The Stages of Mid-Latitude Cyclones

The Stages of Mid-Latitude Cyclones
••• RamonBerk/iStock/GettyImages

In the early 1900s, Norwegian meteorologists developed the first models for the life cycle of mid-latitude cyclones. Also known as wave cyclones, extra-tropical cyclones or baroclinic storms, mid-latitude cyclones tend to form between 30 degrees and 50 degrees of latitude during the winter months and develop into massive, spiraling storms that can grow up to approximately 1,000 miles wide.

Cyclogenesis

During the initial stage of the cyclone’s life cycle, also known as cyclogenesis, a boundary separates opposing fronts of cold and warm air. When an upper-level disturbance moves over the front, it causes a wave to form. Cyclonic shear begins to occur when the warm and cold fronts slide against one another, generating the spinning motion characteristic of cyclones. The meeting of cold and warm air creates precipitation, which is heaviest near the border of the front.

Mature Stage

During the cyclone’s mature stage, the wave formed during the initial phase grows as warm air replaces the space left behind by the moving cold front, and the organization of both the cold and warm fronts increases. The cold front moves faster than the warm front, intensifying the cyclonic circulation. The system’s lowest pressure is located at the center of the wave, and the cyclone’s winds are strongest about eight miles above ground.

Occluded Stage

In the mid-latitude cyclone’s third stage, the denser cold front catches up with the warm front. Because the warm air isn’t dense enough to displace the cold air ahead of it, it shifts up and slides above the cold air in its path. This action eventually forms an occluded front, in which the wave transforms into a loop, which is narrower at its base and cuts off the supply of warm air.

Dissolving Stage

The final stage of the cyclone occurs when the loop formed by the cold front boundary surrounding the low-pressure pocket of warm air closes. This cuts off the supply of warm moist air and the lifting force caused by the interaction between the cold and warm fronts. The loss of the convergence and uplift mechanisms cause the cyclone to dissolve, and the low pressure system gradually stabilizes.

Related Articles

Boom! Here's How to Create Your Own Volcanic Eruption...
Stages of a Tropical Cyclone
Weather Conditions After a Cold Front
A Major Difference Between Cyclones & Anticyclones...
What Happens When Air Pressure & Temperature Drop?
How Clouds Are Made
The Characteristics of a Hurricane
Hadley Cell Effects
Barometric Pressure & Snowstorms
How Does Water Affect Weather Patterns?
What Are the Winter Monsoons?
How Does a Cyclone Affect the Weather?
The Three Types of Weather Fronts
The Difference Between Straight Line Winds & Tornadoes
Warm Front Characteristics
What Weather Occurs During a High Pressure System?
How Do Typhoons Occur?
What Are the Doldrums?
What Happens When a Cold Front Meets a Warm Front?
What Clouds Are Associated With a Cold Front?
How Do Ocean Currents Affect Weather?