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Weather Blog: What determines how strong the cold front is?

At least five tornadoes touched down in Southwest Florida on Sunday morning thanks to the movement of a strong cold front across the peninsula.

But Sunday’s front is hardly the first game of the season. We’ve got some cold front over the past few months, but this was the only one that was strong enough to spark such terrible weather.

If you’re curious what makes this front so unique, it sums up a lot of what’s happening above and above the front in the middle and upper atmosphere when it moves through Southwest Florida. It is in this part of the sky where the true strength of the frigid fronts is determined.

Here, if the atmosphere has the right components, the cold front can be strong and bad weather is likely. But on the other hand, if it lacks certain components, the power and impact of the front end can be significantly lower.

Perhaps the biggest component to focus on here will be the wind. When we look at the wind, we are testing the strength and direction from the surface to the top. As the longitudinal and northerly winds of the front face become strongly cold and rotate with height, the atmosphere adapts to extreme weather while the front is moving. Stronger winds that change direction with altitude encourage vortices, which can translate to the surface in the form of funnel clouds and tornadoes.

You can see this concept partially in the image below. This image is looking at what upper-level winds look like on Sunday when severe weather hits. You can see the scale and number of arrows representing stronger winds moving in from the southwest.

However, closer to the surface at this point, the winds are likely to be more southeasterly in front of the front and northwesterly behind the front. This change in speed and direction with altitude can help cause severe weather when fronts are surrounded and the atmosphere has other components such as enough humidity and instability to allow hurricanes. storm formed.

On the other hand, let’s assume Sunday’s front isn’t a strong one but like the cold fronts that have moved across our region this season. A cold front is a cold front that defies its strength. But up and over the Earth’s surface in the absence of intense speeds or changes in direction with altitude (as illustrated in the image below), the fronts can move through the region in a more benign fashion.

One non-weather-related way to visualize the concept is to compare the two cars against each other. Let’s say we are comparing two cars in the image below, a compact car on the right and a large, fast and powerful sedan on the left.

It is clear that both of these objects are cars. But they are built very differently. A compact car doesn’t have the power and energy to go fast or handle rough terrain like larger and more powerful cars. The fronts that followed were similar. A cold front is a cold front that defies its strength. And while most frigid fronts don’t have the energy or strength to spark tornado outbreaks, some certainly do.

https://nbc-2.com/weather/weather-blog/2022/01/17/weather-blog-what-determines-how-strong-a-cold-front-is/ Weather Blog: What determines how strong the cold front is?

Tom Vazquez

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