Wonder Wednesday: Fronts

Weather
The main types of fronts with weather. Image courtesy of Flickr.

Fronts impact our weather in various ways. Some can be mild and we don’t have any real change. Others can bring plenty of severe storms to the area. Most may think there are only two types of fronts: cold and warm. However, we actually have five different types of fronts that are prominent in the weather patterns. We have to usual cold fronts and warm fronts. We also have the slightly less common stationary fronts and the occasional occluded fronts. And we also have what are called dry lines. Let’s break down what each front does.

How a cold front works. Image courtesy of wikimediacommons.

Cold fronts are the most common types of fronts, are are usually associated with rain, thunderstorms, and severe weather. Cold fronts are easier to spot when looking at a map of temperatures. We can find them where the temperatures are decreasing at a faster rate. During the summer, we can sometimes feel the cold front move through, since temperatures will usually drop at least 10 degrees in a few minutes and winds will pick up speeds, giving us the cooler temperatures.

How a warm front works. Image courtesy of wikimediacommons.

Warm fronts aren’t as common, since we have warmer temperatures come through a given area during the day time hours. But warm fronts do come through with warmer temperatures pushing through an area. Typically the warm front will bring in temperatures that are about ten or more degrees in a given time period. Warm fronts aren’t typically fast, so they sometimes will be over run by a faster cold front. Warm fronts can bring rain showers, but they are lighter and last a bit longer.

Movement of air masses with a stationary front. Picture courtesy of sciencestruck.com

Stationary fronts are a little less known, but still occur often. This is when a cold air mass and a warm air mass meet up, and neither can over power the other. So the masses sit in place, and create a front that is extremely slow moving. We can end up for long periods of rain where these two masses of air meet. Eventually there will be some movement, and the systems will move out.

Air masses converging in an occluded front. Image courtesy of stratusdeck.uk.co.

Occluded fronts are also known as air mass blocks. An occluded front is when a cold front catches up to a warm front, but rather than the colder air mass over taking the warmer air mass, it sits and creates rain showers. A lot of rain. Eventually the cold air mass will merge with the other mass of cooler air, and will eventually move the system of air flow normally again.

A lesser known type of front (unless you live closer to the mountain ranges) is called a dry line. This impacts the moisture content in the air. One of two things typically happen with dry lines. We either lower the dew point (which directly lowers the humidity level) and we just have more dry conditions without any rain or clouds, or we could have developing squall lines move through an area, which have short time ranges, but leave a torrent of rainfall in that small amount of time.

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