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Above the Earth

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  • What are jet streams?

  • Jet streams are currents of air high above the Earth. They move eastward at altitudes of about 8 to 15 kilometers (5 to 9 miles). They form where large temperature differences exist in the atmosphere. An air current is a flowing movement of air within a larger body of air.

  • How does the Jet Stream affect the direction of air flow?

  • As a result, it slows the eastward movement of the air when there is a significant amount of meandering in the flow. Specifically, the jet stream is caused by the meeting of air masses just under the tropopause where winds are the strongest.

  • How fast do jet streams move?

  • On average, jet streams move at about 110 miles per hour. But dramatic temperature differences between the warm and cool air masses can cause jet streams to move at much higher speeds 鈥?250 miles per hour or faster. Speeds this high usually happen in polar jet streams in the winter time.

  • Where is the jet stream in the northern hemisphere?

  • (By Summer in the Northern Hemisphere, it is typically found near the U.S. Canadian border.) As Autumn approaches and the sun’s elevation decreases, the jet stream’s average latitude moves toward the equator.