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arctic oscillation

an atmospheric circulation pattern in which the atmospheric pressure over the polar regions varies in opposition with that over middle latitudes (about 45 degrees N) on time scales ranging from weeks to decades; the oscillation extends through the depth of the troposphere, and from January to March, it extends upward into the stratosphere where it modulates in the strength of the westerly vortex that encircles the arctic polar cap region; the north atlantic oscillation and arctic oscillation are different ways of describing the same phenomenon.

arctic sea smoke

evaporation (steam) fog produced above a surface of open water within arctic ice when the air is stable and relatively cold.

arctic tree line

the northern limit of tree growth; the sinuous boundary between tundra and boreal forest; taken by many to delineate the actual southern boundary of the arctic zone.

arctic zone

(1) geographically, the area north of the arctic circle (66° 34′ N) (2) (same as tundra) biogeographically, the area extending northward from the arctic tree line; also used for the level above the timber line in mountains.


sharp, narrow ridge formed as a result of glacial erosion from both sides.

artificial ground freeezing

the process of inducing or maintaining a frozen condition in earth materials by artificial means.


the envelope of air surrounding the earth and bound to it more or less permanently by virtue of the earth's gravitational attraction; the system whose chemical properties, dynamic motions, and physical processes constitute the subject matter of meteorology.

atmospheric circulation

the large-scale movement of air, and the means by which heat is distributed on the surface of the Earth; may vary from year to year.

atmospheric phenomenon

as commonly used in weather observing practice, an observable occurrence of particular physical significance within the atmosphere; from the viewpoint of weather observations, the atmospheric phenomena include all hydrometeors (precipitation types and fogs), blowing snow, thunderstorms, tornadoes, waterspouts, and others.

atmospheric pressure

pressure (force per unit area) exerted by the atmosphere on any surface by virtue of its weight; it is equivalent to the weight of a vertical column of air extending above a surface of unit area to the outer limit of the atmosphere.

atmospheric radiation

longwave (infrared) radiation emitted by or being propagated through the atmosphere.


luminous phenomena, in the form of arcs, bands, draperies, or curtains in the high atmosphere over high latitudes; auroras are related to magnetic storms and the influx of charged particles from the sun, the phenomena are called aurora borealis in the northern hemisphere and aurora australis in the southern hemisphere.


mass of snow which becomes detached and slides down a slope, often acquiring great bulk by fresh addition as it descends.
An avalanche in motion. (Photograph courtesy of Richard Armstrong, National Snow and Ice Data Center.)

average value

arithmetic mean (m) of a number (n) of values (x1, x2, ... xn), defined by the equation: m = sxi/n; annual average value is calculated from 12 monthly means; daily average (or mean) value is calculated from 24 hourly readings of a meteorological element, or often from the average of the daily maximum and minimum values (for example, of temperature); monthly average is usually calculated as the average of the daily average values.

Azores high

the semipermanent subtropical high over the North Atlantic Ocean, especially when it is located over the eastern part of the ocean; the same high over the western part of the Atlantic is called the Bermuda high; on mean charts of sea level pressure, this high is one of the primary centers of action in northern latitudes.