These panels show 500 mb fields for geopotential height and absolute vorticity. 500 mb charts depict conditions in the middle troposphere (roughly 5000 meters).
Geopotential height approximates the actual height of a pressure surface above mean sea-level and is represented by the solid white contours. The geopotential height field is given in meters with an interval of 60 meters between height lines. The 500 mb height field encircling the globe consists of a series of troughs and ridges, which are the upper air counterparts of surface cyclones and anticyclones. The distance from trough to trough (or ridge to ridge) is known as a long wave. Embedded within the long waves are short waves, which are smaller disturbances often responsible for triggering surface cyclone development.
Vorticity is the localized rotation of the air. Air that rotates counterclockwise, such as in cyclones and troughs, is said to have positive vorticity. Clockwise rotating air, such as in high pressure systems and ridges, has negative vorticity. The advection of vorticity at middle and upper levels will result in a response that causes air to rise and sink. Therefore, monitoring vorticity advection is important to dignosing potential locations for clouds and rain.