Continental Tropical (cT) Air in Summer
Continental tropical air is found over the United
States only in the summer. Its source region is the
relatively small area over the northern portion of
Mexico, western Texas, New Mexico, and eastern
Arizona. High surface temperatures and very low
humidities are the main air mass characteristics. Large
diurnal temperature ranges and the absence of
precipitation are additional properties of cT air. Flying
conditions are excellent. However, during the daytime
turbulence sometimes extends from the surface
throughout the average flying levels.
Superior (S) Air in Summer
Superior air usually exists over the southwestern
states and is believed to be the result of strong subsiding
motions. Most frequently this air is observed above an
inversion layer at high levels; it rarely descends to the
surface. Above the inversion layer, this superior air is
the warmest air mass observed in the United States at its
altitude; but, because of its steep lapse rate, its
temperature at higher levels is less than that of tropical
air. Relative humidity is usually less than 30 percent.
Quite often they are too low to measure accurately.
Superior air is observed in both summer and winter.
Flying conditions are excellent in this air mass, since no
cloud forms are present and visibilities are usually very
good because of the dryness. This type of air mass is
very important because superior air frequently stops all
convective activity caused by intruding maritime
tropical air. This generally prevents the formation of
showers and thunderstorms unless the mT air mass is
NOTE: Views A and B of figure 4-19 show the
properties of significant North American air masses
during the winter and summer seasons from the
standpoint of flying.
AIR MASSES OVER ASIA
The air masses commonly observed over Asia
maritime tropical, and equatorial. Maritime polar and
continental tropical air play a minor part in the air mass
cycle of Asia.
Continental Polar (cP) Air
Continental polar air, as observed over the interior
of Asia, is the coldest air on record in the Northern
Hemisphere. This is brought about by the fact that the
interior of Asia, made up of vast level and treeless
regions, serves as an ideal source region. The Himalaya
mountain range, across southern Asia, aids in the
production of cP air. It tends to keep the polar air over
the source region for a long time and to block the inflow
of tropical air from the lower latitudes.
The weather conditions over eastern Asia are
governed by this air mass throughout the winter.
Successive outbreaks of this air occur over Siberia,
China, and the Japanese Islands and establish the winter
weather pattern. The weather conditions prevailing in
this air are similar to those found in cP air over the
eastern portion of North America.
The cold air that is forced southward over the
Himalaya Mountains to India and Burma arrives in a
highly modified form and is known as the winter
monsoon. The weather conditions during the winter
monsoon are dominated by the dry and adiabatically
warmed polar air flowing equator-ward. It is while
under the influence of these monsoon conditions that
generally pleasant weather prevails over most of the
Maritime Tropical (mT) Air
Maritime tropical air is usually observed along the
coast of China and over the Japanese Islands during the
summer. In structure it is almost identical to the mT air
observed off the east coast of North America. The
weather conditions found in this air are similar to those
of its North American counterpart.
Equatorial (E) Air
Equatorial air is observed over southeastern Asia.
During the summer all of India and Burma are under the
influence of E air, because of the summer monsoon
circulation. In the wintertime, when offshore winds
prevail, E air is not found over the landmasses but is
found some distance offshore.
Equatorial air is an
extremely warm and moist air mass. It has great vertical
depth, often extending beyond 20,000 feet in height.
This entire column is unstable, and any slight lifting or
small amount of surface heating tends to release the
instability and produce showers and squalls. The
equatorial air observed over India and Burma is almost
identical in structure with E air found all along the
equatorial zone over the entire Earth. Unmodified
equatorial air is observed over India and Burma during
the summer monsoon.