Mid-latitude or frontal cyclones are large traveling atmospheric cyclonic storms as much as 2000 kilometers in diameter with centers of short atmospheric pressure. An intense mid-latitude cyclone may have actually a surface press as low together 970 millibars, compared to an mean sea-level press of 1013 millibars. Normally, individual frontal cyclones exist for around 3 come 10 days moving in a typically west to east direction. Frontal cyclones space the dominant weather occasion of the Earth"s mid-latitudes developing along the polar front. (Figure 7s-1).


Figure 7s-1: A series of mid-latitude cyclones creating along the polar front (black line v red fifty percent circle and also blue triangle symbols). ~ above the illustration, the short pressure center of the mid-latitude cyclones is identfied through a red L. The systems located along the west and east shore of phibìc America are in the middle stage of your life. The mid-latitude cyclone east of Greenland is at the end of its life cycle. In your mature stage, mid-latitude cyclones have a heat front top top the east side the the storm"s center and also a cold front come the west. The cold former travels faster than the heat front. Close to the finish of the storm"s life the cold front catches up come the warm front causing a problem known together occlusion.

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Mid-latitude cyclones are the an outcome of the dynamic communication of warmth tropical and cold polar air masses in ~ the polar front. This interaction causes the heat air to it is in cyclonically lifted vertically right into the atmosphere where it combines with cooler upper setting air. This procedure also helps to deliver excess energy native the lower latitudes to the higher latitudes.

The mid-latitude cyclone is hardly ever motionless and commonly travels about 1200 kilometers in one day. The direction of movement is usually eastward (Figure 7s-2). Precise movement that this weather device is regulated by the orientation of the polar jet stream in the upper troposphere. An calculation of future activity of the mid-latitude cyclone deserve to be established by the winds straight behind the cold front. If the winds are 70 kilometers every hour, the cyclone can be projected to proceed its movement along the ground surface at this velocity.


Figure 7s-2: typical paths that mid-latitude cyclones are stood for by black arrows. This image additionally shows the typical paths travel by subtropical hurricanes (green arrows).

Figure 7s-3 explains the fads of wind flow, surface ar pressure, fronts, and also zones the precipitation associated with a mid-latitude cyclone in the northern Hemisphere. Roughly the low, winds blow counterclockwise and inwards (clockwise and also inward in the southerly Hemisphere). West of the low, cold air traveling from the north and also northwest create a cold prior extending from the cyclone"s facility to the southwest. Southeast of the low, northward moving heat air indigenous the subtropics produce a warm front. Precipitation is located at the facility of the low and also along the fronts wherein air is gift uplifted.

Mid-latitude cyclones can create a wide selection of precipitation types. Precipitation types include: rain, freezing rain, hail, sleet, snow pellets, and snow. Frozen develops of precipitation (except hail) are usual with storms that take place in the winter months. Hail is connected with major thunderstorms that type along or in front of cold fronts during spring and summer months.


Figure 7s-3: Fronts, winds patterns, pressure patterns, and also precipitation distribution discovered in an idealized maturation mid-latitude cyclone.

Figure 7s-4 defines a upright cross-section v a mature mid-latitude cyclone. In this cross-section, we can see exactly how air temperature alters as we move from behind the cold front to a position ahead that the warm front. Behind the surface position of the cold front, forward moving cold thick air causes the uplift of the heat lighter waiting in development of the front. Because this uplift is fairly rapid along a steep frontal gradient, the condensed water vapor easily organizes itself right into cumulus and also then cumulonimbus clouds. Cumulonimbus clouds create heavy precipitation and can build into severe thunderstorms if problems are ideal (see section 7t). Follow me the tenderness sloping heat front, the lifting that moist waiting produces very first nimbostratus clouds adhered to by altostratus and also cirrostratus. Precipitation is much less intense along this front, differing from middle to irradiate showers some distance front of the surface place of the warmth front.


Frontal cyclone advance is regarded polar jet present processes. In ~ the jet stream, localized locations of waiting outflow deserve to occur due to the fact that of top air divergence. Outflow results in the advancement of an upper air vacuum. Come compensate for the vacuum in the top atmosphere, surface air operation cyclonically upward right into the outflow come replenish shed mass. The process stops and also the mid-latitude cyclone dissipates once the upper air vacuum is fill with surface ar air.

Mid-latitude cyclones cause far less damage than tropical cyclones or hurricanes. Hurricanes involve lot greater quantities of atmospheric energy exchange. Together one goes away from the equator, the energy available to fuel a weather device decreases together the lot of solar radiation and heat declines. Mid-latitude cyclones can have winds as strong as what is linked with a weak hurricane. But, this is a rarely occurrence. Frontal cyclones have tendency to be many disruptive come human task during winter months. Winter storms can produce heavy snowfalls or freezing rain which slows down transportation, breaks powerlines, and also kills vegetation. In January 1998, a winter storm in eastern North America result in an ext than 20 human deaths, billions of dollars the damage, the loss of electric power in some locations for up to two weeks, and the damage of plenty of deciduous trees due to the fact that of the weight of ice (Figures 7s-5, 7s-6, and also 7s-7).


Figure 7s-5: GOES false shade satellite picture of the ice cream storm that January 1998. In the image, the facility of the mid-latitude cyclone is situated over the good Lakes. This mechanism pulled humidity from the Gulf that Mexico and the Atlantic ocean which to be converted into freezing rain and snow that fell from north-eastern United states to south-eastern Canada.


Figure 7s-6: The load of ice broke down many power-transmission towers leaving some locations without electricity for almost two weeks. (Source: Human Resources development Canada - ice Storm "98 Emergency: A study in Response).


Figure 7s-7: freeze rain native the 1998 ice storm additionally took its toy fee on countless trees. (Source: Human Resources advance Canada - ice Storm "98 Emergency: A research in Response).


The animation in Figure 7s-8 illustrates the life bicycle or cyclogenesis of the mid-latitude cyclone. The cyclone starts as a weak disturbance somewhere along the frontal zone (stationary front) wherein cold air from polar areas meets warm air native the south (Stage 1). The collision that these two air masses outcomes in the uplift of the warmth air into the upper atmosphere producing a cyclonic spin around a short pressure facility (Stages 2 and 3). Linked with this facility are the cold and warm fronts defined in topic 7r. Throughout the center stages of cyclogenesis, the storm intensifies and the press at the storm"s facility drops (Stages 4 and 5). The warmth air south of the low"s center and between the 2 fronts is known as the warm sector. Cold fronts usually relocate along the Earth"s surface at velocities greater than the warm front. Together a result, the so late stages of cyclogenesis occur when the cold front overtakes the heat front bring about the wait in the heat sector to it is in lifted into the upper environment (Stages 6 and also 7). The resulting boundary in between the cold and cool wait masses is called an occluded front. A work or 2 after occlusion the occluded former dissipates, winds subside, and also a stationary front forms on the surface ar of the planet again (Stages 8 come 10).

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Figure 7s-8: Mid-latitude cyclone cyclogenesis. This progression from birth to death lasts in between 3 and 10 days.

(To view this animation your web browser must have actually Apple"s QuickTime plug-in. The QuickTime plug-in is available for Macintosh and Windows operating mechanism computers and also can be downloaded cost-free from the World large Web site www.apple.com/quicktime).

Study Guide

Additional Readings

Internet Weblinks Citation: Pidwirny, M. (2006). "The Mid-Latitude Cyclone". Fundamentals of physics Geography, 2nd Edition. Day Viewed. Http://www.princetoneclub.org/fundamentals/7s.html

Created by Dr. Michael Pidwirny & Scott Jones college of british Columbia Okanagan