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Earth Observatory Glossary
(Starting with "W")



By NASA,
Program Manager: David Herring,
Responsible NASA official: Dr. Michael D. King,
U.S.A.

http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Library/glossary.php3?mode=all








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  Walker cell A zonal circulation of the atmosphere confined to equatorial regions and driven principally by the oceanic temperature gradient. In the Pacific, air flows westward from the colder, eastern area to the warm, western ocean, where it acquires warmth and moisture and subsequently rises. A return flow aloft and subsidence over the eastern ocean complete the cell.
   
  water cycle The process by which water is transpired and evaporated from the land and water, condensed in the clouds, and precipitated out onto the earth once again to replenish the water in the bodies of water on the earth. See The Water Cycle
   
  water vapor The most abundant greenhouse gas, it is the water present in the atmosphere in gaseous form. Water vapor is an important part of the natural greenhouse effect. While humans are not significantly increasing its concentration, it contributes to the enhanced greenhouse effect because the warming influence of greenhouse gases leads to a positive water vapor feedback. In addition to its role as a natural greenhouse gas, water vapor plays an important role in regulating the temperature of the planet because clouds form when excess water vapor in the atmosphere condenses to form ice and water droplets and precipitation.
   
  wave

1. In electricity, a periodic variation of an electric current or voltage.

2. In physics, any of the series of advancing impulses set up by a vibration, pulsation, or disturbance in air or some other medium, as in the transmission of heat, light, sound, etc.

   
  wave cyclone A cyclone that forms and moves along a front, producing by its circulation a wavelike deformation of the front.
   
  wavelength Physical distance of one period (wave repeat).
   
  weather Atmospheric condition at any given time or place. Compare with climate.
   
  weathering the natural processes by which the actions of atmospheric and other environmental agents, such as wind, rain, and temperture changes, result in the physical disintegration and chemical decomposition of rocks and earth materials in place, with little or no transport of the loosened or altered material.
   
  wind A natural motion of the air, especially a noticeable current of air moving in the atmosphere parallel to the Earth's surface. Winds are caused by unequal heating and cooling of the Earth and atmosphere due to absorbed, incoming solar radiation and infrared radiation lost to space--as modified by such effects as the Coriolis force, the condensation of water vapor, the formation of clouds, the interaction of air masses and frontal systems, friction over land and water, etc.
   
  wind chill The wind can reduce significantly the amount of heat your body retains. The following wind chill chart does not take into account such variables as type of clothing worn, amount of exposed flesh, and physical condition, all of which would alter body heat.
   
  wind velocity Vector term that includes both wind speed and wind direction.
   
  window Term used to denote a region of the electromagnetic spectrum where the atmosphere does not absorb radiation strongly.




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