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Inter Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ)

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Inter Tropical Convergence Zone

Definition

Where the Trade Winds from each hemisphere approach each other, the rising air creates instability which, depending on the strength of the winds, results in a line of clouds. This line of weather is known as the Inter Tropical Convergence Zone (Inter Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ)).

Description

The position of the ITCZ varies with the seasons. In July, over the Atlantic and Pacific, the ITCZ is between 5 and 15 degrees north of the Equator, but further north over the land masses of Africa and Asia. In January, over the Atlantic, the ITCZ sits no further south than the Equator, but extends much further south over South America, Southern Africa, and towards Australia.

Where the trade winds are weak, the ITCZ is characterised by isolated Cumulus and Cumulonimbus (Cb) (Cb) cells. However, where the trade winds are stronger, the ITCZ can be a solid line of active Cb cells embedded with other cloud types developing as a result of instability at higher levels. Cb tops can reach as high as 55,000 feet, and the ITCZ can be as wide as 300 nautical miles in places presenting a formidable obstacle to aircraft.

Effects

Aircraft flying through the ITCZ will encounter all the hazards associated with Cb clouds such as icing, turbulence, lightning, and wind shear. For further information see the main article Cumulonimbus (Cb).

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