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Air Masses and Fronts


The system by which air masses are classified reflects the fact that certain locations on the planet possess the topographic and atmospheric conditions that favor air mass development. That system uses two letters to designate an air mass. One letter, written in upper case, indicates the approximate latitude (and, therefore, temperature) of the region: A for arctic; P for polar; E for equatorial; T for tropical. The distinctions between arctic and polar on the one hand and equatorial and tropical on the other are relatively modest. The first two terms (arctic and polar) refer to cold air masses, and the second two (equatorial and tropical) to warm air masses.

A second letter, written in lower case, indicates whether the air mass forms over land or sea and, hence, the relative amount of moisture in the mass. The two designations are c for continental (land) air mass and m for maritime (water) air mass.

The two letters are then combined to designate both temperature and humidity of an air mass. One source region of arctic air masses, for example, is the northernmost latitudes of Alaska, upper Canada, and Greenland. Thus, air masses developing in this source region are designated as cA (cold, land) air masses. Similarly, air masses developing over the Gulf of Mexico, a source region for maritime tropical air masses, are designated as mT (warm, water) air masses.

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Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Adrenoceptor (adrenoreceptor; adrenergic receptor) to AmbientAir Masses and Fronts - Source Regions, Classification, Properties Of Air Masses, Fronts, Cold Fronts, Warm Fronts - Stationary fronts