Tractor at Peanut Belt Research Station


Basic Definition:
Generally, transport of heat and moisture by the movement of a fluid. In meteorology, the term is used specifically to describe vertical transport of heat and moisture, especially by updrafts and downdrafts in an unstable atmosphere. The terms "convection" and "thunderstorms" often are used interchangeably, although thunderstorms are only one form of convection. Convection is not always made visible by clouds. Convection which occurs without cloud formation is called dry convection, while the visible convection processes are forms of moist convection.

As the earth is heated by the sun, bubbles of hot air (called thermals) rise upward from the warm surface. A thermal cools as it rises and becomes diluted as it mixes with the surrounding air, losing some of its buoyancy (its ability to rise).

An air parcel will rise naturally if the air within the parcel is warmer than the surrounding air (like a hot air balloon). Therefore, if cool air is present aloft with warm air at lower levels, thermals can rise to great heights before losing their buoyancy.

Sources and Additional Information

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