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How does air pressure affect weather?

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Quick Answer

Air pressure affects the weather by influencing the movement of air around the planet; areas of low pressure generally develop clouds and precipitation, while areas of high pressure tend to bring clear, sunny weather conditions. Air pressure refers to the force exerted by the atmosphere on the surface of the Earth.

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Full Answer

The atmosphere is an ocean of gases that circulate above the planet's surface. It contains tiny, randomly moving air particles that exert their weight above a given area, known as atmospheric pressure or air pressure. Air pressure is inversely proportional to altitude. The higher the elevation, the lower the air pressure. Conversely, the nearer to the Earth's surface, the greater the air pressure. At sea level, the standard atmospheric pressure is given as 1031 hectopascals. Air pressure, along with geography, temperature and humidity, are some of the factors that drive particular weather conditions.

Areas of low pressure are caused by rising warm air while areas of high pressure result from descending cold air. On weather maps, low and high pressure systems are identified using isobars, which are lines connecting places having equal pressures at sea level. When a low pressure system, or a depression, develops over a region, the ascending warm air cools. When it reaches saturation point, the cooled air forms clouds, often followed by precipitation. Areas of very low pressure tend to have stormy weather. When a high pressure system develops, also known as anticyclone, the descending air dissipates cloud formation and calm, dry weather conditions prevail.

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