WEATHER TERMINOLOGY



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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.
LAND BREEZE
A diurnal coastal breeze that blows offshore, from the land to the sea. It is caused by the temperature difference when the sea surface is warmer than the adjacent land. Predominate during the night, it reaches its maximum about dawn. It blows in the opposite direction of a sea breeze.
LANDFALL
The point at which a tropical cyclone's eye first crosses a land mass.
LANDSPOUT
A small, weak tornado, which is not formed by a storm-scale rotation. It is generally weaker than a supercell tornado and is not associated with a wall cloud or mesocyclone. It may be observed beneath cumulonimbus or towering cumulus clouds and is the land equivalent of a waterspout.
LAPSE RATE
The decrease of an atmospheric variable, usually temperature, with height. A steep lapse rate implies a rapid decrease in temperature with height and is a sign of instability. See absolute instability.
LATENT HEAT
The energy released or absorbed during a change of state. Examples include condensation and sublimation.
LATITUDE
The location north or south in reference to the equator, which is designated at zero (0) degrees. Parallel lines that circle the globe both north and south of the equator. The poles are at 90 degrees North and South latitude.
LEE/LEESIDE/LEEWARD
The side of an object or obstacle, such as a ship's sail, a mountain, or a hill, furthest away from the wind, and therefore, protected from the direct force of the wind. The opposite of windward.
LENTICULAR CLOUD
A cloud species which has elements resembling smooth lenses or almonds and more or less isolated. These clouds are caused by a wave wind pattern created by the mountains. They are also indicative of down-stream turbulence on the leeward side of a barrier.
LEVEL OF FREE CONVECTION (LFC)
The level at which a parcel of saturated air becomes warmer than the surrounding air and begins to rise freely. This occurs most readily in a conditionally unstable atmosphere.
LIFTED INDEX (LI)
A measure of atmospheric instability that is obtained by computing the temperature that the air near the ground would have if it were lifted to a higher level and comparing it to the actual temperature at that altitude. Positive values indicate more stable air and negative values indicate instability.
LIFTING CONDENSATION LEVEL (LCL)
The height at which a parcel of moist air becomes saturated when it is lifted dry adiabatically.
LIGHTNING
A sudden and visible discharge of electricity produced in a thunderstorm, creating a flash of light generated by the flow of electrons between opposite charged parts of a cumulonimbus cloud. This can occur within a cloud, between clouds, from the cloud to air, or from the cloud to the ground. For examples, see heat lightning and ball lightning.
LIGHT WAVES
That part of the electromagnetic spectrum that contains visible light. The colors, from longest wave length to shortest, are red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet (ROY G. BIV). See visible light.
LINE ECHO WAVE PATTERN (LEWP)
A bulge in a line of thunderstorms, producing a wave-shaped in the line. It is seen as a scalloped radar echo signature and is often associated with severe weather.
LITHOMETEOR
Atmospheric phenomena which affect the state of the atmosphere. They constitute dry particles that hang suspended in the atmosphere, such as dust, smoke, sand, and haze.
LITHOSPHERE
The solid, outer portion of the earth's crust coupled to the rigid upper mantle. Part of the geosphere.
LONGITUDE
The location east or west in reference to the Prime Meridian, which is designated as zero (0) degrees longitude. The distance between lines of longitude are greater at the equator and smaller at the higher latitudes, intersecting at the earth's North and South Poles. Time zones are correlated to longitude. See Greenwich Mean Time.
LONG WAVE TROUGH
A wave in the prevailing westerly flow aloft which is characterized by a large length and amplitude. A long wave moves slowly and is persistent. Being associated with major cold troughs and warm ridges, their position and intensity govern weather patterns over a period of day or weeks.
LOW CLOUDS
A term used to signify clouds with bases below 6,000 feet and are of a stratiform or a cumuliform variety. Stratiform clouds include stratus and stratocumulus. Cumuliform clouds include cumulus and cumulonimbus. This altitude applies to the temperate zone. In the polar regions, these clouds may be found at lower altitudes. In the tropics, the defining altitudes for cloud types are generally higher.
LOW LATITUDES
The latitude belt between 30 and 0 degrees North and South of the equator. Also referred to as the tropical or torrid region.
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. See the 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. See closed low, cold low, and cut-off low for further examples.
LUNAR ECLIPSE
An eclipse of the moon occurs when the earth is in a direct line between the sun and the moon. The moon does not have any light of its own, instead, it reflects the sun's light. During a lunar eclipse, the moon is in the earth's shadow. It will often look dim and sometimes copper or orange in color.

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SOURCES

Branick, Michael. NOAA Technical Memorandum NWS SR-145, A Comprehensive Glossary of Weather Terms for Storm Spotters. U.S. Department of Commerce, 1995.

Everything Weather - The Essential Guide to the Whys and Wonders of Weather.

Famighetti, Robert (ed.). The World Almanac and Book of Facts (1996). Mahwah, New Jersey. Funk & Wagnalls Corporation, 1995.

Federal Meteorological Handbook No. 1, Surface Weather Observations and Reports. National Weather Service, U.S. Department of Commerce, 1996.

Huschke, R.E. (ed.). The Glossary of Meteorology. Boston, Massachusetts. American Meteorological Society Press, 1980.

National Weather Service Observing Handbook No. 7, Surface Weather Observations and Reports. U.S. Department of Commerce, 1996.