METR 104:
Our Dynamic Weather
Lab Exploration #3:
The Daily Temperature Cycle:
The Weather Complicates Things Further
Dr. Dave Dempsey
Dept. of Geosciences
SFSU, Spring 2012

(5 points)
(Lab Section 1: Wed., April 4; Lab Section 2: Fri., April 6)

Learning Objectives. After completing this activity, you should be able to:

Materials Needed. To complete this activity, you will need:

I. Introduction: Some Things We've Already Learned

You learned in previous lab explorations (Lab #2, Parts II, III, IV, V, and VI) that the daily temperature cycle seems controlled mostly by:

  1. absorption of solar radiation during the day
  2. emission of longwave infrared radiation, which dominates at night (when there is no solar heating) but has an effect 24 hours a day
  3. absorption of longwave infrared radiation emitted downward by greenhouse gases and clouds in the atmosphere (24 hours a day).

Other factors can affect the daily temperature cycle but don't drive it. Examples that we've identified so far include:

In Lab #2, Part VI, you ran a STELLA model that simulated several common features of the daily temperature cycle and produced temperatures that probably seemed reasonably realistic. Given the relative success of that model, a legitimate question now arises: are there other factors that affect surface temperature that we haven't identified yet? If so, what?

III. Instructions. Respond in writing to the questions posed in Sections A, B, and C below, and turn in your responses when you're done.

  1. Examine and describe meteograms from Oklahoma City, OK.

    1. Consider the accompanying 24-hour meteogram showing weather observations recorded at Oklahoma City, Oklahoma (KOKC) on January 19, 2006 (UTC). (Note that Oklahoma is in the Central Time Zone. Central Standard Time (CST) is two hours ahead of Pacific Standard Time and hence 6 hours behind UTC time.)

      On January 19, 2006 at KOKC, the sun rose at 7:37 am CST and set at 5:46 pm CST.

      1. What were the minimum and maximum temperatures on that day? At what local standard time (CST) did they occur?

      2. Is there anything unusual about these observations, based on daily temperature cycles that you've seen previously in this course? (If so, what?)

    2. Now consider the 24-hour meteogram for KOKC for January 20, 2006 (UTC).

      1. Briefly describe the daily temperature cycle on that day, starting shortly before sunrise and ending around sunset.

      2. Was the cycle significantly different from the day before? If so, in what way(s)?

    3. On the meteogram for January 20, 2006 (UTC) you should see an obvious difference in the temperature pattern from the familiar, idealized daily temperature cycle that we usually see.

      1. Are there any mechanisms (of gaining or losing heat) that we've considered in previous labs (in particular, the STELLA model of the daily temperature cycle) that you think might account for the unusual behavior of the temperature pattern at KOKC on January 20, 2006? That is, did any of your simulations with the STELLA model produce behavior like what was observed in this case?

        If you think so, then identify the mechanism(s), comment on how you think it (or they) work to explain the unusual observations, and cite any evidence that supports your contention.

      1. Are there other weather observations recorded on the meteogram (besides temperature) that you think might offer insight into why the daily temperature cycle differs from observed temperature cycles that we've seen before? If so, what?

      2. Can you think of any way in which those other observations might help explain the difference? That is, if there's a mechanism that can affect observed surface air temperatures that we haven't considered yet, how might it work?

  2. Examine a surface weather map from the southern plains states.

    1. Consider the weather map showing observed surface air temperatures and winds, recorded at 17Z January 20, 2006. Locate the observations reported by KOKC on this map.

      1. Do they agree with those reported on the KOKC meteogram for the same time?

    2. Consider the pattern of temperature for several hundred miles around KOKC. (For reference, the state of Oklahoma is about 200 miles across from its northern border with Kansas to its southern border with Texas.)

      1. In this area, where (that is, in what direction(s) relative to KOKC) is air colder than at KOKC, where is it warmer, and where is it close to the same temperature?

    3. Note the wind direction at KOKC at this time.

      1. Based on this wind observation, where (that is, in what direction) do you think that air that was at KOKC an hour earlier, has gone?

      2. Based on the temperatures reported in that direction at 17Z, do you think that that air, when it was at KOKC at 16Z, would have been warmer, colder, or about the same temperature reported for the air at KOKC at 17Z?

      3. Based on this consideration alone, what would you backward predict the temperature at KOKC to have been at 16Z (warmer, colder, or about the same)?

  3. Examine a color-filled contour map of surface temperature (with winds) from the southern plains.

    1. Consider the accompanying weather map showing color-filled contours of surface temperatures recorded at 17Z in the southern plains on January 20, 2006.

      1. Comment on whether this map makes it easier or harder to figure out what might have happened to the temperature at KOKC between 16Z and 17Z, and why.

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