So we know that the air temperature at higher elevations is lower. But is the air temperature at a certain isobar over, say Vail, Colorado, higher than the air temperature of the same isobar over, say, New York City?

And more importantly, do these differences in air temperature along the same isobar affect the large-scale atmospheric circulation?

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    $\begingroup$ I've wondered about this since I was a child (really!). Following the common explanation The Sun heats the surface and the surface heats the atmosphere, the Tibetan plateau should be no colder than lowlands at similar latitudes! So surely this explanation must be, in some way, incomplete. $\endgroup$
    – gerrit
    Apr 15, 2014 at 19:47

1 Answer 1


Well, if there were no other factors, the temperature at the same isobar should be the same all over the Earth. But there are other factors, like winds, air mixing, albedo, ocean currents etc.

The temperature in atmosphere is lower at higher altitudes. That's because the air is gas, and it compresses. So the air at ocean level is denser than the air at 10km height. The air heats from the ground, and when it's getting warmer, it goes up. But because there is lower pressure, it expands, and while it's expanding, it cools down. That's why the higher you go - the colder it is. But if the pressure is not changing, the temperature shouldn't change too.


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