Lapse Rates (C/km)

A lapse rate is the rate of temperature change with height. The faster the temperature decreases with height, the "steeper" the lapse rate and the more "unstable" the atmosphere becomes. Lapse rates are typically displayed in ranges from 850-500-mb (4,500-18,000-ft above sea level) and 700-500-mb (10,000-18,000-ft above sea level).

Lapse rates are shown in terms of degrees Celcius change per kilometer in height. Values less than 5.5-6.0 degrees C/km ("moist" adiabatic) represent "stable" conditions, while values near 9.5 degrees C/km ("dry" adiabatic) are considered "absolutely unstable." In between these two values, lapse rates are considered "conditionally unstable." Conditional instability means that if enough moisture is present, lifted air parcels could have a negative LI (lifted index) or positive CAPE.