Types of Air Masses

Sunday, January 10, 2021

The interior of Alaska is cold in the winter and so is the air

Florida is hot and near the ocean, you will find warm wet air in Florida

Arizona is hot and dry and so is the air.


An air mass is a large mass of air in which temperature and humidity are the same throughout.


definition air mass


For example, the air mass over Alaska is cold and dry and the air mass over Florida will be warm and moist.

For an air mass to form the air must stay over the area long enough to pick up the characteristics of the area.


Most air masses form over cold areas called polar regions or warm tropical areas.

In addition, they will form over oceans and be moist. Air masses that form over the ocean are called maritime and they form over continents. Air masses that form over continents are dry and are called continental air masses.


Remember An air mass is a large mass of air in which temperature and humidity are the same throughout.


air masses



Let’s take a look at many of the air masses found on Earth.


types of air masses


Maritime tropical air masses are warm and moist on this diagram they are pink in color.

Maritime equatorial air masses are hot and moist and are found at the equator on the diagram they are purple. 

Maritime polar air masses are  cold and moist  and form over the northern Atlantic and the northern Pacific oceans     

These air masses are colored green on the diagram above.  

Continental tropical air masses are warm and dry they are colored orange and are found above or below the equator where it is hot and humid.

Continental polar are cold and dry and colored dark blue on the diagram. 

Continental Arctic and Antarctica are very cold and dry and are located far to the north and south.


When an air mass moves over a region of the Earth the temperature and humidity of the area may change along with the weather.

What causes the air mass to move?

Global Winds and jet streams help move these air masses.

A cold air mass tends to move towards the equator and warm air masses tend to move towards the poles.

The Coriolis effect also contributes to the movement.

In the United States, many air masses will move towards the northeast due to the Coriolis effect.


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