What is Mesoscale?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 10 November 2019
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Mesoscale is a term used in meteorology to describe weather systems which fall on a scale between the storm scale and the synoptic scale, meaning that they are generally larger than individual big storms, and smaller than weather systems spanning more than 620 miles (roughly 1,000 kilometers) in diameter. A number of interesting weather phenomena happen at the mesoscale level, making mesoscale meteorology a very interesting and diverse branch of the study of weather and related events.

Some examples of weather systems which occur on the mesoscale level include: squall lines, sea breezes, and lake effect snow storms. Mesoscale meteorology includes both high and low altitude weather systems, and it examines their effect on climates, flows of water, human populations, and agriculture, among many other things. Since large stormfronts can fall within this scale, it can also include the study of how storm systems grow, how they move, and how things inside a weather system function. For example, thunderstorm convection is studied by meteorologists who focus on systems of this size.


Researchers in this branch of meteorology can spend time in the field, studying weather in person, and they also take advantage of probes such as weather balloons, along with satellites and other observation techniques. Some people are particularly interested in applying mesoscale meteorology to issues like the health of ecosystems, climate change, fisheries, and so forth, and they may spend time among human populations learning about the direct impacts of the weather they study. Field work may also include travel to learn about weather in different regions of the world, and to see how factors like terrain interplay with mesoscale meteorological events.

Researchers can also work in the lab, creating models and organizing data. Data collation also includes statistical manipulation, and the input of information into modeling systems so that those systems grow more intelligent and more effective, allowing meteorologists to make more accurate predictions, and to explore historic weather events in light of what scientists now know about modern mesoscale meteorological events.

People who are interested in working in the field of mesoscale meteorology usually study meteorology at a college or university, and focus specifically on events which fall along the mesoscale once they start doing graduate-level research and study. Specialists in this field can work for government agencies, news companies, colleges, and a variety of other organizations which have an interest in the weather, from shipping companies to museums which are interested in historic climates.


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Post 3

I had a chance to chat with a friend of a friend who was a climatologist specializing in mesoscale phenomena a few years ago.

I remember I asked him about climate change and whether he thought there was any truth to it. This was before it became more widely accepted by the public.

He said that on every level of climatology, mesoscale included, they were already seeing changes they thought were probably due to climate change. He actually said that he already thought it was too late, and there was no way we would be able to reverse it, just because to affect the climate on such a large scale, like with mesoscale dynamics, you have to work over a long period of time, and we were still feeling the effects of the actions we took 50 years ago.

It was quite a depressing conversation actually.

Post 2

I was quite fascinated with pirate stories when I was a kid, so I know all about squalls and squall lines. A squall line is like a line of storms that gets pushed ahead of a pressure front.

Squalls could really smash up the ship, since they aren't just a simple storm, and can be really chaotic. They might have waterspouts, lightening, hail, lots of rain and wind, and possibly even tornadoes.

In my books people would always dramatically lash themselves to the ship, because there wasn't much else they could do, really. It was either tie themselves down, or get swept overboard.

Now I know that a squall line can really do some damage on land as well, unfortunately.

Post 1

I actually didn't realize that a sea breeze was considered a real weather phenomenon. I mean, I knew that it was often used as a thing in fiction, where people talk about the sea breeze, or the salt on the air and so forth.

But, apparently it really is a bit more windy at the beach, just because of the temperature difference between the land and the water. Wind is created by air moving because it is being heated (and rising) or cooled (and falling), and this happens a lot near the ocean, hence the breeze.

I guess the wind might be stronger if it is a particularly hot day and the ocean is still quite cold.

Although I'm not sure how they measure the size of this in order to include it in the mesoscale. It seems to me like it could be bigger or smaller at times.

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