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Cyclones: Extratropical

  • By: Joshua D. Durkee
  • In: Encyclopedia of Geography
  • Edited by: Barney Warf
  • Subject:General Geography, Earth & Environmental Science

Extratropical cyclones (ECs) are organized synoptic-scale low-pressure (cyclonic) weather systems that govern a considerable proportion of midlatitude (∼30°-60°) weather patterns (also commonly referred to as midlatitude cyclones). ECs ultimately form in response to the global circulation and energy balance. Given that the equator-to-pole temperature gradient is greatest during the transition and cool seasons, the magnitude and frequency of ECs is also greatest during these times. Part of the Earth's attempt to balance the surplus and deficit of net energy at the equator and the poles, respectively, involves large-scale equatorward and poleward air mass advections of relatively homogeneous thermal and moisture characteristics. The interaction along the fronts of these air masses is a key trait in the development and maintenance of ECs.

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