MadSci Network: Environment & Ecology

Re: What happens to air molecules when they go from a hot to a cold climate?

Date: Fri Jan 15 18:28:01 1999
Posted By: Carl Morgan, , Meteorology, National Weather Service
Area of science: Environment & Ecology
ID: 915820198.En

Good question April!

Molecules of hot air "jiggle around" faster than molecules of cold air. When hot air moves into a colder climate, the hot air transfers some of its energy to the cold air as the molecules bump into each other.

When this happens, the hot air molecules slow down, and the cold air molecules "jiggle" faster. As a result, the hot air cools down, and the cold air heats up. This is called conduction; one of three methods of heat transfer.

Another method of heat transfer is convection. Convection happens when hot air rises and is replaced by colder, more dense air. This type of heat transfer is a cause of thunderstorms. Convection is also the mechanism for lifting hot air balloons.

The third method of heat transfer is by radiation. Radiation involves heat transfer by electro-magnetic or infrared waves, and is the way the sun transfers heat to the earth.

Thanks for the question!

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