Droughts (Facts on File Dangerous Weather Series) by Michael Allaby

By Michael Allaby

The books during this sequence make up an introduc tion to the technological know-how of climate for all readers elderly 11 a nd over. The six volumes within the sequence are - Tornadoes, Drou ghts, Blizzards, Hurricanes, Floods, and A Chronology of Wea ther. '

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Water starts to condense, clouds form, and when the cloud droplets grow too large and heavy for the rising air currents to support them, they fall as rain. That is why rainfall is high in equatorial regions. Air rises in some places, and between those places sinking air brings dry weather, as shown in the illustration on page 36. Even over the equator it does not rain all the time. Most of the rising air travels upward until it reaches the tropopause. This is a boundary, over the equator at a height of about 10 miles (16 km), above which the temperature and density of air do not decrease with height, so it traps rising air beneath it.

Near the tropopause, 33,000 feet (10 km) above the surface, suppose the air temperature is –65°F (–54°C). The air near the tropopause is dense, because of its temperature, but this really means it is denser than the air immediately above it. Because air is very compressible, its density also decreases with height. If the high-level air were to subside all the way to ground level, as it descended it would be com- pressed by the increasing weight of air above it, and it would heat adiabatically (see the box “Adiabatic cooling and warming” in the section “Subtropical deserts”).

In really dry weather you might think the air was as dry as the ground, but even then there is moisture in the air and there is even some in the soil that seems completely dry. Water is the only common substance that can exist in all three states at ordinary temperatures. We take it for granted, and everyone knows that water freezes at 32°F (0°C) and boils at 212°F (100°C), though this is true only of pure water at sea-level atmospheric pressure: impurities dissolved in it and changes in pressure alter its freezing and boiling points.

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