In meteorology, an anticyclone (that is, opposite to a cyclone) is a weather phenomenon in which there is a descending movement of the air and a high pressure area over the part of the planet's surface affected by it. Anticyclonic flow spirals in a clockwise direction in the Northern Hemisphere and counter-clockwise in the Southern.


Confusion may be created by the fact that the term "subtropical anticyclone" is used by meteorologists in Australia in place of "extratropical anticyclone", which is the term used in the United States. Except for the wording, there is no difference; there are no separate or different "types" of warm dry air anticyclones being generated by the Intertropical Convergence Zone. Both "extratropical cyclones" and "subtropical anticyclones" are seen in the Northern Hemisphere, year-round. For an example of the Australian term, see: [ "Equatorial trough"]


The notable scientist Sir Francis Galton proposed the existence of the "anticyclone" as a part of his work in weather and writing "Meteorographica, or Methods of Mapping the Weather" (1863). Galton's anticyclone hypothesis was eventually confirmed with the discovery of the anticyclone which enabled meteorologists to draw the modern weather map.Fact|date=January 2007Early versions of surface weather analysis charts produced prior to 1863 depicted cyclones, but not anticyclones.


All anticyclones are produced by dry air that settles to the surface of the earth and accumulates, forming air masses. The absence of aqueous vapor (water vapor) increases the density of air which means that each volumetric unit of dry air weighs more than the same volumetric unit of humid air at the same temperature and pressure. The two most common parts of the air are nitrogen (roughly 78% of the total) and oxygen (roughly 21% of the total). Together, the two components weigh more than 99% of the total weight of the atmosphere. When air takes on aqueous vapor (water vapor), vapor pressure displaces some of the heavier nitrogen and oxygen, thus, a mixture that is lighter in weight overall is created. Displacement by vapor pressure produces intense tropical storms called hurricanes or typhoons.


Cool or cold dry air type

Cool or cold dry air settles onto land and forms shallow "anticyclones" or high-pressure cells which often move across the terrain and create fair weather with little cloudiness or precipitation, then dissipate and vanish after reaching the open sea. The types of anticyclones display different patterns of movement.

High-latitudes maritime type

In the months of winter, many strong cyclones appear at high latitudes. Rising air in them eventually descends to form anticyclones. Tall anticyclones appear at some places each year during the coldest months. They may exceed 35,000 feet or 10,200 meters in height. The position of each anticyclone is at about the same place on the surface as it is the air far above the surface. The sea-level pressure may exceed 1040 millibars (hectopascals) (hPa) (SI). They tend to linger close to the place at which they had appeared.

The Denmark Strait along the east coast of Greenland is a place where they often appear, particularly during the winter. They form part of the North Atlantic Oscillation that significantly influences the weather in that region of the Northern Hemisphere. The Beaufort Sea is an arm of the Arctic Ocean that exists north of northwestern Canada. An anticyclone called the "Arctic High" or the "Beaufort High" forms there. [ NSIDC]

Warm, dry air type

An "anticyclone" composed of warm dry air may be situated over much of the North Atlantic Ocean during most of the year. The warm dry air type of "anticyclone" is tall and may be observed on weather charts above three miles (5km) in height. The warm dry air type of "anticyclone" is usually described as being semipermanent. Frontal activity is not associated with it. Transoceanic in extent, in Europe it is called the Azores High, and in the United States it is known by the name Bermuda High.

Since it has a tropical origin, its most proper name is "extratropical anticyclone" (but see "Terminology", above). It has a characteristic "vertical displacement" that shifts its center away from its surface position towards the equator and westwards, too. Far above the surface of the North Atlantic at a height of 3-4 miles (5-7km), the center of the high-pressure cell may be seen about 3,000 miles (5,000 km) southwestwards of its surface position (which is in the general vicinity of the Azores Islands).

The maximum sea-level pressure in this type of anticyclone is not very high. It may reach, perhaps, 1025 millibars (hectopascals) or thereabouts during the summertime, which is a mere twelve "millibars" above the average "sea-level pressure" of 1013 "millibars".

Similar "anticyclones" that are built of warm dry air exist over other oceanic areas of the world, such as the South Atlantic Ocean. The anticyclone that is located there is practically a mirror-image of the anticyclone that is located over the North Atlantic Ocean. Its "vertical displacement" is also towards the equator and westwards, too. The warm dry air is continually being produced in the Intertropical convergence zone (ITCZ) by thunderstorms.


At the surface the air tends to flow outwards in all directions from the central area of high pressure, and is deflected on account of the earth's rotation (see Coriolis effect) so as to give a spiral movement. In the northern hemisphere an "anticyclone" rotates in the clockwise direction, while it rotates counterclockwise in the southern hemisphere. The rotation is caused by the movement of colder higher pressure air that is moving away from the poles towards the equator being affected by the rotation of the earth. Since the air in an anticyclone is descending, it becomes warmed and dried, and therefore transmits radiation freely whether from the sun to the earth or from the earth into space.

Anticyclones generally bring fair weather and clear skies as the dynamics of an anticyclone lead to downward vertical movement which suppresses convective activity and generally lowers the mean relative humidity, in contrast to the upward vertical movement in a cyclone. However as the anticyclone moves over the earth's surface it may heat up locally, acquire water from the land or oceans or encounter warmer wet air.


{link to Interactive Weather Satellite (NOAH GOES) and see the absence of water vapor in the global water vapor mosaic.}



In winter the anticyclonic weather is characterized by clear air with periods of frost, causing fogs in towns and low-lying damp areas, and in summer by still cloudless days with gentle variable winds and fine weather. The low, sharp inversion can lead to areas of persistent stratocumulus or stratus cloud, colloquially known as "Anticyclonic gloom". The type of weather brought about by an anticyclone depends on its origin. For example, extensions of the Azores high pressure may bring about anticyclonic gloom during the winter, as they are warmed at the base and will trap moisture as they move over the warmer oceans. High pressures that build to the north and extend southwards will often bring clear weather. This is due to being cooled at the base (as opposed to warmed) which helps prevent clouds from forming.

Local geography may cause a range of localized weather phenomena specific to anticyclones, while the interaction of the different air masses, which occurs at weather fronts, may cause a range of weather events.

Extraterrestrial anticyclones

The Great Red Spot on Jupiter is an example of an extraterrestrial anticyclonic storm. Other storms include the recently formed Oval BA on Jupiter, Anne's Spot on Saturn, and the Great Dark Spot on Neptune.



ee also

*Atmospheric circulation
*Atmospheric pressure
*Block (meteorology)
*Coriolis force
*Earth's atmosphere
*High pressure area
*North American High
*Pressure system
*Siberian High
*Anticyclonic tornado
*Great Red Spot

External links

* [ Convergence Zone photo] - NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • anticyclone — [ ɑ̃tisiklon ] n. m. • 1874; de 1. anti et cyclone ♦ Zone de hautes pressions atmosphériques (opposé à cyclone). ⇒ maximum (barométrique). L anticyclone des Açores. ⊗ CONTR. Dépression. ● anticyclone nom masculin Masse de hautes pressions… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • Anticyclone — An ti*cy clone ([a^]n t[i^]*s[imac] kl[=o]n), n. (Meteorol.) A movement of the atmosphere opposite in character, as regards direction of the wind and distribution of barometric pressure, to that of a cyclone. {An ti*cy*clon ic}, a. {An ti*cy*clon …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • anticyclone — (n.) 1863, coined by Francis Galton (1822 1911), English polymath, explorer, and meteorologist, from ANTI (Cf. anti ) + CYCLONE (Cf. cyclone). Related: Anticyclonic …   Etymology dictionary

  • anticyclone — ► NOUN ▪ an area of high atmospheric pressure around which air slowly circulates, usually resulting in calm, fine weather. DERIVATIVES anticyclonic adjective …   English terms dictionary

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  • Anticyclone — Pour les articles homonymes, voir Anticyclone (homonymie). Un anticyclone est une zone de circulation atmosphérique autour d un centre de haute pression. Leur sens de rotation est lié à la force de Coriolis: ils tournent dans le sens horaire dans …   Wikipédia en Français

  • anticyclone — UK [ˌæntɪˈsaɪkləʊn] / US [ˌæntaɪˈsaɪˌkloʊn] noun [countable] Word forms anticyclone : singular anticyclone plural anticyclones science an area of high air pressure that produces calm weather with very little wind …   English dictionary

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