Atmospheric instability

A dust devil in Ramadi, Iraq.

Atmospheric instability is a condition where the Earth's atmosphere is considered to be unstable and as a result local weather is highly variable through distance and time.[clarification needed][1] Atmospheric stability is a measure of the atmosphere's tendency to discourage vertical motion, and vertical motion is directly correlated to different types of weather systems and their severity. In unstable conditions, a lifted thing, such as a parcel of air will be warmer than the surrounding air. Because it is warmer, it is less dense and is prone to further ascent.

In meteorology, instability can be described by various indices such as the Bulk Richardson Number, lifted index, K-index, convective available potential energy (CAPE), the Showalter, and the Vertical totals. These indices, as well as atmospheric instability itself, involve temperature changes through the troposphere with height, or lapse rate. Effects of atmospheric instability in moist atmospheres include thunderstorm development, which over warm oceans can lead to tropical cyclogenesis, and turbulence. In dry atmospheres, inferior mirages, dust devils, steam devils, and fire whirls can form. Stable atmospheres can be associated with drizzle, fog, increased air pollution, a lack of turbulence, and undular bore formation.

  1. ^ Stability of Air Archived February 9, 2008, at the Wayback Machine

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