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Process by which heat is transferred by movement of a heated fluid such as air or water. Most fluids expand when heated. They become less dense and more buoyant, and so rise. The heated molecules eventually cool, become more dense, and sink. This repeated process sets up convection currents that account for the uniform heating of the air in a room or water in a kettle. Air convection can be forced by a fan, and water convection by a pump. Atmospheric convection currents can be set up by local heating effects such as solar radiation or contact with cold surfaces. Such currents are usually vertical and account for atmospheric phenomena such as clouds and thunderstorms.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on convection, visit Britannica.com.