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Meteorology (Weather)/Temperature gradient terminology

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Question
Dear Donald,

Why do meteorologists sometimes use the term "intense" when speaking about temperature gradients? I am used to gradients in other fields being spoken of as a line or incline and described as "steep". I know activity can be intense but I have never heard the term used for a gradient. Is it a shortcut for " temperature gradient zone"?
I am interested in understanding the use of this expression as a linguist.

Thank you for your reply.

Answer
Hi Bridget

Lets agree first on what a temperature "gradient" is. It is when an air mass has a temperature difference over some distance. In the case of horizontal distance, an "intense" gradient would be when the temperatures changes in short geographic distances.

A "steep" temperature gradient would be abnormal temperature changes in the vertical ascent of the atmosphere.

http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-a-temperature-gradient.htm

http://eesc.columbia.edu/courses/ees/slides/climate/atmprofile.gif

http://www2.sunysuffolk.edu/mandias/met101/temperature_help.html  

Meteorology (Weather)

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Donald Rosenfeld

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Any questions (except private) answered from the 1st grade level on up pertaining to any aspect of Weather. I am a 20 year member of the American Meteorological society and a long time forecaster of eastern United States snow storms and Hurricanes.

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