Sanders, Frederick Department of Meteorology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Bluestein, Howard B. Department of Meteorology, University of Oklahoma, Norman, Oklahoma.
Last reviewed:November 2019
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A relatively narrow, fast-moving wind current flanked by more slowly moving currents. Jet streams are observed principally in the zone of prevailing westerlies above the lower troposphere and in most cases reach maximum intensity, with regard both to speed and to concentration, near the tropopause. At a given time, the position and intensity of the jet stream may significantly influence aircraft operations because of the great speed of the wind at the jet core and the rapid spatial variation of wind speed in its vicinity. Lying in the zone of maximum temperature contrast between cold air masses to the north and warm air masses to the south, the position of the jet stream on a given day usually coincides in part with the regions of greatest storminess in the lower troposphere, though portions of the jet stream occur over regions which are entirely devoid of cloud. The jet stream is often called the polar jet, because of the importance of cold, polar air. The subtropical jet is not associated with surface temperature contrasts, like the polar jet. Maxima in wind speed within the jet stream are called jet streaks. See also: Clear-air turbulence
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