Polar Front

A polar front is an area where cold polar air mass meets warm tropical air masses. The line between these two air masses can be thousands of miles long. The temperature in the two air masses is very different. The Arctic air mass is much colder than the tropical air masses that have moved up from tropical regions. The boundary between the two air masses is stationary.

Polar Front, NASA

Map showing jet streams that are the boundaries
between warm and cold air fronts

Stationary front
The stationary front is an area where the cold Arctic air keeps flowing down to lower latitudes. The warm tropical air keeps moving up into higher latitudes. The stationary front remains in one place between the two air masses.

Front of polar air shifts
The polar front shifts toward the equator in the winter time. Its average position is about 30 degrees latitude in the winter. During the summer the front shifts northward to about 60 degrees latitude when high pressure dominates.

Northeast coast front
The stationary front off the United States northeast coast is between the land and the ocean. The sharp difference in temperature is caused by the snow covered land and the warm ocean currents flowing up from the equator.

Wave cyclones
Norwegians studying the weather during World War I came up with a theory that explained how wave cyclones originated in the middle latitudes instead of the tropics.

Middle latitude winds
These middle latitudes are areas where the air near the surface is constantly changes as air from the north and south come together. These regions usually have light winds and dry conditions.

Norwegian's wave theory
The Norwegians came up with the wave theory to explain cyclones that form along this front. A small bulge of warm air creates a "kink" in the stationary front. This leads to the winds twisting as the air masses meet and the Earth's rotation causes cyclones to form in this region instead of the tropics.

More Planet Earth Links

Horse Latitudes Find out where the Horse Latitudes are located and how they got their unusual name.

Earths Crust Do you know where the youngest crust on our planet is located and how it forms?

Earths Interior Our planet is made up of many layers and scientists working as detectives are uncovering its secrets.

The Earths Mantle Is the mantle molten rock or solid rock? Find out what we know about this large layer of the Earth.

Iceland Volcanoes Did you know volcanoes in Iceland formed because of the Mid Atlantic Ridge and a hot spot?

Polar Front Find out what happens when a cold air mass from the poles meets a warm tropical air mass!

Planet Earth Find out about our planet from the Earth's core to the outer reaches of our atmosphere.

Kids Fun Science The links on our home page include information about volcanoes, science activities, plate tectonics, the rock cycle and much more.

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