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Weather Glossary

Weather Glossary

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Pascal
(Pa) The unit of pressure (force per unit area) Kg/m². Average air pressure
is 1013.25 hPa (101325 Pa).

Pendant echo
Radar signature generally similar to a hook echo, except that the hook shape
is not as well defined.

Penetrating top
See overshooting top.

Percentile
The term for denoting thresholds or boundary values in frequency

distributions. Thus the 5th percentile is that value which marks off the
lowest 5 per cent of the observations from the rest, the 50th percentile is
the same as the median, and the 95th percentile exceeds all but 5 per cent
of the values. When percentiles are estimated by ranking the items of a
finite sample, the percentile generally falls between two of the observed
values, and the midway value is often taken. (From Bureau of Meteorology
glossary)

Pileus

Latin - cap

A cloud in the form of a cap above or attached to the upper part of a
cumuliform cloud, indicating strong updrafts within the cloud.

Polar Jet
Marked by concentrations of isotherms and strong vertical wind shear this
jet is the boundary between polar air and subtropical air. Its position
migrates north in the Southern Hemisphere winter and south in the summer.

Popcorn convection
[Slang] Showers and thunderstorms that form on a scattered basis with little
or no apparent organization, usually during the afternoon in response to
diurnal heating. Individual thunderstorms are typically of the type
sometimes referred to as air-mass thunderstorms: they are small, short-
lived, very rarely severe, and they almost always dissipate near or just after
sunset.

Positive area
The area on a sounding representing the layer in which a lifted parcel would
be warmer than the environment; thus, the area between the environmental
temperature profile and the path of the lifted parcel. See sounding. Positive
area is a measure of the energy available for convection; see CAPE.

Positive CG
A CG flash that delivers positive charge to the ground, as opposed to the
more common negative charge. Positive CGs have been found to occur more
frequently in some severe thunderstorms. Their occurrence is detectable by
most lightning detection networks, but visually it is not possible to
distinguish between a positive CG and a negative CG. (Some claim to have
observed a relationship between staccato lightning and positive CGs, but this
relationship is as yet unproven.)

Positive tilt trough

An upper level system which is tilted to the west with increasing latitude
(i.e., from southwest to northeast). A positive-tilt trough often is a sign of a
weakening weather system, and generally is less likely to result in severe
weather than a negative-tilt trough if all other factors are equal.

Potential temperature
The temperature a parcel of dry air would have if brought adiabatically (i.e.,
without transfer of heat or mass) to a standard pressure level of 1000 mb.

PPI
Plan Position Indicator. A radar scanning method which uses a single
elevation of the radar antenna to detect and range rainfall surrounding the
site. Multiple PPI scans at various elevations are often combined to create a
CAPPI (Constant Altitude Plan Position Indicator) display of the radar data.
This is the most common type of radar display used in Australia.

PPINE
Plan Position Indicates No Echoes, referring to the fact that a radar detects
no precipitation within its range.

Pre frontal trough
An elongated area of low pressure preceding a cold front. Is usually
associated with a shift in wind direction and a slight temperature drop.

Precipitable water
The vertical integral of the water content in a column of the atmosphere,
and is measured in millimetres. It is a measure of the amount of water that
can be "wrung out" of the atmosphere. High values (above 40mm) indicate
the potential for heavy rainfall.

Precipitation
Any or all of the forms of water particles, whether liquid (e.g. rain, drizzle)
or solid (e.g. hail, snow), that fall from a cloud or group of clouds and reach
the ground.

Duration of precipitation

Brief: Short duration.
Intermittent: Precipitation which ceases at times.
Occasional: Precipitation which while not frequent, is recurrent.
Frequent: Showers occurring regularly and often.
Continuous: Precipitation which does not cease, or ceases only briefly.

Periods of rain: Rain is expected to fall most of the time, but there will be breaks.

Distribution of showers and precipitation

Few: Indicating timing not an area.
Isolated: Showers which are well separated in space during a given period.
Local: Restricted to reatively small areas.
Patchy: Occurring irregularly over an area.
Scattered: Irregularly distributed over an area. Showers which while not widespread,
can occur anywhere in an area. Implies a slightly greater incidence than isolated.
Widespread: Occurring extensively throughout an area.

Pressure
The force per unit area. In meteorology, pressure refers to the weight of air
in a column directly above a point.
The standard atmospheric pressure at mean sea level is 1013.25 hPa,
though surface pressures of 870 hPa (Typhoon Tip, October 1979) and 1084
hPa (Agata, Siberia, December 1968) have been recorded.

Pressure gradient
The pressure change over a fixed distance at a fixed altitude. The larger the
pressure gradient the stronger the winds.

Prevailing wind
A wind that blows from one direction more frequently than any other during
a given period.

Probabilities, or Probabilistic Forecasts
An attempt to convey the uncertainty in a forecast by expressing its
likelihood of occurrence as a percentage. High probabilities do not guarantee
an outcome - they merely indicate that that outcome is highly likely.

Profiler
An instrument designed to measure horizontal winds directly above its
location, and thus measure the vertical wind profile. Profilers operate on the
same principles as Doppler radar.

Prognostic chart
A chart displaying a forecast of meteorological elements

Pseudo-cold front
A boundary between a supercell's inflow region and the rear-flank downdraft

(or RFD). It extends outward from the mesocyclone centre, usually toward
the south or southwest (but occasionally bows outward to the east or
southeast in the case of an occluded mesocyclone), and is characterized by
advancing of the downdraft air toward the inflow region. It is a particular
form of gustfront. See also pseudo-warm front.

Pseudo-warm front
A boundary between a supercell's inflow region and the forward-flank
downdraft (or FFD). It extends outward from at or near the mesocyclone
centre, usually toward the east or southeast, and normally is either nearly
stationary or moves northward or north-eastwards ahead of the
mesocyclone. See pseudo-cold front and beaver tail.

Pulse storm
A thunderstorm within which a brief period (pulse) of strong updraft occurs,
during and immediately after which the storm produces a short episode of
severe weather. These storms generally are not tornado producers, but
often produce large hail and/or damaging winds. See air mass thunderstorm,
cyclic storm.

PVA
Positive Vorticity Advection. Advection of higher values of vorticity into an
area, which often is associated with upward motion (lifting) of the air
(Northern Hemisphere). PVA typically is found in advance of disturbances
aloft (i.e., shortwaves), and is a property which often enhances the potential
for thunderstorm development.

Pyrocumulus
Clouds which form on top of a rising column of smoke over a fire. These can
produce precipitation and/or lightning in rare cases.

Pyrocumulus

Weather Glossary - Q

QFE
QFE is calculated by adjusting the station level pressure for the difference
between the barometer level and the aerodrome reference level, assuming
International Standard Atmosphere(ISA) conditions. An Altimeter set to QFE
will read zero when the aircraft is on the runway.

QNH
The pressure setting used by aircraft altimeters to give an indication above
MSL. The QNH pressure calculation assumes a standard ICAO atmosphere.

Most AWS stations installed by the Bureau of Meteorology report pressure in
QNH rather than standard MSLP. The difference between the two values can
be as much as 3hPa for elevated locations.

Quasi-stationary front
A front that shows little or no horizontal movement. By convention, the term
applies to a front this is moving at 5 knots or less. The slow horizontal
motion combined with considerable vertical motion of the warm air, often
gives rise to persistent and sometimes severe amounts of precipitation
leading to local flooding.

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