The Atmosphere

Air and Air Pressure

What is barometric pressure and what does it mean?

Barometric, or atmospheric, pressure is the force exerted on a surface by the weight of the air above that surface, as measured by an instrument called a barometer. Pressure is greater at lower levels because the air’s molecules are squeezed under the weight of the air above. So while the average air pressure at sea level is 14.7 pounds per square inch, at 1,000 feet (304 meters) above sea level, the pressure drops to 14.1 pounds per square inch, and at 18,000 feet (5,486 meters) the pressure is 7.3 pounds, about half of the figure at sea level. Changes in air pressure bring weather changes. High pressure areas bring clear skies and fair weather; low pressure areas bring wet or stormy weather. Areas of very low pressure have serious storms, such as hurricanes.

Some weather fronts are so well defined that anyone can see them coming.

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