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Air Masses


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Air Mass
Large bodies of air with similar moisture and temperature. They move an affect weather conditions. They are grouped accordingly to where they originate.
Polar
Orginate pole-ward of 60 degrees north and south latitude.
Tropical
Originate within about 25 degrees of the equator.
Continental
Originates over land and is typically dry.
Maritime
Originates over water and is typically wet.
Stable Air
Is relatively cooler below and does not rise (no convection). Calm, clear skies, no precipitation.
Unstable Air
Is relatively warmer below and does rise (convection). Cloudy, windy, with precipitation.
Front
Leading edge of an advancing air mass.
Cold Front
Cold air mass that meets a warmer air mass, pushes it up quickly, causing heavy rain and thunder.
Warm Front
Warmer air mass meets a colder air mass, warm air mass is pushed up slowly causing gentle rains.
Stationary Front
Cold and warm air mass do not advance or push either mass out of the way.
Occluded Front
Fast moving cold front advances on warmer air mass with a cooler air mass infront of the warm air mass. Warm air is separated (occluded) and pushed up from the Earth's surface. Cyclones can develop.
Continental Polar
Originates in North Pole and flows south. Air mass is very cold, stable, and dry. Clear & sunny skies with high pressure.
Maritime Polar
Originates over oceans in polar regions and flows to lower latitudes. Cool, moist, and unstable. Moderate rain/snow!
Maritime Tropical
Originates over water in lower latitudes. Warm and stable. California: Winter brings rains, summer is relatively sunny and clear skies. Gulf of Mexico: Warmer, wetter, and less stable with frequent rains all year.
Continental Tropical
Originates over land in lower latitudes of northern Mexico and flows north. Very hot and dry conditions, unstable surface air and more stable air at higher altitudes.