Sunday Science Tidbit; ITCZ: Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone

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If you look at the Earth from space, you’ll notice a narrow band of clouds around the earth. In this week’s Sunday Science Tidbit we’re going to talk about the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone.

The Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone is more commonly known as the ITCZ. Judging by the name you can guess that this occurs near the equator in the tropics!

This persistent band of showers and storms goes all the way around the Earth and lasts throughout the year, though individual showers and storms may be short lived. You may see a solid band of clouds for hundreds of miles or broken into smaller segments.

The ITCZ marks an area of low pressure and occurs due to the converging trade winds from the different hemispheres (Northern and Southern). As the air is pushed together you create rising motion and start the process of building showers and storms.

The ITCZ does not stay fixed over one spot the entire year. In fact it moves around with the angle of the Sun as it is drawn to the area of higher temperatures. This has significant impacts for some folks around the world including wet and dry seasons and monsoon seasons. Over 40% of all tropical rainfall falls at a rate of 1″ per hour or more! Naturally, weather impacts from the ITCZ can be felt around the world from India, China, Australia, South American Amazon, West Africa, Mexico and even the Southwest U.S. to name a few!

The ITCZ can all play a role in hurricane season as well. A constant supply of thunderstorms is a starting ingredient for tropical activity. Occasionally, a cluster of thunderstorms will break away from the ITCZ and organize into a more unified storm system.

Overall, many people around the world rely on rainfall from this weather event and it’s one of the many fascinating things to see on a picture of Earth!

~ Meteorologist Candice Boling

{Information/pictures/video courtesy of nasa.gov, noaa.gov }


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