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Any of several long, narrow, high-speed air currents that flow eastward in a generally horizontal zone in the stratosphere or upper troposphere. Jet streams are characterized by wind motions that generate strong vertical shearing action, considered largely responsible for the clear-air turbulence experienced by aircraft. They also have an effect on weather patterns. Jet streams circle the Earth in meandering paths, shifting position as well as speed with the seasons. In the winter they are nearer the Equator and their speeds are higher than in the summer. There are often two, sometimes three, jet-stream systems in each hemisphere.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on jet stream, visit Britannica.com.