Climate of the British Isles Essay

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?To what extent is the climate of the British Isles a product of the air masses that affect it? (40 marks) The British Isles are a group of islands located off the north-western coast of continental Europe. The climate is usually considered to be temperate maritime; however, the weather is very changeable from place to place and from time to time. Air masses greatly affect the weather experienced in the British Isles and therefore, its climate. An air mass is a body of air with uniform levels of temperature, humidity and pressure acquired from prolonged contact in its source region. Despite having an effect on British climate, there are other factors which play major roles and need to be considered. Much of the weather that the British Isles are subjected to is brought along by one of the five major air masses which affect the islands from five main source areas. The air masses can be split into two categories: maritime and continental.

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The depressions are carried via the Jet Stream towards the UK as it flows from east over the Atlantic. These depressions are a major feature of the UK’s climate, as they bring wet, windy and stormy conditions typical of many a winter’s day. The Jet Stream is key in determining which air mass affects us, as it meanders north and south over Britain, allowing warmer air masses to dominate as it moves north and colder air masses to dominate as it moves south. The air masses and their influences on the climate of the British Isles are tied in to the Jet Stream very closely, as both the Jet Stream and the air masses affect each other. With all this said, it is important to remember that the air masses and their impacts would not affect the British Isles at all, if it were not for the UK’s geographical location on the planet. The location also plays a key role in some of the climatic features of the British Isles. The UK is situated in the temperate mid-latitudes, roughly between 50? and 60?N of the equator. This position greatly affects the average insolation levels received by the Isles, and so has a large influence on temperature.

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This also explains the smaller scale variations in climate between the west and east, for example. However, factors affecting the air masses themselves must also be considered. The weather that the air masses bring is dependent upon the climatic conditions in the source area, the season, and the vertical characteristics of the atmosphere at the time. As discussed above, there are also many other factors which influence the air masses themselves, but also which directly influence the weather and climate of the British Isles. Therefore, in my view, it would be wrong to say that the air masses alone are responsible for producing the climate experienced on these Islands. It is very hard to isolate one factor as the key-factor as they are all interrelated, and all play a large role in climatic conditions here. The air masses are certainly crucial to the weather patterns seen across the country, however I would arguably say that the location of the British Isles, with its exposure to the sea, and latitude of 50?-60?N, is the main cause for our current climate. The air masses may be important, but they only affect the UK because it is situated where it is.

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