WeatherWise Kids: How do mountains make the weather

Hey Jessob, thanks for the question.

Mountains have a huge impact on the earth’s weather and climate.  If we lived in a world without mountains our weather would be far less complicated. The weather on mountains can change from bottom to top, but also from side to side.

If you’re planning to hike up a mountain you better be ready for a big change in temperature. Even in warm parts of the world, many mountain tops are covered in snow. As you climb up the mountain the pressure decreases causing the temperature to decrease. On average, the temperature falls 2 to 5 degrees Fahrenheit for every 1000 feet.  Since the atmosphere is cooler at higher elevations and there is less of it, breathing becomes harder the higher you climb.

But it’s not just up and down, the weather also changes side to side. There are two sides to a mountain, the windward side and leeward side. Each side has very different weather.

Mountains act as a barrier for moving air. As air approaches the mountain it’s only choice is to rise. Rising air forms clouds and rain showers. This is referred to as the windward side of the mountain. This side is usually cooler and wetter.

The leeward side of the mountain is usually warmer and drier. As the air flows down the side of the mountain it sinks. Sinking air leads to clear skies and no rain. Often times, the leeward side of the mountain is referred to as the rainshadow, where mainy deserts can be found.

Thank you so much for the question Jessob and remember, “Climb mountains not for the world to see, but so you can see the world.”

For Weatherwise Kids I’m Ariella Scalese

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