Desert Meteorology

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B2 Desert Site To fully zoom into a small area, you may need to visit the "Map" button and uncheck "Terrain" view. B2 Desert Site Low-Elevation.

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As the updraft stage continues, the formation of towering cumulus begins. Little or no precipitation occurs during this stage. The second stage of thunderstorm development is the mature stage that is characterized by both updrafts and downdrafts. Downdrafts are associated with air that is pulled downward by precipitation. Normally downdrafts will be found near the leading edge of the thunderstorm cell. The air descending from the thunderstorm will often hit the ground and be forced out ahead of the cell creating a gust front.

Meteorology and the migration of desert locusts | E-Library

The common desert term for such a phenomenon is haboob. Their average duration is less than three hours. The average maximum wind velocity is over 30 mph and dust may raise to heights exceeding feet. A "downburst" is a strong downdraft that induces an outward burst of damaging winds on or near the surface. Downbursts can be large, called a "macroburst" 2.

Therefore, "macrobursts" and "microbursts" are severe conditions of downdrafts.

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Cross section of a conceptual vortex ring model of a microburst Caracena, ; All downbursts are characterized by a circulation termed a "vortex ring", a vertically rotating circle of air. Downdrafts can be dry or wet. Dry downbursts will not necessarily show a solid perturbation from the base of the cloud to the characteristic curl. Instead, a dry downburst is generally only visible when the vertically descending winds hit the ground and pick up substantial quantities of dust.

These types of downbursts are common in Arizona and will be particularly evident during the early portion of the monsoon season when there is still little precipitation associated with thunderstorms. Wet downbursts, on the other hand, have the characteristic precipitation curl tracing out the vortex-ring circulation that surrounds the concentrated downdraft within the rain shaft. Most wet downbursts will describe a "foot shape" as the strong vertical winds carrying precipitation hit the ground and curl upwards.

In essence, a gustnado is a tornado-like vortex that appears to develop on the ground and extend several hundred feet upward. These vortices generally develop along the leading edge of an outflow boundary from a thunderstorm cell. Although generally of limited duration, the winds of gustnadoes can be strong enough to cause damage.

Gustnadoes are often mis-identified as fires.

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For example, associated with the photograph below, team members identified a gustnado occurring along an outflow boundary near the town of Guadalupe. Upon arrival in the Guadalupe area, no evidence of the feature was seen but follow-up discussion with the Guadalupe Fire Department found that the Fire Department had been called out in response to a report of "a downed airplane that caused a huge fire just south of town". They had been unable to find any fire or downed plane and were relieved when we informed them that the feature had been a gustnado.

Dust Devils. A dust devil is a vortex of dust-filled air created by extreme surface heating.


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Diameters range from 10 feet to greater than feet; their average height is between and feet but can extend to several thousand feet. They display some characteristics similar to tornadoes: both cyclonic and anticyclonic dust devils have been observed and large dust devils have been observed with accompanying "suction vortices" smaller dust devils rotating around the main vortex. Luckily, severe tornadoes are fairly rare in Arizona.

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This fog is literally harvested by plants and animals alike, including Atacama's human inhabitants who use 'fog nets' to capture it for drinking water. The landscape of the Atacama Desert is no less stark than its meteorology: a plateau covered with lava flows and salt basins. The conspicuous white area below the image centre is the Atacama Salt Flat, just to the south of the small village San Pedro de Atacama, regarded as the centre of the desert.

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The Atacama is rich in copper and nitrates — it has been the subject of border disputes between Chile and Bolivia for this reason - and so is strewn with abandoned mines. Today the European Southern Observatory ESO has located in high zones of the Atacama, astronomers treasuring the region's remoteness and dry air.

The Pan-American Highway runs north-south through the desert.

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