What is Atmospheric pressure?

What is Atmospheric pressure: The air surrounding you has mass and presses against everything it comes into contact with. Atmospheric pressure, or air pressure, is used to describe this pressure. The standard atmosphere (symbol: atm) is a unit of pressure defined as 101,325 Pa (1,013.25 hPa; 1,013.25 mbar), which is comparable to 760 millimeters of mercury 29.9212 inches of mercury, or 14.696 psi.

Atmospheric Pressure


:small_blue_diamond: Barometric pressure, commonly known as atmospheric pressure, is the pressure in Earth’s atmosphere, as measured by a barometer. Air pressure exerted on a surface as gravity pulls it towards the Earth is known as a “surface gravitational force.”

:small_blue_diamond: A barometer is a typical tool for determining atmospheric pressure. As the weight of the atmosphere fluctuates, a column of mercury rises or falls in a glass tube. Meteorologists use the height of the mercury’s rise to describe the pressure in the atmosphere.

:small_blue_diamond: Atmospheric pressure at sea level at a temperature of 15 degrees Celsius (atm) is a unit of measurement (59 degrees Fahrenheit). One atmosphere is 760 millimeters (29.92 inches) of mercury, or 1,013 millibars (29.92 inches).

:small_blue_diamond: In the atmosphere, pressure decreases with height. Denali, Alaska, has half the atmospheric pressure of Honolulu, Hawaii. At sea level, Honolulu is a major metropolis. Denali, the highest point in North America, is also known as Mount McKinley. A drop in air pressure means a decrease in oxygen supply. Humans can become ill and perhaps die at extremely high elevations because of a lack of oxygen and atmospheric pressure.

:small_blue_diamond: Bottled oxygen is used by mountain climbers who hike very high peaks. There is a risk of decompression sickness if they descend too quickly from a higher to a lower altitude. Too-rapid ascent to the surface can cause decompression sickness, often known as “the bends.”

:small_blue_diamond: To keep passengers comfortable, aircraft use a system of artificial pressure in the cabin. The pressure in the atmosphere is a good predictor of the weather. It is common for cloudiness, wind, and precipitation to accompany the passage of low-pressure systems. In most cases, fair, quiet weather results from high-pressure systems.

Air has weight

:small_blue_diamond: Altitude sickness (hypoxia) is a real possibility for anyone who attempts to climb a high mountain, such as Hawaii’s 13,796-foot-tall Mauna Kea on the Big Island.

:small_blue_diamond: At the height of 9,200 feet (2,804 meters), the Information Center advises tourists to acclimate to the mountain’s high altitude before continuing to the peak. Because, “Of course,” you might respond, “It’s only that the amount of oxygen accessible at such a high altitude is significantly less compared to what is present at sea level.”

:small_blue_diamond: You’d be mistaken, however, if you made that claim. Oxygen, which is essential for life on Earth, makes up 21% of the planet’s atmosphere (78 percent is composed of nitrogen and the remaining 1 percent a number of other gases). Also, the percentage of that 21% is nearly the same whether you’re at sea level or high in the mountains. Density and pressure are more important than the amount of oxygen in the atmosphere.

:small_blue_diamond: Using the “ocean of air” concept is an excellent analogy because we all swim through the air. Then imagine this: Water is poured into a large, clear plastic bucket. Once you’ve poked a hole in the bucket’s lid with an ice pick, you’re ready to begin. Slowly, the water will seep out of the hole.

:small_blue_diamond: Use the pick to make a second hole towards the bucket’s bottom. What’s going on? Water will come out in a quick stream down there in a matter of seconds. The pressure difference is the reason. The water is “squeezed out” of the bucket’s bottom hole because of the greater pressure imposed by the weight of the water at the bottom than at the top.

:small_blue_diamond: Pressure above our heads is a similar force that pushes air into and squeezes oxygen out of our lungs and into our bloodstream. Because less air is pushed into the lungs as atmospheric pressure decreases (as when climbing a high mountain), less oxygen reaches the bloodstream, resulting in hypoxia. This is not because less oxygen is accessible but rather because atmospheric pressure decreases.

Highs and lows

:small_blue_diamond: So, how does the pressure in the atmosphere affect the weather daily? High and low-pressure systems are frequently mentioned in weather predictions, and you’ve probably seen them on television. What’s going on here?

:small_blue_diamond: In a nutshell, the sun’s temperature changes throughout the day, all around the planet. The Equator has significantly warmer air than the poles due to differences in solar heating. As a result, the warmer, lighter air rises and spreads toward the poles, while the colder, denser air descends toward the Equator.

:small_blue_diamond: Because our world rotates, this simple wind pattern gets twisted to the right in the Northern Hemisphere and to the left in the Southern Hemisphere, causing air to flow in the opposite direction. Now known as the Coriolis force, this action produces huge wind spirals known as high and low-pressure systems.

:small_blue_diamond: Low-pressure zones in the Northern Hemisphere cause air to spiral counterclockwise and inward, such as hurricanes, which are Coriolis mechanisms. On the other hand, high-pressure systems have air that spirals clockwise and outward from the center. In the Southern Hemisphere, the air spirals in the opposite direction from the Northern Hemisphere.

So, what is it about high pressure and unpredictable weather that we find so appealing?

:small_blue_diamond: A “dome of density” is a high-pressure system, while “atmospheric valleys” are low-pressure systems that are less dense. When the temperature of the airdrops, water vapor condenses and condenses into clouds and rain.

:small_blue_diamond: As the air pressure rises, the temperature rises and the air tends to sink (referred to as “subsidence”) into the lower regions of the atmosphere, where it is warmer and can store more water vapor. Evaporation would be the most likely outcome if any droplets contributed to the development of clouds. There is a noticeable improvement in air quality.

:small_blue_diamond: If we lower the air pressure, on the other hand, the air will rise to higher altitudes, where it will be cooler. Clouds (made up of billions of small water droplets or, at extremely high altitudes, ice crystals) form, and precipitation falls as the ability to contain water vapor reduces. To predict high and low-pressure areas, we would obviously need to use some kind of instrument to measure air pressure.

High and Low

Regions of the Atmosphere

:small_blue_diamond: Numerous places on the planet have extraordinarily constant air pressure. In locations like the tropics and the poles, this can lead to fairly predictable weather patterns.

  • Equatorial low-pressure trough: This zone of warm, light, rising, and convergent air is located in the Earth’s equatorial region (0 to 10 degrees north and south). Converging air is loaded with moisture and extra energy, which causes clouds and heavy rains to form over a wide area as it rises. This low-pressure zone trough also creates the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) and trade winds.

  • Subtropical high-pressure cells: Warm, dry air from the tropics descends to form subtropical high-pressure cells, found at 30 degrees north and south latitudes. Hot air tends to be drier than cold air because of its greater ability to store water vapor. Most of the extra moisture can be removed by the intense rains that occur along the Equator known as the westerlies; they are the most common winds in the subtropical high.

  • Subpolar low-pressure cells: Low-pressure cells in the 60-degree north/south latitude zone are known as subpolar low-pressure cells. Cold air masses from higher latitudes meet warm air masses from lower margins to create the Subpolar low.

  • The polar front, which arises when these two fronts meet in the northern hemisphere, is what causes the low-pressure cyclonic storms that bring rain to the Pacific Northwest and most of Europe. Extreme storms form along these fronts in Antarctica, resulting in heavy winds and snowfall.

  • Polar high-pressure cells: The polar easterlies are formed when winds from an anticyclone descend and divide to flow away from the poles. However, they’re weak due to a lack of energy in the poles that may help strengthen the systems. The Antarctic high is more powerful due to its ability to form over cold land instead of the warm sea.


The pressure in Earth’s atmosphere is referred to as atmospheric pressure. With height, the pressure in the atmosphere decreases. Bottled oxygen is used by mountain climbers who hike very high peaks.

What Causes Changes in Atmospheric Pressure?

:small_blue_diamond: Temperature differences above the Earth generate pressure changes, and air mass temperature is determined by its location. Temperatures tend to be lower in air masses over oceans.

:small_blue_diamond: Wind and pressure systems are formed due to temperature changes in the air. These pressure systems fluctuate as they travel over mountains, oceans, and other locations due to the movement of the wind.

:small_blue_diamond: As Blaise Pascal (1623–1662), a French physicist and philosopher of the 17th century, found, the lower the altitude, the lower the air pressure. Today’s weather forecasts are based on these discoveries.

:small_blue_diamond: As high- or low-pressure systems move near-certain regions, meteorologists will often use the terminology to describe the projected weather conditions. During the ascent in low-pressure systems, the rising air cools and frequently condenses, resulting in storms. High-pressure systems produce dry, pleasant weather because the air descends toward the Earth and warms as it rises.

How Pressure Changes Affect the Weather

:small_blue_diamond: In general, a mercury barometer can tell you clear or stormy skies in the near future or if there will be little change at all.

Barometric readings can be interpreted in a variety of ways:

  • Barometer readings go up in favorable weather because of the increased humidity.

  • A rising barometer generally indicates that the weather is getting better.

  • Barometers that are dropping generally indicate worsening conditions.

  • In general, a sudden drop in air pressure precedes the arrival of a storm.

  • When the atmospheric pressure is stable, there is a good chance that the weather will remain the same.

What is a Barometer?

:small_blue_diamond: A barometer measures air pressure and is commonly used in weather forecasting and height determination. It is the force exerted by the weight of the atmosphere per unit area that is known as atmospheric pressure. An instrument called a barometer can be used to gauge that weight. Scientist and mathematician Evangelista Torricelli of Italy demonstrated in 1643 that he could weigh the atmosphere against a mercury column. He used a pressure gauge and a weight scale to get an accurate reading.

:small_blue_diamond: The barometer created by Torricelli was the first of its kind. Mercury is poured into an open dish through a glass tube. The mercury in the tube is being pushed upward by atmospheric pressure. On average, the mercury column will raise to a height of 29.92 inches or 760 millimeters at sea level.

:small_blue_diamond: Instead of mercury, why not use water? The reason is that the water column would be 34 feet high at sea level. Unlike water, mercury is 14 times denser and the heaviest substance that can be kept liquid at room temperature for extended periods.

How Do You Measure Atmospheric Pressure with a Barometer?

:small_blue_diamond: Reading a barometer is simple when you understand what different atmospheric pressure levels signify. Interpret data from your barometer in the following ways to better understand how air pressure is changing (pay attention to units).

High Pressure

:small_blue_diamond: Barometric pressure above 30.20 inHg is considered high, and it is connected with bright skies and peaceful weather conditions.

Any pressure greater than 102268.9 Pa (or 1022.689 MB) should be treated as an emergency.

  • Fairweather will persist if the pressure rises or stays steady.

  • A gradual pressure drop indicates good weather.

  • Fast-decreasing pressure suggests cloudy and hotter weather.

To put it another way:

Normal pressure is defined as a barometer measurement between 29.80 and 30.20 inHg, linked with calm weather.

The current conditions are expected to remain if the pressure is between 100914.4 and 102268.9 Pa (1022.689–1009.144 MB):

  • The weather will not change much if the pressure drops slowly.

  • Rain or snow is possible if the air pressure drops quickly enough.

Low Pressure

:small_blue_diamond: Pressure readings below 29.80 inHg are considered low, and they are related to warm air and rainstorms.

If the reading is less than 29.80 inHg (100914.4 Pa or 1009.144 MB), the following applies:

  • Rain is predicted if the pressure in the atmosphere begins to fall.

  • Falling pressure rapidly indicates the arrival of a storm.

Take a look at Maximum’s extensive selection of barometers if you are interested in measuring atmospheric pressure at home.


Surface pressure

:small_blue_diamond: Surface pressure is the amount of pressure exerted by the atmosphere at a given location on the Earth’s surface (terrain and oceans). Its value is directly proportional to the amount of air present at that location.

:small_blue_diamond: Weather forecasting methods such as general circulation models (GCMs) typically anticipate the non-dimensional logarithm of surface pressure due to numerical constraints.

:small_blue_diamond: According to the International Standard Time (IST), the average surface pressure on Earth is 985 hPa, according to the International Standard Time (IST). Unlike mean sea-level pressure, which involves extrapolating pressure to sea level from points above or below sea level, mean sea-level pressure does not include extrapolation. It takes 1013.25 hours to equal one atmosphere (atm), or 29.92 inches of mercury, to achieve the average pressure at mean sea level (MSL) in the International Standard Atmosphere (ISA).

:small_blue_diamond: The relationship between pressure (p), mass (m), and the acceleration due to gravity (g) are given by the equation P = F/A = (m*g)/A, where A is the surface area. Because of this, atmospheric pressure is proportional to the weight per unit area of the atmospheric mass above a certain point in the atmosphere.

Altitude variation

:small_blue_diamond: Because pressure on Earth changes with the altitude of the surface, the air pressure on mountains is often lower than the air pressure on the sea level. Pressure fluctuates gradually from the Earth’s surface to the top of the mesosphere as the Earth’s rotation progresses. Although pressure varies according to the weather, NASA has calculated typical conditions for all places of the world throughout the year.

:small_blue_diamond: As altitude climbs, the pressure of the surrounding atmosphere lowers. One can compute the air pressure at a particular altitude by using a mathematical formula. The temperature and humidity have an impact on the air pressure as well. Pressure is proportional to temperature and inversely proportional to humidity. And to compute an exact figure, it is essential to know both of these variables.

:small_blue_diamond: The following equation (the barometric formula) describes the relationship between atmospheric pressure p and height h at greater elevations inside the troposphere:

Altitude Formula

The value in these equations are:

Parameter Description Value
p 0 Sea level standard atmospheric pressure 101325 Pa
L Temperature lapse rate, = g/cp for dry air ~ 0.00976 K/m
c p Constant-pressure specific heat 1004.68506 J/(kg·K)
T 0 Sea level standard temperature 288.16 K
g Earth-surface gravitational acceleration 9.80665 m/s2
M Molar mass of dry air 0.02896968 kg/mol
R 0 Universal gas constant 8.314462618 J/(mol·K)
h Height above Earth-surface m

In Short

Wind and pressure systems are formed due to temperature changes in the air. One can compute the air pressure at a particular altitude by using a mathematical formula. The temperature and humidity have an impact on the air pressure as well.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some frequently asked questions regarding atmospheric pressure:

Q1. What is atmospheric pressure in simple words?

The pressure exerted against a surface by the weight of the Earth’s atmosphere, composed of a layer of air, is referred to as atmospheric pressure. The air does not circulate uniformly around the world at all times. Since the layer of air is constantly shifting, it is thicker in some regions than others at different times.

Q2. What is low atmospheric pressure, and how does it affect you?

Generally speaking, the pressure in the center of a low-pressure system is lower than the pressure in the surrounding areas. Winds move in the direction of the low-pressure system, and air rises in the atmosphere where the two systems collide. As the air rises, the water vapor within it condenses, resulting in clouds and, in some instances, rain.

Q3. What is the definition of high air pressure?

A high-pressure area, also known as a high or anticyclone, is a place on the surface of the globe where the atmospheric pressure is greater than the pressure in the surrounding environment. Many of the characteristics of Highs can be explained in terms of the middle- of mesoscale and relatively long-lasting dynamics of a planet’s atmospheric circulation

Q4. What is normal atmospheric pressure in the atm?

One square inch of air rising from the Earth’s atmosphere to space weighs 14.7 pounds at standard atmospheric pressure of 14.7 pounds per square inch (psi). It is defined as the pressure of one atmosphere. There are 760 torr is one ampere.

Q5. In kPa, what is the usual barometric pressure?

The nominal barometric pressure on Earth is generally agreed to be 101.325 kPa absolute (1013.25 mbar absolute or 14.696 psi absolute), which means that there are approximately 1.03 kilograms of force per square centimeter (14.7 pounds of force per square inch) on the Earth’s surface due to the weight of the air.

Q6. What are the dangers of low atmospheric pressure?

Active weather is a result of low atmospheric pressure. Being less dense than the surrounding air, it rises and causes chaos. Clouds and rain, for example, are formed when water vapor in the atmosphere condenses as a result of rising air. Low-pressure systems bring on the wind, rain, and other forms of precipitation.

Q7. Is 1016 hPa high pressure?

The monthly averages range from a low of 1011 hPa in December and January to a high of roughly 1016 hPa in mid-summer, with the former being the more common. Anticyclones are often connected with high levels of air pressure.

Q8. What does 1000 MB pressure mean?

Maps of the weather show lines joining points where the pressure is 996 and 1000 millibars, respectively, and lines connecting points where it is 996 millibars and 1000 millibars, respectively. Lower pressure can be found above the 1000 MB isobar, whereas higher pressure can be found below.

Q9. Can high air pressure cause a headache?

Headaches are more likely to occur during periods of change in weather, particularly changes in pressure. High-altitude headaches may be caused by variations in barometric pressure, such as when flying.

Q10. What is good weather pressure?

The usual barometer value is 30 inches (Hg). A hurricane’s low pressure can fall as low as 27.30 inches, while a strong high-pressure system can reach 30.70 inches (Hurricane Andrew had a measured surface pressure of 27.23 just before its landfall in Miami Dade County).


:small_blue_diamond: The weight of the atmosphere exerts a pressure known as the atmospheric pressure, which at sea level has a mean value of 101,325 pascals (approximately 14.6959 pounds per square inch).

:small_blue_diamond: In the atmosphere, pressure decreases with height. Humans can become ill and perhaps die at extremely high elevations. Bottled oxygen is used by mountain climbers who hike very high peaks. Oxygen is essential for life on Earth and makes up 21% of the planet’s atmosphere. Density and pressure are more important than the amount of oxygen in the atmosphere.

:small_blue_diamond: A barometer is a device that measures air pressure and is commonly used in weather forecasting. High-pressure systems produce dry, pleasant weather because the air descends toward the Earth and warms as it rises. Pressure fluctuates gradually from the Earth’s surface to the top of the mesosphere.

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