Air Masses and Fronts

By Jay Schroeder 3/4

Air Masses

Air Mass Characteristics.

All air masses have three characteristics. They are large, have the same properties throughout(temperature, humidity, etc..) and are physically bonded together.

Types of Air Masses

There are different types of air masses. Air masses generally have the same characteristics as the area they form in. Air mass have two names: one for the temperature and one for the humidity. Let check them out:


Polar-Cold air Tropical-Hot air


Maritime-wet Continental-dry

So, a Continental Tropical air mass would be warm and dry and will cause a drought, while a Maritime Polar will be wet and cold and will bring rain, snow, and/or hail.

Finally, we have Continental Arctic. This air mass brings very cold temperatures and has hardly any humidity.

Lastly, air mass on weather maps are labeled with a K or W. A "K" means it's moving to a region colder than it while "W" means it is moving to region warmer than it.


Cold Front

Cold fronts happen when cold air settles under warm air and pushes it out of the way. They move northwest to southeast. Cold fronts bring fast, gusty winds along with rain and thunderstorms. It could also bring lightning and hail. On a weather map, cold fronts are represented by a solid blue line with triangles pointing in the direction it's going.

Warm Fronts

A warm front is the counterpart of a cold front. Warm fronts bring a updraft of warm are that rises under cold air and pushes it up and out of the way. This can cause rainshowers that soon disappear and will bring a steady rise in temperatures. Warm fronts generally move southwest to northeast and look like a solid red line with semi circles on a weather map.

Stationary Fronts and Occluded Fronts

Stationary fronts occur when and warm and cold front run into each other. They bring wet and cloudy weather and are represented with both triangles and semicircles. Occluded fronts form when a cold fronts tries to move ahead of a warm fronts and pushes it ahead. On weather maps, Occluded fronts have a solid purple line with both triangles and semicircles.