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Last updated on April 23, 2014 at 1:22 EDT

Topography in Weather

A very important part of being a meteorologist is to understand the topography of the local region.

Mountains can have multiple impacts on the weather forecast. For example: if we look at Seattle we see that to the west is the Cascades and they impact the weather as follows. In the Seattle area precipitation coming in of the Pacific exerts all of its energy into Seattle creating a heavier rainfall potential, while if you travel just to the west of the Cascades the precipitation amount decrease by a great amount. The reason for this decrease is that the mountains act like a barrier not allowing the precipitation to clear the top. So weather forecasting on the eastern side of the mountains would be different in the respect the weather is a lot drier than the western slopes. There is a portion of the eastern slopes of the Cascades that are technically defined as being dessert and that is due to the lack of precipitation that falls in the region.

A second topographic feature, that meteorologist need to plan for is large bodies of water. This is especially important in the winter along the Great Lakes, as some places are locked in to what is known as the snow belts. This means these regions in the winter can get very heavy snow if the winds blow from the correct direction. One example is Buffalo NY. In the winter when the winds blow out of the Northwest this puts Buffalo into one of those enhanced snow bands that can dump heavy snow in a short amount of time, however if you drive just maybe 100 miles further in any direction the snow bands will decrease and the areas will see a lot less snowfall.

Topography in Weather