The Atmosphere

Atmosphere Basics

What are the different scales of atmospheric motion

Meteorologists divide weather patterns and motions based on actions that are occurring at various scales of size. Just as economists have macroeconomics (how the economy functions on a regional, national, or international level) and microeconomics (financial concepts applied to a single household or business), meteorologists find it convenient to divide weather phenomena this way, too. Below is an explanation of the divisions.

  • The macroscale (or synoptic scale) refers to weather processes affecting large areas, such as pressure systems, fronts, and the jet stream.

  • The microscale concerns highly localized events, such as a tornado, a fog bank, or a small rain shower that affects an area of only a few hundred square feet or meters.

  • The mesoscale deals with weather events somewhere between the micro and macro levels, usually ranging over several miles to a hundred miles or so. Thunderstorms, cloud systems, and breeze fronts are some examples of weather falling into this category. The mesoscale is sometimes divided even further into 1) meso-gamma (covering about 1 to 12 miles [2 to 20 kilometers]), 2) meso-beta (25 to 125 miles [20 to 200 kilometers]), and 3) meso-alpha (125 to 1,250 miles [200 to 2,000 kilometers]).


This is a web preview of the "The Handy Weather Answer Book" app. Many features only work on your mobile device. If you like what you see, we hope you will consider buying. Get the App