At the top of a mountain, say Mt Everest, atmospheric pressure is low. So shouldn't the same thing be true for winter season.

I.e air pressure in winters should be lesser than that in summers.

But it's the opposite.

Can someone please explain why ?

  • $\begingroup$ Besides that modelling atmosphere and meteo is tricky, for a given area the above atmosphere should be drier in summer than in winter. Water is lighter. But the Q isn't that clear, in particular for what should Everest enter the discussion (altitude, because is cold there, etc). It seems you mix barometric and T effects in a curious way. $\endgroup$
    – Alchimista
    Commented Mar 4, 2019 at 14:54
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    $\begingroup$ The pressure of the air at any point in the Earth's atmosphere is caused by the weight of all of the air above that point. If you stand at the top of a mountain, that puts you closer to the top of the atmosphere than if you were standing at the sea shore. The reason why the pressure is less at the top of the mountain is not because it's colder there: It's because there is less air weighing down upon that place. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 4, 2019 at 15:09
  • $\begingroup$ To add on this comment of @SolomonSlow: even if you would warm up the air on Mt Everest to beach temperatures, the pressure would remain way below the pressure at sea level. $\endgroup$
    – flaudemus
    Commented Mar 4, 2019 at 15:43
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    $\begingroup$ First off, this isn't necessarily true. The Azores, for example, tend to see higher pressure in the summer than in the winter. Whether this is the case depends very much on where one lives. In addition, while the highest pressures do tend to occur during winter, wintertime is also when the lowest pressures in those locales tend to occur. Look at the pressure records in various cities in the US. Record high pressures uniformly occur in wintertime -- and with the exception of places hit by hurricanes, so are record low pressures. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 4, 2019 at 19:14

5 Answers 5


At the top of a mountain, say Mt Everest, atmospheric pressure is low. So shouldn't the same thing be true for winter season.

Atmospheric pressure is low at the top of a mountain because the top of a mountain is at a high altitude. A nice first order approximation of the atmosphere is that the atmospheric pressure at some point in the atmosphere is the equal to the weight per unit area of all of the atmosphere above that point. This immediately leads to a roughly exponential decrease in pressure with increased altitude. Extending this first order reduction in pressure with increased altitude to a reduction in pressure with increased latitude is invalid logic.

On to the main question:

Why is air pressure higher in winter than in summer?

This is not the case. Suppose you pick a location in a temperate or polar climate (roughly between 30° and 70° degrees latitude) with a very long history of meteorological records. If you carefully compute the average atmospheric pressure in midwinter versus midsummer, you will likely find that the average pressure is very slightly lower in winter than it is in summer.

What you'll also find is that the extremes of pressure are more likely to occur in winter rather than summer. A nice example of this is wunderground.com's compilation of U.S. city barometric pressure records. All of the highest pressure records occur in winter. However, with the exception of coastal cities that were hit by hurricanes, all of the lowest pressure records also occur in winter.

This suggests that wintertime weather is much more volatile than is summertime weather, at least in the contiguous U.S. This concept applies across locales with temperate or polar climates: In such locales, wintertime weather tends to be much more volatile compared to summertime weather.

There's a marked temperature difference between the Earth's equatorial and polar regions. The Earth's atmosphere works to balance these differences via air flow from the equator to the poles and back. The primary cause of the increased wintertime volatility in temperate and polar locales is that this is when the temperature difference between the equator and the pole is at its greatest and that these are the locales where the conflict is most brought to bear.


Air pressure is lower at the top of Mt. Everest because there is less atmosphere above it to compress the air, making the pressure less. I can't be sure what you mean by "air pressure in winters should be lesser than that in summers", I have never heard of this being a straightforward observation before. But (to my knowledge) it is probably because where you live, winters tend to be drier. Dry air is denser than moist air (water molecules are lighter than nitrogen and oxygen molecules. When it is humid water molecules displace nitrogen and oxygen molecules making the air lighter). Also, cold air contracts, and is therefore more dense than hot air.


You really think there is any warm air anywhere at almost 30 thousand feet? Not likely. Thats why people freeze to death trying to climb it.


The pressure profile of earth from the surface all the way to the last layer of atmosphere is a decreasing/negative gradient, why is that? It's gravity. The strength of gravity on a mass is inversely proportional to the square of distance away from the gravity source. Air layers closer to the planet weighs more than layers farther because the planet is pulling those air molecules stronger than those farther above and also all the rest of the atmosphere from that point up is weighing down on anything at that point. In terms of temperature, temperature isn't much of a factor that affects gravitational pull, but since gases compress/contract when colder, we can say there's more air weighing down per $m^2$ than before. This last point I'm not so sure.

  • $\begingroup$ Thank you. It was helpful. I was mixing up temperature and pressure. $\endgroup$
    – user224460
    Commented Mar 4, 2019 at 16:21
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    $\begingroup$ I'm sorry, but the inverse square law of gravity has little effect on atmospheric pressure. From en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… 50% of the atmosphere is below 5.6 km, 90% is below 16 km, 99.99997% is below 100 km. The radius of the Earth is around 6371 km, so the strength of gravity at an altitude of 100 km is around 96.93% of its strength at sea level. Also see en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scale_height $\endgroup$
    – PM 2Ring
    Commented Mar 4, 2019 at 16:42
  • $\begingroup$ So what do you think is happening? $\endgroup$
    – TechDroid
    Commented Mar 4, 2019 at 16:46
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    $\begingroup$ This most definitely should not be the accepted answer. It is quite incorrect. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 4, 2019 at 19:02
  • $\begingroup$ Then would you be happy to enlighten us a bit about what it should be. We'll really appreciate you posting that as an answer. I'll gladly upvote if deemed logical and acceptable. $\endgroup$
    – TechDroid
    Commented Mar 4, 2019 at 19:12

One of the reasons the air pressure is higher in winter is because the air is colder so the molecules stick closer together building more pressure. Also Mt. Everest is the highest elevation above sea level so it would seem like it would be cold, BUT there are many things that factor into it that make that statement wrong. One of them is that warm air rises because it is less dense the hotter it gets. Hope this helps! This website has helped me a lot on this subject.

Here's the link. http://www.wxdude.com/singalongcompanion/windandairpressure/index.html

  • $\begingroup$ This isn't the reason for these things at all. For example, the relationship between pressure, temperature, volume and forces is not as straightforward as this answer suggests. $\endgroup$
    – JMac
    Commented Mar 7, 2019 at 13:52

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