Stability – South Florida Sunrise

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Clouds hang over the horizon during this South Florida sunrise, showcasing atmospheric stability. As the heat of day sets in, convection will replace this stability.

There are many things about this photo that the title ‘Stability’ could refer to. Maybe the fossilized reef. It has turned a fragile ecosystem into permanent stone. Or maybe the mangroves? They are anchored by elevated roots to give the trees more resistance to the onslaught of wind and waves. Or the barrier island of Key Biscayne itself? It lends stability to Florida’s mainland by protecting it from the Atlantic’s deadly hurricanes. Well, what I was actually referring to is the sky’s atmosphere during this South Florida sunrise. The shallow clouds on the horizon are a tell-tale sign of atmospheric stability. When the atmosphere is heated from below, air wants to rise, which leads to convection. That results in the towering cumulus and cumulonimbus clouds often seen over tropical waters. But that only happens when the water is a significant heat source. Sometimes at night, the waters can cool down enough that the atmosphere becomes stable. This results in long thin clouds that hang in place instead of cumulus clouds that rise and billow. Sometimes, but not often, these clouds stick around until sunrise.

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