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A continental air mass is usually..
  • A
    moist, as it has picked up moisture during its passage over fields and forests.
  • B
    warm, as it endures stronger friction over the terrain and is therefore heated up.
  • C
    cold, as it will have been cooled adiabatically during the night.
  • D
    dry, as its moisture content will have reduced while travelling over the land.

Refer to figures.

Continental air masses are characterised by dry air, as they have travelled over land (and haven't pick up much moisture on the way).
Maritime air masses have had a long trajectory over water and have been so modified that they have the characteristics of an air mass of oceanic origin - bringing humid weather.

Further info on air masses:
Air masses are classified according to moisture content, source or type and temperature using a 3-letter system:
First letter - moisture content:

  • Continental (c)

  • Maritime (m)

Second letter - source region or type (latitude/temperature):

  • Equatorial. (E)

  • Tropical. (T)

  • Polar. (P)

  • Arctic. (A)

Third letter: temperature, c(old) or w(arm)

Hence the 5 air masses affecting Europe are:




Arctic maritime, mAc

Polar ice cap. Only experienced during NH winter

stable very cold and dry.

Polar maritime, mPc

Northwest area of North Atlantic

stable, cold, absolute humidity low, relative humidity high

Polar Continental, cPc

Siberia (winter only) northern Russia

Stable, very cold and dry.
it is typically colder than the Arctic maritime air

Tropical Maritime, mTw

The Azores anticyclone

Warm, stable, absolute humidity high, RH high.

Tropical continental, cTw

N Africa/SE Europe

warm, dry, stable.

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