I often hear the word "instability" used in severe weather situations, what are meteorologist referring to when they use that term?
Instability is just another way of saying there is upward motion or lift in the atmosphere.
Instability in the atmosphere is often found preceding a front.
The front (cold, occluded, stationary, or warm) can all lead to instability, which often leads to precipitation events (and potentially severe weather).
The greater the instability, the greater potential the event may turn severe.
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