Subtracting Negative Numbers for Predicting Thunderstorms
Ever wondered what causes thunderstorms? They happen when the atmosphere becomes unstable.
But what makes the atmosphere unstable? An unstable atmosphere occurs on very hot days, where warm air rises rapidly—so rapidly that when it reaches high altitudes, its temperature remains higher than the surrounding atmosphere.
For instance, the temperature of the lifted air mass might be -5 degrees Celsius, while the surrounding atmosphere might be -11 degrees Celsius (as shown in the animation below).
Calculating Lifted Index: An Example
Meteorologists use the term Lifted Index to describe the difference between temperatures. It’s calculated by subtracting the temperature of the lifted air mass from the temperature of the surrounding atmosphere. In our example, we subtract two negative numbers: from -11, we subtract -5. The Lifted Index is, therefore:
\[-11 – (-5) = -6\].
A negative Lifted Index indicates an unstable atmosphere. The more negative it is, the more unstable the air, and the higher the probability of a thunderstorm. This method is one of the ways meteorologists predict thunderstorms.
This example vividly demonstrates the practical application of subtracting negative numbers in meteorology. Calculating the Lifted Index is a standard practice used on a daily basis. While there are advanced technological solutions like satellites and weather balloons for measuring temperatures, basic mid-school mathematics remains invaluable for the necessary calculations.
Try it in interactive simulation!
We’ve created a special interactive simulation where you can try making a thunderstorm forecast by calculating the Lifted Index through subtracting negative numbers. Click on the picture below to access this simulation.
Check the Facts!
Curious to discover more about how negative numbers are applied in real life? This article will delve into how negative numbers play a role in Smart Agriculture: