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Scales of Meteorology

Scales of Meteorology

Weather occurs at different scales of space and time. The four meteorological scales are: microscale, mesoscale, synoptic scale, and global scale. Meteorologists often focus on a specific scale in their work. 

Microscale Meteorology
Microscale meteorology focuses on phenomena that range in size from a few centimeters to a few kilometers, and that have short life spans (less than a day). These phenomena affect very small geographic areas, and the temperatures and terrains of those areas. 

Microscale meteorologists often study the processes that occur between soil, vegetation, and surface water near ground level. They measure the transfer of heat, gas, and liquid between these surfaces. Microscale meteorology often involves the study of chemistry.

Tracking air pollutants is an example of microscale meteorology. MIRAGE-Mexico is a collaboration between meteorologists in the United States and Mexico. The program studies the chemical and physical transformations of gases and aerosols in the pollution surrounding Mexico City. MIRAGE-Mexico uses observations from ground stations, aircraft, and satellites to track pollutants.

Mesoscale Meteorology
Mesoscale phenomena range in size from a few kilometers to roughly 1,000 kilometers (620 miles). Two important phenomena are mesoscale convective complexes (MCC) and mesoscale convective systems (MCS). Both are caused by convection, an important meteorological principle.

Convection is a process of circulation. Warmer, less-dense fluid rises, and colder, denser fluid sinks. The fluid that most meteorologists study is air. (Any substance that flows is considered a fluid.) Convection results in a transfer of energy, heat, and moisture—the basic building blocks of weather.