Atmospheric pressure

Definition of Atmospheric Pressure

Atmospheric pressure, also referred to as air pressure or barometric pressure, refers to the force exerted by the weight of the Earth's atmospheric gases on a specific area. This parameter significantly influences meteorological phenomena, drives air movement, and governs gas behaviors. Measurement units for atmospheric pressure include pascals (Pa), millibars (mb), and inches of mercury (inHg).

How Atmospheric Pressure is Measured

Barometer: Barometers are instrumental in the measurement of atmospheric pressure. The two widely used types of barometers are mercury and aneroid. Mercury barometers employ a column of liquid mercury to offset the force of the atmosphere, whereas aneroid barometers use a sealed, flexible metal cell that alters its shape in response to air pressure variations.

Altimeter: Altimeters are commonly utilized in aviation and mountain climbing to approximate altitude using atmospheric pressure. Atmospheric pressure decreases with the increase in altitude, thereby allowing the altimeter to furnish an estimated altitude.

Factors Influencing Atmospheric Pressure

Altitude: Altitude is a significant contributor to atmospheric pressure. As one ascends in altitude, the density of air molecules diminishes, leading to a decrease in atmospheric pressure. Therefore, regions at high altitudes typically register lower air pressure than sea-level regions.

Temperature: Atmospheric pressure is also sensitive to temperature. Warmer, less dense air rises, triggering a reduction in air pressure. Conversely, colder, denser air descends, causing a rise in air pressure.

Weather Systems: Weather patterns are largely driven by high and low-pressure systems. High-pressure systems, characterized by descending air, clear skies, and calm weather, contrast with low-pressure systems associated with rising air, cloud production, and rainfall.

Atmospheric Pressure and Human Health

Pressure Changes: Rapid changes in atmospheric pressure, occurring during activities like air travel or mountain climbing, can cause temporary discomfort and minor health issues. These might include pain in the ear or difficulties in balancing pressure in the middle ear, and occasionally mild altitude sickness.

Chronic Low Pressure: Long-term exposure to low atmospheric pressure, often experienced when living at high altitudes, can cause physiological changes in the human body. These changes might involve an increased production of red blood cells to enhance oxygen-carrying capacity and adjustments in respiratory operations.

Atmospheric Pressure in Weather Forecasting

Atmospheric pressure information is an essential element in weather forecasting. Meteorologists study pressure patterns to identify and track high and low-pressure systems, assisting them in predicting weather conditions and possible storms. Observing alterations in atmospheric pressure can provide early signals for the onset of severe weather phenomena, including tornadoes and hurricanes.
Updated: Jun 1, 2023
Published by: Weather Atlas | About Us