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High-pressure area
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Satellite image of an unusual high-pressure area south of Australia, evidenced by

the clearing in the clouds[1]
A high-pressure area, high or anticyclone is a region where the atmospheric
pressure at the surface of the planet is greater than its surrounding environment.

Winds within high-pressure areas flow outward from the higher pressure areas near
their centers towards the lower pressure areas further from their centers. Gravity
adds to the forces causing this general movement, because the higher pressure
compresses the column of air near the center of the area into greater density � and
so greater weight compared to lower pressure, lower density, and lower weight of
the air outside the center.

However, because the planet is rotating underneath the atmosphere, and frictional
forces arise as the planetary surface drags some atmosphere with it, the air flow
from center to periphery is not direct, but is twisted due to the Coriolis effect,
or the merely apparent force that arise when the observer is in a rotating frame of
reference. Viewed from above this twist in wind direction is in the same direction
as the rotation of the planet.

The strongest high-pressure areas are associated with cold air masses which push
away out of polar regions during the winter when there is less sun to warm
neighboring regions. These Highs change character and weaken once they move further
over relatively warmer water bodies.

Somewhat weaker but more common are high-pressure areas caused by atmospheric
subsidence, that is, areas where large masses of cooler drier air descend from an
elevation of 8 to 15 km after the lower temperatures have precipitated out the
water vapor.

Many of the features of Highs may be understood in context of middle- or meso-scale

and relatively enduring dynamics of a planet's atmospheric circulation. For
example, massive atmospheric subsidences occur as part of the descending branches
of Ferrel cells and Hadley cells. Hadley cells help form the subtropical ridge,
steer tropical waves and tropical cyclones across the ocean and is strongest during
the summer. The subtropical ridge also helps form most of the world's deserts.

On English-language weather maps, high-pressure centers are identified by the

letter H. Weather maps in other languages may use different letters or symbols.

Contents [hide]
1 Wind circulation in the northern and southern hemispheres
2 Formation
3 Typical conditions
4 In climatology
5 Connection to wind
6 See also
7 References
Wind circulation in the northern and southern hemispheres[edit]
The direction of wind flow around an atmospheric high-pressure area and a low-
pressure area, as seen from above, depends on the hemisphere. High-pressure systems
rotate clockwise in the northern Hemisphere; low-pressure systems rotate clockwise
in the southern hemisphere.

The scientific terms in English used to describe the weather systems generated by
highs and lows were introduced in the mid-1800s, mostly by the British. The
scientific theories which explain the general phenomena originated about two
centuries earlier.

The term Cyclone was coined by Henry Piddington of the British East India Company
to describe the devastating storm of December 1789 in Coringa, India.[2] A cyclone
forms around a low-pressure area. Anticyclone, the term for the kind of weather
around a high-pressure area, was coined in 1877 by Francis Galton[3] to indicate an
area whose winds revolved in the opposite direction of a cyclone. In British
English, the opposite direction of clockwise is referred to as anticlockwise,
making the label anticyclones a logical extension.

A simple rule of thumb is that for high-pressure areas, where generally air flows
from the center outward, the coriolis force given by the earth's rotation to the
air circulation is in the opposite direction of earth's apparent rotation if viewed
from above the hemisphere's pole. So, both the earth and winds around a low-
pressure area rotate counter-clockwise in the northern hemisphere, and clockwise in
the southern. The opposite to these two cases occurs in the case of a high. These
results derive from the Coriolis effect; that article explains in detail the
physics, and provides an animation of a model to aid understanding.

Main article: Anticyclogenesis

A surface weather analysis for the United States on October 21, 2006.
High-pressure systems form due to downward motion through the troposphere, the
atmospheric layer where weather occurs. Preferred areas within a synoptic flow
pattern in higher levels of the troposphere are beneath the western side of

On weather maps, these areas show converging winds (isotachs), also known as
convergence, near or above the level of non-divergence, which is near the 500 hPa
pressure surface about midway up through the troposphere, and about half the
atmospheric pressure at the surface.[4][5]

High-pressure systems are alternatively referred to as anticyclones. On English-

language weather maps, high-pressure centers are identified by the letter H in
English,[6] within the isobar with the highest pressure value. On constant pressure
upper level charts, it is located within the highest height line contour.[7]

Typical conditions[edit]

The subtropical ridge shows up as a large area of black (dryness) on this water
vapor satellite image from September 2000
Highs are frequently associated with light winds at the surface and subsidence
through the lower portion of the troposphere. In general, subsidence will dry out
an air mass by adiabatic, or compressional, heating.[8] Thus, high pressure
typically brings clear skies.[9] During the day, since no clouds are present to
reflect sunlight, there is more incoming shortwave solar radiation and temperatures
rise. At night, the absence of clouds means that outgoing longwave radiation (i.e.
heat energy from the surface) is not absorbed, giving cooler diurnal low
temperatures in all seasons. When surface winds become light, the subsidence
produced directly under a high-pressure system can lead to a buildup of
particulates in urban areas under the ridge, leading to widespread haze.[10] If the
low level relative humidity rises towards 100 percent overnight, fog can form.[11]

The letter H is used to represent a high-pressure area.

Strong, vertically shallow high-pressure systems moving from higher latitudes to
lower latitudes in the northern hemisphere are associated with continental arctic
air masses.[12] Once arctic air moves over an unfrozen ocean, the air mass modifies
greatly over the warmer water and takes on the character of a maritime air mass,
which reduces the strength of the high-pressure system.[13] When extremely cold air
moves over relatively warm oceans, polar lows can develop.[14] However, warm and
moist (or maritime tropical) air masses that move poleward from tropical sources
are slower to modify than arctic air masses.[15]

In climatology[edit]
See also: Siberian high and Subtropical ridge

The Hadley cell carries heat and moisture from the tropics towards the northern and
southern mid-latitudes.
In terms of climatology, high pressure forms at the horse latitudes, or torrid
zone,[16] between the latitudes of 20 and 40 degrees from the equator, as a result
of air that has been uplifted at the equator. As the hot air rises it cools, losing
moisture; it is then transported poleward where it descends, creating the high-
pressure area.[17] This is part of the Hadley cell circulation and is known as the
subtropical ridge or subtropical high, and is strongest in the summer.[18] The
subtropical ridge is a warm core high-pressure system, meaning it strengthens with
height.[19] Many of the world's deserts are caused by these climatological high-
pressure systems.[20]

Some climatological high-pressure areas acquire regionally based names. The land-
based Siberian High often remains quasi-stationary for more than a month during the
most frigid time of the year, making it unique in that regard. It is also a bit
larger and more persistent than its counterpart in North America.[21] Surface winds
accelerating down valleys down the western Pacific ocean coastline, causing the
winter monsoon.[22] Arctic high-pressure systems such as the Siberian High are cold
core, meaning that they weaken with height.[19] The influence of the Azores High,
also known as the Bermuda High, brings fair weather over much of the North Atlantic
Ocean and mid to late summer heat waves in western Europe.[23] Along its southerly
periphery, the clockwise circulation often impels easterly waves, and tropical
cyclones that develop from them, across the ocean towards landmasses in the western
portion of ocean basins during the hurricane season.[24] The highest barometric
pressure ever recorded on Earth was 1,085.7 hectopascals (32.06 inHg) measured in
Tonsontsengel, Mongolia on 19 December 2001.[25]

Connection to wind[edit]
Main article: Geostrophic wind
Wind flows from areas of high pressure to areas of low pressure.[26] This is due to
density differences between the two air masses. Since stronger high-pressure
systems contain cooler or drier air, the air mass is more dense and flows towards
areas that are warm or moist, which are in the vicinity of low pressure areas in
advance of their associated cold fronts. The stronger the pressure difference, or
pressure gradient, between a high-pressure system and a low-pressure system, the
stronger the wind. The coriolis force caused by the Earth's rotation is what gives
winds within high-pressure systems their clockwise circulation in the northern
hemisphere (as the wind moves outward and is deflected right from the center of
high pressure) and counterclockwise circulation in the southern hemisphere (as the
wind moves outward and is deflected left from the center of high pressure).
Friction with land slows down the wind flowing out of high-pressure systems and
causes wind to flow more outward than would be the case in the absence of friction.
This is known as a geostrophic wind.[27]

See also[edit]
Weather front
Jump up ^ "An Australian "Anti-storm"". NASA. 2012-06-08. Retrieved 2013-02-12.
Jump up ^ "Cyclone". Retrieved 2013-01-24.
Jump up ^ | "Word Origin & History" [1]|accessed 2013-01-24
Jump up ^ Glossary of Meteorology (2009). Level of nondivergence. American
Meteorological Society. Retrieved on 2009-02-17.
Jump up ^ Konstantin Matchev (2009). Middle-Latitude Cyclones - II. Archived 2009-
02-25 at the Wayback Machine. University of Florida. Retrieved on 2009-02-16.
Jump up ^ Keith C. Heidorn (2005). Weather's Highs and Lows: Part 1 The High. The
Weather Doctor. Retrieved on 2009-02-16.
Jump up ^ Glossary of Meteorology (2009). High. American Meteorological Society.
Retrieved on 2009-02-16.
Jump up ^ Office of the Federal Coordinator for Meteorology (2006). Appendix G:
Glossary. Archived 2009-02-25 at the Wayback Machine. NOAA. Retrieved on 2009-02-
Jump up ^ Jack Williams (2007). What's happening inside highs and lows. USA Today.
Retrieved on 2009-02-16.
Jump up ^ Myanmar government (2007). Haze. Archived 2007-01-27 at the Wayback
Machine. Retrieved on 2007-02-11.
Jump up ^ Robert Tardif (2002). Fog characteristics. Archived 2011-05-20 at the
Wayback Machine. NCAR National Research Laboratory. Retrieved on 2007-02-11.
Jump up ^ CBC News (2009). Blame Yukon: Arctic air mass chills rest of North
America. Canadian Broadcasting Centre. Retrieved on 2009-02-16.
Jump up ^ Federal Aviation Administration (1999). North Atlantic International
General Aviation Operations Manual Chapter 2. Environment. FAA. Retrieved on 2009-
Jump up ^ Rasmussen, E.A. and Turner, J. (2003). Polar Lows: Mesoscale Weather
Systems in the Polar Regions, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 612.
Jump up ^ Dr. Ali Tokay (2000). CHAPTER 11: Air Masses, Fronts, Cyclones, and
Anticyclones. University of Maryland, Baltimore County. Retrieved on 2009-02-16.
Jump up ^ Anders Persson (2006). Hadley's Principle: Understanding and
Misunderstanding the Trade Winds. International Commission on History of
Meteorology: History of Meteorology 3. Retrieved on 2009-02-16.
Jump up ^ Becca Hatheway (2008). Hadley Cell. University Corporation for
Atmospheric Research. Retrieved on 2009-02-16.
Jump up ^ Glossary of Meteorology (2009). Subtropical High. American Meteorological
Society. Retrieved on 2009-02-16.
^ Jump up to: a b Climate Change Research Center (2002). STEC 521: Lesson 4 SURFACE
PRESSURE SYSTEMS AND AIRMASSES. Archived 2009-11-07 at the Wayback Machine.
University of New Hampshire. Retrieved on 2009-02-16.
Jump up ^ ThinkQuest team 26634 (1999). The Formation of Deserts. Archived 2012-10-
17 at the Wayback Machine. Oracle ThinkQuest Education Foundation. Retrieved on
Jump up ^ W. T. Sturges (1991). Pollution of the Arctic Atmosphere. Springer, pp.
23. ISBN 978-1-85166-619-5. Retrieved on 2009-02-16.
Jump up ^ Glossary of Meteorology (2009). Siberian High. American Meteorological
Society. Retrieved on 2009-02-16.
Jump up ^ Weather Online Limited (2009). Azores High. Retrieved on 2009-02-16.
Jump up ^ Chris Landsea (2009). "Frequently Asked Questions: What determines the
movement of tropical cyclones?". Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological
Laboratory. Retrieved 2006-07-25.
Jump up ^ Christopher C. Burt (2004). Extreme Weather (1 ed.). Twin Age Ltd. p.
234. ISBN 0-393-32658-6.
Jump up ^ BWEA (2007). Education and Careers: What is wind? Archived 2011-03-04 at
the Wayback Machine. British Wind Energy Association. Retrieved on 2009-02-16.
Jump up ^ JetStream (2008). Origin of Wind. National Weather Service Southern
Region Headquarters. Retrieved on 2009-02-16.
[hide] v t e
Cyclones and anticyclones of the world (Centers of action)
Extratropical Mesocyclone/Anticyclonic storm Polar Subtropical cyclone/Subtropical
ridge Thermal Tropical
Polar High Siberian High Azores High (Bermuda/North Atlantic) North American High
(Canadian/Greenland) South Atlantic High (St.Helena) North Pacific High (Hawaii
High) South Pacific High Kalahari High
Aleutian Low (Alaska/Far East Russia) Atlantic hurricane Australian Low (east
coast) European windstorm Genoa Low Icelandic Low Kona storm (Hawaii) Mediterranean
tropical-like cyclone Nor'easter Pacific hurricane Polar vortex Typhoon Wake Low
Categories: Basic meteorological concepts and phenomenaAnticyclones
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