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"Weather system" redirects here. For a general discussion on pressure areas, see Pressure system.

A low-pressure area, low or depression, is a region where the atmospheric pressure is lower than that of surrounding locations. Low-pressure systems form under areas of wind divergence which occur in the upper levels of the troposphere. The formation process of a low-pressure area is known as cyclogenesis. Within the field of meteorology, atmospheric divergence aloft occurs in two areas. The first area is on the east side of upper troughs which form half of a Rossby wave within the Westerlies (a trough with large wavelength which extends through the troposphere). A second area of wind divergence aloft occurs ahead of embedded shortwave troughs which are of smaller wavelength. Diverging winds aloft ahead of these troughs cause atmospheric lift within the troposphere below, which lowers surface pressures as upward motion partially counteracts the force of gravity.

Thermal lows form due to localized heating caused by greater sunshine over deserts and other land masses. Since localized areas of warm air are less dense than their surroundings, this warmer air rises which lowers atmospheric pressure near that portion of the Earth's surface. Large-scale thermal lows over continents help drive monsoon circulations. Low-pressure areas can also form due to organized thunderstorm activity over warm water. When this occurs over the tropics in concert with the Intertropical Convergence Zone, it is known as a monsoon trough. Monsoon troughs reach their northerly extent in August and their southerly extent in February. When a convective low acquires a well-hot circulation in the tropics it is termed a tropical cyclone. Tropical cyclones can form during any month of the year globally, but can occur in either the northern or southern hemisphere during November.

Atmospheric lift will also generally produce cloud cover through adiabatic cooling once the air becomes saturated as it rises, although the low-pressure area typically brings cloudy skies, which act to minimize diurnal temperature extremes. Since clouds reflect sunlight, incoming shortwave solar radiation decreases, which causes lower temperatures during the day. At night the absorptive effect of clouds on outgoing longwave radiation, such as heat energy from the surface, allows for warmer diurnal low temperatures in all seasons. The stronger the area of low pressure, the stronger the winds experienced in its vicinity. Globally, low-pressure systems are most frequently located over the Tibetan Plateau and in the lee of the Rocky mountains. In Europe (particularly in the United Kingdom), recurring low-pressure weather systems are typically known as "depressions".


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