Large-scale Flow Dynamics Lab

Blizzard of 2003 tropopause analysis.

Animated tropopause maps at 12 hour intervals during the Blizzard of 2003, a typical "northeaster" with record breaking snowfall for Boston. Tropopause maps such as these are an analysis of potential temperature (color contours) on a surface of constant potential vorticity, Q (Q = 2.0 PVU). This analysis contains the essential information needed to understand the dynamics of weather systems within the troposphere. "Cold" tropopause (i.e. low potential temperature) regions are associated with cyclonic circulations, while "warm" tropopause regions are associated with anti-cyclonic circulations. (Image by Dr. Lodovica Illari.)


MIT Course Number


As Taught In

Fall 2009



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Course Description

Course Description

This course is a laboratory accompaniment to 12.803, Quasi-balanced Circulations in Oceans and Atmospheres. The subject includes analysis of observations of oceanic and atmospheric quasi-balanced flows, computational models, and rotating tank experiments. Student projects illustrate the basic principles of potential vorticity conservation and inversion, Rossby wave propagation, baroclinic instability, and the behavior of isolated vortices.

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Glenn Flierl, and Lodovica Illari. 12.804 Large-scale Flow Dynamics Lab. Fall 2009. Massachusetts Institute of Technology: MIT OpenCourseWare, License: Creative Commons BY-NC-SA.

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