubble high and meso high.

POLAR AIR MASS
An air mass that forms over a high latitude region. Continental polar air (cP) is formed over cold surface regions and is typically very stable with low moisture. Maritime polar air (mP), produced over warmer waters, is less stable with high moisture.

POLAR FRONT
A semi-continuous, semi-permanent boundary between polar air masses and tropical air masses. An integral part of an early meteorological theory known as the Polar Front Theory.

POLAR JET
Marked by a concentration of isotherms and strong vertical shear, this jet is the boundary between the polar air and the subtropical air. It often divides into two branches, the north and the south, and marks the high speed core of the prevailing westerlies. It is associated with the location and motion of the high and low pressure areas of the middle latitudes, and therefore, is variable in position, elevation, and wind speed. Its position tends to migrate south in the Northern Hemispheric winter and north in the summer, and its core winds increase during the winter and become less strong in the summer.

RAIN FREE BASE
A dark, horizontal cloud base with no visible precipitation beneath it. It typically marks the location of the thunderstorm updraft. Tornadoes may develop from wall clouds attached to the rain-free base, or from the rain-free base itself - especially when the rain-free base is on the south or southwest side of the main precipitation area. Note that the rain-free base may not actually be rain free; hail or large rain drops may be falling. For this reason, updraft base is more accurate.

RIDGE
An elongated area of high atmospheric pressure that is associated with an area of maximum anticyclonic circulation. The opposite of a trough.

ROLL CLOUD
A low, horizontal tube-shaped arcus cloud associated with a thunderstorm gust front (or sometimes with a cold front). Roll clouds are relatively rare; they are completely detached from the thunderstorm base or other cloud features, thus differentiating them from the more familiar shelf clouds. Roll clouds usually appear to be "rolling" about a horizontal axis, but should not be confused with funnel clouds.

RUC
Rapid Update Cycle. RUC model is a short term model. The standard RUC model is based on the NAM data system and is updated every hour for periods up to 12 hours. It basically reiterates a new forecast based on the current conditions, taking into account what was predicted and what's actually happening. It uses its own physics, different than the NAM. Other versions extending 24 hours and longer are being developed. I find the RUC not very useful, except for predicting mixed precipitation and changeover of snow to sleet.

SHEAR
It is the rate of change over a short duration. In wind shear, it can refer to the frequent change in wind speed within a short distance. It can occur vertically or horizontally. Directional shear is a frequent change in direction within a short distance, which can also occur vertically or horizontally. When used in reference to Doppler radar, it describes the change in radial velocity over short distances horizontally.

SHEAR LINE
A line of maximum horizontal wind shear. A narrow zone across which there is an abrupt change in the horizontal wind component parallel to it.

SHELF CLOUD
A low, horizontal wedge-shaped arcus cloud, associated with a thunderstorm gust front (or occasionally with a cold front, even in the absence of thunderstorms). Unlike the roll cloud, the shelf cloud is attached to the base of the parent cloud above it (usually a thunderstorm). Rising cloud motion often can be seen in the leading (outer) part of the shelf cloud, while the underside often appears turbulent, boiling, and wind-torn.

SOUNDING
A set of data measuring the vertical structure of an atmospheric parameter (temperature, humidity, pressure, winds, etc.) at a given time. SNOW SQUALL
Snow squalls are intense, but limited duration, periods of moderate to heavy snowfall, accompanied by strong, gusty surface winds and possibly lightning (generally moderate to heavy snow showers). Snow accumulation may be significant.

SOLAR RADIATION
What we call "current solar radiation" is technically known as Global Solar Radiation, a measure of the intensity of the sun's radiation reaching a horizontal surface. This irradiance includes both the direct component from the sun and the reflected component from the rest of the sky. The solar radiation reading gives a measure of the amount of solar radiation hitting the solar radiation sensor at any given time, expressed in Watts /sq. meter (W/m2).

SQUALL LINE
A solid or broken line of thunderstorms or squalls. The line may extend across several hundred miles.

STABLE/STABILITY
Occurs when a rising air parcel becomes denser than the surrounding air. It will then return to its original position. When the density of the air parcel remains the same as the surrounding air after being lifted, it is also considered stable, since it does not have the tendency to rise or sink further. Contrast with unstable air and instability.

STATIONARY FRONT
A front which is nearly stationary or moves very little since the last synoptic position. May be known as a quasi-stationary front.

STRAIGHT-LINE WINDS
Any surface wind that is not associated with rotation. An example is the first gust from a thunderstorm, as opposed to tornadic winds.

SUPERCOOLED
The reduction of the temperature of any liquid below the melting point of that substance's solid phase. Cooling a substance beyond its nominal freezing point. Supercooled water is water that remains in a liquid state when it is at a temperature that is well below freezing. The smaller and purer the water droplets, the more likely they can become supercooled.

TAIL CLOUD
A horizontal, tail-shaped cloud (not a funnel cloud) at low levels extending from the precipitation cascade region of a supercell toward the wall cloud (i.e., it usually is observed extending from the wall cloud toward the north or northeast). The base of the tail cloud is about the same as that of the wall cloud. Cloud motion in the tail cloud is away from the precipitation and toward the wall cloud, with rapid upward motion often observed near the junction of the tail and wall clouds. Compare with beaver tail, which is a form of inflow band that normally attaches to the storm's main updraft (not to the wall cloud) and has a base at about the same level as the updraft base (not the wall cloud).

TRAINING
Repeated areas of rain, typically associated with thunderstorms, that move over the same region in a relatively short period of time and are capable of producing excessive rainfall totals. Train(ing) echoes can frequently be a source of flash flooding.

TEMPERATURE/HUMIDITY/SUN/WIND (THSW) Index
The THSW Index uses humidity and temperature like the Heat Index, but also includes the heating effects of sunshine and the cooling effects of wind (like Wind chill) to calculate an apparent temperature of what it feels like out in the sun.

TORNADO
A violently rotating column of air, usually pendant to a cumulonimbus, with circulation reaching the ground. It nearly always starts as a funnel cloud and may be accompanied by a loud roaring noise. On a local scale, it is the most destructive of all atmospheric phenomena.

The last confirmed Tornado to hit Carroll County, TN was on 10 March 2017, Clarksburg, TN (EF0) and the last known tornado to hit Bruceton, TN - the home of this weather station - head on was on 21 March 1952 (EF3) between 22:45?23:17.

TORNADO EMERGENCY
An exceedingly rare tornado warning issued when there is a severe threat to human life and catastrophic damage from an imminent or ongoing tornado. This tornado warning is reserved for situations when a reliable source confirms a tornado, or there is clear radar evidence of the existence of a damaging tornado, such as the observation of debris.

The last known TORNADO EMERGENCY issued by the Memphis CWA was on 05 February 2008 and issued for the counties of Carroll, Crockett, Gibson, Haywood, Henderson, Henry, and Madison affecting the following cities: Jackson, Bargerton, Atwood, Middle Fork, Trezevant, McLemoresville, Wildersville, Clarksburg, Huntingdon, Buena Vista, Hollow Rock, Vale, Bruceton, Springvillefor an EF4 tornado. This event was part of the "2008 Super Tuesday tornado outbreak" in which eighty-seven (87) tornadoes occurred over the course of the outbreak, and lasted over 15 hours from the afternoon of February 5 until the early morning of February 6, 2008. The storm system produced several destructive tornadoes into the heavily populated areas, most notably in the Memphis metropolitan area, in Jackson, TN, running through the SW to NE of Carroll County and ending in Henry County, TN. Additionally the northeastern end of the Nashville metropolitan area was hard hit.
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TROUGH
An elongated area of low atmospheric pressure that is associated with an area of minimum cyclonic circulation. The opposite of a ridge.

UPDRAFT
A small-scale current of rising air. If the air is sufficiently moist, then the moisture condenses to become a cumulus cloud or an individual tower of a towering cumulus or Cb.

UPPER LEVEL
In weather observing, the term applies to the portion of the atmosphere that is above the lower troposphere, generally 850 hPa and above.

UPPER LEVEL DISTURBANCE
A disturbance in the upper atmospheric flow pattern which is usually associated with clouds and precipitation. This disturbance is characterized by distinct cyclonic flow, a pocket of cold air, and sometimes a jet streak. These features make the air aloft more unstable and conducive to clouds and precipitation.

UPPER LEVEL SYSTEM
A general term for any large-scale or mesoscale disturbance capable of producing upward motion (lift) in the middle or upper parts of the atmosphere. This term sometimes is used interchangeably with impulse or shortwave.

UNSTABLE AIR
Air that is able to rise easily, and has the potential to produce clouds, rain, and thunderstorms.

UPPER AIR/UPPER LEVEL
The portion of the atmosphere which is above the lower troposphere. It is generally applied to the levels above 850 millibars. Therefore, upper level lows and highs, troughs, winds, observations, and charts all apply to atmospheric phenomena above the surface.

UV (Ultra Violet) RADIATION
Energy from the sun reaches the earth as visible, infrared, and ultraviolet (UV) rays. Exposure to UV rays can cause numerous health problems, such as sunburn, skin cancer, skin aging, and cataracts, and can suppress the immune system.

Vertical Velocity
The component of velocity (motion) in the vertical. The evaluation of areas of upward vertical velocity is key to forecasting areas of active weather.

Vertical Wind Shear
The change in the wind's direction and speed with height. This is a critical factor in determining whether severe thunderstorms will develop.

Vertically Stacked System
A low-pressure system, usually a closed low or cutoff low, which is not tilted with height, i.e., located similarly at all levels of the atmosphere. Such systems typically are weakening and are slow-moving, and are less likely to produce severe weather than tilted systems. However, cold pools aloft associated with vertically-stacked systems may enhance instability enough to produce severe weather.

VIRGA
Streaks or wisps of precipitation falling from a cloud but evaporating before reaching the ground. In certain cases, shafts of virga may precede a microburst.

WARM ADVECTION
Transport of warm air into an area by horizontal winds. Low-level warm advection sometimes is referred to (erroneously) as overrunning. Although the two terms are not properly interchangeable, both imply the presence of lifting in low levels.

WARM CORE LOW
A low pressure area which is warmer at its center than at its periphery. Tropical cyclones exhibit this temperature pattern. Unlike cold core lows, these lows produce much of their cloud cover and precipitation during the nighttime.

WARM FRONT
A transition zone between a mass of warm air and the colder air it is replacing.

WARM OCCLUSION
A frontal zone formed when a cold front overtakes a warm front and, finding colder air ahead of the warm front, leaves the ground and rises up and over this denser air. Compare with cold occlusion.

WARM SECTOR
A region of warm surface air between a cold front and a warm front.

WALL CLOUD
A localized, persistent, often abrupt lowering from a rain-free base. Wall clouds can range from a fraction of a mile up to nearly five miles in diameter, and normally are found on the south or southwest (inflow) side of the thunderstorm. When seen from within several miles, many wall clouds exhibit rapid upward motion and cyclonic rotation.

However, not all wall clouds rotate. Rotating wall clouds usually develop before strong or violent tornadoes, by anywhere from a few minutes up to nearly an hour. Wall clouds should be monitored visually for signs of persistent, sustained rotation and/or rapid vertical motion.

"Wall cloud" also is used occasionally in tropical meteorology to describe the inner cloud wall surrounding the eye of a tropical cyclone, but the proper term for this feature is "eyewall."

WATER SPOUT
In general, a tornado occurring over water. Specifically, it normally refers to a small, relatively weak rotating column of air over water beneath a Cb or towering cumulus cloud. Waterspouts are most common over tropical or subtropical waters.

The exact definition of waterspout is debatable. In most cases the term is reserved for small vortices over water that are not associated with storm-scale rotation (i.e., they are the water-based equivalent of landspouts). But there is sufficient justification for calling virtually any rotating column of air a waterspout if it is in contact with a water surface.

WEDGE
Primarily refers to an elongated area of shallow high pressure at the earth's surface. It is generally associated with cold air east of the Rockies or Appalachians. It is another name for a ridge, ridge line, or ridge axis. Contrast with a trough. Wedge is also a slang term for a large, wide tornado with a wedge-like shape.

WEDGE TORNADO
Slang for a large tornado with a condensation funnel that is at least as wide (horizontally) at the ground as it is tall (vertically) from the ground to cloud base. The term "wedge" often is used somewhat loosely to describe any large tornado. However, not every large tornado is a wedge. A true wedge tornado, with a funnel at least as wide at the ground as it is tall, is very rare.

Wedges often appear with violent tornadoes (F4 or F5 on the Fujita Scale), but many documented wedges have been rated lower. And some violent tornadoes may not appear as wedges (e.g., Xenia, OH on 3 April 1974, which was rated F5 but appeared only as a series of suction vortices without a central condensation funnel). Whether or not a tornado achieves "wedge" status depends on several factors other than intensity - in particular, the height of the environmental cloud base and the availability of moisture below cloud base. Therefore, spotters should not estimate wind speeds or F-scale ratings based on visual appearance alone. However, it generally is safe to assume that most (if not all) wedges have the potential to produce strong (F2/F3) or violent (F4/F5) damage.

WET-BULB TEMPERATURE
The lowest temperature that can be obtained by evaporting water into the air.

WIND CHILL
Wind Chill takes into account how the speed of the wind affects our perception of the air temperature. Our bodies warm the surrounding air molecules by transferring heat from the skin. If there is no air movement, this insulating layer of warm air molecules stays next to the body and offers some protection from cooler air molecules. However, wind sweeps that comfy warm air surrounding the body away. The faster the wind blows, the faster heat is carried away and the colder you feel.

WIND SHEAR
The rate at which wind velocity changes from point to point in a given direction (as, vertically). The shear can be speed shear (where speed changes between the two points, but not direction), direction shear (where direction changes between the two points, but not speed) or a combination of the two.

WIND SHEAR PROFILE
The change in wind speed and/or direction usually in the vertical. The characteristics of the wind shear profile are of critical importance in determining the potential for and type of severe weather.


Interesting Weather Facts
BAROMETRIC PRESSURE
The air that makes up our atmosphere exerts a pressure on the surface of the earth. This pressure is known as atmospheric pressure. Generally, the more air above an area, the higher the atmospheric pressure. Barometric pressure changes with local weather conditions, making barometric pressure an important and useful weather forecasting tool. High pressure zones are generally associated with fair weather, while low pressure zones are generally associated with poor weather. For forecasting purposes, the absolute barometric pressure value is generally less important than the change in barometric pressure. In general, rising pressure indicates improving weather conditions, while falling pressure indicates deteriorating weather conditions.