anticyclone, region of high atmospheric pressure; anticyclones are commonly referred to as "highs." The pressure gradient, or change between the core of the anticyclone and its surroundings, combined with the Coriolis effect, causes air to circulate about the core in a clockwise direction in the Northern Hemisphere and a counterclockwise direction in the Southern Hemisphere. Near the surface of the earth the frictional drag of the surface on the moving air causes it to spiral outward gradually toward lower pressures while still maintaining the rotational direction. This outward movement of air is fed by descending currents near the center of the anticyclone that are warmed by compression as they encounter higher pressures at lower altitudes. The warming, in turn, greatly reduces the relative humidity, so that anticyclones, or "highs," are generally characterized by few clouds and low humidity. Such weather characteristics may extend over an area from a few hundred to a few thousand miles wide. Many low-level anticyclones are swept generally eastward by the prevailing west-to-east flow of the upper atmosphere, usually traversing some 500 to 1,000 mi (800–1,600 km) per day. Other anticyclones are permanent or seasonal features of particular geographic regions. The term anticyclone is derived from the fact that the associated rotational direction and general weather characteristics of an anticylone are opposite to those of a cyclone.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.