air masses

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WEST VISAYAS STATE UNIVERSITY LA PAZ, ILOILO CITY (Effective Alternative Secondary Education) Submitted by: Little Rose G. Santiago MA.ED Physical Science Submitted to: 1

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Classification and Properties in Air Masses


Page 1: Air Masses


(Effective Alternative Secondary Education)

Submitted by:

Little Rose G. SantiagoMA.ED Physical Science Submitted to:

Prof. Vilma Templora


Page 2: Air Masses

Module in Air Masses

What this module is about

An air mass is an extremely large body of air whose properties of temperature and moisture content (humidity) are similar in any horizontal direction. Air masses can cover hundreds of thousands of square miles. Areas in which air masses originate are called source regions . Because the atmosphere is heated chiefly from below and gains its moisture by evaporation from earth’s surface, the nature of the source region largely determines the initial characteristics of an air mass.

This module is all about air masses, their source region, properties, classification and modification. Knowledge of an air masses in atmosphere can help you answer questions like Where do air masses from? What factors determine the nature and degree of uniformity of an air mass? These two basic questions are closely related because the site where an air mass forms vitally affects the properties that characterize it.

To make the discussion easy for you, the module is divided into three lessons:

Lesson 1- What is an Air Mass and its Source Region? Lesson 2- How are Air Masses Modified? Lesson 3- What are the Properties of an Air Masses?

What you are expected to learn

After going through this module, you should be able to:

1. classify air masses;

2. relate the properties of air masses to their behavior;

3. discuss the air masses modification and its source region


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How to learn from this module

Here are some pointers to remember as you go over this module.

1. Read and follow the instructions carefully.2. Answer the pre-test first before reading the content of the module.3. Take down notes and record points for clarification.4. Always aim to get at least 70% of the total number of items given.5. Be sure to answer the post test at the end of the module.

What to do before (Pre-test)

Take the pre- test before proceeding in the lessons. Check your answers against the answer key at the end of the module.

I. Multiple Choice. Choose the letter of the best answer. Write the chosen letter on a separate sheet of paper.

1. Which of the following statements is most plausible?a. In winter, cP source regions have higher temperatures than mT source regions.b. In summer, mP source regions have higher temperatures than cT source regions.c. In winter, cA source regions have lower temperatures than cP source regions.d. In summer, mT source regions have lower temperatures than mP source regions.e. They are all equally plausible.

2. Compared to an mP air mass, mT air is ____.a. warmer and drierb. warmer and moisterc. colder and drierd. colder and moister

3. One would expect a cP air mass to be:a. cold and dry.b. cold and moist.c. warm and dry.d. warm and moist.

4. The air mass with the highest actual water vapor content is ____.a. mTb. cT


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c. mPd. cP

5. Along the boundary between continental polar and maritime tropical air masses, ____ is often found.a. a large area of calm (extremely light wind)b. intense heat and droughtc. widespread precipitation and storminessd. both a and c

6. A mT air mass would be best described asa. cold and wetb. warm and dryc. warm and wetd. cold and dry

7. Which of the following is an appropriate classification for the nature of the surface of the source regions?a. continentalb. maritimec. terrigenousd. a and b

8. A good source region for a continental air masses would be:a. the Southern Indian Oceanb. the Hawaiian Islandc. the Canadian Prairied. lake Ontario

9. Continental polar air masses are typically associated with what kind of winter weather?a. clear skies and warm temperaturesb. sunny but coldc. cool, rainy conditiond. Hazy, hot and humid, with scattered afternoon

10. The earth’s dessert regions serve as source regions for _____ air masses.a. continental tropical ( cT)b. continental polar (cP)c. maritime polar (mP)d. continental Arctic (cA).


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Lesson 1. What is an Air Mass?

In the middle latitudes, most weather patterns are the result of the movements of large bodies of air, called air masses. An air massis a large body of air, usually 1600 kilometers or more across and perhaps several kilometers thick, which is characterized by homogeneous physical properties (in particular, temperature and moisture content) at any given altitude. A region under the influence of an air mass will probably experience generally constant weather conditions, a situation referred to as air mass weather.

What you will do

Activity 1.1 Air Mass

PURPOSE: To develop an understanding of air masses.

In this activity, you will learn about air masses and demonstrate how differences in their density cause warm and cold fronts. You will learn how source regions give rise to the names of air masses and how these names can be combined to describe the humidity and temperature of the source region.


1-cup (250-ml) measuring cup

tap water

blue food coloring


one 20-ounce (600-ml) clear plastic bottle

1 cup (250 ml) of liquid cooking oil


1. Fill the measuring cup with water.

2. Add three drops of food coloring to the water and stir.

3. Pour the water into the bottle.

4. Fill the measuring cup with oil.

5. Tilt the bottle and slowly pour the oil into the bottle (see Figure 27.1)

6. Analysis:


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Based from the behaviour of the particles of one substance, what have you observed the movement of oil into the bottle?


The oil moves across the top of the blue water.


An air mass is a large body of air with about the same temperature and humidity throughout. Air masses form when air stays over a region long enough to take on the temperature and humidity characteristics of that region. It takes a week or more for an air mass to form.The density of air masses varies with the temperature and humidity of the air. Warm air masses are less dense than cold air masses, and humid air masses are less dense than dry air masses. When air masses with different densities meet, the two masses do not mix. As with oil and water, a distinct boundary forms between the air masses. In the experiment, the oil represented a warm air mass and the colored water a cold air mass. As with the oil and water, warm, less dense air moves over cold, denser air.

Vilhelm Bjerknes (1862-1951), a Norwegian physicist and meteorologist, coined the term front to describe the boundary between warm and cold air masses. The leading edge of a warm air mass advancing into a region occupied by a cold air mass is called a warm front. Acold front occurs when a cold air mass advances into a region occupied by a warm air mass. If the boundary between the cold and warm air masses doesn't move, it is called a stationary front. The boundary where a cold air mass meets a cool air mass under a warm air mass is called an occluded front. At a front, the weather is usually unsettled and stormy, and precipitation is common.Try New Approaches

1. Model a cold front produced by the movement of a cold air mass into a region occupied by a warm air mass. Do this by repeating the experiment, but place the oil in the bottle first, then slowly pour in the colored water.

2. Does the volume of the air masses affect the results? Repeat the original experiment twice, first using 11/2 cups (375 ml) of water and 1/2 cup (125 ml) of oil, then using 1/2cup (125 ml) of water and 11/2 cups (375 ml) of oil.

Self Test 1.1


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Now that you are through with the first lesson, try to answer the following and see for yourself how much you learned.

Matching Type. Match the items in column A with the type of fronts in column B.

Column A Column B

1. Occluded front A. boundary between the cold and warm air masses doesn't move2. Stationary front B. boundary where a cold air mass meets a cool air mass under a warm air mass3. Front C. boundary between warm and cold air masses4. air mass D. cold air mass advances into a region occupied by a warm air mass5. cold front E. large body of air with about the same temperature and humidity

Lesson 2 How are Air Masses Modified?

Areas in which air masses originate are called air mass source regions. An ideal source region must meet two criteria. First, it must be an extensive and physically uniform area. The second criterion is that the area is characterized by a general stagnation of atmospheric circulation so that air will stay over the region long enough to come to some measure of equilibrium with the surface. The classification of an air mass depends on:(1) the latitude of the source region, and (2) the nature of the surface in the area of origin—ocean or continent. A source region might be an ocean, a large forest, a dessert or open grasslands. Source regions must be large and have similar, or uniform, traits throughout.

Abbreviations for Air Mass Source Regions•Air masses are identified by two-letter codes.•With reference to latitude (temperature), air masses are placed into one of three categories:•polar(P)•arctic(A)•tropical(T)A lowercase letter (m, for maritime or c continental ) is placed in front of the uppercase letter to designate the nature of the surfaces and the humidity characteristics of the air mass.Using this classification, the following air masses are identified: cA, cP, cT, mT, cA, cP, cT, mT, and mP mP. Note that there is not a mA source region.

Air Mass Modifications

Once an air mass moves from its source region, it not only modifies the weather of the area it is travelling over, but it is also gradually modified by the surface over which it is moving. •Modifications can result from:•temperature differences between an air mass and the surface,


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•vertical movements induced by cyclones and anticyclones, or •topography. The day-to-day weather we experience depends on the temperature, stability, and moisture content of the air mass we are experiencing. Continental polar(cP)and continental arctic(cA)air masses are, as their classification implies, cold and dry. Although cP air masses are not, as a rule, associated with heavy precipitation, those that cross the Great Lakes during late autumn and winter sometimes bring lake-effect snows to the leeward shores. Maritime polarair masses (mP) form over oceans at high latitudes and are cool to cold and humid. The weather associated with an invasion of mP air from the Atlantic into an area east of the Appalachians and north of Cape Hatteras is known as a nor'easter . Maritime tropical(mT) air masses affecting North America most often originate over the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean Sea, or the adjacent western Atlantic Ocean. As expected, mT air masses are warm to hot and they are humid. During winter, when cP air dominates the central and eastern United States, mT air only occasionally enters this part of the country. However, during the summer, mT air masses from the Gulf, Caribbean, and adjacent Atlantic cover a much wider area of the continent and are present for a greater period. The mT air masses from the Gulf-Caribbean-Atlantic source region are also the source of much (if not most) of the precipitation received in the eastern two-thirds of the United States. Isohyets, lines drawn on a map that connect places having equal rainfall, illustrate the greatest rainfall in the Gulf region and a decrease in precipitation with increasing distance from the mT source region. Hot and dry continental tropical(cT) air is produced only in the summer in northern interior Mexico and adjacent parts of the arid southwestern United States

Air Mass Move

As air masses leave their source region and begin moving to other areas, they bring with them the conditions that are common in the source region such as Canada will be cold, especially if it forms during the winter. As this air mass begins to move towards the south, it brings with it the cold temperature that are common in the northern parts of Canada. When their happens, southern parts of the continent experience much cooler than they are used to.

Lesson 3u What are the Properties of an Air Masses?


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The abbreviations used to classify air massesuse the following letters: c, m, T, P, and A.

For each letter, describe its property:Word Means

c continental drym maritime moistT Tropical warmP polar coldA Arctic Very cold

ce reg


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Self Test 3.1

Now that you are through with the second lesson, try to answer the following and see for yourself how much you learned.

What type of air masswould form over each

area? Please label


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PosttestMultiple Choice. Choose the letter of the best answer. Write the chosen letter on a separate sheet of paper.

1. What causes changes in weather?a. air massesb. the air gets more humidc. water evaporatesd. clouds form2. The air mass with the highest actual water vapour content is ____.a. mTb. cTc. mPd. cP3. The characteristics of an airmass which formed over the Gulf of Mexico would probably bea. warm and humidb. cool and humidc. warm and dryc. cool and dry4. An air mass originating over the North Pacific Ocean would most like bea. maritime tropicalb. maritime polarc. continental tropicald. continental polar5. On a weather map, an air mass that is very warm and dry would be labelleda. cTb. mPc. mTd. cP6. A mT air mass would most likely originate over which type of earth surface?a. warm and dryb. cold and moistc. warm and moistd. cold and dry7. Compared to a maritime tropical air mass, a maritime polar air mass hasa. lower temperature and less water vapourb. lower temperature and more water vapourc. higher temperature and more water vapourd. higher temperature and less water vapour8. Which true properties characterize an air massa. temperature and pressureb. moisture and pressurec. temperature and moistured. temperature and location9. What type of front forms when the surface position of the front does not move?a. coldb. occluded


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c. warmd. stationary10. The boundary that separates different air masses is called as ___.a. anticycloneb. frontc. stormd. cyclone

Key to AnswersPretest PosttestMultiple Choice 1. c 6. c 1.b 6.c2. b 7. d 2.a 7.a3. a 8. c 3. a 8.c4. a 9. b 4.b 9.d5. c 10. a 5.a 10.b

ReferenceFrederick K. Lutgens, Edward J. Tarbuck (2013).The Atmosphere: An Introduction to Meteorology (12 ed.)



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