Heavy air and hot temperatures

July 20, 2023
Why the temperatures heat up when the air gets heavy
Published: Jul. 20, 2023 at 5:44 PM CDT
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HASTINGS, Neb. (KSNB) - You probably have heard the term “ridge” of high pressure this past week in association with the extreme heat occurring over southern portions of the country. So what exactly is a ridge of high pressure weather forecasters speak of and how does it affect our weather? Let’s take a look at the current upper level map of the atmosphere where we currently have a dome of high pressure over the southwestern United States. A ridge is an elongated area of relatively high pressure extending from the center of a high pressure region. The ridge currently extends up into the far northwestern states. You can think of a ridge like a mountain peak. It goes up and over the high pressure center and comes down into a valley or properly known as a trough. But we can dig into that topic another time. If we look at a 3-D model of the upper levels, you can see that there is also a ridge associated with pressure surfaces. Higher pressure surfaces with highs and lower surfaces with lows. Now that we have defined what a ridge is, let’s take a look at what it does. As with any high pressure system, there is sinking air below it. As the air sinks, it compresses as it interacts with the earth’s surface. And as you know, anytime you compress something, it heats up. Hence, the hot air temperatures. Which, by the way, we will be experiencing next week with the high pressure ridge scooting our way.