Midlatitude Synoptic Meteorology

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Midlatitude Synoptic Meteorology

Dynamics, Analysis, and Forecasting
Gary Lackmann
Copyright: 2011
ISBN: 9781878220103
List Price: $100.00
Member Price: $75.00
Student Price: $65.00

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Title information

Pages: 360
Language: English
Publisher: American Meteorlogical Society
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The past decade has been characterized by remarkable advances in meteorological observation, computing techniques, and data-visualization technology. Midlatitude Synoptic Meteorology links theoretical concepts to modern technology and facilitates the meaningful application of concepts, theories, and techniques using real data.The past decade has been characterized by remarkable advances in meteorological observation, computing techniques, and data-visualization technology. Midlatitude Synoptic Meteorology links theoretical concepts to modern technology and facilitates the meaningful application of concepts, theories, and techniques using real data. As such, it both serves those planning careers in meteorological research and weather prediction and provides a template for the application of modern technology in the classroom. Topics covered in depth include extratropical cyclones and fronts, topographically trapped flows, weather forecasting, and numerical weather prediction.

Instructors, request examination copies from the University of Chicago Press

See Updates and Corrections to the first printing.

See Updates and Corrections to the second printing.

See Updates and Corrections to the third printing.

Also see Midlatitude Synoptic Meteorology Teaching CD


Table of Contents

Chapter 1. Introduction, Background, and Basics

Chapter 2. Quasigeostrophic Theory

Chapter 3. Isentropic Analysis

Chapter 4. The Potential Voriticty Framework

Chapter 5. Extratropical Cyclones

Chapter 6. Fronts

Chapter 7. Baroclinic Instability

Chapter 8. Cold-Air Damming

Chapter 9. Winter Storms

Chapter 10. Numerical Weather Prediction

Chapter 11. Weather Forecasting

Chapter 12. Manual Analysis

Gary Lackmann

Gary Lackmann is a professor of atmospheric sciences in the Department of Marine, Earth, and Atmospheric Sciences at North Carolina State University. Previously, Dr. Lackmann served as a faculty member at SUNY College at Brockport, a postdoctoral scholar at McGill University in Montreal, and a research meteorologist with the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California. He was a student at the University of Washington and at the University at Albany. Dr. Lackmann has worked at NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Lab in Seattle, and has undertaken extensive collaborations with the National Weather Service. He won an award for collaborative applied research with NOAA (2003), and received the LeRoy and Elva Martin Award for Teaching Excellence at North Carolina State University (2004).

Review of Midlatitude Synoptic Meteorology


The art and science of weather forecasting has changed considerably over the past few decades. The most obvious change is the advent of accurate numerical weather prediction. Given a comprehensive three-dimensional analysis, an operational forecast model will consistently outperform a human at lead times ranging from ten hours to seven days. The role of the human forecaster is to add value to the forecast, to ensure (for the sake of his or her own professional longevity) that the combined forecast information from the computer and the human is clearly more useful than the information from the computer alone.

Another recent change is the use of potential vorticity concepts in weather forecasting. We must wait for a bored sociologist to tell us whether the underlying reasons are similar, but the comparative speed of implementation of potential vorticity concepts on the east side of the Atlantic Ocean compared to the west side parallels the uneven acceptance and implementation of Bergen School analysis and forecasting concepts in the 1920s and 1930s.

The first textbook to effectively incorporate these changes is Gary Lackmann's Midlatitude Synoptic Meteorology: Dynamics, Analysis, and Forecasting. (The cover and title page disagree about the second comma in the title and whether the word following it should be replaced by an ampersand; here I choose my own preferred style from among the alternatives.) The book itself is soft-bound, roughly 8""x10"", with a binding that remained as good as new after my thorough reading. It is printed on glossy paper, with color illustrations throughout. With these characteristics, it is quite a bargain, even without a discount.

The book is excellent as a foundational text for a senior-level course. Chapters 2 through 4 cover different and complementary ways of diagnosing atmospheric vertical motion and development: quasigeostrophic theory, isentropic analysis, and select aspects of the potential vorticity framework. Chapters 5 and 6 apply these concepts to extratropical cyclones and fronts. Chapter 7, on baroclinic instability, is the most mathematical of the book, and it includes a complete derivation of the Eady model. Chapter 7 is independent of the rest of the book, as are Chapters 8 and 9.

Prof. Lackmann writes about what he is most familiar. For example, Chapter 8 is devoted to cold-air damming. Most readers not on the East Coast of the United States will not regard cold-air damming as a topic as important as cyclones or fronts, but Chapter 8 shows cold-air damming to be a complex subject in its own right. Likewise, Chapter 9, on winter storms, provides relatively little of direct value for future winter storm forecasters in the western United States, but provides illustrative examples of the complex interactions between thermodynamics and microphysics characteristic of winter weather forecasting. Throughout the book, examples generally involve the eastern United States, with places such as Europe or the Southern Hemisphere unrepresented.

The final three chapters return to broader subject matter. Chapter 10, the longest chapter in the book, is devoted to numerical weather prediction, and focuses on the key topics necessary for making good use of modern-day forecast model output: parameterizations, data assimilation, and ensemble forecasting. The chapter recognizes that its details may soon be out of date, and refers its readers to the extremely valuable COMET modules for the latest information. Chapter 11 describes the process of weather forecasting, and Chapter 12 is on manual analysis. Since manual analysis is not incorporated into the forecast process recommended in Chapter 11, the manual analysis chapter seems to be here mainly as a set of technical reminders for students doing laboratory exercises that require manual analysis.

Each chapter concludes with review and study questions, problems, and additional references. The problems are mainly there to save the author from filling the text with derivations, and are not extensive enough to serve as a question pool for weekly problem sets.

This is a modern book, in its incorporation of potential vorticity, numerical weather prediction, and ensemble forecasting. As a textbook, it tends to be terse and needs to be combined with laboratory exercises and additional details from an instructor. According to the author, an instructor's packet with PowerPoint slides and a laboratory manual are both under development. I only found one major error, an incorrect description of phase-locking. At present, I know of no better choice for a senior-level textbook in synoptic meteorology and weather forecasting.

- John W. Nielsen-Gammon Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas


Royal Meteorological Society

I have particularly enjoyed reading this book for its intelligent way of providing a synthetic view of synoptic–dynamic meteorology for the midlatitudes. The 12 chapters follow a logical progression with particular emphasis on application. Every topic, from the governing equations to the human processes behind weather forecasting, is explained in a clear fashion by the author who has dedicated many years of his life to teaching students. This book is definitively a great addition to any library and a useful reference textbook for students and teachers alike.

Chapter 1 is an introduction to variables, units, coordinate systems and to the basic equations. The author clearly states that it is not in the remit of the book to go into details on how to derive the equations of motion or the momentum equations therefore, he gives a simple overview that the interested reader could be develop further consulting ad hoc literature on the subject.

Dynamical tools (quasi-geostrophic theory, isentropic analysis and potential vorticity framework) are described in Chapters 2–4. The following five chapters are devoted to phenomena typical of the midlatiudes (extra-torpical cyclones, fronts, cold air damming and winter storms). The author describes them in details providing equations, theories and schemes to visualize better relevant concepts.

The importance of numerical weather prediction is highlighted in one of the chapter of the book (Chapter 10), where the author includes an historical perspective, the description of the dynamical core of an atmospheric model and the parameterization of physical processes, an overview of data assimilation, the basic concepts of ensemble forecasting and a discussion on model configurations and output statistics. The last two Chapters (11 and 12) look at the human role and human processes in weather forecasting.

Review questions and/or problems on various topics introduced in the book are listed at the end of each chapter as well as a comprehensive bibliography for the eager reader who wants to expand further her/his knowledge. The limited discussion on ensemble forecasting and its interpretation is a weakness of the book.

Overall the book is useful for undergraduate students, teachers and for anybody who has a genuine interest for synoptic meteorology and weather forecasting.

Anna Ghelli ECMWF, Reading, UK Published online in Wiley Online Library (wileyonlinelibrary.com) DOI: 10.1002/met.1369