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In meteorology, a large body of air having nearly uniform conditions of temperature and humidity at any given altitude. Such a mass has distinct boundaries and may extend hundreds or thousands of miles horizontally and sometimes as high as the top of the troposphere. An air mass forms whenever the atmosphere remains in contact with a large, relatively uniform land or sea surface long enough to acquire its temperature and moisture properties. The Earth's major air masses all originate in polar or subtropical latitudes. The middle latitudes constitute essentially a zone of modification, interaction, and mixing of the polar and tropical air masses.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on air mass, visit Britannica.com.