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Movement of Air

Movement of air is caused by temperature or pressure differences and is eperienced as wind. Where there are differences of pressure between two places, a pressure gradient exists, across which air moves: from the high-pressure region to the low-pressure region. This movement of air however, does not follow the quickest straight-line path. In fact, the air moving from high to low pressure follows a spiralling route, outwards from high pressure and inwards towards low pressure. This is due to the rotation of the Earth beneath the moving air, which causes an apparent deflection of the wind to the right in the Northern Hemisphere, and to the left in the Southern Hemisphere. The deflection of air is caused by the Coriolis force. Consequently, air blows anticlockwise around a low-pressure centre (depression) and clockwise around a high-pressure centre (anticyclone) in the Northern Hemisphere. This situation is reversed in the Southern Hemisphere.

Wind caused by differences in temperature is known as convection or advection. In the atmosphere, convection and advection transfer heat energy from warmer regions to colder regions, either at the Earth surface or higher up in the atmosphere. Small-scale air movement of this nature is observed during the formation of sea and land breezes, due to temperature differences between seawater and land. At a much larger scale, temperature differences across the Earth generate the development of the major wind belts. Such wind belts, to some degree, define the climate zones of the world.

Air temperature is generally higher at ground level due to heating by the Sun, and decreases with increasing altitude. This vertical temperature difference creates a significant uplift of air, since warmer air nearer the surface is lighter than colder air above it. This vertical uplift of air can generate clouds and rain. Sometimes air from warmer regions of the world collides with air from colder regions. This air mass convergence occurs in the mid-latitudes, where the warm air is forced to rise above the colder air, generating fronts and depressions.