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lesson 9 - Introduction The past few lessons have...

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Introduction The past few lessons have concentrated on weather and climatic conditions that characterize different regions around the world and how the people living there cope with those conditions. This lesson is the last of the series on weather/climate and people. We complete this series by addressing the major weather systems that affect the midlatitudes, focusing specifically on the United States. Why focus on the U.S.? Two reasons: First, discussing the major weather-making systems of the midlatitudes will be a little easier if you are able to draw from your own experiences. It will, hopefully, also help you to use and incorporate what you learn here into your everyday lives. Second, the United States is "host to more severe weather than any other nation on the planet," according to NASA sources, making it the most dynamic and exciting place on the Earth to study midlatitude weather. When you hear on the news that a town has been demolished by a tornado, do you wonder where in the world the tornado occurred OR do you automatically think of "Tornado Alley"? Have you ever wondered why the U.S. spends so much of its resources on agencies that deal with the weather, as well as weather-related hazards and damage? Our country's latitudinal position and geography have a lot to do with the importance that we place on (day-to-day and severe/violent) weather in the U.S. This point brings us to the rest of the lesson. We'll examine how people in the midlatitudes cope with the weather. As you probably already know, people in the U.S. have a fascination with weather. Where else in the world are there so many storm spotters and chasers? We even make movies about it. We place a great deal of importance not only on monitoring weather conditions, but also on predicting them. We cope with midlatitude weather and the potential hazards that it brings by trying to understand and forecast it before it occurs, to save lives, property, money, and lessen the overall damage. Weather and Climate Basics Before we can examine people-climate interactions in the midlatitudes, we must first review basic climatological concepts. In order to learn about midlatitude weather systems and disturbances, it's useful to be familiar with the major components of the region's weather (state of the atmosphere at a specific location and time) and climate (long-term average weather conditions in any location). These major components play essential roles in the drama acted-out
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daily (weather) and over long periods of time (climate) on the North American stage. Such components are air masses, fronts, and the jet stream. Air masses North American air masses Development of major weather systems in the midlatitudes (and high latitudes) typically can be traced back to the interaction among bodies of air. By definition, an air mass is a large body of air that moves as a single unit and is relatively uniform in character (e.g., temperature, moisture content, stability, etc.). Air masses can be massive in size (may cover a large portion of a continent) and often have very different physical characteristics from one another. For example,
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